10 best waterproof jackets for women
Stay dry on Sunday strolls and mountain hikes
Waterproofing is particularly important when you live in a country where it rains more than 100 days a year. Life in boggy Britain calls for investment in a decent waterproof jacket that will protect you next time the heavens open without warning.
There are two keywords to remember before beginning your search: waterproof and breathable. Cheap and cheerful macs-in-sacs and rain ponchos may keep you dry, but they aren’t breathable – you’ll get hot and sweaty pretty quickly, which isn’t ideal when hiking, cycling and the like.
Be wary of jackets labelled water-repellent and water-resistant as these tend not to be fully waterproof in heavy rain. Built for milder conditions, their seams are often unsealed, meaning water can seep through. Look for a waterproof jacket that either uses branded technology, such as the reliable Gore-Tex, or own-brand technology to make its outer layer waterproof.
Waterproof jackets are also known as hardshells and you’ll often see them rated by millimetres of waterproofness – as a guide, up to 1,500mm is water-resistant (not useful in anything more than drizzle), 1,500mm to 5,000mm is waterproof and good for most wet conditions, and 10,000mm and above is highly waterproof and great for mountain conditions and snow.
Think about how and where you’ll wear your jacket. If you want something for casual use, a roomier design is fine and good for layering underneath on cold mornings. If you’re planning fast-paced hikes or cycles, you’ll want something light and breathable. If you’re out in extreme conditions, it’s smart to pick a brightly coloured jacket so you’re easy to spot in bad weather.
Good jackets should fit snugly but not too tightly at the waist, cuffs and neck, and include taped seams, sealed or protected zips, zipped pockets and a well-designed hood (look for a helmet-compatible hood if you want to wear it for climbing and cycling). A high, slim (but not restrictive) collar is useful for keeping rain at bay, as are adjustable toggles and drawstrings at hems and cuffs. Underarm zips are good for active sports, to stop you overheating.
To check a jacket is effectively waterproof, see if water spilled on its outer shell balls into droplets and rolls off the surface. If water starts to be absorbed after regular use, you can re-waterproof your hardshell by treating it with a wash such as Nikwax Tech Wash.
We tested all of these jackets in heavy rain and they kept us dry all day without getting saturated. We tried the women’s cuts but where possible have included a link to the men’s equivalent so you can face the ominous black clouds together.
Montane Women’s Alpine Pro Jacket: £245, Cotswold Outdoor
Size range: 8-16
Colour options: Purple, blue, red, grey
Expensive, yes, but the Alpine Pro is worth splashing the cash on if you take the outdoors seriously and are after a jacket that can keep up. We’ve been testing ours for over six months in the hills and its Gore-Tex shell still repels water as well as on day one. At this price point it obviously packs in all the extras you’d want for mountaineering and hiking – a helmet-compatible hood, map-sized pockets and protected zips, and it sits comfortably under backpack straps. It’s comfortable, if rather slim fitting, to wear. If you’re as Alpine Pro as Montane’s offering, go for it. If you’re just out walking the dog, pick something less techie.
Cimalp Women’s Performance 2F Jacket: £135, Cimalp
Size range: XS-3XL
Colour options: Blue, black, pink
This smart jacket delivers the performance its name promises – nary a drop of water will get past this hardshell, and we found it very breathable even on tough hikes. It feels light and stylish to wear, with a longer cut at the back that works well for cycling. We like the covered zip, which stops rubbing around the neck, the sealed zip, which keeps the contents of the three pockets (one chest, two hand) dry, and the adjustable waist and cuffs. Pockets are rather small, though, and the jacket is a slim cut, especially around the waist – if you like sticking a down mid-layer under your outer shell, go for a size up. The hood is snug but effective and we liked the shoulder patches, designed for carrying rucksacks.
Berghaus Women’s Ridgemaster Waterproof Jacket: £195, Berghaus
Size range: 8-18
Colour options: Blue, red, black
Designed with the mountains in mind, Berghaus’ Ridgemaster is a hardworking hardshell we found we could rely on even in a torrential downpour. Good old Gore-Tex keeps water out and a breathable membrane wicks away sweat even when you’re moving really fast. There are well-placed pockets and the hood stays put in gusty weather but if you have a long torso, you may prefer a longer jacket as this one is cut on the short side. Besides that, it fits true to size.
Ilse Jacobsen Softshell Jacket: £195.95, Outdoor Supply
Size range: 34-38
Colour options: Black
If you’re after something a little smarter than your average waterproof, you’ll love Ilse Jacobsen’s stylish coats. The popular Scandi brand is available in the UK from Outdoor Supply and this hip-length waterproof is really lovely to wear. The longer cut kept our legs warm on chilly walks and felt great, too – luxuriously soft on the inside but tough and waterproof on the outside, making it a good choice for both work and play. We like the roomy hood which stays put even in windy weather, and the deep pockets. The zip feels a little flimsy, though, and you definitely need to go a size up if you want to layer jumpers underneath.
