Over the last couple of years, I’ve done my share of hiking in the rain. Apart from the 5 years I lived in the Pacific Northwest, on the 2017 Bearfoot Theory group trip to Alaska, we spent 7 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 in 2021.
In this blog post, we share the rain jackets that have withstood the test of the trail by the Bearfoot Theory team. At the very bottom, we talk about the materials and technical features of hiking rain jackets to help you determine exactly what you need. We hope the information here helps you get the most for your money while ensuring you stay dry while you hike.
Here are the best women’s rain jackets for hiking in 2021.
Arc’teryx Beta AR Women’s Rainjacket
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 10 rainy days in the field, as well as on my Bearfoot Theory Group Trip in Olympic National Park, I never felt clammy, damp, or cold wearing it.
- Weight: 13.2 ounces
- Highly waterproof and windproof with 3-layer Gortex protection
- Pit-zips to keep the air flowing
- Weatherproof zippers
- Adjustable hem cord to keep chilly air out on cold, windy days
- “Lifetime of product” warranty, which means it’s the only rain jacket you’ll have to buy for a very long time.
- Price: $$$$
Outdoor Research Women’s Helium Rain Jacket
This Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket is great for backpackers and hikers who want to shed weight from their pack. Bearfoot Theory’s former community manager, Kim, packed the Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket on her Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike. Here are some of the features that landed this on the list of the best rain jackets for women in 2021.
- Weight: 5.5 ounces! – this is the lightest of lightweight rain jackets for hiking
- No-frills elastic cuffs
- Packs into its own pocket.
- Built with some of the highest technology with Pertex Shield+ 2.5-layer nylon.
- Water-repellent front zipper
- Adjustable hood
- Price: $$
REI Rainier Women’s Rain Jacket
The REI Rainier Women’s Rain Jacket offers fantastic value! 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. It’s cute, comfortable, lightweight, and has all the features you need in a rain jacket.
- Weight: 11.4 ounces
- Packs into its own zipper, making it easy to store on vacations and backcountry trips
- Bluesign® approved fabric, meaning its production has the lowest possible impact on people and the environment
- Windproof to 60 mph
- Pit zips
- Adjustable hood
- Sealed seams to prevent leakage
- Price: $
Check Price: REI
Patagonia Torrentshell Women’s Rain Jacket
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 of 2021. This lightweight rain jacket is made with sustainable, eco-friendly materials, has an adjustable hood, and comes in a variety of colors.
- Weight: 12.5 ounces
- 3-layer waterproof jacket that offers long-term performance
- Bluesign® approved fabric and eco-friendly – made from recycled nylon waste and bio-based content
- Jacket stuffs into pocket and clips to your pack with a caribeaner
- Durable water repellent zippers
- Two-way adjustable hood
- Price: $$
Eddie Bauer Women’s Cloud Cap Rain Jacket
Linda, BFT’s Director, recently wore this Eddie Bauer Women’s Cloud Cap Rain Jacket on a trip to Yosemite and had a chance to test it out on the Mist Trail and in a summer thunderstorm. The verdict? It’s the perfect ultralightweight rain shell, especially in warm weather and on backpacking trips where you don’t want to carry any extra weight. It has pit-zips for ventilation and an adjustable hood – two features we consider essential for any rain jacket, and it folds up small into the right-hand pocket making it easy to bring along on any adventure.
Check Price: Eddie Bauer
Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Women’s Rain Shell
You might know Black Diamond from their climbing or backcountry ski gear, but they also make fantastic women’s outdoor apparel. This Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Women’s Rain Shell will stand up to whatever nature throws at it. This rain jacket has similar features to many of the other jackets on this list and comes in a variety of colors. If you want to layer a puffy underneath, many women suggest sizing up.
- Weight: 8.7 ounces, making it one of the lighter options on this list of the best rain jackets for women
- Made from Black Diamond’s proprietary BD.Dry waterproof, breathable, and windproof 2.5 layer fabric
- Slightly stretchy fabric makes it easy to maneuver in
- Pit zips
- Adjustable hood
- Waterproof coated front zipper
- Packs into hand pocket
- Price: $$
North Face Venture 2 Women’s Rain Jacket
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. Here are some of its features:
- Weight: 10.6 ounces
- 2.5 layer waterproof and windproof fabric
- A tried and tested model that has been around for over a decade
- Pit zips
- Packs into hand pocket
- Fully taped seams
- Price: $
Factors to Considering When Buying a New Rain Jacket
Is an expensive rain jacket worth it?
The price of a raincoat 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.
Should a hiking rain jacket be waterproof or 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).
How should a rain jacket for hiking fit?
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.
What materials are best for a hiking raincoat?
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.
Why do hiking raincoats have multiple 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)
What are the important features of women’s rain jackets?
- 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.
What is your favorite lightweight rain jacket for hiking? Tell us in the comments below!
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