Best Women’s Lightweight Rain Jackets for Hiking in 2023
Check out the best lightweight rain jackets for women with options for every budget and tips on how to choose.
Over the years I’ve done my share of hiking in the rain. Apart from the 5 years I lived in the Pacific Northwest, on a Bearfoot Theory group trip to Alaska, we spent 8 solid days backpacking in the rain. Hiking in the rain and staying comfortable is a bit of an art, but it all starts with having the right gear.
To help you stay dry in whatever conditions you may face, we put together this list of the best rain jackets for women that have withstood the test of the trail by the Bearfoot Theory team. We’re an all-women team of experienced hikers who understand the unique needs and challenges faced by women when selecting gear for outdoor adventures.
At the very bottom, we talk about the materials and technical features of hiking rain jackets to help you determine exactly what you need.
Best Women’s Rain Jackets at a Glance
- Bearfoot Theory team favorite: Outdoor Research Aspire II Gortex Jacket
- Best rain jacket for downpours: Arc’teryx Beta AR Jacket
- Best ultralight rain jacket for backpacking: Outdoor Research Women’s Helium Rain Jacket
- Best budget-friendly rain jacket: REI Rainier Women’s Rain Jacket
- Best eco-friendly rain jacket: Patagonia Torrentshell Women’s Rain Jacket
- Best lightweight rain jacket for travel: Eddie Bauer Women’s Cloud Cap Rain Jacket
- Most durable rain jacket: Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Women’s Rain Shell
- Best value rain jacket: North Face Venture 2 Women’s Rain Jacket
Best Women’s Rain Jackets Comparison Table
See the comparison table below for a quick summary of each of the top women’s rain jackets. You can click on the columns to sort by what’s most important to you.
|Name||Pit Zips||Weight (oz)||Waterproofing||Price|
|https://bit.ly/3OEZV1i||Outdoor Research Aspire II||Yes||11.7||2-layer GORE-TEX PACLITE textile||$225|
|https://bit.ly/42iL8Bo||Arc'teryx Beta AR||Yes||13.8||N40p-X 3L GORE-TEX Pro||$600|
|https://bit.ly/3Tml4Rx||Outdoor Research Helium||No||5.6||2.5-layer Pertex Shield||$180|
|https://bit.ly/36BiO2s||REI Rainier||Yes||11.4||Peak 2.5-layer||$99|
|https://bit.ly/3HIULAU||Patagonia Torrentshell||Yes||12.4||3-layer H2No®||$179|
|https://eddiebauerus.ygwk.net/x9nrn1||Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap||Yes||8||2.5-layer WeatherEdge®||$99|
|https://bit.ly/3q7Gh2E||Black Diamond Stormline||Yes||7.9||BD.dry||$170|
|https://bit.ly/3liobaq||The North Face Venture 2||Yes||10.6||2.5-layer DryVent||$99|
Outdoor Research Aspire II
Bearfoot Theory Team Favorite
- Great for: day hikes, backpacking, travel, everyday use
- What we like: fabric allows for more movement than your typical rain jacket, lightweight & packable, several strategically placed zippers for ventilation
- What we don’t like: oversized fit on the hood
I brought the Outdoor Research Aspire II Rain Jacket on my trip to Europe last summer and it’s quickly become my favorite everyday rain jacket.
While it never rained on the trail when I was wearing it, I did wear it in the rain walking around town and it kept me very dry. I like this jacket because it moves with your body (the material is soft and flexible rather than stiff), doesn’t make a ton of noise like my Arc’teryx Beta rain jacket, and it’s very light and packs small so you can throw it in your pack without taking up a bunch of room.
Since it’s comfortable to hike in, it can also serve as an extra layer for wind and cold, even in dry conditions. It’s got pit zips, waterproof zippers, and an adjustable hood so you can get the perfect fit. I’m still not sure how it would hold up in an Alaskan downpour, but for everyday hiking, I think it’s an excellent option.
Arc’teryx Beta AR Women’s Rain Jacket
Best Rain Jacket for Downpours
- Great for: hiking in downpours, people living in rainy climates
- What we like: most waterproof jacket on the list, “Lifetime of product” warranty, very durable
- What we don’t like: expensive investment, heavier and bulkier than other jackets
Arc’teryx is one of the more expensive outdoor brands, and for years I wondered if they were worth the price. Then right before my Alaska backpacking trip where I needed to be prepared for the elements, I found the Arc’teryx Beta AR rain jacket for 30% off at REI and decided to try it out. After hiking through downpours 8 of 10 days on that backpacking trip, I am so happy I made the investment.
