A high standard of performance is something that shouldn't be compromised when it comes to selecting a rain jacket. We analyzed over 45 models from top manufacturers before purchasing 10 of the best women's specific rain jackets on the market, putting them head to head in a battle of the dryest. With a multitude of options on the market and the significant cost of a high-quality model, our experts conducted exhaustive testing to determine which jacket will keep you sheltered from the storm for years to come. We tested across a broad series of metrics to define the best overall contender, as well as the best bang for your buck, and the best when having less weight really matters. From the shores of Lake Tahoe we hiked, kayaked, biked, and spent time out in the raging storms so we could provide you with the information you need to make the best selection.
The Best Rain Jackets for Women
|Price||$149.73 at REI|
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|$99.73 at REI|
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|$69.73 at REI|
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|$298.95 at Backcountry|
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|$89.44 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Water resistant, wind resistant and breathable||Incredibly stretchy, comfortable, lightweight||Affordable, breathable, water resistant, packable||Breathable, comfortable, great for climbing||Incredibly lightweight and packable|
|Cons||Expensive, sleeves a little short||Expensive, uncomfortable half-sized pit zips||Short torso and arms||Expensive, no pit zips||No waist pockets, not very durable, no pit zips|
|Bottom Line||Waterproof, breathable, and comfortable, the Aspire is an all-in-one marvel.||Its status as a highly functioning stretchy rain jacket sets this model apart and will suit your active lifestyle be it rain or shine.||An economical, functional rain shell for any activity.||If you are an avid climber who frequently encounters drizzly weather, this would make a great addition to your archive of must have gear.||The lightest and most packable jacket tested, the Helium earned a Top Pick.|
|Rating Categories||Aspire||Stretch Ozonic||PreCip||Interstellar||Helium II|
|Water Resistance (30%)|
|Packed Size (5%)|
|Specs||Aspire||Stretch Ozonic||PreCip||Interstellar||Helium II|
|Measured Weight (oz)||11.4||9.8||8.4||9.6||5.2|
|# of Fabric Layers||2||2.5||2.5||3||2.5|
|Material||Gore-Tex with Paclite product technology 2L, 100% polyester 50D plain weave||Dry.Q Active Stretch 40D 2.5L (100% Nylon)||NanoPro 100% Nylon Ripstop 2.2 oz/ yd||Ascentshell 3L 100% nylon 20D mechanical stretch ripstop||Pertex Shield+ 2.5L 100% nylon 30D ripstop|
The rain protection industry is ever expanding and has a multitude of options to choose from. This Fall, our experts put 10 models to the test, selecting an Editors' Choice, Best Buy, and included two Top Pick awards, one for Lightweight Adventures and the other for Versatility. We've also added charts, including a price to value comparison graph, so you'll be able to compare each model.
Best Overall Rain Jacket
Outdoor Research Aspire - Women's
The Outdoor Research Aspire scored high marks across the board; from water resistance to breathability, it comes fully equipped with various bells and whistles that make it an excellent choice for a rain jacket. It was a top contender, proudly sporting its smooth, soft fabric and flattering fit right down to its high standard of waterproofing and relatively light and compact size. This jacket stood out as the best overall rain shell and offers leading water resistance with a GORE-TEX with Paclite integrated fabric design to withstand and keep you protected from even the heaviest of downpours. With reinforced, sealed seams and water-resistant zippers, as well as an adjustable hood, hip cinches, and both elastic and Velcro to seal around your wrists, no water is getting in this bad boy. Being completely watertight might sound awfully stuffy but don't be fooled, the pit zips can be fully opened for a quick and easy way to shed excess body heat.
