11 best waterproof jackets for women
Whether you’re going for a serious hike or a Sunday stroll, pick one of these jackets to keep you dry in the unpredictable British weather
When you live in a country where it rains more than 100 days a year, waterproofing is a serious business. A proper waterproof coat or jacket is a wardrobe essential in boggy Britain, and it’s worth investing in a decent one that will protect you from serious weather – you’ll be grateful next time the heavens open without warning.
A good waterproof jacket should be two things – waterproof and breathable. Cheap and cheerful mac-in-sacs and rain ponchos will keep you dry, but they aren’t breathable – you’ll get hot and sweaty pretty quickly, which isn’t ideal out on hikes, cycles and the like.
Look for a waterproof jacket that either uses branded technology, such as the reliable Gore-Tex, or own-brand technology to render its outer membrane waterproof.
Waterproof jackets (check they aren’t just labelled “water repellent” or “water resistant”, which tend not to be fully waterproof) are also known as hardshells, and you’ll often see jackets rated by millimetres of waterproofness – as a guide, up to 1,500mm is water resistant (so not useful in anything more than drizzle), 1,500mm-5,000mm is waterproof and good for most wet conditions, 10,000mm and above is highly waterproof and great for mountain conditions and snow.
To decide on what to buy, 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.
A good jacket 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). Underarm zips are good for active sports, to stop you overheating. 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.
We tested all of these jackets in heavy rain and they kept dry for hours. To check if 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 rewaterproof your hardshell by treating it with a wash such as Nikwax tech wash.
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Balance, £199: Alpkit
Quite simply, this is an excellent waterproof jacket. The Balance is waterproof to a whopping 20,000mm, enough that you can wear it in heavy storms and watch rain bead right off the outer surface. It’s also as breathable as you would expect, with decent vents. The stiffened and adjustable hood is very effective and stays put in high wind. The Balance has clearly been designed for outdoor adventurers – it fits beautifully under a backpack and has map-sized hand pockets that are compatible with a climbing harness. And despite high waterproofing it weighs in at under 300g, making it very light to wear and easy to carry around. If you want to wear bulky items underneath the Balance, consider getting a size up.
Size range: 8-16
Colour options: five
Shinpuru II, £140: The North Face
The Shinpuru II is named after the Japanese word for “simple”, and we’d agree that this slim, lightweight jacket is streamlined, fuss-free and effective against bad weather. The North Face uses the always reliable Gore-Tex waterproofing technology to render this jacket weatherproof, and it also sports roomy mesh-lined pockets that double up as vents when you overheat. Designed with climbers and mountaineers in mind, it’s also great for hiking and more active walking, while the breathable Shinpuru is especially good if you’re getting sweaty but want protection from rain. It’s slim-fitting, so pick a size up from your usual.
Size range: XS-XL
Colour options: red, purple
Plant hunter, £150: Seasalt
Hey good looking. In a world of functional waterproofs in acid-bright colours, Seasalt’s beautifully designed coats in muted shades really stand out. The lovely longer-length Plant Hunter is fully waterproofed with Nikwax and performed brilliantly when we tested it in storms, but still manages to look very smart. It’s also warm, lined with a cosy cotton material – which feels far nicer worn next to skin than other coats – and has a comforting fleece-lined hood. The downside to all that warm lining is that it’s less breathable than shell jackets, but for winter walks and daily use it’s a great choice.
Size range: 6-26
Colour options: blue, grey, mustard
Men’s equivalent: no
Wanderlust, £110.99: O’Neill
Another great option if you want a versatile and warm winter coat that also happens to be waterproof. O’Neill’s parka-style Wanderlust is a nice compromise between a warm coat and a breathable waterproof. It’s coated in Hyperdry to render it waterproof against your average downpour, and has proved waterproof in showers but not suitable for whole days in heavy mountain storms. We liked the fleece-lined adjustable hood and well-placed pockets, and reckon the Wanderlust is warm enough to double up as a spring ski jacket. Versatile, available in smart neutral colours, and very flattering to wear.
Size range: XS-XL
Colour options: blue, black, khaki
Men’s equivalent: no
Wandertag, £99.55: Adidas
If you’re just after a well-made lightweight and packable waterproof that’ll last, then this no-fuss lightweight offering from Adidas could be for you. The Wandertag shell jacket comes in plain shades, is lightweight and packs up into a small space, making it great for chucking in a backpack in case of rain or for taking on travels. It offers a flattering and comfortable fit, and we like the internal security pocket, which is useful for travelling. Simple and effective and not badly priced at a smidge under £100, although you could probably find a similarly decent waterproof shell for less.
