Best Rain Pants for Hiking of 2020

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The main aim of this blog post is simple: giving you the most valuable information there is to help you choose the best rain pants for your hiking and backpacking adventures. We reviewed trousers for all budgets, seasons, and styles of travel, and highlighted our top waterproof pants for 2020. We also assembled a quick list of our favorite designs and a comparison table with the most important characteristics, pros, and cons of each of the contenders on our list. It should help you get a quick review of the essentials.

In this in-depth guide, we discussed materials, functionality, prices, durability, proper care, storage and maintenance, etc., i.e. everything you need to know about choosing rain pants and performance outdoor apparel.

Hiker wearing rain pants walking through puddle

Quick answer: BEST HIKING WATERPROOF PANTS FOR 2020

1. Arc’teryx Zeta SL Pant                                                                  View on Amazon

2. Outdoor Research Helium Pants                                            View on Amazon

3. Helly Hansen Vanir Lom Pant                                                   View on Amazon

4. Helly Hansen Moss Pant                                                              View on Amazon

5. Marmot PreCip Eco Full Zip Pants                                         View on Amazon

6. Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Pants                      View on Amazon

7. Columbia Rebel Roamer                                                              View on Amazon

8. Marmot Minimalist Pant                                                              View on Amazon

9. Outdoor Research Foray GORE-TEX Pants                      View on Amazon

10. Berghaus PACLITE GORE-TEX Overtrousers              View on Amazon

11. The North Face Venture 2 Half Zip Pants                       View on Amazon

12. Arc’teryx Beta SL Pant                                                                View on Amazon

13. Helly Hansen Dubliner Pant                                                    View on Amazon

14. Montane Atomic Pants                                                               View on Amazon

15. Montane Minimus Pants                                                            View on Amazon

 

Best all-around

#1 Arc’teryx Zeta SL Pant

Arcteryz Zeta SL Pant

Waistband: Elastic waist and internal webbing cinch strap

Leg zipper: 3/4 length WaterTight

Weight: 245 g (8.6 oz)

Price: $$$* (come at around $249)

Waterproof technology: 2L GORE-TEX with PACLITE PLUS

Face fabric material: 40D Nylon ripstop

Notable features:

  • Articulated patterning and gusseted crotch give an exceptional fit and unrestricted mobility
  • Reinforced instep for added durability
  • Reduced bulk and weight thanks to micro-seam allowance (1.6 mm)

Pros:

  • Superlight (weight-focused) and very packable/compressible: can be used in variable environments and conditions – either on you or in the bottom of your backpack
  • Streamlined minimalist design without unnecessary components; can be used as an emergency shell for hiking
  • Great fit and freedom of movement make it suitable for technical trails; made for unrestricted lightweight mobility
  • Top-notch wind and water-resistance for all-day weather protection; for day trips as well as for multi-day excursions

Cons:

  • Expensive, though it might be justified if you have the money to spend on top-quality rain pants
  • No pockets (keep in mind that it can be e plus in certain situations for rain pants)

Best for: Three-season hiking and backpacking

See the Men’s Arc’teryx Zeta SL Pant See the Women’s Arc’teryx Zeta SL Pant

 

Best ultralight

#2 Outdoor Research Helium Pants

Outdoor Research Helium Pant

Waistband: Elastic waist with drawcord

Leg zipper: Ankle

Weight: 156 g (5.5 oz)

Price: $$ (come at around $119)

Waterproof technology: 2.5L Pertex Shield+

Face fabric material: 30D Nylon ripstop

Notable features:

  • Back pocket doubles as a stuff sack
  • Carabiner loop and key clip
  • Gusseted crotch for a full range of motion

Pros:

  • Ultralight, extremely packable, and reliable windproof and waterproof, fully seam-taped pants
  • Functional and versatile: backpacking, camping, walks in the rain, shoveling snow
  • Very comfortable in various environments and conditions; waist with gripper tape to stay in place
  • Breathable and quick-drying

