In the past, staying dry and comfortable in the rain in a wearable fashion (cause you know, survival and stuff) was accomplished using natural materials like woven grasses and leaves, fabrics imbued with vegetable oils or thin pieces of tree rubber, and even animal intestines. Yum. A far cry from the homemade yet innovative rainwear of yesteryear’s hunters and gatherers, our modern-day rain jackets and raincoats are made from robust fabrics like Gore-Tex, nylon, and polyester, kitted out with bells and whistles all with the same end goal of keeping us dry through drizzle and downpour.
While most outdoor pursuits are more recreational than about mere survival, having a functional waterproof layer that fits is just as important. In fact, a rain jacket or raincoat is a universal gear essential—and a good one will serve even the greenest outdoorists just as well as those with decades of experience.
What to Know Before Buying a Rain Jacket
The women’s jacket market offers a range of styles, prices, and wordy labels that may or may not be easy to understand. Fear not. When it comes to deciphering a tag or product description, there are really just a few essential things to look out for when it comes to choosing the right rain jacket for you.
Waterproof vs Water-Resistant vs DWR
A good rule of thumb is to look for waterproof, rather than water-resistant jackets. Waterproof fabrics are impervious to water pressure and wind for total coverage from the elements. Most modern impermeable fabrics are also breathable to let air or perspiration out as your body heats up while hiking, cycling, or just getting around town. DWR, or Durable Water Repellent, is an added layer of protection; DWR is a chemical treatment commonly used on rain jackets and outerwear that makes water bead up and simply roll off the surface before it can even reach your raincoat's Gore-Tex layer.
Rain Jacket Construction
As for rain jacket layers, most have either a 2, 2.5, or 3-layer construction. It’s easiest to think about the level of coverage and durability from high to low. A 3-layer jacket gives you the most protection from wind and rain, but is heavier and less breathable. A 2.5-layer jacket is durable and lightweight with great coverage, but can sometimes give you that clammy next-to-skin feeling. Finally, a 2-layer rain jacket is lightweight with a loose-hanging layer like mesh on the inside — it's not as technical or durable, but adequate for your everyday needs.
The 10 Best Rain Jackets for Women
Made from 100% recycled fabric, this 2.5-layer rain jacket is an ultra-stretchy and lightweight packable option that can easily be stowed away in its own stuff sack in case of a rainy emergency. While the supersoft next-to-skin feel might fool you into thinking this shell is merely a delicate windbreaker, it’s not. The 50D ripstop fabric is designed to hold up to wear, tear, and frequent use on the trail and off.
Price: $200 SHOP NOW
Inspired by Helly Hansen’s seafaring heritage, this budget-friendly rain jacket is a modern update of the classic 1950 Helly Hansen fisherman’s raincoat. It has the highest range of water and windproof capabilities, complete with welded seams and zippers to keep even the tiniest bit of weather out. Plus, it has a roomy fit for easy layering underneath on chilly days. It isn't the most breathable raincoat, but it is pretty dang affordable.
Price: $65 SHOP NOW
Using a combination of 3-layer construction and Patagonia's proprietary waterproof/breathable material, the Torrentshell jacket is a simple and versatile go-to if you want a high-performance rain jacket that’s geared towards outdoor use but good for everyday use too. Made from recycled materials and Fair Trade certified, it has a DWR finish that gives it extra oomph when competing against sudden downpours or steady wind and rain, so you can get out and stay out without worrying about getting soaked.
Price: $149 SHOP NOW
Although its sleek, minimalist aesthetic (and male model) might say otherwise, this full-length rain jacket is a surprisingly high-performance unisex outer layer. Made with Gore-Tex’s 2.5-layer Paclite technology, it gives you all the wind-resistance and waterproof-ness you need in an ultralight (and we mean, ultralight) material. A stowaway hood and matte texture in a charcoal hue compliment its longer, urban-appropriate cut and make for a cool and sleek around-town raincoat that packs down easily when the storm passes.
Price: $345 SHOP NOW
Made for any activity in any weather, the Allogron is designed to be the Swiss Army knife of technical outerwear with its stretchy 3-layer construction. Fully-taped seams, a DWR coating, and a 3D adjustable hood that cinches in the front and back seal you in and keep the weather out. When you need to come out for some ventilation, open up the long underarm pit zip zippers to let the heat out. And, as a bonus, this jacket's material is remarkably quiet, so you can get around without too much swishing.
Price: $600 SHOP NOW
Not too heavy and not too light, the Antora is a perfect mid-weight option for when you want a substantial, multi-purpose rain jacket. Its waterproof/breathable fabric works to keep you cool and dry when you start working up a sweat, and it has a DWR finish to really keep the elements out. A drawcord hem gives you some function and fashion (love to see it) in a few color block styles that give off a retro vibe.
Price: $109 SHOP NOW
Let’s be honest, sometimes rainy days on the city streets are just as raw and rugged as the high-alpine backcountry. Made in a Fair Trade-certified facility, this thigh-length raincoat from Arc'teryx offers tons of coverage from city breezes and rain, and is still breathable with a soft, brushed lining for mega coziness. Four-way stretch lets you move freely and comfortably whether you’re running out for coffee or to catch the next train out of town.
Price: $280 SHOP NOW
RAINS’s take on the classic poncho rolls fashion and technical features into one unisex layer. Designed for versatility but with an eye for bike commuters and cyclists, the Cape has snap fastenings at the arms that provide security by creating makeshift sleeves and there thumb holes to keep them in place as you move. There's also a drawstring hood with a cap brim that encourages water to move away from your face, and its soft, PU waterproof fabric with welded seams keeps you dry in light to moderate rainfall.
Price: $125 SHOP NOW
Designed for mountaineering and more demanding outdoor pursuits, the waterproof Bergtagen is lightweight yet durable, with four-way stretch that won't hold you back on steep scrambles or challenging ascents. The partially-recycled Eco-Shell material doesn’t just block out wind and rain but sleet and snow as well, all while maintaining good breathability. Zippered side vents add to that effect, and drawstrings on the hood make it easy to access and fit a helmet underneath.
Price: $575 SHOP NOW
This best-seller from Outdoor Research has rightfully earned accolades for a design that includes Gore-Tex's durable Paclite fabric, which isn’t only waterproof and breathable but ultra-lightweight as well. Wear it outdoors or around town for uncompromising coverage from the elements, and when you heat up, unzip the jacket from hem to bicep to wear poncho-style for some serious ventilation. As a bonus, it’s Bluesign-approved, meaning it’s been made with a minimal environmental impact.
Price: $225 SHOP NOW