Have the freshest free hiking tips sent to you each month!

 Best Womens Hiking
Rain Gear

Hiking rain gear: not all womens rain jackets and womens rain paints are created equal.

As women, we’re schooled in the fine art of attraction.

  • This is lovely when what we’re attracting won’t make us hypothermic (or worse).
  • When choosing hiking rain gear, being resistant and repellent is a much smarter choice.

As hikers, we should be interested in keeping our core body temperature right where it belongs.

Yet we’re intrepid enough to get out there and face the wrath of Mother Nature.

What’s a rain loving hiker to do?

Plan ahead and wear the best womens hiking rain gear!

  • And use these tips to make hiking in the rain an enjoyable experience, every time.

How to choose the best
hiking rain gear?

The first thing I’d advise is to read clothing labels on hiking rain gear very carefully.

Look for “weasel words” such as “repellent(also spelled "repellant") or “resistant”.

  • They sound the same.
  • They are NOT the same.
  • And they are not equivalent to "water proof".

Sounds like splitting hairs?

Not at all!

You need to know the difference when you shop for hiking rain gear, because your hiking clothing keeps you safe when the weather turns nasty.

Let's go through these words and figure out exactly what type of hiking rain gear you need for the trip you're planning: waterproof -vs- water repellent hiking gear, or something less pricey such as water resistant gear.

If you already know you need a waterproof backpack, read this.


Water repellent hiking rain gear

Water repellent hiking rain wear has been coated with something to repel water, but there are definite time limits to its function.

Repellent fabric will create beads of water on the outside; that’s a good clue that you have some time before you get soaked.

However, don't expect to stay dry forever.

Or even an hour, in a deluge.


Water resistant rain gear

Water resistant? It doesn't offer as much protection as "repellent". 

After a few minutes in “real” rain, you’re gonna get wet.

The fabric cannot prevent water molecules from passing onto your skin or clothing.

This fabric is best suited to warm climate day hike jackets, or situations where you know you can duck out of a downpour.

If you can afford it, go for water repellent over resistant hiking rain gear every time.

Hiker standing beside log bridge across the Nisqually River, Mt. Rainier National ParkWhen the clouds descend, rain gear to the rescue!


Waterproof hiking rain gear

Now let's kick it up several notches.

I'm the kind of hiker who wants “proof”, as in “no way is a water drop going to contact my delicate skin through this barrier.”

Why?

Anything less, and eventually water will seep in and cost me body heat, comfort, and peace of mind.

And that can translate into less elevation gain, less mileage, less fun and possibly hypothermia (reduced core body temperature).

My hiking rain gear is as waterproof as possible, after many years of wearing suboptimal gear that left me damp and chilly.

How do they do that??

So what's up with this magic waterproofing?

To be waterproof, the fabric is unusual, possibly magical. The weave does not allow water molecules to penetrate.

In other words, the water is excluded, trapped on the outside.

Enter a new issue: breathability. It is possible to get drenched INSIDE your rain gear due to your own sweat if you’re hiking in the rain wearing water proof hiking rain gear.

That's got a "yuck" factor different than, but equally unpleasant, as getting wet from the outside-in.

Water proof breatheable gear is going to set you back price-wise, no way around it.

Prepare for major sticker shock when you start reading labels.

Speaking of labels, which is where we started, you might see the word “Gore Tex”, although there are lots of other options and more every day, it seems. I don't have one particular recommendation.


Side note: It's kind of amusing to read ads regarding the latest, greatest hiking rain gear fabrics. You'd think they had invented sliced bread, or something :)

So once you pay your hard earned money for waterproof breathable hiking rain gear,  be sure that:

  • the gear fits,
  • you can get it on and off in a hurry, and
  • you take good care of it season after season.


What I rely on in wet conditions

I'll show you my favorite brands of rain proof jackets and pants to give you an idea of the price ranges you're looking at.

I've put my Arcteryx jacket through so much wind, rain and mud that I'm amazed I can still zip it up. I can't say enough good things about this brand.

The price point might seem high, but if your life depends on your clothing, it doesn't make sense to skimp.

Arcteryx Alpha SL Jacket

Waterproof rain pants should keep your legs not only dry, but warm. I have 2 pairs, one for warmer summer weather and a heavier pair that you see below, for winter outings or really brutal summer hiking.

Here's a good lightweight pair, with some nice features like taped seams:

Columbia Women's Storm Surge Pant

Here's the high end pair I'd recommend for really big, wet, cold adventures. Take notice of the excellent features these pants have:

Arcteryx Beta SL Pants


Once you decide which price range you want to be in, factor in the clothing you'll already be wearing when you pull on your rain gear.

  • I always go up a size in my hiking rain gear because if the weather turns on me, I know that I'll have many layers of clothing on.
  • I want to be able to bend, twist and breathe in my rain gear!

So don't buy your usual size unless you plan to pull this gear on over nothing but your skin!


What about a rain kilt?

For warm weather rainy spells, you could go minimalist by pulling on a piece of lightweight, waterproof fabric that shields you from moisture.

Kind of like wearing your own personal tarp ;)

Check it out here.

Tip: If you wear plus size hiking clothes, this could be the answer to not being able to find decent rain pants.

  • Hip sizes for women range from 32 to 46. (U.S.)



Tips for caring for your
hiking rain gear

I use a wash-in product called Nikwax on my pants and jackets once they’ve been through the washing machine a few times.