Cons:

  • Too fragile
  • No pockets for access to small items
  • Hard to put on over full-size boots because the ankle zippers aren’t high enough

Best for: Ultralight trips where gear weight matters a lot

See the Men’s OR Helium Pants See the Women’s OR Helium Pants

 

Best for cold weather

#3 Helly Hansen Vanir Lom Pant

Helly Hansen Vanir Lom Pant

Waistband: Elastic adjustable waist with Velcro fastener

Leg zipper: Knee length with storm flap

Weight: 430 g (15.2 oz)

Price: $$ (the usual price is $200)

Waterproof technology: 3L HELLY TECH Professional (20,000gm WP and 15,000gm moisture vapor permeability)

Face fabric material: 100% polyamide 70D X 70D

Notable features:

  • Fully seam-sealed; DWR C6 + hydrophilic lamination (Bemis laminated construction)
  • Articulated knees for optimal mobility
  • Durable YKK zippers with custom-designed zipper pullers for a firm grip

Pros:

  • Suitable for extremely harsh conditions (and mountain adventures) thanks to the 3L HELLY TECH Professional fabric: cold, rain, snow, hail, winds; fully waterproof and extremely breathable
  • High-quality solid and durable construction (top-notch materials) suitable for various activities/adventures; nice looking and functional/practical
  • Soft, smooth, and flexible, tight/good fit and extremely comfortable to wear; moves easily over layers
  • Inner back waist with reflective strip for enhanced visibility in low light

Cons:

  • No belt loops
  • A bit noisy
  • Two of the three pocket zippers have snaps instead of being taped

Best for: Cold weather and harsh conditions

See the Men’s Helly Hansen Vanir Lom Pant See the Women’s Helly Hansen Vanir Luster Pant

 

Best budget buy

#4 Helly Hansen Moss Pant

Helly Hansen Moss Pant

Waistband: Elastic waistband with drawstring

Leg zipper: No (has Velcro straps to cinch the cuffs)

Weight: 410 g (14.5 oz)

Price: $ (come at around $40)

Waterproof technology: Helox+ Technology

Face fabric material: Polyurethane

Notable features:

  • Welded seams
  • Polyurethane repair kit included
  • Adjustable waist and bottom hem for individual fit

Pros:

  • Affordable, it offers a great price/quality ratio
  • Fully waterproof and windproof, the Helly Hansen Moss is very efficient against rain
  • Simple design without extraneous features, it fits nicely and is easy to layer up
  • Soft and nice fabric but very durable construction

Cons:

  • Not breathable; can accumulate perspiration, especially in prolonged rainy conditions or during high-intensity activities
  • Neither very light nor compact

Best for: Cooler weather and activities that aren’t going to be very intensive

See the Men’s Helly Hansen Moss Pant See the Women’s Helly Hansen Moss Pant

 

Best of the rest

#5 Marmot PreCip Eco Full Zip Pants

Marmot PreCip Eco Full Zip

Waistband: Elastic waistband with Velcro adjustment that fastens on the waist at either side

Leg zipper: Full-length with storm flap

Weight: 340 g (12 oz)

Price: $ (the usual price is around $100)

Waterproof technology: 2.5L NanoPro Eco (10,000gm WP & 17,000gm moisture vapor permeability)

Face fabric material: Nylon ripstop

Notable features:

  • Full-length side zippers with bonded storm flaps over them
  • Fully taped seams
  • Two zippered hand pockets and a zippered back pocket

Pros:

  • The full-length zippers make them easy and quick to get on and off even with boots on (on the trail in harsh conditions; can be worn with different types of boots); Storm flaps for added protection against water
  • Extremely breathable thanks to the NanoPro Eco technology (2.5 layer Microporous Coating with Dry Touch finish)
  • Easy to layer up and pack well (easy to pack) – these lightweight pants don’t take up too much space
  • High-quality practical trousers; the three zippered pockets are actually usable for easy access to small items