This award winner earned top marks for its breathability and ventilation. It has full side zips that are easy to use and allow for a quick heat escape and a double zipper in the front that is watertight. On those days when the rain is coming straight down, but it's still hot outside, you can zip those babies up and get airflow all around your torso to keep you cool and on the move while still repelling the rain. With generous pockets and an extra waterproof zip pocket on the chest to keep your small essentials on the ready, this jacket also offers a stuff sack pocket that it zips into. While its lowest rating was for weight (at 11.4 oz, it ranked at about the middle of the range for the jackets tested), it only took up about 107 cubic inches when stored in its stuff sack, making it reasonably compact overall.
Read review: Outdoor Research Aspire - Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
Marmot PreCip - Women's
This has been an award-winning jacket for the second year in a row. Ringing up at just $100, the Marmot Precip made the list as our choice for Best Buy. Offering storm flaps to cover the main zipper on both sides, and fully taped seams, the PreCip ranked among the highest in waterproofness and breathability. It also offers amenities like a large adjustable hood that rolls into the collar, beneficial when the rain stops, and you want to reduce bulk, and easy to access and use armpit zips for extra air flow.
For added comfort, this jacket touts a lined chin guard. At 8.4 ounces, it's also lightweight and relatively packable at just over 136 cubic inches. Ranking in at just a hair behind the Aspire, this jacket is a steal at less than half the price; it also offers fairly comparable water-resistant performance. It did rank lower in durability, so it is less of a long-term investment, but will still hold its own over time while pursuing your many outdoor adventures.
Read review: Marmot PreCip - Women's
Top Pick for Ultralight Adventures
Outdoor Research Helium II - Women's
Excellent for backpacking and hiking, the Outdoor Research Helium II is hands-down the best overall jacket for lightweight travel, scoring at the top of the charts in weight and packed size. It also ranked highly in comfort and breathability, which was surprising considering our internal assessment of the flimsy feeling fabric. However, the Helium II ranked at the bottom of the scale in waterproofness, lacking the ability to absorb water in a downpour more often than not.
In addition to becoming semi-saturated in a downpour, this jacket didn't offer much protection from the cold or wind, as its ultralightweight fabric lacks insulation. Nevertheless, it is great for a hike in the early mornings or on a day where you might encounter unpredictable weather conditions. In fact, you can simply wrap this baby up in its stow pocket and attach it with a carabiner to your belt loop or pack, if you prefer to travel light. Plus it offers a high degree of minimal comfort while out on the go with not a lot of extra features to add weight or cause any chafing, particularly with its soft, smooth fabric. For lightweight travel, you can't beat this basic shell sans bells or whistles.
Read review: Outdoor Research Helium II - Women's
Notable for Torrential Downpours
Outdoor Research Interstellar - Women's
The Outdoor Research Interstellar came in at a close third behind the Aspire and Ozonic, ranking slightly better in weight but falling behind on breathability and durability. With a middle of the road weight of 9.6 ounces and an average pack size, this shell isn't for the ultralight packer. However, it performed exceptionally well in the water resistance metric, keeping you dry in even the most torrential of downpours. In fact, it very closely matched the top ranking jackets in most areas. Even though it lacked pit zips, it didn't fall too far below our other contenders in breathability due to its integrated Ascentshell fabric technology. Plus, its sleek design and backpack or harness accommodating pockets make it a great fit for both active and urban pursuits.
This jacket meets and exceeds all of the expectations you might have for a rain shell in its price range, giving the dependability of the Aspire without some of the functionality. Overall, it came in at a close third and would be an excellent option for the not so thrifty outdoors enthusiast not wanting to be slowed down by severe weather.
Read review: Outdoor Research Interstellar
Analysis and Test Results
It is a common mistake to assume all rain jackets repel rain equally, seeing as how that is their main purpose. However, not all jackets are created equal when it comes to waterproofness, and there are a variety of other factors that can affect your performance if you don't consider them before making your raincoat investments. Just imagine setting out on a week+ long backpacking trip through a rainforest or up a weather-prone mountain, only to discover that the jacket you selected has pit zips that chafe your armpits or an oversized hood that flies off with each gust of wind.
