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Our wet weather experts have tested over 25 of the best rain jackets for women over the last 6 years. This review features 11 of the market's best that'll keep you dry when the weather wails. Primarily testing in the Pacific Northwest, these jackets have seen everything from warm weather to a small sprinkle to a full-on downpour. When rain isn't in the forecast, we pull out the hose and spray ourselves down to test the limits of each product. After years of testing the best products out there, we offer our experience to help you find a rain jacket that won't break the bank and most importantly, will keep you dry.
Weight: 9.4 oz | Material: 40D ripstop (N40r) Gore-Tex New Paclite Plus with DWR treatment
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent water protection
Tight, waterproof zippers
REASONS TO AVOID
No pit vents
Doesn't pack into its pocket
The Arc'teryx Zeta SL offers some serious protection against the elements. It's one of the most intensely waterproof models we tested and has a large hood and tall chin to keep your face dry - no matter the weather. This raincoat is just on the cusp of being an ultralight hardshell. Its sleek profile and soft interior make it a joy to wear even against bare skin. Gussetted underarms and articulated elbows, combined with longer (but adjustable) sleeves and an impressive hem drop of 5.5 inches give you effective protection against even the strongest storms - without compromising your movement. And true to their brand reputation, this jacket literally exudes durability, helping to justify that shockingly high price tag with a layer built to last for years of intensive adventuring.
However, all that durability and protection come at a cost. It lags behind when it comes to breathability, not only as a thicker model but also a total lack of pit or pocket vents to dump body heat when you need it most. While the soft interior makes it harder for perspiration condensation to build up, with any seriously active endeavor, this is bound to happen. It's also one of the few models we tested that doesn't pack into its own pocket. Though it's just under average weight, the Zeta's stiff fabric makes it a bit more challenging to pack into a small object or stuff at the bottom of your pack. But if you're heading out into some serious weather and need cold protection along with waterproofness, the Zeta has got you covered for the long haul.
Weight: 11.4 oz | Material: Gore-Tex with Paclite, polyester 50D plain weave
REASONS TO BUY
Great for backcountry and urban use
REASONS TO AVOID
Sleeves a bit on the short side
The Outdoor Research Aspire continues to impress us. It scores high marks across the board; from water resistance to breathability, it comes fully equipped with all the bells and whistles. It's an impressive contender, proudly sporting a smooth, soft fabric and flattering fit. The substantial Gore-Tex, Paclite integrated fabric design will withstand and keep you protected from even the heaviest of downpours. It comes fully featured with reinforced, sealed seams and water-resistant zippers. It also sports an adjustable hood, hip cinches, and both elastic and Velcro to seal around your wrists to keep you protected in inclement weather. Being so watertight might sound awfully stuffy, but don't be fooled; the pit vents extend the full length of this jacket and can be fully opened either from the top or poncho-style from the bottom for a quick and easy way to shed excess body heat — and are surprisingly comfortable. When it comes to balancing protection and performance, the designers have covered their bases, with the Aspire earning our highest accolades for its design, fit, and performance.
Weighing 11.4 ounces, the Aspire is one of the heavier jackets we tested. Considering all the extra zipper length on the full-length side vents as well as the waterproof, dual-direction main zipper, we think this weight is justifiable. It also packs down into its own pocket, complete with a clip for easy attachment to your harness or pack. For an impressive merging of wind and water protection with serious breathability, look no further.
Weight: 8.7 oz | Material: NanoPro Eco, 100% recycled nylon ripstop 24 oz/yd with DWR treatment
REASONS TO BUY
Can pack away the hood
Simple yet functional design
High pockets for a waistbelt
REASONS TO AVOID
Not a great hood
For impressive protection from the elements without the heart-wrenching price tag, the Marmot Precip Eco is our top choice. This jacket doesn't skimp on water-repelling features, including dual storm flaps on the main zipper, fully taped seams, and an adjustable hood with a brim. This 8.7 ounce, recycled material jacket is more friendly for the environment and your budget, while still scoring above-average across the board in our tests. Adding to its appeal as a high-value commodity, the Precip Eco's large hood can be easily rolled and stowed into the collar. The collar itself still offers much-appreciated neck protection on windy and chilly days and has a comfortable felt-lined chin guard for added comfort. This lightweight coat stuffs into its own pocket for easy transportation wherever you may roam.
There are a few minor comforts we wish the Precip Eco had. When adjusting the hood, the cord runs through the edge of the brim — fully tightened, this stops the brim from sticking out to protect your eyes from the rain. While its DWR coating offers adequate water protection for most regular uses, if you're hunting for an expedition jacket to brave torrential rain, this thinner jacket isn't quite as intensely protective — or as durable — as some other contenders. It trends a bit crinkly but still offers solid performance in most situations, with a price tag that's far easier to swallow than many others we tested. In a category filled with some intense competition, this combo of performance and price make the Precip Eco a high-value item.