Cons:

  • The zippers aren’t water-resistant
  • Zippers might be hard to use with gloves or cold fingers (because of hard zipper tops)
  • You must zip up to completely unzip otherwise, you can’t unzip it as the zipper stops at the ankle

Best for: Cool-to-cold weather with light and moderate rains

See the Men’s Marmot PreCip Eco Full Zip Pants See the Women’s Marmot PreCip Eco Full Zip Pants

 

#6 Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Pants

Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic

Waistband: Elastic waist with built-in belt

Leg zipper: Full-length with snap tabs at ankle

Weight: 289 g (10.2 oz)

Price: $$ (the usual price is $150)

Waterproof technology: 2.5L Dry.Q Active Stretch

Face fabric material: 40D Nylon

Notable features:

  • Enhanced knee articulation for free range of motion
  • Belt loops; Loops at leg cuffs securely fasten to the bottom of your boot
  • Waterproof thigh pocket can accommodate smartphone

Pros:

  • Built to battle the elements and does it quite well in wet conditions and wind
  • Unmatched breathability makes it ideal for high-intensity activities
  • Stretchy and comfortable fabric ensures outstanding mobility so that the wearer could move freely and easily; the built-in belt individual fit; look and feel like regular hiking pants
  • Versatility: for a wide range of sports and activities; works equally well in the mountain as well as in the city

Cons:

  • Not very durable or abrasion-resistant
  • No pockets except for the zippered thigh pocket

Best for: High-intensity activities in inclement weather

See the Men’s Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Pants See the Women’s Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Pants

 

#7 Columbia Rebel Roamer

Columbia Rebel Roamer

Waistband: Elastic waist with drawcord

Leg zipper: No (has hook-and-loop adjustable cuffs)

Weight: 354 g (12.5 oz)

Price: $ (come at around $50)

Waterproof technology: Omni-Tech Waterproof/Breathable

Face fabric material: 100% nylon 70D MP LTX

Notable features:

  • Fully seam-sealed
  • Adjustable leg cuffs and a drawcord-adjustable waist
  • Four pockets in total – two zippered hand pockets and two back pockets

Pros:

  • Simple, offer great protection from wind and water even if there’s a downpour or it rains for hours while you’re outside
  • Impressive price/quality ratio; great budget rain pants
  • Engineered for easy layering; enough room to pull over pants and boots
  • Fast and easy to get them on and off over hiking boots without trouble

Cons:

  • Poor breathability
  • No pockets, no side zippers

Best for: Moderate activity in light to medium rain and snow

See the Men’s Columbia Rebel Roamer See the Women’s Columbia Storm Surge

 

#8 Marmot Minimalist Pants

Marmot Minimalist

Waistband: Elastic waist (the back part of the waist) with snap closure and zipper fly

Leg zipper: Ankle with snap closure

Weight: 292 g (10.3 oz)

Price: $$ (come at around $165)

Waterproof technology: 2L GORE-TEX with PACLITE

Face fabric material: 100% Polyester (recycled)

Notable features:

  • Fully waterproof with taped seams
  • Articulated knees allow for full knee bend (freedom of movement)
  • Hand pockets with water-resistant zipper

Pros:

  • Waterproof, windproof, and superbly seam-sealed for protection from the elements
  • Lightweight and compact (made from smooth, cool, and light fabric, it’s easy to pack for long trips)
  • Nice style with good/simple design (more features than other minimalist pants but still without fancy features)
  • Versatile: for hiking and backpacking, biking, travel, snowshoeing, light skiing; thin so they can be worn without another layer in warmer temperatures; can be worn with another layer underneath in cold weather

Cons:

  • No belt loops
  • Not the most silent pants (make swooshing noise)
  • Fit tight/quite snug around the hips and back so you might wish to size up
  • Straight leg cuffs so you might need a gaiter to fend off water and mud

