It’s impossible to predict the weather while travelling. One minute the sun could be shining high in the sky, the next the heavens are opening up from above!
Wherever you may find yourself roaming, carrying around a durable and lightweight waterproof jacket is never a bad idea. Perfect weather is rare. Even the best vacation spots in the world deal out their own brand of nasty wet weather from time to time!
Not sure where to start looking? Keep dry with help from these 14 best rain jackets for women who love to travel…
Table of Contents
- The best women’s rain jackets of 2018: Top 14 reviews & recommendations for travellers
- In a rush? Here are the best rain jackets for women of 2018 compared…
- Columbia Women’s Arcadia II
- The North Face Women’s Venture 2
- Patagonia Women’s Torrentshell
- The North Face Women’s Resolve 2
- Helly Hansen Women’s Long Belfast
- Marmot Women’s Precip Jacket
- Outdoor Research Women’s Aspire
- Marmot Women’s Minimalist
- Columbia Women’s Switchback II
- Charles River Apparel Women’s New Englander
- How to choose a women’s rain jacket: A buyers’ guide
The best women’s rain jackets of 2018: Top 14 reviews & recommendations for travellers
Shopping for the perfect women’s waterproof jacket for your travels can be confusing. Rain gear today is far better than what you’d find even just a decade ago. Fabrics are becoming ever more durable, water-resistant, and breathable while becoming lighter and more packable. And since space is always at a premium, that’s fantastic news for travellers!
The problem comes with the sheer amount of choice. Everything from the best ultralight rain jackets to stylish rain coats that fit any occasion are all at your fingertips.
Not all, however, are created equal or work well in all situations.
Some of these best waterproof jackets for women are better suited for walking around London in a drizzle than protecting you from a downpour on a hike in Taiwan during typhoon season. Let’s see what awaits!
In a rush? Here are the best rain jackets for women of 2018 compared…
Columbia Women’s Arcadia II
Weight: 14.4 oz.
Best Uses: Casual
There are plenty of reasons that the best Columbia rain jackets top so many best-of lists. And the Columbia Women’s Arcadia II proves that it isn’t just all hype.
With the Acadia II, Columbia’s created one of the most versatile rain jackets for female travellers. The Omni-Tech waterproof and breathable lining is a step above the Omni-Shield technology in the Switchback II. All the seams are sealed to stop water from seeping into the jacket’s most vulnerable areas. The adjustable storm hood is perfect for keep your hair dry in a sudden downpour.
Even with the extra dash of rain protection, the Arcadia II remains packable. When the clouds’ taps turn off, just stuff it into your daypack, and be on your way!
With this jacket, it’s not just function over form. The Arcadia II is stylish, too; it comes in a variety of colours and skips between city and the countryside with ease. Like other Columbia rain jackets, the Arcadia II is made slightly small. You may need to move up a size from your usual, especially if you’re planning to dress in layers.
The North Face Women’s Venture 2
Weight: 10.6 oz.
Best Uses: Casual, hiking
Those who’ve been fans of TNF for awhile will notice that The North Face Women’s Venture 2 is an update on their best-selling Venture design. All the main features of the original have stayed intact while adding on a handful of improvements such as easier-to-use zippers, improved hood adjustments and more comfortable pockets.
The Venture 2’s excellent performance is propelled by its 2.5-layer DryVent™ shell, a waterproof and breathable fabric that’s normally found in jackets in much higher price categories. Even with its spectacular rain protection, the Venture 2 is lightweight, weighing in at just 11.9 ounces. It’s super easy to jam it into your daypack as an emergency jacket without sacrificing much space for other items.
Unlike many other waterproof jackets for women, The North Face Venture 2 works as a three-season jacket. The breathable 2.5-layer shell and pit-zip ventilation provide comfort in a variety of conditions. You’ll find the Venture 2 better suited, however, for casual hikes and urban exploration than hardcore adventures in the wilderness.
Patagonia Women’s Torrentshell
Weight: 11.3 oz.
