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Our experts have bought and tested over 35 of the best rain jackets for women over the past decade, and our most recent review features 11 excellent options. We tested the jackets in every condition, from spring snowboarding to hikes in steamy tropical storms, to get a well-rounded picture of how each jacket performs in the wild. We also ran each product through a set of controlled tests, including wearing them in the shower, to see how they stacked up. We compiled the data to craft a thorough review to help you choose the rain jacket that best fits your needs.
The Arc'teryx Beta LT offers the best rain protection when inclement weather gets wet and wild, allowing you to stay out longer and go further. The 3L Gore-tex held up to every lab test we threw at it, as well as hiking in some serious tropical storms. The gusseted underarms and slightly tailored fit with a drop hem provide a good range of motion even though the fabric is thicker and a little stiffer than many other options.
At 12.3 oz, the Beta LT is one of the heaviest jackets tested and one of the few that does not pack down into one of its own pockets. This jacket is not necessarily the best one for those trying to keep a pack ultralight. The price tag is by far the highest of the jackets tested. Still, this is the jacket we recommend for those seeking ultimate extended wet weather protection when a serious squall rolls through.
Weight: 11.4 oz | Material: BlueSign certified Gore-Tex with Paclite 2L, polyester 50D plain weave
REASONS TO BUY
Great water resistance
REASONS TO AVOID
Does not pack into a pocket
The Outdoor Research Aspire II is an all-around great jacket, performing well in every aspect of this test. The design is well thought out and shows attention to detail. It has one of the most customizable fits to keep moisture from penetrating openings and includes high-end components such as waterproof zippers. The Gore-tex Paclite 2L fabric offers some of the best water resistance in this test while remaining light and flexible, without feeling stiff or restricting range of motion. We loved the Aspire's TorsoFlo venting, which runs from the armpit to the bottom hem, quickly dumping heat when fully open.
With all the bells and whistles this jacket includes, the one design feature we found lacking was a double zipper on any of the pockets, so while the jacket actually fits into the chest pocket, we found this impractical for stowing it away as it was tedious to attempt to zip it up. This is a small gripe, though, and the Aspire offers up an impressive combination of water resistance, breathability, and comfort. We feel it is worth its higher price tag for those looking for a performance-driven rain jacket.
The Marmot PreCip Eco sits firmly in the intersection of value and functionality, with a price tag that won’t break the bank, while not skimping on the essentials. It's one of the lightest garments in our review and easily packs into its hand pocket, making it a great option for travel. The recycled nylon ripstop fabric is lightweight and comfortable, moving well while keeping the wearer dry.
With the lower price tag, it is missing a few of the extra features of the higher-end jackets, like key clips, additional zipper pulls, or dual zippers, but it includes all the essentials, like pit zips, hand pockets, and an adjustable hood. This is a great option for a functional, packable, and affordable rain jacket to get you outdoors no matter your budget or the weather.
With many great options available, the PreCip really takes the cake for its excellent performance and lower price point.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic was a top performer for breathability and mobility and was our testers' top choice for active endeavors. The stretch fabric, soft hand feel, and relaxed fit combine to give this garment the best mobility, allowing the body to move in its full range of motion while keeping the wearer dry. Testers found that the lightweight 2.5L fabric combined with the pit zips meant this jacket had some of the best breathability in the bunch.
The breathability and flexibility of the fabric do have a few trade-offs. The Ozonic was not as waterproof as some of the more robust fabrics tested, taking up water sooner. The hood tightens around the top of the head from the back, which worked pretty efficiently for keeping it in place, but was less comfortable than some other options. This is the best option for those prioritizing mobility and breathability for more intensely active adventures in less-than-ideal weather. For a versatile jacket that can move in any direction, vent heat efficiently, and is ideal for a wide range of activities and conditions, it is hard to beat the Ozonic.
The Outdoor Research Helium is by far the best jacket for ultralight travel, with the smallest pack-down size, and the scant weight of only 5.6 oz — half the weight of many jackets tested. It packs into its only pocket, and the tiny package can fit in just about any space, or clip onto a bag or harness.