Best for: Cool-to-cold weather

See the Men’s Marmot Minimalist Pant See the Women’s Marmot Minimalist Pant

 

#9 Outdoor Research Foray GORE-TEX Pants

Outdoor Research Foray GORE-TEX

Waistband: Elastic waist with drawstring

Leg zipper: 3/4 length

Weight: 302 g (10.7 oz)

Price: $$ (the usual price is $175)

Waterproof technology: 2L GORE-TEX with PACLITE

Face fabric material: 100% polyester 50D plain weave

Notable features:

  • Fully seam-taped GORE-TEX construction with C6 DWR treatment provides uncompromising waterproof protection
  • Carabiner loop to easily clip onto a backpack or climbing harness; Internal Loops for Instep Lace in order to help you fend off water to keep your boots dry
  • Back pocket doubles as a stuff sack

Pros:

  • These top-quality waterproof breathable pants made with soft high-quality fabric are designed to excel in less than ideal conditions (the Foray pants are totally waterproof)
  • Full with technical features for: protection from the elements, unrestrained mobility, easy layering (easy on and off; fits over regular pants without bulk); and to pack down small
  • Extremely compact design: could be packed in its own rear pocket
  • Durable construction

Cons:

  • One pocket only
  • No zip fly

Best for: Harsh conditions

See the Men’s OR Foray GORE-TEX Pants See the Women’s OR Aspire GORE-TEX Pants

 

#10 Berghaus PACLITE GORE-TEX Overtrousers

Berghaus PACLITE Gore-Tex Overtrousers

Waistband: Elastic waist with drawcord

Leg zipper: 3/4 length

Weight: 228 g (8 oz)

Price: $$ (the usual price is $165)

Waterproof technology: 2L GORE-TEX with PACLITE

Face fabric material: 40D Nylon

Notable features:

  • GORE-TEX PACLITE technology for lightweight protection from the elements
  • Micro taped seams and water-resistant zips
  • Come with a handy squashable mesh pouch for easy storage

Pros:

  • Fully waterproof construction with sturdy water-resistant zippers and 3/4 length side zippers allow for dry (even in heavy rain conditions) and well-ventilated experience
  • Super lightweight and easy to pack, they come with a convenient mesh sac
  • Well-made with nice design, the Berghaus Paclite GORE-TEX Overtrousers offer a comfy fit so that you can move easily
  • Breathable enough for year-round trekking

Cons:

  • Unreliable zippers that stick sometimes allow water penetration in heavy rain (the zippers are water-resistant not waterproof)
  • Not cheap though they are very good quality
  • No pockets

Best for: Year-round use

See the Men’s Berghaus PACLITE GORE-TEX Overtrousers See the Women’s Berghaus PACLITE GORE-TEX Overtrousers

 

#11 The North Face Venture 2 Half Zip Pants

The north face venture 2 half zip

Waistband: Elastic waist with drawcord

Leg zipper: Knee length with Velcro adjustable ankle cuffs

Weight: 230 g (8.1 oz)

Price: $ (come at $80)

Waterproof technology: 2.5L DryVent

Face fabric material: 40D Nylon ripstop

Notable features:

  • Stow in their own hand pocket
  • Velcro adjustable ankle cuffs
  • Two zippered hand pockets

Pros:

  • Versatile: they can be used for backpacking, hiking, camping, travel
  • Lightweight and compact design without unnecessary bulk; its own hand pocket can work as a stuff sack
  • Tough construction that can meet the challenges of the trail: works well and keeps wind and water out
  • Easy to layer up with other pants and easy to slip on over any shoes quickly

Cons:

  • A bit long
  • No insulation

Best for: Active, fast, and light pursuits (multi-day hikes) in cool-to-cold weather

See the Men’s North Face Venture 2 Half Zip Pants See the Women’s North Face Venture 2 Half Zip Pants

