A sad fact of springtime is that, before we can enjoy the sunshine, we’ll likely have to weather a few storms. So if finding the best rain jacket for women is on your mind, you’re not alone. Now that we can (hopefully) put away our puffers for another season, we can turn our attention to this key piece of workhorse outerwear. A rain jacket should, of course, be water-resistant at the very least, but that’s far from the only thing to keep in mind when shopping for a new one.
First, keep in mind that water-resistant and waterproof mean two different things. Water-resistant describes a material that prevents light amounts of water from seeping into it, but not all of it. If you need a jacket that will keep you dry while you run from your car to the office, water-resistant should do the trick. But in a torrential downpour, a water-resistant jacket would eventually let in water and leave you wet.
Waterproof jackets, on the other hand, offer the highest degree of protection from rain because water can’t penetrate them. These have exterior coatings and interior membranes to keep you dry on the dreariest days. If you’re hiking, backpacking, or spending time outside when there’s rain in the forecast, it’s a good idea to opt for a waterproof jacket. Waterproofing does come at a cost, though: Waterproof jackets are often less breathable. To solve this problem, some brands now use a breathable membrane like Gore-Tex, a popular waterproofing technology (because, even in the middle of a downpour, no one wants to feel swampy). When shopping, you can look for the waterproof and breathability rating—not all brands supply it, but if they do, it’ll be listed as two numbers separated by a backslash. The first number, given in millimeters, designates waterproofing, and the second, given in grams, indicates the breathability. Both work on scales of 0 to 20,000+, and the higher the numbers, the more waterproof and breathable the jacket.
Your raincoat of choice should also be wind-resistant or windproof (for those days when it feels like it’s raining sideways.) Look for features like pit zips and vents to promote airflow, and fabrics made with a tight weave and sealed seams to keep the wind out.
Some jackets will come with additional details to further protect you from the rain, like a durable water repellent (DWR) coating or tight-locking, waterproof zippers. Where the former keeps water out of the topmost layer of your jacket (causing it to bead off rather than seep in), the latter keeps water from getting through your jacket at its fastening points.
Just like choosing rain boots, the best jacket for you will depend on your local weather, your preferred rainy day activities, and, of course, your personal style. To help get your search underway, we’ve highlighted our top picks for the best rain jackets for women below from high-quality brands, including outdoor brands like The North Face, Patagonia, Outdoor Research, and more.