Best Women’s Waterproof Jackets Reviewed | 2016/17
We've tested ten of the best women's waterproof jackets for mountaineering, walking, hiking and biking use to help you choose one that works for you.
We’ve tested ten of the Best Women’s Waterproof Jackets to help you pick out the one that works for you and your favoured outdoor passion be it hill-walking, running, rambling or full-on mountaineering.
The good news is that the days of ‘shrinking and pinking’ men’s jackets are well and truly behind us. The best women’s jackets are now cut carefully to fit the female figure and not a single one of them was pink. In fact, this season’s colour appears to be bright red. Go figure…
Our panel of active outdoor women used the jackets in varied conditions across locations ranging from the Peak District to the Scottish highlands to get a good idea of how they worked in the real world. Then they compared notes during a group day out in the Peak before we reached our final verdicts.
We’ll be bringing you a comprehensive buyers’ guide to women’s waterproof jackets shortly, but here are our top picks along with links to the full review of each jacket. Finally, we’ve selected our top picks for different activities.
You can either scroll recklessly onwards through the article – go on, live dangerously – or if you’re interested in a particular jacket, just use the links here to dematerialise at the current point or, if you like, zap your way straight to the overall verdict.
‘A great lightweight choice for walking, running and biking thanks to a mix of excellent design, decent fabric and a cracking hood – awesome value too.’
Outdoors Magic: Sub-300g weight, very breathable, good hood and thorough all-round design and build quality.
Outdoors Tragic: Nothing really.
Outdoors Grabbit? Alpkit are newcomers to waterproofs, but they’ve created a cracking lightweight walking and all-round outdoors jacket here with a great cut and flawless function. And the price is super competitive for what you get.
Alpkit’s direct sales model means the brand’s invariably great value, but the new Balance Jacket is simply a really good, well-designed, lightweight waterproof full stop. It’s decently light at just 270g and packs away neatly too.
We loved the tailored cut, which copes nicely with curvy hips and the fabric which is comfortable against the skin and avoids excessive sweatiness. Finally the hood works brilliantly and clever design means you can pull it on or off without messing about with the main zip. Cool.
A good call for walking, hiking and trekking which’ll also do double duty for occasional running and biking. Not super cheap, but you get a lot for your money.
Lightweight women’s-specific waterproof jacket / 3-layer waterproof fabric with PU membrane / Hydrostatic head: 25,000 mm / MVTR: 35,000 g/sqm/24hrs / adjustable hood with stiffened and wired peak / 2 waist-belt friendly, map-sized hand pockets with part-mesh venting lining / YKK Aquaguard water resistant zips / internal storm flap and chin guard / cuff shaped over the back of hand / minimal visible stitching / bonded hem construction / fully adjustable hem
Arc’teryx Women’s Zeta LT Jacket – £330
‘Top-notch Gore-Tex fabric, exquisite detailing and a lovely tailored cut make for a superb, but expensive lightweight walking shell’
Outdoors Magic: Lovely, soft-feeling, quiet, fabric, beautifully made and cut, light and packable, single-pull hood.
Outdoors Tragic: Inverted pocket zips odd at first and sit low, hood didn’t suit everyone’s ears.
Outdoors Grabbit? It’s beautifully made and cut using a lovely soft-feeling Gore-Tex fabric with something called C-KNIT technology and does a great lightweight all-round walking job albeit at a high-ish price. Check the hood adjuster suits your ear configuration though.
Canadian brand Arc’teryx is renowned for its meticulously-engineered mountaineering gear, so when it turned its attention to walking, we expected something equally impressive. We weren’t wrong either, the Zeta LT is beautifully made from a soft-feeling, top of the range Gore-Tex fabric and mixes excellent protection with good comfort.
The cut is arguably the best we’ve tried and while the upwardly-zipping pockets are quirky, we soon got used to them. The hood works well for most users and the only elephant left to tackle is the not inconsiderable £330 price-tag. If that doesn’t deter you, it’s an excellent women’s lightweight walking jacket that won’t let you down.
Women’s-specific lightweight waterproof walking jacket / Gore-Tex fabric with C-KNIT backer technology / low profile Arc’teryx Storm hood with laminated brim / WaterTight main zip with storm-flap / adjustable cuffs hem and hood / drop tail hem / twin hand-pockets / single inner pocket / soft chin-guard
‘A tough, robust mountain jacket but an uncompromising helmet hood and overly generous cut makes it one to try before buying’
Outdoors Magic: Robust, reassuring feel, big venting pockets, solid build quality, hood works with a helmet. Good price. Stealth hidden adjusters are neat.