This is why we thoroughly tested not only the water resistance of each of these top-ranking rain jackets but several other metrics as well. We compared the breathability of each of the models to make sure you don't overheat while taking on your favorite aerobic activity. We also analyzed their durability in real life scenarios, so you don't have a catastrophic failure while out in the wilderness. We were sure not to leave out packed size and weight, so you know exactly what to expect when you throw your jacket into your pack. Finally, and not to be taken lightly, we assessed the comfort of each rain jacket, so you don't waste your time or money buying a coat you never end up wearing, because it just doesn't fit comfortably.
We selected from the highest rated jackets amongst the industry's leading brands ranging from ultra-lightweight to three-season heavyweight models and ran them through a gamut of tests to help you decide which one will work best for your needs. Below, you will find more information about our testing methods and metrics and how the jackets performed in each category.
Typically, we choose award winners based on niches or the best overall. We also include the Best Bang for the Buck winner, which provides a high price to value ratio. Below we've included a graph which details each model in our fleet,
We assessed models with a wide variety of fabric components, ranging from GORE-TEX to an exclusive Acentshell technology, each touting its own superior waterproofing benefits. In addition to fabric technology, the waterproofness of a jacket is also supported by the details, such as zipper flaps, taped seams, hood size, and tightening straps. Each are designed differently to keep out multi-directional pummeling rain and unexpected flurries. To test the water resistance of each of the selected rain jackets, we took them into the lab, assisted by a series of storms that ran through the Tahoe area during our testing period.
Given the variability of rain conditions on a given day, we also took a scientific approach, and after some wear and tear, we took the jackets into our outdoor lab and sprayed them with a hose from a variety of directions and at a variety of pressures. What we discovered is that many of the raincoats, such as the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic and Outdoor Research Aspire II performed consistently well, providing full-torso, arm, and head protection when fully battened down (all tighteners and straps fully sealed). On the other end of the scale, the designs of the The North Face Apex Flex GTX 2.0 and Marmot Minimalist allowed some water seepage in at the hood and sleeves and showed some signs of permeability in the body. And, the Outdoor Research Helium II scoring the lowest for water resistance at high pressure.
When it comes to waterproof fabrics, issues such as condensation and moisture trapping can become major annoyances. Thus, breathability is a major concern for both allowing heat and moisture to exit while preventing chilly winds and moisture from entering. We tested the breathability of each jacket by undergoing a series of highly aerobic activities outdoors that got the perspiration going. We wanted to get a general sense of their ability to keep cold air out and also let body heat escape. Our key findings found that pit zips are almost always essential in aiding in the ventilation process. We compared each model side-by-side by using an elliptical under consistent conditions after a warm-up in the controlled environment of a gym.
There were two options for ventilation zips. The Outdoor Research Aspire offered zippers that ran up the sides of the jacket to allow the user to get full side ventilation to prevent overheating with a poncho-like design in exchange for protection against gusts of wind or sideways rain. The other style of ventilation zip was the underarm zipper, like the one found on the Marmot Precip. This allows the user to let cooler air into the jacket with a minuscule sacrifice to water resistance since this is in a more hidden portion of the jacket. Other jackets, such as the REI Co-op Drypoint GTX leave out pit zips all together and use a mesh lining located in the pockets to allow for core venting. We did find that models lacking pit zips, especially at such a high price point, were kept on the shelf more often than others with pit zips.
There is a wide range of fabric comfort among these jackets, with the REI Co-op Drypoint GTX falling at the bottom of this list, thanks to its stiff, crinkly fabric.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic and Outdoor Research Aspire made the top of the list with their soft, smooth fabric that feels great on your skin and allows you to move freely in any direction. These two contenders also maintained an impeccably dry and breathable jacket environment throughout the testing process.