I never felt clammy, damp, or cold wearing the Beta rain jacket and the waterproof zippers prevented water from seeping in. It kept me completely dry, the jacket itself dried quickly, and the pit zips were essential for avoiding feeling sweaty and clammy. This jacket also holds up against the wind really well.
If you live in the PNW or another wet, cold climate or have a backpacking trip where the weather is a major concern and need something that will hold up against lots of rain and wind, this jacket is an awesome choice. For drier climates, lugging this jacket around might be a bit overkill, depending on the season. I took it on a backpacking trip in the Sierras last summer and it was definitely more than I needed for the occasional sprinkle since the Beta jacket is stiffer and doesn’t pack down as well as more lightweight options.
Overall, I’m so happy to have made the investment in this rain jacket and it’s my go-to for hiking in the PNW and other rainy climates, but it’s not the rain jacket I pack for every outdoor adventure. If you want something a little more lightweight, check out the Arc’terx Beta LT.
Outdoor Research Women’s Helium Rain Jacket
Best Ultralight Rain Jacket for Backpacking
- Great for: ultralight backpacking, tossing in your daypack or car for emergencies
- What we like: packs down to pocket-size, one of the most lightweight jackets on our list, breathable
- What we don’t like: no hand pockets, not a ton of extra features
The Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket is great for backpackers and hikers who want to shed weight from their pack. Bearfoot Theory’s former community manager, Kim, packed this rain jacket on her Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike and loved how it packed down super small and held up against the elements. Weighing less than 6 ounces, it is the most lightweight rain jacket on the market! This is also a perfect rain jacket option to toss in your hiking daypack for emergencies since it weighs next to nothing.
However, the biggest downside of this jacket is there are no side pockets, so if you are someone who likes to hold your keys, phone, or wallet in your pocket while you’re hiking or taking a walk in the rain, this may not be the jacket for you.
REI Co-op Rainier Women’s Rain Jacket
Best Budget-Friendly Rain Jacket
- Great for: budget buys, summer trips, lightweight backpacking, hiking, and camping
- What we like: versatile for many outdoor adventures, holds up in windy conditions
- What we don’t like: doesn’t hold up in heavy rain, not well vented
The REI Rainier Women’s Rain Jacket offers fantastic value at a budget price! At less than $90, it’s one of the best rain jackets for women on a budget and is the rain jacket that Linda, Bearfoot Theory’s Director of Operations, currently sports on rainy day adventures. She’s been using it on all her hiking, camping, and backpacking trips since getting it last year and absolutely loves it.
The Rainier Rain Jacket is lightweight and does a great job at repelling rain and blocking out wind. It has all the features we look for in a rain jacket, like pit zips, an adjustable hood, and pockets in all the right places, plus it also comes at a great price point. She loves this rain jacket so much that she also bought one for her husband for Christmas. You can find the men’s version here.
Patagonia Torrentshell Women’s Rain Jacket
Best Eco-Friendly Rain Jacket
- Great for: people looking to buy eco-friendly gear, windy conditions, hiking in downpours
- What we like: deep pockets, Bluesign-approved fabric – made from recycled nylon waste, good wind resistance
- What we don’t like: stiff material, runs small (recommended to order a size up)
We’re huge fans of Patagonia at Bearfoot Theory, thanks to their sustainable business practices and high-quality gear. So it’s no surprise that the Patagonia Torrentshell made the list of the best women’s rain jackets. This lightweight rain jacket is made with sustainable, eco-friendly materials, has an adjustable hood, and comes in a variety of colors. This jacket holds up extremely well in the wind, keeping you not only dry but warm.
Eddie Bauer Women’s Cloud Cap Rain Jacket
Best Lightweight Rain Jacket for Travel
- Great for: travel, summer use, lightweight backpacking
- What we like: one of the most lightweight jacket options, adjustable hood
- What we don’t like: fabric makes a crinkly noise when wearing
Linda, BFT’s Director, wore the Eddie Bauer Women’s Cloud Cap Rain Jacket on a trip to Yosemite National Park and had a chance to test it out on the Mist Trail and in a summer thunderstorm.
The verdict? It’s the perfect ultralightweight rain shell, especially in warm weather and on backpacking trips where you don’t want to carry any extra weight. She also wore this rain jacket in Hawaii and loves that it is chic enough to wear around town as well as on the hiking trails.
Since it packs down so small and is so light, it’s easy to throw in your daypack or travel bag so you’re prepared in case you get caught in an afternoon downpour. It has pit-zips for ventilation and an adjustable hood – two features we consider essential for any rain jacket, and it folds up small into the right-hand pocket making it easy to bring along on any adventure.
Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Women’s Rain Shell
Most Durable Rain Jacket
- Great for: outdoor sports like cycling and climbing, heavy rain, lightweight backpacking
- What we like: extremely durable fabric, breathable, one of the most lightweight jacket options
- What we don’t like: oversized hood (if you’re not using it for cycling), stiff fabric
You might know Black Diamond from their climbing or backcountry ski gear, but they also make fantastic women’s outdoor apparel. This Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Women’s Rain Shell will stand up to whatever nature throws at it.
This rain jacket has similar features to many of the other jackets on this list and comes in a variety of colors. What sets the Stormline apart from the other rain jackets on our list is that this jacket is tailored for outdoor sports like climbing and cycling with ultra-stretchy fabric for added mobility and a climbing-helmet-compatible hood. If you want a women’s rain jacket that can keep up with all your outdoor sports, this is the one.
North Face Venture 2 Women’s Rain Jacket
Best Value Rain Jacket
- Great for: short hikes, dry climates
- What we like: a tried and tested model that has been around for over a decade, great value for price
- What we don’t like: can feel sticky if hiking for extended periods of time in it
Another budget-friendly shell on this list of the best rain jackets for women is the North Face Venture 2. This was my rain jacket before I upgraded to the Arc’teryx, and I found it to be effective, comfortable, and durable. It’s a great rain jacket choice for shorter outings where you might encounter scattered showers or backpacking trips in drier climates where weather isn’t a huge concern. It packs down super small, is lightweight, and has a stretchier texture that I find pretty comfortable compared to other rain jackets.
This jacket doesn’t provide much wind protection or warmth and I wouldn’t rely on it for extended downpours or super wet climates. If I hike for long periods of time in this jacket, I can start to feel sticky, but it does have pit zips which helps regulate temperature. Be warned, this jacket does tend to run small so I recommend sizing up to ensure a roomy fit in case you want to layer with base layers underneath.
6 Factors to Considering When Buying a New Rain Jacket
The price of a rain jacket does make a difference because you’ll get higher quality products that have gone through more testing, research, and development to ensure they work well. While a lower or mid-priced hiking raincoat will still get the job done, it often comes at the cost of some comfort, whether that’s a durable Gore-tex outer layer or breathability and ventilation on the inside that will minimize sweating.
Although it’s tough to spend a larger chunk of change on a piece of gear, it’s often worth the money and can save you from having to replace that item multiple times in the future. Think of it as an investment that will last you for many years, rather than an overpriced piece of gear. In this case, it’s worth it.
If you’re on a budget, choose a quality mid-priced raincoat – the REI Rainier Rain Jacket is a great option – that has the features you need and use most often. Consider the activities you do most often and choose a lightweight rain jacket that suits your hiking style. Chances are you can resell it if it’s still in good condition and when you need to upgrade you’ll know exactly what to buy.
Another great option to save money is to buy gently used outdoor gear.
2. Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant
If you are investing in a durable and effective rain jacket that will stand up to the wind and rain, you’ll want something that is waterproof. While water-resistant raincoats are good for light wind and rain, they don’t have as many technical elements and the fabric won’t do you much good in a storm.
A light windbreaker is a good example of a water-resistant jacket and you can imagine how that would fare if you get caught in an unexpected thunderstorm on the trail (spoiler: not well).
A hiking rain jacket should fit loose enough that you can add extra layers underneath and have a good range of motion that allows you to move your arms around comfortably. It should also fit snug enough so you don’t have too much extra fabric getting in the way as you are hiking.
4. Jacket Materials
If you’ve ever been for a hike in the rain, then you might know how uncomfortable and distracting it is to feel wet from the rain while also suffering through that sticky feeling of your jacket clinging to your skin from your sweat.
A good raincoat will help keep you dry by keeping moisture out from the outside while also allowing sweat or other water vapors from the inside to evaporate.
Here are the most common waterproof fabrics you’ll find when choosing a hiking raincoat.
- Gor-Tex: We often mention Gore-Tex here at Bearfoot Theory because it’s a popular technical fabric that’s commonly used in waterproof outdoor gear. Gore-Tex is a synthetic, waterproof fabric that keeps you dry in the rain or snow. Its lightweight construction makes products with Gore-Tex great for breathability and ventilation so you won’t get overheated when you’re hot on a rainy hike. A raincoat with Gore-Tex is a durable, waterproof option that helps keep you cool and dry.
- Durable Water Repellent (DWR): DWR is an extra coating that gear companies add to hiking raincoats that allow them to literally repel water from the jacket. As water hits the surface of the fabric it beads up and rolls right off rather than getting absorbed or evaporating. DWR definitely keeps you dry, however, it can make a raincoat slightly less breathable. It also requires a bit of upkeep because the finish can wear off over time, so you may need to reapply a new DWR coating every so often. Either way, DWR is a great option for staying dry and often comes at a lower price than Gore-Tex.