Outdoors Tragic: Strange cut, massive hood, heavy and bulky.
Outdoors Grabbit? Not unless your body shape matches the Sumcham’s odd wide-shouldered/slim-hipped cut and you mainly wear it with a helmet. A shame as the fabric’s decent and the jacket feels reassuringly robust and protective.
Berghaus has used its own Hydroshell Elite Pro fabric for the Sumcham and it’s good stuff, but while our testers liked the solid feel and overall build quality, few of them got on with the cut. It’s an odd mix of being overly generous up top, but slimmer than you’d expect in the hips.
And then there’s the hood. It works very well with a climbing helmet, but tended to swamp wearers with a bare head or beanie, running out of adjustment early. That’s an issue because few mountain walkers or mountaineers will wear a helmet all the time.
It has the potential to be a very good, solid, mountain jacket, but we’d make sure it fits right before buying.
Update: Our test jacket has headed back to Berghaus to make sure it’s not an errant, mis-sized mutant. We’ll let you know.
Women’s-specific waterproof mountain jacket / 3-layer Hydroshell Elite Pro fabric / helmet hood with wired and stiffened peak / twin venting pockets / YKK moulded Aquaguard main-zip / adjustable cuffs and hem / stealth hood adjusters / lifetime guarantee
Montane Women’s Surge Jacket – £300
‘Montane’s classy Gore-Tex women’s waterproof is properly well put together, nicely cut and topped off with one of the best walking hoods we’ve used. Winner! ‘
Outdoors Magic: Nice fabric, decent fit with space for mid-layers, excellent hood, dependable feel without excess weight.
Outdoors Tragic: Not super fitted. Not cheap.
Outdoors Grabbit? Yes, if you’re after a top quality, , nicely-cut, dedicated hill and mountain walking jacket with ample boob room and space for a warm fleece underneath. The hood works particularly well and the jacket is hard to fault for mountain walking use.
This winter is the first time UK-based Montane has used Gore-Tex and it’s got off to a cracking start with a solidly engineered hill and mountain walking waterproof, that uses the soft, comfortable and protective C-JNIT fabric.
The cut’s a happy medium with enough space for warm mid-layers, but without looseness. You get two decent-sized pockets and the finishing flourish is a neat-fitting hood that also gives great peripheral visibility. And it’s decently light too.
Arguably the best lightweight mountain walking waterproof in our round-up albeit at a price.
Outdoors Tragic: Slightly noisy fabric, hood didn’t suit all testers, high price.
Outdoors Grabbit? Yes if you’re mainly looking for a hardcore mountain jacket with enough space for warm layers underneath and a cracking helmet that’ll take a hood if necessary. No expense spared, no compromises made. It’s the Landrover of waterproof jackets.
The Manaslu is a proper, no-nonsense mountain jacket that takes no prisoners. The fabric is light, but super tough Gore-Tex Pro, which feels robust and reassuringly, slightly stiff and percussive. The cut is excellent, with space inside, but no excess fabric or restriction. And it has all the pockets and features you need for gloved, mountain use.
ME’s hoods have always been excellent and the Manaslu’s manages to work well both with and without a climbing helmet, making it a good choice for winter mountain walking as well as proper mountaineering. And for something so reassuringly rugged, it’s not even particularly heavy.
The best no-nonsense women’s mountaineering jacket here, but overkill for more pedestrian pursuits.
Women’s-specific waterproof mountain jacket / 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro fabric / adjustable helmet-compatible HC hood / reinforced shoulders and sleeves / women’s Alpine fit / Storm construction throughout / three large pockets with YKK® moulded Aquaguard® zips / zipped mesh inner pocket / 2-way YKK® WR underarm pit zips with laminated and bonded entry / adjustable laminated cuffs and dual tether hem drawcords
Mountain Hardwear Quasar Lite Jacket – £180
‘A cracking all-round, lightweight, waterproof jacket which is let down by a hood design which should be a lot better sans helmet’
Outdoors Magic: Nice fabric, good fit and generally excellent features at a decent light weight and a hood that will accommodate even quite high-profile helmets. Good value.
Outdoors Tragic: Hood struggles with bare head, fiddly stealth hem-cord adjuster.
Outdoors Grabbit? A cracking jacket unless you need to wear it without a helmet, at which point it becomes problematic thanks to restricted vision and a gaping neck. Otherwise it works really well.