With the focus on a minimalist, ultralight design, this jacket lacks a few key features, such as hand pockets, adjustable wrist cuffs, and a visor on the hood. The fabric is one of the most breathable, but without vents, it was not quite enough to quickly vent heat when temperatures rose and activity increased. This was the jacket we found ourselves reaching for when trying to keep backpacks or suitcases light while traveling and backpacking, and it's our top choice for a lightweight, packable option
Before testing began, we researched the wide range of rain jacket options available on the market. After narrowing the field down, we purchased the 11 jackets reviewed here at full retail price. We then tested our selection for months in the field as well as in lab tests. Our testing included over 100 total assessments. Water resistance was our top priority, and along with real-world tests in every type of rainstorm mother nature threw at us, we also designed three lab tests to do a side-by-side comparison in a controlled environment. To test breathability, we walked the same one-mile, uphill route at an air temperature between 65-70 degrees. Comfort and mobility were tested through hours of use in the field, and close attention to detail. Every jacket was weighed and packed into dedicated pockets and measured. We repetitively tested zippers, velcro, and drawcords, meticulously inspecting each product.
Our rain jacket testing is divided across five performance metrics:
Water Resistance tests (25% of total score weighting)
Breathability tests (25% weighting)
Comfort and Mobility tests (20% weighting)
Weight and Packability tests (15% weighting)
Durability tests (15% weighting)
This rain jacket review is brought to you by Jessica Albery. Jessica has worked outdoor jobs in New Zealand, Australia, and Oregon and is currently based out of Truckee, California. She loves backpacking, hiking, snowboarding, and running, and never lets inclement weather get in the way of a good adventure. She believes that having the right gear for a situation means you can stay out longer and go further. Jessica has a degree in journalism and values scientific, unbiased research when reviewing outdoor gear in order to present accurate information. She recruited a few friends to help test jackets on their adventures to get additional input and provide a well-rounded picture of how these jackets worked for a range of people.
Analysis and Test Results
Following the testing period, we scored each jacket based on their performance in every field, crunched the numbers, evaluated each jacket based on our testing criteria, and discussed the variations in performance to help you find the ideal jacket to fit your lifestyle. Whether you are looking for a 3-layer Gore-tex jacket that can withstand a torrential downpour or a featherlight jacket for shoving in a pack just in case, we have a jacket for you.
When shopping for outdoor gear, many are hoping to find the option with the best performance-to-cost ratio that will be the best value for money spent. Some less expensive raincoats may be easy on the wallet but may also be easy on weather protection. Others manage to keep the cost low, while still offering excellent performance.
The Marmot PreCip Eco comes with a price tag on the lower end of the spectrum, but this jacket definitely punches above its weight when it comes to storm protection. It held its own in all tests and is comfortable, reliable, and easy to use. It doesn’t cut corners when it comes to functionality and is a practical wet-weather staple.
The Patagonia Torrentshell is another one that offers great value. Of the jackets in the midrange price field, it offers the best water resistance and would be an excellent choice for those looking for maximum weather protection without breaking the bank. The Rab Downpour is another in this category that is worth considering for its value. It performed decently well in all tests, and with a moderate price tag would also be a good investment, especially for those looking for good value for more active endeavors.
Water Resistance is the most important aspect of a rain jacket, and we were meticulous and thorough in our testing. We tested the water resistance of each jacket outdoors in storms to get real-world first-hand experience, as well as through multiple tests inside the lab to get a good side-by-side comparison of how each one performed under the exact same conditions. We spent about 400 minutes in the shower testing water resistance in a controlled environment. We tested garments made from a wide variety of fabrics. Besides testing the fabric technology, when testing the water resistance of a jacket, we also considered the details, including taped seams, hood size and adjustability, the ability to tighten the cuffs. We also assessed the water resistance of the zippers, whether this was achieved with a water-resistant Polyurethane coating or a zipper flap.