There are a few other materials that major outdoor brands are using, such as DryVent, eVent, etc, often with proprietary technology, but Gore-Tex and DWR are the most commonly used in the best rain jackets for women.
5. Number of Fabric Layers
Most raincoats have a 2, 2.5, or 3 layer construction to them that sandwiches the several different layers or membranes of fabric together to create a waterproof jacket. Here’s a quick breakdown of the 3 kinds that will help you navigate the product description and the price when you are choosing a hiking raincoat.
- Midweight 2 Layer Rain Jacket: The midweight 2 layer raincoat is a more budget-friendly option that usually costs under $100. It’s the least technical version and has a mesh liner, so they tend to be breathable, but don’t have as solid of waterproofing. It’s good for wearing around town and shorter hikes where it might rain. (Example: North Face Venture Rain Jacket)
- Midweight 2.5 Layer Rain Jacket: The mid-range 2.5 layer raincoat is a better waterproof option and slightly less breathable than a 2 layer. However, it’s a good choice for longer rainy hikes and backpacking trips. These rain jackets are lightweight and compact with more technical features like pit zips and DWR. 2.5 layer rain jackets can cost over $100. (Example: Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket).
- 3 Layer Rain Jacket: The most durable and technical option is the 3 layer raincoat, also known as a hardshell, which offers ultimate protection, often in a lightweight package. This is a great option for backcountry and harsh climates and can cost $150-$300+. (Example: Patagonia Torrentshell)
6. Important Features
Before you purchase a rain jacket, make sure you take into consideration what features you want and need such as:
- Adjustable Hood: Having a good hood to protect your face and eyes from the elements is an important feature of a hiking rain jacket. Look for one that is adjustable and has a brim to shield your eyes from wind and rain.
- Armpit Vents: This is a MUST for me with any rain jacket I buy. When there is too much humidity in the air for just your hiking raincoat to do the trick, strategically placed vents, especially around the armpits, will be your new best friends. Pit vents release warm air, and some even have vents in the hood or the pocket linings.
- Adjustability drawcords: If you find yourself out in gale-force wind and rain, or even something a little less intense, adjustable drawcords in the hem or waist of your raincoat will cinch in the fabric to help keep the elements out.
- Sealed Zippers: Zippers are places where moisture can seep into the inside of your rain jacket. Bonded seams on the zippers will help keep the rain out, and things like laminated zippers and a zipper garage (a small flap of fabric to cover the zipper when zipped) will keep you dry.
Looking for additional women’s gear recommendations? Check out these posts:
- Best Backpacking Backpacks For Women
- Best Women’s Hiking Boots & Shoes
- Best Women’s Hiking Pants & Leggings
- Best Women’s Hiking Daypacks
- Best Women’s Synthetic Down Jackets
- Best Women’s Hiking Underwear
- What To Wear Hiking: A Women’s Guide To Outdoor Apparel
What is your favorite lightweight rain jacket for hiking? Tell us in the comments below!
I have a nice REI Goretex rain jacket, it works great, but sadly there aren’t any pit vents 🙁
Kristen (or anyone else reading)– The Patagonia Torrentshell has the 2 way hood adjuster but the pull tabs near the chin to cinch the hood don’t stay put like the Arcteryx do. Has anyone found a hack or clip or something to jerryrig it so they stay and don’t lose tension? thanks
Hmmm, we haven’t experienced that problem, but maybe someone else has and they can chime in!
Thanks for all these reviews! I’m searching for a rain shell that’ll hold up when I’m hiking with my 51lb dog in his carrier backpack. I’m leaning toward the Patagonia TorrentShell but I’m hunting for any info from backpackers about rain shells that hold up over time after regular wear with a heavy pack. I do see a lot of people mention jackets they’ve had for years, or repurchase because it was so reliable, but no specific info about a jacket holding up to that kind of weight over time. Would hate to invest $150 if my dog’s backpack is going to damage the shoulders in a year or so! Any thoughts?
Hi Casey, I unfortunately can’t speak to how well these would hold up with that kind of use, but I’d recommend looking at brands with good warranty coverage.
Looking for a waterproof rain jacket for my daughter to wear at college. It rains a lot with wind, so no umbrellas. I want something that won’t make her sweat from the material, but keep her dry.
Hi Stacey, picking a rain jacket depends on the climate – for example, most rain jackets are best-suited for drizzle over downpours. If she’s going to college in a town with steady light rain, jackets like North Face Venture 2, Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap, or Patagonia Torrentshell are great options. If you need something more heavy-duty, Arc’teryx Beta or Black Diamond Stormline are better options.
Thank you for the information, it’s helpful!