Women's gear, up first
Stellar fit and weather protection make these our four favorite top layers
Whether it’s sleet, graupel, drizzle, or downpour, soggy comes in many flavors. You need a jacket that fends off precip while keeping you from steaming up. These four ace that test—and nail the women’s fit.
The North Face Women’s HyperAir Gore-Tex ($250)
Yes, you can run—and run hard—in this feather-light rain jacket without sweltering. The magic is part fabric, part fit. Whereas traditional waterproof-breathable membranes have three layers, Gore-Tex Active technology needs only two: The HyperAir’s waterproof membrane is on the outside—rather than sandwiched between the face fabric and liner—and is backed with a fabric that feels comfy next to your skin. The resulting two-layer construction is astoundingly light (my size small jacket weighs six ounces) yet fully waterproof and breathable. I’ve worn the HyperAir on drizzly 30-minute uphills without overheating. It has also saved me from snow and rain while mountain biking. The body-hugging fit assumes high-output exertion (there’s no room for bulky midlayers), but the slits at the bottom of the side seams provide enough freedom of movement for full running strides or pedal strokes. The cherry on top? The fabric is quiet, not crinkly, so it doesn’t drown out the nature’s own sounds.
Fjällräven Greenland Half Century ($425)
This is the traveler’s rain shell. Made with Fjällräven’s G-1000 Eco fabric (a blend of 65 percent recycled polyester and organic cotton), it looks smart on city sidewalks and has none of the plastic feel (or crinkly noise) typical of many shells. Yet it’s protective enough for wet, windy conditions: I wore it while day-hiking in Seattle’s Discovery Park and can attest that the cotton-blend material is, in fact, waterproof (you can revive the water-repellancy by coating it with Greenland Wax, which Fjällräven makes for the company’s cotton-blend outerwear). At 20 ounces, this shell is neither ultralight nor ultra-packable, but I love it for trips when I’ll be wearing this jacket more than carrying it.
Big Agnes Women’s Marvine ($160)
A downpour will drench this jacket, but in all other forms of precipitation—from hail to drizzle and everything in between—I’ve found it to be dependably waterproof. Even the insulation stands up to wet conditions. The Pinneco Core synthetic fibers never get waterlogged with sweat or rain. That makes it my go-to insulation during super-soggy pursuits like skinning up the ski hill. It instantly makes me feel cozy and warm, no matter how damp my base layers have become. Plus, the shell fabric (made from 100 percent recycled polyester) feels silky and supple.
United by Blue Women’s Bison Sport ($448)
Filled with intensely warm B100 fill (United by Blue’s name for bison wool), this jacket kept me comfortable while I waited for city buses in five-degree weather. The high collar and removable hood form a sort of storm bunker in high winds, and the waterproof-breathable shell fabric repelled sleet and rain. I found the Sport to be too stiff and constrictive for more active pursuits (and it’s so warm that I overheated while wearing it to shovel snow). Yet it’s less bulky than you’d expect, given the impressive insulation, and the draw cord at the waist keeps the hem tight and the jacket from looking frumpy-dumpy. That makes it perfect for commuting in cold, damp conditions.