Weight: 9.4 oz | Material: Dry.Q Active Stretch 40D 2.5L 100% nylon
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
Hood not the most protective
Minor durability concerns
Mountain Hardwear is redefining what it means to be a rain shell with the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic. This relatively thin jacket is so soft and comfortable to wear that you'll have a hard time believing it's actually waterproof. Believe it, though — it packs an impressive amount of protection into a flexible jacket that's versatile enough to wear peak-bagging or just walking the kids to school. With a long torso and long arms (both of which can be adjusted to your personal size and shape), the Ozonic provides protection that moves with you and won't leave you exposed to the elements just because you use your arms. The stretchy fabric is impressively breathable, and large pit vents help make this a layer you could even wear on a wintery-mix run. It features a large-toothed zipper that's consistently easy to operate and packs into its own pocket to easily bring with you anywhere.
All that breathability and stretchiness aren't without a few trade-offs. Anything stronger than a light breeze easily cuts through this jacket. The fabric also doesn't offer its impressive stretch AND a ripstop design, which makes it one you might leave at home if you plan to scrape up against rocks or hug any cacti (though we hope you don't do that last one). This stretchy material also needs to be treated more frequently with an extra layer of DWR finish to keep it truly waterproof. However, for a jacket that is seriously versatile across a huge range of activities and motions, the Ozonic can't be beaten.
The Outdoor Research Helium is hands-down the best overall jacket for ultralight travel, scoring among the best for weight and packability. It's an excellent choice for backpacking or any adventure where space and weight are your main concerns. It also ranks highly in breathability, with its thin design that's great for keeping you dry on the inside as well as the outside. The latest technology from Outdoor Research also makes this thin jacket impressively resistant to rain - it's one of the few we tested that repelled rain from both the fabric and the zippers.
However, this jacket is incredibly thin, which won't do much for cold weather protection. It also isn't our absolute favorite when it comes to fabric feel against bare skin. As an everyday option, it's lacking hand pockets or a longer torso that make it super comfortable for casual wear. But for an emergency layer and super packable protection, you really can't beat this ultralight jacket that's practically begging to be clipped to your harness or tossed in your bag to accompany you everywhere.
Our team of rain jacket testers is led by long-time avid outdoorswoman and Senior Review Editor, Maggie Nichols. Maggie never lets the weather stop her from going for a run or heading out on an adventure with her energetic dog. She loves kayaking, biking, and exploring in the rain when the bulk of the crowd goes home. She's been a backcountry guide in rainforests and mountain ranges for over 15 years. Maggie has been testing all kinds of outdoor adventure gear for GearLab since 2017 and loves putting new pieces through torturous testing. She and her friends and family have spent hours testing these jackets in wet and windy weather through all four seasons.
To test rain jackets, we started by selecting the highest-rated models amongst the industry's leading brands. Ranging from ultra-lightweight to three-layered heavyweight models, we ran them through a gamut of tests. We compared the breathability of each of the models to make sure you don't overheat while taking on aerobic activities. We also analyzed durability in real-life scenarios, so you don't have a catastrophic failure while out in the wilderness. These tests had us outside whenever the weather rolled in and inside conducting some limit-pushing lab tests with showers, hoses, and pools. Our unbiased and objective reviews provide direct comparisons that will help you find what you need.
Analysis and Test Results
The rain jackets we test satiate a wide range of uses, spanning from torrential downpours to protection from the wind. We look at models composed of three-layer of Gore-tex to ones that'll pack down to half the size of a water bottle. To help you nail down the right model for you, we've assessed each jacket based on key criteria and discussed the performance differences of each below.
When evaluating and scoring products, we never consider their cost. However, we recognize that this is a very important factor when you decide which product is right for you. While some categories clearly demonstrate a linear relationship between the money you spend on a product and the performance you can expect from it, that's not the whole story with women's raincoats.
The Marmot PreCip Eco is one jacket that bucks that cliche, merging reliable performance with a fairly low price tag, making it a high-value jacket. The Outdoor Research Aspire is another high-value product. It costs more than many others we tested (though far from the most expensive) but outperforms the rest, making it an excellent investment.
We assessed models with a wide variety of fabric components, ranging from the all-mighty Gore-Tex to DWR treated nylon 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 is designed differently to keep out multi-directional pummeling rain and unexpected flurries. To test the water resistance of each jacket, we tested them both outside in storms and inside in the lab.
What we discovered is that many of the raincoats, such as the Outdoor Research Aspire and Arc'teryx Zeta SL, perform impressively well, providing full-torso, arm, and head protection when fully battened down (all tighteners and straps fully sealed). Both of these jackets are seriously watertight with thicker fabric and details where it counts to keep you from taking on a single drop of moisture.
The Outdoor Research Interstellar, OR Helium, Cotopaxi Parque, and REI Stormbolt GTX also all perform admirably both in the lab and through stormy weather. Each of these options lacks a little something extra when it comes to water protection, though. The OR Interstellar and Helium both started losing their DWR coating during the end of our testing period and had to be redone with a fresh application of Nikwax in the washer. The Cotopaxi Parque lasted a little longer before needing to be recoated and has a large hood that is a bit lacking in side-of-the-face protection. And the REI Stormbolt let pooled water slip through the main zipper during our laboratory testing.