The Quasar Lite is like that house that would be absolutely perfect were it not for the hideous mock gothic chimney stack up top. There’s so much to like about the jacket: nice and light, decent fabric, a great cut and handy venting chest-pockets.
But, try as we might, we just couldn’t get on with the hood. Without a helmet in situ it gapes open around the neck and slides forward to obstruct your vision. It’s a shame, as otherwise it has the makings of being a really nice lightweight mountain jacket.
Women’s-specific lightweight mountain jacket / 2.5-layer Dry.Q Elite fabric / helmet hood with wired peak / twin zipped inside mesh pockets / 40D face fabric / two PU-zippered venting chest pockets / centre-front PU zipper / adjustable cuffs and hem / soft chin-guard
Full Review Below
Paramo Women’s Ventura Jacket – £295
‘We’re big fans of Paramo’s eco-friendly, alternative technology, but the Ventura’s quirky fit and design make it a tough sell’
Outdoors Magic: Soft feel, good breathability, extra warmth in cold conditions, pit-zips add venting options, helmet hood.
Outdoors Tragic: Odd cut, heavy, not everyone liked combined pocket/pit-zip, too warm for some.
Outdoors Grabbit? Paramo wearers embrace its alternative technology, but the combination of an oddly unbalanced cut, quirky pockets and increased weight and warmth limit the Ventura’s appeal. Great in really cold conditions though.
Paramo’s unusual Nikwax Analogy fabric system has a lot going for it: it’s soft, quiet and minimises condensation, keeping you comfortable in cold damp conditions. And its made in a social project in Colombia for good measure.
And while it’s quite heavy and warmer than normal waterproofs, it works brilliantly in the sort of cold, and slightly damp winter weather conditions we get in the UK.
Unfortunately the women’s Ventura, which is the brand’s full-on mountain jacket, seems to have an odd fit which matches a narrow top half, with a lavishly flared hip area. If it fits you, it’s a good deep winter option with a helmet hood, vents and easy to use with gloves zip-pulls, but none of our testers got on with the cut. Try before buying is our advice.
Women’s-specific high mountain jacket / Nikwax Analogy Waterproof fabric / arm vents / stretch panels in shoulders, sleeves and sides / helmet-friendly hood design / chest pocket / internal zipped pocket / internal storm-flap with venting press-stud arrangement / locking zip-pulls throughout / harness-friendly design
Rab Women’s Flashpoint Jacket – £200
‘Super lightweight and packable mountaineering jacket that also turns out to be surprisingly versatile stand-by for bikers and runners ‘
Outdoors Magic: Light, packable and impressively breathable, adjustable too and with a helmet hood.
Outdoors Tragic: Not cheap and thin fabric feels less protective and cooler.
Outdoors Grabbit? The lightest jacket we tested, but not at the expense of functionality or quality. It’s brilliant worn over a soft shell when the weather closes in, but also trim and breathable enough for running or cycling use. Finally it’s surprisingly tough for its weight.
At just 150g the Flashpoint is the lightest and smaller-packing women’s waterproof we’ve tested and was originally designed for emergency use by climbers, hence the capable helmet hood.
It turns out to be a lot more versatile than that though and we’ve used it on the hoof for walking, biking and running as well. It copes brilliantly with a fuggy build-up of sweat, keep the rain out and is genuinely comfortable.
And while it has only only one pocket, it’s long enough to give good protection and is adjustable all-round. Because it’s so small and light, you can carry it on days when you otherwise wouldn’t bother, ‘just in case’. A brilliant bit of lightweight kit and more durable than you might think.
Outdoors Tragic: A little heavy and bulky, ‘throwback styling’ is a tad frumpy
Outdoors Grabbit? ‘Throwback styling’ is one description and it’s a solid, traditional hill-walking jacket that’s not pretending to be alpine sexy, light or packable. No frills, handy for the hills sums it up. The baked beans on toast of waterproof jackets.
There’s nothing remotely glamorous or chic about the Sprayway Era. The styling is quietly retro, but so much so as to be fashionable, and it’s definitely more rambler than scrambler in its intent. That said, it’s perfectly functional complete with a competent hood, spacious pockets and a separate map compartment that sits neatly below boob level.
Also on the plus side, it uses proven Gore-Tex fabric for dependable waterproofing. Conservative and traditional, but ideal if you’re a low-level – we’re talking altitude here – walker looking for a traditional, reliable jacket.