 

#12 Arc’teryx Beta SL Pant

Arcteryx Beta SL Pant

Waistband: Low profile external adjustable waist strap with side closures

Leg zipper: Full-length with bottom hem lace hooks

Weight: 355 g (12.5 oz)

Price: $$$ (come at $299)

Waterproof technology: 2L GORE-TEX with PACLITE PLUS

Face fabric material: 40D Nylon ripstop

Notable features:

  • Full-length side zippers provide easy entry and rapid ventilation
  • Articulated knees and gusseted crotch for a better fit, unrestricted mobility, and comfort
  • Reinforced instep for added durability

Pros:

  • Superlight and easy to pack in a hiking backpack
  • Versatile, they ensure high performance for diverse activities and conditions
  • Simple but effective design: regular fit provides enough room for layers underneath; full-zip for easy on and off and for extra ventilation when needed
  • Excellent weather-resistance: fully waterproof construction

Cons:

  • Durability issues as the design favors low weight and packability over durability
  • The adjustable waist strap isn’t with a very simple design, which might be trouble especially when you need to use the bathroom in the cold

Best for: Emergency use

See the Men’s Arc’teryx Beta SL Pant See the Women’s Arc’teryx Beta SL Pant

 

#13 Helly Hansen Dubliner Pant

Helly Hansen Dubliner Rain Pants

Waistband: Elasticized adjustable waist

Leg zipper: No (can be cinched with Velcro straps)

Weight: 380 g (13.4 oz)

Price: $ (the usual price is around $75)

Waterproof technology: 2L HELLY TECH Protection

Face fabric material: Polyester and polyurethane

Notable features:

  • Fully seam-sealed
  • Quick-dry lightweight lining
  • 2 Ply fabric construction

Pros:

  • Great protection in rain, wind, dirt, snow; suitable for both warm and cold weather
  • Affordable/Budget-friendly simple and functional design
  • Versatile for all kinds of outdoor activities: hiking, walking, biking, sailing, kayaking, skiing – you name it
  • Fit well, the Dubliner trousers are very comfy and easy to pull over regular pants

Cons:

  • Not very breathable
  • The material isn’t that good; might feel a bit cheap and noisy
  • Come in black only; those who intend to use them in the mountain would need more bright colors for safety

Best for: Occasional/Short and light day hikes

See the Men’s Helly Hansen Dubliner Pant See the Women’s Helly Hansen Aden Pant

 

#14 Montane Atomic Pants

Montane Atomic Pants

Waistband: Elastic waist with lockable drawcord

Leg zipper: 3/4 length with storm flap

Weight: 195 g (6.9 oz)

Price: $$ (the usual price is $120)

Waterproof technology: 2.5L PERTEX Shield

Face fabric material: 40D Nylon

Notable features:

  • Lightweight and versatile PERTEX Shield fabric
  • Diamond crotch and articulated knees for ease of movement
  • Reflective details (360° DUSK TILL DAWN reflectivity)

Pros:

  • Lightweight and functional rain pants for use in mountain areas
  • Great design and good craftmanship/quality
  • Enough room for another layer underneath
  • 3/4 length side zippers for easy on and off and for added ventilation when needed

Cons:

  • No pockets
  • Run small, check the sizing of the manufacturer

Best for: Mountains (mountaineering)

See the Men’s Montane Atomic Pants See the Women’s Montane Atomic Pants

 

#15 Montane Minimus Pants

Montane Minimus Pants

Waistband: Elastic waist with lockable drawcord

Leg zipper: ¼ length

Weight: 147 g (5.2 oz)

Price: $$ (come at $140)

Waterproof technology: 2.5L PERTEX Shield

Face fabric material: 40D Nylon

Notable features:

  • Articulated knees for high step movement, perfect for trail running and fast mountain use
  • Hook-and-loop calf tabs help to reduce the volume around the calves for better wind resistance
  • Mesh stuff sac for easy storing on the move