Best Uses: Casual
When you fit yourself into a Patagonia Women’s Torrentshell you’re not just getting an excellent rain jacket, but one that was created with the utmost care for the planet. Patagonia’s commitment to sustainability is second-to-none among outerwear manufacturers. And despite its eco-friendly outlook, Patagonia’s products are still some of the most robust in the field.
At the heart of the Patagonia Torrentshell is the H2No® Performance Standard protection. The waterproof and breathable 2.5-layer fabric repels water as well as any jacket in the mix. Maybe ever better. Throw in the stowable visored hood and cozy micro-fleece neck liner, and it’s obvious why this coat is winner in inclement conditions.
For adventurers, there’s a carabiner clip-in loop on one of the two zippered handwarmer pockets. The lightweight jacket, docking in at just 301 grams (10.6 oz), even stuffs completely into the left pocket for ulta-quick stowage. The only major downfall of the Patagonia Torrentshell is the zipper, which seems to catch the fabric on nearly every attempt.
The North Face Women’s Resolve 2
Weight: 14.5 oz.
Best Uses: Casual wear in warmer temperatures
A bit sleeker and cooler (in temperature) than its close sibling the Venture 2, The North Face Women’s Resolve 2 offers superb rain protection at a price that’s easy on your pocketbook. The jacket features the same DryVent™ waterproofing as other top TNF jackets in a 2-layer construction that sports a mesh lining for breathability. A fully-adjustable hood shelters your head from the rain or hides away inside the collar when not in use.
The Resolve 2 certainly isn’t the warmest jacket of the bunch. It’s much better suited for summertime or late-spring travel than fall or winter. If you’re planning on wearing the jacket as an shell over a fleece, you may need to move up a size. The jacket is slimmer than others here, tapering in slightly at the waist for a more contoured fit.
Helly Hansen Women’s Long Belfast
Weight: 29.6 oz.
Best Uses: Casual wear in cool weather
As its name would imply, the Helly Hansen Women’s Long Belfast is tailored for the cool, wet and windy weather of the Atlantic with a dash of Scandinavian style. The minimalist and slimming design is simple, keeping the most important features at the forefront and dispensing with needless frills.
The Long Belfast features Helly Tech Protection, a technology found in many of the best Helly Hansen rain jackets, that gives much more expensive Gore-Tex linings a run for the money. The two-layer fabric not just waterproof, but windproof, breathable, and surprisingly warm. An adjustable cinch hood combined with the anti-chafing chin guard keeps your head and face sheltered from nasty weather.
Although the style is one-of-a-kind among these women’s rain jackets, the Long Belfast doesn’t suit everyone the same. Women with shorter torsos might find the 3/4 length a little too long (might look more like a lab coat than a cute rain jacket). The coat is also made a little small, so you might want to move up a size if you’re planning to layer it.
Marmot Women’s Precip Jacket
Weight: 11.4 oz.
Best Uses: Hiking
No doubt, you’ll get better rain performance out of a more expensive model. But the Marmot Women’s Precip Jacket does what it does well—all while remaining affordable for travellers. At the jacket’s core is Marmot’s PreCip Dry Touch fabric, an upgraded technology that provides better waterproofing and breathability than its predecessors. Seam-tape further enhances the watertightness of the jacket.
For day hikes on a budget, there’s little doubt that the PreCip is a top contender. The fit is slimming yet allows active travellers to move freely. Convenient pit-zips help to regulate your temperature and improve breathability on hikes when you start feeling clammy. Not only is the PreCip lightweight (it’s only 11.4 oz!), it also stows away in its own pocket, leaving you plenty of room to carry other items.
Outdoor Research Women’s Aspire
Weight: 13.7 oz.
Best Uses: Emergency shell
When staying dry is the name of the game, the Outdoor Research Women’s Aspire doesn’t hold back any punches. Finished with a waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex shell, this sporty jacket sheds off the elements with ease. Both the fully-taped seams and YKK® AquaGuard® zippers on the Aspire hold back moisture where many other rain jackets fail.