Also notable for their weather resistance are the Mountain Hardwear Ozonic and Rab Downpour. The Ozonic impressed us because, as such a stretchy jacket, we expected it not to withstand water as well. We are happy to report that we were wrong about that, and the Ozonic does a great job keeping you dry while still staying stretchy and flexible. The Rab Downpour is also a pretty thin jacket that holds up well to the weather, but we really like its hood. It's a great shape that conforms easily to individual noggins and has a wide brim with a flexible edge that protects your face from both the top and the sides. Where some jackets' hoods fall short, the Downpour is among our favorites.
There is a wide range of fabric comfort among these jackets, from soft, stretchy options to stiff, crinkly coats. We considered a wide range of factors when assessing comfort, like fabric feel, fit, range of motion, adjustability, and ease of use.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, the Outdoor Research Aspire, and the Arc'teryx Zeta SL all rank near the top of the pack with their soft, smooth fabric that feels great on your skin and allows you to move freely in any direction. The Zeta and Aspire both have a great design that is flattering without compromising on the ability to layer over other clothing. The Zeta and Ozonic both allow an impressive range of motion, though in different ways. The Ozonic accomplishes this with 4-way stretch fabric, long arms, and a long, protective torso. The Zeta gets there with clever design, including articulated elbows, gusseted underarms, long, adjustable sleeves, and an impressive hem drop.
The OR Interstellar is also notable for its moderate amount of stretch and well-designed underarm panels that facilitate a great range of motion and is a favorite of ours for climbing. The REI Stormbolt is a 3-layer jacket with an extra collar inside the hood and pockets that can still be used with a waist belt or harness on. It does an excellent job of melding everyday comfort with technical features that made it a go-to for colder day adventures.
The Marmot Minimalist is also a surprisingly soft, pliable jacket that's pleasant to wear and has some of the largest, most useful hand pockets of any we tested. This jacket, unfortunately, falls short on water protection, but we love how it feels.
When it comes to waterproof fabrics, issues such as condensation and moisture trapping can become major annoyances. Thus, breathability is a serious concern, particularly for active and windy endeavors. Each model's breathability is a combination of its fabric qualities and additional jacket features like pit vents and dual zippers. We tested jackets by adventuring outside in a variety of weather conditions; in wind and in front of a fan, and while walking, climbing, biking, running, paddling, and just about any activity we could come up with.
Many jackets offer varying sizes of pit vents, from as small as seven inches long to running the entire length of the jacket. The OR Aspire is that second one, with dual zips on each side that allow you to open any length of space from the inside of your arm to the bottom hem of the jacket. You can even flap it all the way open like a poncho if you need to dump some heat in a hurry. While lots of jackets feature a more standard pit zip design, the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, REI Stormbolt, Patagonia Torrentshell, and Cotopaxi Parque all offer dual direction zips on each vent, which lets you put your opening where you want it most.
A couple of jackets are notable for their exceptionally breathable fabric. The Stretch Ozonic and OR Helium are those two jackets. Each of these jackets loses out a bit when it comes to wind resistance, but they are also some of our top choices for high output activities because their fabric is seriously breathable. As an ultralight model, the Helium doesn't even have pit vents and instead relies on some exceptionally thin fabric to keep you moving when you need to.
While difficult to determine in just a few short months, we measured the durability of these jackets by testing them in real-life situations, from riding our bikes and playing with dogs to climbing and running errands around town. We also tested the seams with varied levels of torsion and pressure.
The Arc'teryx Zeta and OR Aspire take the cake in this metric, as some seriously durable jackets. They are both thick, have reinforced seams, long-lasting zippers, and are built to take a beating. Each is made of tough materials with a lot of thought that went into the construction of each one. Just holding these jackets, we noticed they both practically ooze durability.
The REI Stormbolt GTX is also a close contender for durability. Its rugged 3-layer construction is made with Gore-Tex with an external, 30D ripstop nylon hull that holds up well against some serious abrasion. The zippers are also secure and well-designed to withstand daily use. Tidy, fully taped seams add even more credibility to the robustness of this sturdy jacket. Our only issue with it during testing was a few small stains it picked up along the way.
Weight and Packability
Weight and packability are key concerns if you're looking to cut ounces or volume for any reason. We weighed each model on our own scale to see what they truly balance out at, and packed each one as small as we could to discern our relative willingness to bring them along on any given adventure.
When it comes to the rain jackets we tested, the Outdoor Research Helium is by far the lightest and most compact of the jackets; weighing in at 5.6 ounces, it's less than half the weight of many of the others we tested. With a single zippered chest pocket that doubles as a stuff sack, this minuscule layer is an excellent option for an emergency layer and in non-extreme weather. It does cut certain comforting features to drop weight (like hand pockets and pit zips) but doesn't sacrifice the truly important ones (like an adjustable hem and hood).
Many of us don't want to sacrifice function just to shed a few 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 Eco, which weighs just 8.7 ounces and provides excellent water resistance and comfort. The North Face Venture 2 is also a pretty reasonable, packable option, fitting into its own pocket and weighing just 9.3 ounces.
Choosing the right rain jacket, especially when it comes to 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. 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.
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