Pros:

  • Ultralight and extremely compact pants that come with mesh pouch for easy storage in your backpack
  • Simple, streamlined, minimalist design; no unnecessary/extraneous/irrelevant features
  • Exceptional breathability for high-intensity activities in the mountain
  • Reflective elements increase visibility in low light

Cons:

  • Not the most durable waterproof pants
  • The side zippers are difficult to accommodate solid boots
  • No pockets (to cut off any additional gram)

Best for: Mountains (trail-running, hiking, mountaineering)

See the Men’s Montane Minimus Pants See the Women’s Montane Minimus Pants

 

Table 1: Best rain pants for hiking – comparison table

PRODUCTDESCRIPTIONPROSCONS
Arcteryz Zeta SL Pant
Arc'teryx Zeta SL Pant

#1 Best all-around rain pants



Side zipper -> 3/4 length WaterTight
Weight -> 245 g (8.6 oz)
Price -> $249
Waterproof technology -> 2L GORE-TEX with PACLITE PLUS


-> Superlight and very compressible
-> Streamlined minimalist design without unnecessary components
-> Great fit and freedom of movement make it suitable for technical trails
-> Top-notch wind and water-resistance


-> Expensive
-> No pockets

Outdoor Research Helium Pant
Outdoor Research Helium Pants

#2 Best ultralight



Side zipper -> Ankle
Weight -> 156 g (5.5 oz)
Price -> $119
Waterproof technology -> 2.5L Pertex Shield+


-> Ultralight, extremely packable, and reliable; fully seam-taped
-> Functional and versatile
-> Very comfortable in various environments and conditions
-> Breathable and quick-drying


-> Too fragile
-> No pockets for access to small items
-> Hard to put on over full-size boots

Helly Hansen Vanir Lom Pant
Helly Hansen Vanir Lom Pant

#3 Best for cold weather



Side zipper -> Knee length with storm flap
Weight -> 430 g (15.2 oz)
Price -> $200
Waterproof technology -> 3L HELLY TECH Professional


-> Suitable for extremely harsh conditions: fully waterproof and extremely breathable
-> High-quality solid, durable, and versatile construction
-> Soft, smooth, and flexible, tight/good fit and extremely comfortable to wear; moves easily over layers
-> Inner back waist with reflective strip


-> No belt loops
-> A bit noisy
-> 2/3 of the pocket zippers have snaps instead of being taped

Helly Hansen Moss Pant
Helly Hansen Moss Pant

#4 Best budget buy



Side zipper -> No
Weight -> 410 g (14.5 oz)
Price -> $40
Waterproof technology -> Helox+ Technology


-> Affordable
-> Fully waterproof and windproof, it is very efficient against rain
-> Simple design without extraneous features, it fits nicely and is easy to layer up
-> Soft, nice, and durable fabric


-> Not breathable
-> Neither very light nor compact

Marmot PreCip Eco Full Zip Pants
Marmot PreCip Eco Full Zip

#5



Side zipper -> Full-length with storm flap
Weight -> 340 g (12 oz)
Price -> $100
Waterproof technology -> 2.5L NanoPro Eco


-> Full-length side zippers
-> Extremely breathable
-> Easy to layer up and pack well
-> High-quality practical trousers with three zippered pockets


-> The zippers aren't water-resistant
-> Hard zipper tops
-> You must zip up to completely unzip otherwise, you can't unzip it as the zipper stops at the ankle

Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic
Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Pants

#6



Side zipper -> Full-length with snap tabs at ankle
Weight -> 289 g (10.2 oz)
Price -> $150
Waterproof technology -> 2.5L Dry.Q Active Stretch


-> Built to battle the elements
-> Unmatched breathability makes it ideal for high-intensity activities
-> Stretchy and comfortable fabric ensures outstanding mobility
-> Versatility: works equally well in the mountain as well as in the city