The Arc’teryx Beta LT performed outstandingly well in every water resistance lab test. It also kept testers dry in the gnarliest weather, even over a multi-day camping trip in a tropical storm. The 3L Gore-Tex excelled at preventing water from penetrating the fabric. Its large helmet-compatible hood is fully adjustable and offered some of the best coverage in our test fleet. This one also stayed the driest for the longest in the lab tests, and the sealed zippers proved they would not let water in, keeping underlayers, as well as valuables like phones and keys dry in pockets. We did not find a weak spot in the water resistance of this garment, and it is the best for those looking to get out in the worst squalls in continually wet climates.
The Outdoor Research Aspire II was another top contender in this category, with its 2L Gore-Tex Paclite shedding water like a duck in the rain. While this jacket took up water a little sooner than the Arc’teryx, it was able to hold its own in all water resistance tests. This jacket also kept testers dry for the long haul and has water-resistant coated zippers that did well at keeping the pockets dry for longer than many others. The large brim on the hood excelled at keeping water off of the face, and the hood cinched down tight to keep rain sealed out. This one is well worth the price considering its exceptional water resistance.
The Patagonia Torrentshell and Marmot Minimalist also did very well in these categories, but each lacked the little extra protection of the Aspire and the Beta. Both of these stayed dry for a long time in the shower test but lost points when testing the zippers. Both jackets have zipper flaps on the pocket zippers and chest zippers, whereas the Aspire and Beta feature coated zippers. Of these four, the coated zippers performed significantly better in the pooled water test. The paper towels in the zippered hand pockets of the Minimalist got wet quicker than that of the others.
While keeping outside moisture from penetrating a rain jacket is of utmost importance, it is also important to ensure internal moisture can escape. When evaluating breathability, we assessed the performance of the fabric, lining, and pit zips for venting heat and moisture in a series of tests. Besides biking, hiking, walking, and splitboarding in these jackets in a wide range of conditions to get a feel for how they performed in the field, we also walked the same steep one-mile route when the temperature was between 65 and 70 degrees in every jacket. We kept the pit zips closed for the first part of this hike, and then opened them at the same spot on the route to assess how each performed. Our least favorite test in this review was definitely wearing the jackets on a hot day to see how they dealt with sweat.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic takes the cake in the breathability department, with its combination of highly breathable fabric as well as pit zips. This was by far our testers' favorite for active endeavors.
The Rab Downpour was a close second in breathability for active endeavors, and the long vents quickly dumped heat. Without vents, the OR Helium relies on an ultralight 2.5-layer fabric to vent heat and internal moisture. These three jackets with more breathable fabric are slightly less wind resistant than some of the options made of heavier fabrics.
The OR Aspire features a dual zip pit vent that runs from the inside of the arm all the way down to the bottom hem of the jacket. While the fabric was not quite as breathable as the two mentioned above, it was the quickest to vent heat as soon as the vents were opened, thanks to the extended length.
Comfort and Mobility
We considered a few different aspects of comfort, including fabric feel, range of motion, fit, adjustability, and ease of use. Much of this was evaluated in the field, over repetitive use in different situations. For fabric feel, we tested each jacket with short sleeves to see how the inner fabric felt against the skin, as well as evaluating the neckline, cuffs, and pockets. Besides wearing the jackets for a wide variety of activities, we did the same stretches in each jacket to assess the range of motion. We evaluated the cut of the jacket, as well as how well it fit over layers. We also tested every adjustable feature that let us customize the fit. And finally, for ease of use, we tested all the little details while out in the field. We considered how smoothly zippers slide, how easy pit zips were to use, if drawcords were accessible, how well the hood adjusted to our head, and if phones, snacks, and keys fit in the pockets.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic was a tester favorite that we kept reaching for because of its high level of comfort. The fabric is lightweight, has a slight stretch, and moves effortlessly with the body. It is on the slightly roomier, longer side of the ones tested, which helped with coverage, comfort, and layering.