While it’s not 100% breathable (no waterproof jacket truly is!), the TorsoFlo™ side zippers, stretching from the hem to the bicep, cool you down better than most other competitors could dream of. Arm and hand pockets leave plenty of room to store any items you’ll need on the fly. Even with all the features, the Outdoor Research Aspire rolls into a tight package no bigger than a breakfast burrito that fits into its own left-hand pocket.
The jacket wears a little on the warmer side. Look for something a little lighter like the Outdoor Research Helium II to take you through the rainforests of Costa Rica or for lowland hiking in Southeast Asia.
Marmot Women’s Minimalist
Weight: 13.5 oz.
Best Uses: Casual
With its Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, the Marmot Women’s Minimalist is a (small) step ahead of its PreCip brother when it comes to performance. The style holds up to its name, simple yet sporty, holding its own on both the trails and the streets.
The taped seams on the Marmot Minimalist provide a deeper watertightness. Battening down the adjustable hood and chin guard helps further divert the rain away from your hair and face. If the fabric is still leaving you clammy, open up the underarm pit zips for some nice extra airflow.
Despite all its good features, the pockets on the Minimalist are a weak point. A lack of watertight and water-resistant zipper will leave the insides of the pockets drenched in heavier downpours. (No iPhones allowed, I’m afraid!) Other options like The North Face Venture 2 or Columbia Arcadia II provide a better overall value in that regard.
Columbia Women’s Switchback II
Weight: 10.4 oz.
Best Uses: Emergency shell in light rain
For travellers, few women’s rain jackets offer better value than the Columbia Women’s Switchback II. At its heart is a lightweight nylon fabric protected with Columbia’s Omni-Shield technology.
As expected for the price, the jacket’s not full-on waterproof, merely water-resistant. Combined with the stow-away hood, however, it holds up its promise to keep you dry in light and moderate rain. Just don’t expect it to protect you through an all-day downpour.
Side vents improve breathability to make the jacket more comfortable to wear on warmer days. The lack of a liner means that this is the climatic sweet spot for the Columbia Switchback II. It also proves tremendously useful as light water-repellent layer over top of a women’s fleece jacket should the temperature dip a little.
The best feature might be its packability. The Columbia Switchback II is so lightweight that it’s able to fit easily into its own front pockets. That means more room in your backpack for other travel essentials like water bottles, umbrellas, and camera equipment.
Charles River Apparel Women’s New Englander
Weight: 16 oz.
Best Uses: Casual emergency shell
One of the best choices in the sub-$100 range, the Charles River Apparel Women’s New Englander is a simple wind & waterproof jacket that will repel the rain without breaking the bank.
A polyurethane face fabric combines with a lined mesh to offer better durability and comfort. All of the seams on the jacket are heat-sealed to ensure than the elements can’t bore through to the inner layers. The shock-cord drawstring hood tightens snugly to keep your face and head dry.
Although the New Englander offers good value, the fabrics and materials aren’t to everyone’s taste. Even with the mesh lining and underarm vent, the polyurethane provides limited breathability. In warmer climates, extended wear can leave you feeling sticky and unpleasant.
The New Englander is certainly a good choice when you’re stuck in a bind and don’t want to spend big on rain wear. But don’t expect to stay comfortable when donning the jacket all day long in humid conditions.
How to choose a women’s rain jacket: A buyers’ guide
While it’s not as exciting as carrying around the latest mirrorless camera or iPhone, rain jackets is among the most essential travel gear for your trips. No travel destination is perfect. And in many, there’s about zero chance you’ll escape without witnessing a torrential downpour—maybe even multiple times in a day!
If you’re still having trouble choosing the perfect waterproof jacket for your travels, take a look at the guide below. I’ve outlined some of the biggest things to look out for including the fabrics, materials, waterproofing, breathability and ventilation. Let’s get started…
Fabrics & Materials
Fabrics are what make—or break—a rain jacket. And there’s a surprising amount of science that goes into it, certainly nothing as simple as just sourcing some materials and throwing it into a sewing machine.
How well a jacket performs in the rain and how comfortable it will be in terms of breathability all comes down to the construction of its shell. Rain jacket shells generally fall into three categories:
- 2-Layer: Loose mesh inner layer combined with a waterproof outer layer. Generally less expensive but heavier and less compressible.