Finisterre Women’s Marin Waterproof Jacket: £135, Finisterre
Size range: 8-16
Colour options: Sky blue
This sky-blue beauty feels light as a feather to wear – if you don’t like feeling bogged down by heavy, complicated waterproofs, this is the jacket to pick. The Marin’s design is simple, with elastic cuffs, two pockets (no zips though, so they won’t protect your phone or other valuables) and an effective hood. An impressive 20,000mm of waterproofing stands up to heavy showers; it’s one for shrugging on and off and stuffing in your rucksack when rain threatens on weekends. Like many of Finisterre’s products, it’s made from 100 per cent recycled fabric – an ethically sound choice.
Columbia Women’s OutDry Ex Eco Tech Shell Jacket: £180, Cotswold Outdoors
Size range: XS-XL
Colour options: White, grey
Men’s equivalent: Yes
This smart jacket from Columbia gets top marks for eco-friendliness and functionality. It looks made for city wear but is just as ready to take on bad weather in the wild. It claims to be designed with an industry-first – a breathable exterior membrane that still remains waterproof. We tested it on a long spring hike in the rain and can vouch for both its breathability and waterproofing. The long-cut back offers a smidge more protection when hiking or cycling. On the eco front, materials are 100 per cent recycled and PFC-free (so it’s kinder to the environment than other waterproofing methods). The simple grey and white colour options are due to the fact that Columbia avoids using any unnecessary dyes on this shell. This jacket goes to the top of the class for eco-friendliness.
Buy men’s equivalent
Craghoppers Women’s Apex Forest Jacket: £60, Craghoppers
Waterproofing: 8,000mm, AquaDry
Size range: 6-18
Colour options: Teal, red, black/yellow
Impressive waterproofing for a pocket-friendly price. This smart, slim-fitting aqua jacket feels light, flexible and easy to wear. Approved by the Duke of Edinburgh awards (an outdoor achievement award that involves a lot of time spent in adverse weather), it’s perfect if you want an outdoors-ready jacket for camping or hiking without the eye-watering price tag. We found it reliably waterproof but not the most breathable jacket on test – better used for gentler walks rather than adrenaline adventures. A great all-rounder for a steal of a price, the Apex is comfortable to wear, with multiple pockets and a well-cut hood.
Musto Women’s XVR BR1 Jacket: £150, Musto
Waterproofing: 5,000mm, BR1
Size range: 8-16
Colour options: White, blue, black
It may not have a memorable name, but this excellent jacket definitely deserves your consideration. Musto’s pure-white jacket looks like exactly what it was designed to be – a waterproof sailing coat – but we liked it for use on rainy walks, too. Taped seams and 5,000mm of waterproofing make it rain-ready, and it’s one of the comfiest jackets we tested. It feels light, flexible and downright lovely to wear, with roomy pockets and a wide hood that keeps rain at bay. We like that you can zip in Musto’s (also excellent) insulated jackets to make one warm winter jacket or wear them separately now that spring is finally arriving. Just don’t pick the white version if you’re getting muddy.
The North Face Apex Flex Gore-Tex 2.0 Jacket: £250, The North Face
Size range: XS-XL
Colour options: Blue, grey, orange, black
There’s a pleasingly matte feel to both the inner and outer layers of the Apex Flex – no cheap, shiny plastic finish here. We tested ours on a multi-day camp in horrible conditions and found that Gore-Tex renders it 100 per cent waterproof and that the semi-stiff peak on the hood stands up well in rain and wind. The lovely, stretchy, almost fleecy inner lining makes the jacket cosier and warmer to wear than others on test. The Apex Flex boasts of being ultra-lightweight but was actually one of the heavier, bulkier jackets on test. Overall, though, a lovely bit of kit.
Regatta Women’s Jakeisha Waterproof Shell Jacket: £56.66, Amazon
Waterproofing: 5,000mm, Isotex
Size range: 8-20
Colour options: Black, grey, red
Our favourite on a budget, the very smart and cheerful Regatta Jakeisha is lightweight, easy to pop on and waterproof to 5,000mm, dealing with moderate showers without fuss. We like the popper sleeves, the decent hood, the oversized zip pulls and the lollipop-bright red colour, good for staying visible in bad weather. The Jakeisha won’t offer a lot of warmth as the lining is lightweight, and the outer shell feels rather plasticky, but at a smidge under £60 it’s an easy, smart choice for commuting and everyday use.
The Verdict: Best waterproof jackets for women
For serious protection, you get what you pay for with Montane’s Alpine Pro. The Musto XVR BR1 jacket is a more pocket-friendly all-rounder, and in the cheap and cheerful camp we rated Craghoppers Apex Flex and the Regatta Jakeisha.
Sian Anna Lewis is a travel and outdoors writer and editor of The Girl Outdoors blog
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