The Outdoor Research Aspire also scored high for comfort, with its lightweight, flexible fabric, a fit that offers a full range of motion, and great features offering good adjustability. Its thoughtful design made it one of the most easy-to-wear jackets.
The Arc'teryx Beta LT is made of a 3-layer Gore-Tex — the pinnacle of waterproofness — but this fabric is one of the stiffer options out there. That being said, the cut and design are fantastic, including underarm gussets to allow for a better range of motion through the arms and shoulders. The fit is flattering, while still leaving plenty of room to move freely. It has the biggest hood, which can fit over a helmet but is still fully adjustable and can be cinched down around the face when not wearing a helmet. Arc’teryx has done an excellent job of ensuring this jacket is highly waterproof and quite comfortable, and it has one of the most well-thought-out designs loaded with features and adjustability.
The Rab Downpour is another outstanding option in the field of comfort, with a soft, flexible fabric that feels good against the skin, and moves with your body. It is packed with details to make it adjustable and easy to use.
Weight and Packability
Weight and packability can be important considerations. Sometimes, this can be the deciding factor when choosing to bring a rain jacket along when the forecast is up in the air. While many manufacturers list the weight, we weighed each model on our own scale to see their true weight. It should be noted that every jacket in this test was a size small, and the actual weight may vary depending on the garment’s size.
We also packed each jacket into its pocket if this was an option, or rolled it up tightly, and then measured their dimensions to get an idea of how small they packed down. We packed and unpacked jackets repeatedly, tossing them in daypacks, overnight packs, and suitcases to get an idea of which were easy to unpack in the field, and which ones we were stoked to take along.
The Outdoor Research Helium jacket was by far the lightest, most compact jacket we tested. It weighed in at a minuscule 5.6 ounces, several ounces lighter than the next lightest option, and half the weight of many others tested. The fabric is featherlight, but the jacket also takes a minimalist approach, ditching certain features to save on weight, including hand pockets, pit zips, and adjustable cuffs. This allows it to pack into its tiny chest pocket, creating a compact package that will tuck into any pack. We found that this meant we were more likely to bring it as an emergency layer when the weather was unpredictable or if there was a low chance of rain in the forecast.
For those looking for a good balance of functionality in a compact package on the lighter side, the Marmot PreCip Eco is an excellent option. It's quite light at 9.2 ounces, and easily packs down into a hand pocket, thanks to the slight stretch of the fabric. It includes more comfort features, including adjustable wrists, hand pockets, and pit zips. The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic is another great option. It weighs 9.7 oz, is easy to pack into its small chest pocket, holds up well in the rain, and includes all the bells and whistles, from 3 pockets to pit zips.
Over the months we tested these jackets, we wore them frequently and tested them in real-life situations, from backpacking to commuting to work on the bike, to doing chores. We hiked wearing backpacks to determine durability from rubbing. We did rapid repetitive zipper tests to test their performance. We twisted and pulled at the seams. We also researched the materials used, and meticulously inspected the manufacturing of the jackets to look for weak spots that could potentially fail.
The Arc’teryx Beta LT performed well in this metric. The 3-layer Gore-Tex fabric is a little heavier, and we found it durable and rugged enough to stand up to frequent use. The components and construction are top quality and it has a well-thought-out design.
The Patagonia Torrentshell jacket’s 3-layer construction with 50-denier ECONYL recycled nylon ripstop is sturdy and held up well through the testing process. The Outdoor Research Aspire II also features top-quality components and a 2-layer Gore-Tex Paclite outer fabric that performed well in all tests.
With the wide range and variety of rain jackets, finding the best fit for your needs can seem daunting. Ideally, you can find a piece of gear that will perfectly fit your lifestyle and will keep you dry in less-than-ideal conditions on many adventures for years to come. With the hours of time spent in each rain jacket and the details provided in this review, we have worked to take some of the guesswork out of buying this crucial piece of gear. So whether you are on a grand backcountry adventure, or just don’t want to let a little rain keep you indoors, there is a jacket to fit every need to keep you dry when inclement weather threatens to hinder your plans.
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