Women’s-specific traditional walking jacket / 2-layer Gore-Tex fabric / Fold-down hood with wired peak / twin zipped venting hand-pockets / main zip with storm flap / adjustable cuffs and hem / map pocket under double storm guard / Mesh/Taffeta combination lining
Full Review Below
VauDe Women’s Croz Jacket – £230
‘A really good, lightweight women’s mountain shell with welcome sustainable credentials marred slightly by oddly-designed pockets’
Outdoors Magic: Light, tough, stretchy fabric, huge pit-zips for venting, decent helmet-friendly hood and green credentials.
Outdoors Tragic: Disappointing pockets, sleek, slim fit didn’t suit everyone.
Outdoors Grabbit? Sleekly cut from a tough-feeling, but lightweight eco-friendly fabric and with a very competent hood, the Croz is a cracking all-round lightweight mountain shell, however the pockets are insecure and wider hips are not welcome…
How much do pockets matter to you? That’s the question the otherwise excellent VauDe Women’s Croz Jacket poses. Mostly it’s an excellent mix of slim, athletic fit, lightweight, three-layer Ceplex fabric that’s PTFE and flour-chemical free and works well.
Then there are handy, venting pit-zips and a capable helmet hood that does decently with or without a lid and comes complete with a wired peak for additional overhead protection. All good, but the twin hand-pockets may be a deal-breaker for some.
The openings reach right to the bottom of the pocket and are plumb vertical, all of which means it’s rather too easy to lose stuff from them if you’re not careful. If you’re not a big pocket-user, that may not matter, but if you habitually squirrel stuff away on the hill, it’s a bit of a pain. Your call.
Otherwise, as long as the slim fit works for you, the Croz is a very nice, highly capable, lightweight mountain walking and mountaineering jacket.
Women’s-specific lightweight mountain jacket / 3-layer Ceplex membrane fabric / 2 front pockets with water resistant zips / water resistant 2-way front zip with back-flap / adjustable hem and cuffs / adjustable helmet hood / pit-zips / bluesign textiles
Verdict – Our Best Buys
The good news is that women are no longer the poor relations when it comes to waterproof jackets. All the kit we tested is design, with varying degrees of success, to fit the female form rather than just being scaled-down version of men’s shells.
But which one makes sense for you? Here are our top picks from the ten women’s waterproof jackets we tested.
Best Lightweight Jacket – Rab Flashpoint: £200
Originally designed as a stand-by ‘let’s run away now’ emergency alpine jacket, the Flashpoint is a whole lot more versatile than you might think and will do double duty as a running or biking jacket if needed..
It packs small and weighs just 150g, but still offers excellent all-round protection and comfort thanks to the high-performing Pertex Shield fabric. A brilliant choice as second jacket that can be carried without hassle and deployed when needed.
Best Value Jacket – Alpkit Women’s Balance: £170
Alpkit is new to waterproof clothing, but it’s already right up there with the best not just in value terms, but full stop. The new Balance Jacket is a pretty much flawless lightweight walking jacket that fitted all our testers neatly, has an excellent hood and a thoroughly well sorted all-round design. In truth, it was a close call between this and our outright best walking jacket winner.
Best Mountain Walking Jacket – Montane Surge: £300
This is the first season that Montane has used Gore-Tex fabrics and judging from the Surge, they’re doing a great job with them. the C-KNIT fabric feels nice and performs well, the jacket’s cut is a happy balance between fit and having enough space for warmer layers within. And the hood is another good one with a secure, close fit and excellent visibility.
It’s light too and just a really good all-round hill and mountain-walking jacket. Not cheap, but the fabric has a lifetime guarantee.
Pushing it close was the Arc’teryx Zeta LT, which uses a similar Gore-Tex fabric in a beautifully-cut jacket that exudes top-notch build quality. The Surge shades it through having a better hood. But also because the Zeta’s ‘upside down’ pocket zips didn’t meet everyone’s approval.
Best Full-On Mountaineering Jacket – Mountain Equipment Manaslu: £330
If you’re after a bomb-proof mountain shell for climbing and walking in the worst conditions, you won’t go far wrong with the excellent Manaslu. It’s a light but ‘tough as old boots’ mix of excellent Gore-Tex Pro fabric and serious build quality.
The cut is excellent, with a trim, efficient fit that doesn’t hamper movement and has enough space for a warm layer inside. And the hood is a reassuring haven from the weather that manages the magic trick of working pretty much equally well with or without a climbing helmet.
A proper, no-nonsense, rugged mountain jacket for the worst weather. The only real downside is that the fabric is slightly noisy in use.
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