Best Women’s Rain Jackets for Hiking


Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite

Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite

In an ideal world all outdoor activities would take place in sunny dry weather. However, even if you plan your hiking trips meticulously after the weather forecast, there is always a chance that you will run into some unforeseen rain – especially at higher altitudes where the weather can change abruptly. A quality rain jacket is therefore an essential to carry in your backpack; it will not add too much weight to your load and comes in very handy whenever you will cross paths with rain showers or chilling winds.

Rain jackets (also called hard shells) can generally be divided into three groups; 2-layer, 2.5-layer and 3-layer rain jackets. 2-layer rain jackets are usually quite heavy for the protection they offer and thus more suitable for everyday life than hiking and other outdoor activities. Instead, your choice should be between a 2.5-layer (face fabric with coating/laminate + non-fabric material inside) and a 3-layer (face fabric + membrane + liner) rain jacket. 3-layer rain jackets are especially suitable for those who are into ice climbing, mountaineering and long hiking trips where durability is a priority. They are, however, also more expensive (prices are usually well above 300 dollars) than 2.5-layer jackets. You can wear a rain jacket directly over your base layer in warm weather or over mid layers such as a fleece sweater or lightweight down jacket in colder weather.

If you are merely looking for basic rain protection (light rain for short periods of time), you might want to check out our selection of softshell jackets instead as they are more breathable, comfortable to wear and often offer light insulation compared to rain jackets. The downside is that they are not as water-resistant.

1. Buying a Rain Jacket – What is important?

Water-resistance and breathability

It is not expensive or difficult to produce waterproof materials as such (think of black trash bags) – rather the art lies in making waterproof and breathable materials when it comes to rain jackets. The purpose of wearing a rain jacket is of course to stay dry rather than being soaked by rain, but it does not make much sense if you will instead be soaked in your own sweat due to a non-breathable fabric trapping your perspiration rather than wicking it away. In both cases your body temperature will decrease significantly due to the conductive heat loss. It is thus crucial that the fabric of your rain jacket can wick the inner moisture away as well as keep the rain out. Different manufacturers take different approaches to solve this problem; some apply a waterproof/breathable membrane to the face fabric while others paint a coating of polyurethane to the inside of a fabric to give it water-resistant properties. Water-resistance is usually improved additionally by treating the outside of the fabric with DWR (Durable Water Repellant) to make sure that the fabric repels water rather than absorbing it.

You can read more about the properties of DWR-treatments, membranes and coatings respectively in the section on hard shells in our Comparison of Shell Materials. One thing to note, however, is that not all shell materials are equally breathable. The best performing in this aspect are currently eVent, Polartec Neoshell and Mountain Hardwear’s DryQ Elite, but also Gore-Tex Pro (not to be mistaken for the older and inferior Gore-Tex Pro Shell) is a good contender. Unlike other materials, they do not require the presence of high body heat to initiate so-called dynamic breathability, but are indeed breathable on their own. These fabrics are unfortunately also more expensive than less breathable materials whereas water-resistance is quite comparable across various price classes. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a completely waterproof and breathable fabric; all breathable rain jackets will eventually get soaked if you expose them to hours and hours of torrential rain.

Weight and compressibility

A rain jacket is only meant to be worn when you need protection against rain or wind; otherwise it should be stored in your backpack. Therefore it is a good idea to get a rain jacket which is light and compressible enough for you to carry wherever you go rather than a heavy and bulky garment which you will be reluctant to bring along unless absolutely certain that you will need it.

Design

A rain jacket should have a hood (potentially one that can be packed and stored into the collar), taped seams and a storm flap to cover the front zipper in order to keep out rain from all angles. Waterproof zippers such as PU (polyurethane) or YKK AquaGuard zippers can, however, diminish the need for the latter. Other useful features could be pit zips (for increased ventilation when needed) and conveniently placed pockets for storing essentials – which is especially crucial if you are planning to use your (3-layer) rain jacket for climbing activities where you will wear a climbing harness most of the time.

Sizing

Consider what you will be wearing underneath your rain jacket before choosing a size. If you are planning to wear it over bulky items such as a down jacket or thick fleece sweater, you might want to size up.

2. The Best Women’s Rain Jackets for Hiking Review

Best Women's Rain Jackets for Hiking

Best Women’s Rain Jackets for Hiking

  1. Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite
  2. Sherpa Adventure Gear Lakpa Rita
  3. Outdoor Research Helium II 
  4. Rab Muztag
  5. Marmot Precip

Comparison

Feature/Product Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite Sherpa Lakpa RitaOutdoor Research Helium II Rab Muztag
Marmot Precip
Average Weight319 g 380 g156 g285 g272g
Fabric Layers2.5-layer3-layer2.5-layer3-layer2.5-layer
Materials40D Nylon 40D x 40D Ripstop Nylon30D Ripstop Nylon n/aRipstop Nylon
Waterproof/
Breathable Technology
Dry.Q Elite (Laminate)eVent (Laminate)Pertex Shield+ (Laminate) eVent (Laminate)NanoPro (Coating)
Center Back Lenght71 cmHip-lenght66 cmn/a68.6 cm

 

Mountain Hardwear Women's Quasar Lite

Mountain Hardwear Women’s Quasar Lite

1. Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking

 

The Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite rain jacket uses the brand’s DryQ Elite technology which features an oleophobic ePTFE membrane like eVent, but a different face fabric and laminating technology. Due to the 40 denier face fabric the Quasar Lite is more durable than the Outdoor Research Helium II jacket below, which only uses 30 denier nylon, but also twice as heavy – although 319 grams is not a lot by any standards. Ventilation is not only ensured by the breathable fabric, but also by the front double PU zipper which can easily be adjusted from bottom-up or top-down as well as the PU-zippered chest pockets which double as core vents. Those who are into mountaineering will appreciate that the pockets are harness- and pack-compatible as well as the helmet compatible 3-way adjustable hood with a wire brim.