- 2.5-Layer: Instead of mesh, a polyurethane (PU) is “painted” directly on a waterproof membrane that lies under a durable water repellant (DWR) outer layer. Since the second layer is thin, 2.5-layer construction tends to produce lighter coats. The trade-off is that the PU layer is less breathable and feels clammy.
- 3-Layer: Like the 2.5-layer construction, consists of an outer layer and waterproof membrane. A thin layer, most often polyurethane, is added to the back of the membrane. This PU inner layer protects the membrane from getting clogged with sweat and oils from the skin, maintaining breathability in the process.
You might have noticed that these various constructions sound fairly similar. There is quite a difference, however, between high-end 2.5- or 3-layer jackets and lower-end 2-layer jackets. The latter tend to be lighter, more breathable, and more packable. Not surprisingly, they often fetch a much higher premium.
Before we move on to these other features, let’s take a closer look at what to expect in each of these layers:
Face Fabric (Outer Layer)
The jacket’s first line of defense against a heavy onslaught of rain is the face fabric. Outer layers generally consist of a nylon or polyester shell treated with a durable water repellent (DWR). This coating helps the fabric to repel water, beading it off so it doesn’t get absorbed.
Depending on the jacket, the DWR doesn’t always last forever. Often it can be reengaged by washing and quick drying on low/medium heat or retreated with a DWR product. (For more information, check out this guide to caring for your DWR.)
Waterproof Membrane (Middle Layer)
What truly makes or breaks the jacket, isn’t the outer layer, but the waterproof membrane of the middle layer. This is where most of your hard-earned dollars are spent when buying rain gear. Much of the science and research that goes into rainwear ends up on slight improvements in the waterproofing, which can sometime leads to big leaps in performance and comfort.
If the outer layer is the first line of defence, the middle layer is the last. As the outer layer is treated via individual fibres, droplets will find their way into the middle layer. What the waterproof membrane does is stops the water from entering inside while allowing the vapour produced through sweating to escape. Not exactly an easy task, eh?
Some of the most common waterproof membranes you’ll find among these coats are Gore-Tex. Their waterproofing has been an industry staple for many years, and still rocks out among the best of them.
Gore-Tex’s polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) membranes offer some of the protection, but that performance often comes at a price. Jacket manufacturers have swooped in a created their own proprietary technologies to combat the dominance of Gore-Tex. Some technologies like Helly Hansen’s Helly Protection and Mountain Hardwear’s Dry.Q™ EVAP even compare favourably with the more expensive Gore-Tex products.
Lining (Inner Layer)
The lining of the inner layer is often the most important factor when it comes to your comfort. More expensive rain jackets often come with a thin PU film layer that is better at keeping moisture at bay than a directly-applied PU coating or mesh. The lightest and most packable coats are generally those with a PU film or coat rather than mesh.
Weight & Packability
As a traveller, one of the most important things to consider in a rain jacket is its weight and how packable it is. While an extra few grams won’t likely tip the check-in scale, the amount of room a coat takes up will.
You’ll generally find that the lighter the coat, the more expensive it is. A ton of R&D dollars swirl about to create fabrics that are both light and durable.
There’s a certain trade-off with extremely packable ultralight rain jackets, though. Most of the lightest products are designed for emergency use. They’re generally not meant to be worn all day in crazy weather conditions.
The lighter fabrics are, naturally, not as abrasion-resistant as on more robust coats. You may also find yourself either layering-up or needing something a little warmer if you’re planning to wear these ultralight waterproof jackets in cooler climes.
Breathability & Ventilation
Don’t fall for the marketing hype: No jacket will be 100% breathable. The technology keep getting better, but even in the most high-end jackets you’ll have to expect some moisture to build up in the inner layers.
Manual ventilation is an important feature to consider if you’re planning to travel to warmer countries. Many jackets offer armpit ventilation (pit-zips) and side ventilation to circulate air and help keep you cool when you’ve been exerting some energy.