Weight is a key concern if you are an ultralight hiker. We've come a long way from the days of toting around a heavy full-frame canvas backpack and a thick, rubberized slicker to keep the rain off. Many ultralight hikers only pack a daypack for overnight trips, meaning weight has gained much more attention when considering which gear to purchase. Thankfully, with the increase in fabric technologies, you no longer have to sacrifice comfort and weight for functionality. We weighed each model on our own scale and compared them to each manufacturer's stated weights to ensure accuracy.
When it comes to the rain jackets we tested, the Outdoor Research Helium II is by far the lightest and most compact of the jackets; weighing in at 5.2 ounces, it's almost half the weight of the rest. With only one pocket, which on the plus side doubles as a stuff sack, and little wind and minimal water protection, this jacket would serve better as a light shell rather than a raincoat suitable for a downpour.
However, many users do not want to sacrifice function to cut down on ounces, so finding a good balance between weight and functionality is key. There are few things worse than tromping through the woods while cold and sopping wet. Our recommendation for travelers who want to keep their weight down is the Marmot Precip, which ranked second in the weight category, weighing in at 8.4 ounces all while still providing excellent water resistance and comfort. This jacket will not weigh you down and will provide all of the protection you should expect from a high-end rain jacket.
Whether you are planning on taking a two-week backpacking trip or you're just heading out for the day, being able to easily fit your jacket into a full-frame backpack, hydration pack, or purse makes your life easier and gives you extra room for your other daily essentials. Plus, since serious hikers, kayakers, and backpackers often take a jacket as a just-in-case measure, you want to make sure that the piece of gear you equip yourself with does not add too much bulk to your trip.
Some of the jackets we tested, such as the Patagonia Torrentshell include their own stow pockets. A few of the models also include carabiner hoops, so you can attach them to the outside of your pack providing you with an added bonus of carrying convenience. Similar to the score in the weight category, the Outdoor Research Helium II also earned high marks in the packed size class, coming in at only 60.75 cubic inches when tucked away in its pocket sack. This alone makes it the perfect for a bit of added weather protection on unpredictable days or when transitioning from morning dew to evening breezes.
With their relatively stiff fabrics, the Marmot Minimalist and REI Co-op Drypoint GTX ranked lowest in this category, as they prioritized water resistance over packability. If you want a great balance between functionality and compactness, the Outdoor Research Aspire ranked second in packed size and at the top in water resistance, allowing you to carry this jacket in any size bag while resting assured that you will remain dry and comfortable should the need arise.
While difficult to determine in just a few short months, we measured the durability of these jackets by testing them in real life situations, whether it was riding our bikes, climbing, or just a casual walk around town. We also tested the seams with varied levels of torsion and pressure. The Arc'teryx Beta SL was a close contender against the Aspire for the most durable, with its seemingly indestructible, hard yet pliable fabric, but what you gain in durability, you sometimes lose in comfort. A better balance is the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, with its reinforced, sealed seams and sturdy, but soft fabric, which provide you with a high level of water resistance in addition to a comfortable fit.
If you do experience any failures, Patagonia and Outdoor Research offer a lifetime guarantee, allowing you to trade in any item no matter how worn, for the lifetime of the product. This assures that you can rest easy when shelling out a good chunk of money for the trusted name brand products. Some other companies, like The North Face, offer limited warranties in case of manufacturing faults.
Choosing the right rain jacket, especially when you are making a significant investment, can seem daunting. The right choice could mean you'll have a solid piece of gear that will last you for years to come and accompany you on a variety of drizzly adventures or you could end up with a partially saturated disappointment. Water resistance and breathability are key when selecting a rain jacket, but there are also many other factors to take into consideration before making your selection. Armed with the details we've provided, we hope you have enough information when it finally comes to decision-making time. Whether you are trudging through the backcountry, taking a mellow walk in the woods, scaling up the side of a mountain, or just window shopping in town, having a proper rain jacket can make or break your day when there's inclement weather afoot. To find out more about picking out the best rain shell for your needs, check out our Buying Advice Article.
— Katherine Elliott, Holly Zynda, & Lyra Pierotti