It's important to keep them waterproof (or resistant) because I rely upon these critical pieces of gear to keep me out of the Land of Hypothermia.

There's one particular company I turn to again and again:

Nikwax Tech Wash

As for waterproofing my leather boots, here's how I do it.

For boots made of synthetics, I use this product.

Also, I hang dry my rain gear whenever possible, and brush dirt off with a dry brush rather than wash it after every outing.

For quick and reliable field repairs, carry some duct tape wound around your water bottle for emergency repairs in case you get a gouge or slit in your rain gear.

Duct tape ain't pretty, but it's cheap AND waterproof.


Feel better now?

Have I answered the question "water proof vs. water repellent hiking rain gear?" for you?

Here's the bottom line:

If you’re a casual weekend hiker who can cancel plans if it looks stormy, don’t spring for expensive water proof rain gear.

  • You can get by with a poncho and a prayer in most situations. That poncho isn’t breathable, but it’s definitely waterproof.

But if you're going to be outdoors with no options to bail on your plans, carefully consider the cost-benefit ratio of expensive but high performance rain gear.

To help you do that, here's one of my favorite sources for high quality rain gear that is as easy on the pocketbook as possible.


More tips to keep you warm and dry
in wet hiking conditions

A good look at the hiking rain gear that doubles as cold weather hiking clothing.

I always wear gaiters in snow, when the trail is brushy and wet, and especially in rainy weather.

The gaiters keep my legs warm, my boots dry, and my pants from becoming mud/snow encrusted.

I've found that the life of my expensive waterproof hiking pants is extended because the grit and grime hits the impermeable gaiters, not my pants.

Bonus: They are inexpensive and so lightweight you'll never notice them in your pack when the sun shines.

I carry mine year round (because of the type of hiking I do), but if you hike where it gets dry be sure to take them out and hang them up in your gear locker.

This is really important

Cover your head as soon as you feel a chill preceding a down pour or snow flurries. Waiting for the first rain drop to hit might cost you some precious body heat as you scramble through your pack looking for your hat.

I rotate through an ear band (see photo above), a lightweight fleece cap, a so-called Seattle sombrero, and sometimes all 3 at once in order to keep my head warm and dry when Mother Nature can't make up her mind.

Do I look dorky?

You bet!

Am I dry?

You bet!

I've learned not to skimp on hiking rain gear, and nowhere is that more important than my head. Here's a "sombrero" style of hat that's versatile and lightweight.

This is important, too

I also cover up my hands right away when I feel chilled, again starting off with lightweight fleece but graduating to waterproof glove covers if the moisture level warrants them.

The downside is that my manual dexterity is compromised.

However, I feel that it's better to have warm fingers in case I need to make a tricky maneuver across a talus slope, or pull myself into a tree if a bear charge is imminent or I have to tear off the wrapper on my energy bar.

If you don't have any hiking gear from Mountain Hardwear, you should give this company a good look. I'm accumulating more and more of their products because they really do stand up to hard wear, and they look good doing it.

These gloves, for instance:

Mountain Hardwear Women's Power Stretch Gloves

I like their versatility: They can stand alone as a quick way to warm up my hands so I can keep gripping my trekking poles, or they can be used as liners inside of my clumsy but waterproof glove covers.

For more glove options, read this.

And some hikers swear by hiking umbrellas to keep their upper body even drier.

  • Read about them here.

Don't forget to
waterproof your pack!

A few words about waterproofing your pack are in order.

If you choose to stick with water repellent gear, please water proof your pack as a precaution against having soaked clothing in cold weather. You need to be able to change into something warm and dry, not something soggy, once you're safely in your dry tent.

  • The best approach is to buy a pre-treated pack with a pack cover.
  • Second best: buy the water proof/repellent pack cover that fits your existing pack, and keep it that way.
  • Third best: big water proof garbage bags, although they are prone to ripping and will not fit your pack as well as you might have hoped on the warm sunny day you packed them.

At the beginning of every hiking season, spray your pack with waterproofing. The NikWax people again are your best bet (see above).

Put on your pack whenever the weather looks threatening if you're taking a trail break or setting up camp. Why?

  • Because in the windy rainy weather, having an exposed back allows water to reach places you’d rather it didn’t on your body. Always be on guard against hypothermia!
  • Also, your body heat will be trapped against the pack, keeping you warmer and more focused on the task at hand.

Hiking rain gear: Let's sum it up

To sum up, there are 2 variables in your cost-benefit analysis to consider:

  • Performance (as in staying dry no matter what the weather throws at you) and
  • Cost (as in "They want HOW MUCH for that jacket??").

You must choose one of two routes when shopping for rain gear:

Pay a lot for waterproof breathable hiking rain gear and have tremendous peace of mind knowing that your core body temperature will remain in a viable range regardless of how long you're outside in cold wet conditions.

-OR-

Pay less, but have less peace of mind.

  • But maybe you don't put yourself in situations where you need to stay warm and dry at all costs (literally).
  • So don't pay those expensive prices if you don't need that expensive gear! (or don't want to maintain it)
Now that you know the pertinent facts about choosing the best hiking rain gear, don't let a few clouds stand in the way of an adventure.

Get on out there and do some puddle stomping!


Home page > Best Hiking Tips > Hiking Rain Gear



Didn't find what you were looking for? Use this search box to find it quickly.