 

Pros:

  • Mountain Hardwear Dry Q Elite technology as breathable as eVent
  • Light and durable 40 denier face fabric
  • PU double front zipper

Cons:

  • /

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Sherpa Women's Lakpa Rita

Sherpa Women’s Lakpa Rita

2. Sherpa Adventure Gear Lakpa Rita

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Climbing
  • Alpine Climbing
  • Backpacking

 

Sherpa Adventure Gear specializes in equipment and clothing worthy of sherpas, elite mountaineers in the Himalayan region, and the Lakpa Rita jacket is no exception. Sherpa declares it their best waterproof/breathable hardshell to date as the Lakpa Rita is made of the best materials available. This includes two eVent fabrics in the form of very durable (40D x40D) nylon ripstop and nylon taffeta (40D x70D) respectively, which makes it perfect for hardcore alpine adventures. Also the construction details indicate that the high level of design behind the jacket, such as the anatomically patterned arm construction for ultimate mobility and comfort, a helmet compatible hood with a stiffened brim to shield from rough weather and the placement of seams away from shoulder tops and hips to avoid chafing from backpack straps, hip belt or harness. The Sherpa Lakpa Rita has four conveniently placed pockets (hand pockets also double as core vents) and comes in blue, red and black color. The only downside is the price, but you do get a hardshell that should be able to withstand just about anything.

 

Pros:

  • eVent technology for optimal breathability
  • Durable fabrics and waterproof zippers
  • Superb construction details

Cons:

  • Price

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Outdoor Research Women's Helium II

Outdoor Research Women’s Helium II

3. Outdoor Research Helium II

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking

 

The Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket is an updated version of the original Helium jacket, now lighter than ever (merely 156 grams!) and even more breathable. The Helium II jacket features the Pertex Shield+ fabric which is characterized by its hydrophilic PU membrane that provides so-called dynamic breathability. This means that whenever your body temperature rises and the membrane comes in contact with perspiration from your body, it will transport the moisture to the outside via solid state diffusion. The Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket can be packed into its internal pocket, which doubles as a stuff sack, and will thus not take up much more space than an apple – and weigh even less. Due to its weight and rain protection, the Helium II is not just highly appreciated among hikers, but was also deemed the best waterproof running jacket by Runner’s World in 2015 and considered the best rain jacket for cold weather canoeing by the Canoe & Kayak magazine (February 2016). The Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket comes in a range of funky colors.

 

Pros:

  • Super light weight
  • Internal pocket doubles as stuff sack

Cons:

  • 30D nylon medium durability

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Rab Women's Muztag

Rab Women’s Muztag

4. Rab Muztag

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Climbing
  • Alpine Climbing
  • Backpacking

 

British Rab makes a number of high-quality 3-layer rain jackets, with the Rab Muztag as one of the lightest. For water-protection and superb consistent breathability, it uses the eVent DVstorm fabric which is designed for “way-above-moderate activity” according to eVent. It is lighter and cheaper than the Sherpa Lakpa Rita hardshell above, but also slightly less durable (which is inevitable when you want to decrease the weight). The Rab Muztag is, nevertheless, perfect for a range of outdoor activities such as climbing, mountaineering and hiking at high altitudes and even won the Alpinist Mountain Standards Award in fall 2015, being described as a “light weight armor for alpine weather”. Besides the high-performing fabric the Rab Muztag offers a range of useful features such as waterproof zippers, cleverly placed pockets and a helmet compatible hood which can be rolled together and stored inside the collar.

 

Pros:

  • eVent technology for optimal breathability
  • Waterproof zippers
  • Helmet compatible hood can be packed into collar

Cons:

  • /

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Marmot Women's Precip

Marmot Women’s Precip

5. Marmot Precip

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Backpacking

 

We already mentioned the Marmot Precip rain jacket in our list of gifts for female hikers and it is indeed a great jacket for a relatively low price. The Precip rain jacket has been a part of Marmot’s product line since 2001, but has been updated several times since then in order to increase breathability and cut down on excessive weight. The Marmot Precip uses the NanoPro technology for breathability where densely packed microscopic pores in the water-proof coating allow dynamic air exchange. This means that whenever the coated surface comes in contact with perspiration from your body, it will transport the moisture to the outside via solid state diffusion. The Marmot Precip comes in a multitude of colors and with very useful features such as a double storm flap (to protect the non-waterproof zipper), pit zips, roll-up hood with integral collar as well as the Angel-Wing movement design which ensures full freedom of movement without the jacket riding up.

 

Pros:

  • Pros
  • Price
  • Double storm flap
  • Available in all colors of the rainbow

Cons:

  • Less breathable material than other rain jackets listed here
  • Zipper is not waterproof

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