Size range: 6-22
Colour options: black, blue, purple
Pouring adventure II, £52.50: Columbia
Our top pick if you’re on a budget is Columbia’s Pouring Adventure II. For well under £100 you get a brilliantly versatile light shell that packs down so small it fits into its own pocket – brilliant for backpacking and camping trips. Columbia’s own Omni-Tech technology renders the Pouring Adventure both waterproof and breathable enough to perform well on simple day hikes in bad weather. If you want a waterproof that lives in your rucksack ready for unexpected downpours, this is a great choice. Some colourways are currently on sale, making it even more pocket-friendly. If you’re after something more hardcore, we also rate Columbia’s Titanium collection (columbiasportswear.co.uk/titanium-collection).
Size range: XS-XL
Colour options: seven
Keiko hardshell, £189: Mammut
Meet Mammut’s Keiko, a great all-rounder. If you’re buying your first proper waterproof, you won’t go wrong here. The Keiko ticks all our boxes – it’s fully waterproof to 20,000mm, includes two roomy pockets and adjustable cuffs, has handy zipped vents for cooling off, and is lightweight and packable. It feels far softer and more malleable than other stiff waterproofs on both the inside and outside, making it comfortable to wear for hours at a time. The Keiko also sports one of the most flattering hoods we tested (rarer than it sounds). On the roomy side, so go for a size down if you like a slim fit.
Size range: XS-XL
Colour options: four
Torrentshell, £120: Patagonia
We have yet to review a Patagonia jacket that didn’t perform well in inclement weather, and the Torrentshell is yet another great waterproof from the eco-friendly brand to love. We like the boxy fit, making it easy to fit layers underneath the Torrentshell, plus the decent adjustable and stowable hood, wide pockets and comfy fleece-lined neck. The Torrentshell is made with 100 per cent recycled fabric, making it a planet-conscious choice, and it stuffs down into its own pocket. And if you’re into matching all your gear to a colour scheme, the 17 different available shades will be right up your street.
Size range: XS-XL
Colour options: 22
Asmund, £350: Jottnar
OK, so it’s the most expensive waterproof we tested, but Jottnar’s excellent Asmund is definitely also one of the best. This is our top choice if you’re always outdoors in winter conditions, are a keen mountaineer or are working in the elements and need a really reliable waterproof shell for regular use. Lightweight but fully waterproof to 20,000mm, the Asmund sheds rain like a duck. It has a great hood and is comfortable and breathable even when you’re really working up a sweat. This is a proper mountain-ready jacket, designed to work when worn with harnesses, helmets and in the snow. If you want something top-of-the-range, this our pick. If you just want a simple rain jacket, you can splash far less cash on something less pro.
Size range: XS-L
Colour options: blue, purple
H5 active, £319.99: Gore
Designed, and ideal for fast-paced hiking, Gore’s lightweight H5 active jacket is the best we tested when it comes to keeping you warm when standing still but cool when getting active. An inner layer of lightweight but warm Polartec insulation keeps you cosy but the H5 jacket isn’t bulky, and proved very breathable on tests. Gore-Tex means the jacket is reliably waterproof. Ideal if you feel the cold, or are out doing sports such as climbing that require irregular bursts of action. There’s a decent hood, and reflective detailing makes it good for use on dark winter nights. Expensive, but great quality and performance.
Size range: XS-XL
Colour options: grey, blue, red
Extrem 5000, £224: Berghaus
We really rated the comfortable cut of the handsome Extrem, which feels flexible in all the right places even when worn all day. It features a high-cut neck that protects your face without any rubbing, and the cuffs and hood are easy to adjust to fit perfectly. We also liked the handy zipped inner pockets. Good old Gore-Tex means the Extrem is waterproof even in a heavy downpour, and we reckon this is a great choice for wear in the rainy British Isles, as Berghaus say they have intended it. But we’d have liked to see more colour options for women than just pink and black.
Size range: 8-18
Colour options: pink, black
Verdict: Waterproof jackets for women
For general outdoor use, we rate Alpkit’s Balance. Professionals and mountaineers should pick Jottnar’s Asmund. For more casual use, we’d recommend Seasalt’s good looking and great quality Plant Hunter.
Sian Anna Lewis is a travel and outdoors writer and author of new book ‘The Girl Outdoors’
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