-> Not very durable or abrasion-resistant
-> No pockets except for the zippered thigh pocket

Columbia Rebel Roamer
Columbia Rebel Roamer

#7



Side zipper -> No
Weight -> 354 g (12.5 oz)
Price -> $50
Waterproof technology -> Omni-Tech Waterproof/Breathable


-> Simple, offer great protection from wind and water
-> Impressive price/quality ratio
-> Engineered for easy layering
-> Fast and easy to get them on and off over hiking boots


-> Poor breathability
-> No pockets, no side zippers

Marmot Minimalist
Marmot Minimalist Pants

#8



Side zipper -> Ankle with snap closure
Weight -> 292 g (10.3 oz)
Price -> $165
Waterproof technology -> 2L GORE-TEX with PACLITE


-> Waterproof, windproof, and superbly seam-sealed
-> Lightweight and compact
-> Nice style with good/simple design (more features than other minimalist pants but still without fancy features)
-> Versatile; thin so they can be worn without another layer in warmer temperatures


-> No belt loops
-> Not the most silent pants (make swooshing noise)
-> Fit tight/quite snug around the hips and back
-> Straight leg cuffs so you might need a gaiter to fend off water and mud

Outdoor Research Foray GORE-TEX
Outdoor Research Foray GORE-TEX Pants

#9



Side zipper -> 3/4 lengthWeight -> 302 g (10.7 oz)
Price -> $175
Waterproof technology -> 2L GORE-TEX with PACLITE


-> Top-quality waterproof breathable pants made with soft high-quality fabric
-> Full with technical features
-> Extremely compact design: could be packed in its own rear pocket
-> Durable construction


-> One pocket only
-> No zip fly

Berghaus PACLITE Gore-Tex Overtrousers
Berghaus PACLITE GORE-TEX Overtrousers

#10



Side zipper -> 3/4 length
Weight -> 228 g (8 oz)
Price -> $165
Waterproof technology -> 2L GORE-TEX with PACLITE


-> Fully waterproof construction with sturdy water-resistant zippers and 3/4 length side zippers
-> Super lightweight and easy to pack, they come with a convenient mesh sac
-> Well-made with nice design; offer a comfy fit
-> Breathable enough for year-round trekking


-> Unreliable zippers that stick sometimes allow water penetration in heavy rain
-> Not cheap
-> No pockets

The north face venture 2 half zip
The North Face Venture 2 Half Zip Pants

#11



Side zipper -> knee length with Velcro adjustable ankle cuffs
Weight -> 230 g (8.1 oz)
Price -> $80
Waterproof technology -> 2.5L DryVent


-> Versatile: they can be used for backpacking, hiking, camping, travel
-> Lightweight and compact design without unnecessary bulk; its own hand pocket can work as a stuff sack
-> Tough construction that can meet the challenges of the trail
-> Easy to layer up


-> A bit long
-> No insulation

Arcteryx Beta SL Pant
Arc'teryx Beta SL Pants

#12



Side zipper -> Full-length with bottom hem lace hooks
Weight -> 355 g (12.5 oz)
Price -> $299
Waterproof technology -> 2L GORE-TEX with PACLITE PLUS


-> Superlight and easy to pack
-> Versatile, they ensure high performance for diverse activities and conditions
-> Simple but effective design
-> Excellent weather-resistance: fully waterproof construction


-> Durability issues as the design favors low weight and packability over durability
-> The adjustable waist strap isn't with a very simple design, which might be trouble especially when you need to use the bathroom in the cold

Helly Hansen Dubliner
Helly Hansen Dubliner Pant

#13



Side zipper -> No
Weight -> 380 g (13.4 oz)
Price -> $75
Waterproof technology -> 2L HELLY TECH Protection


-> Great protection in rain, wind, dirt, snow; suitable for both warm and cold weather
->Budget-friendly, simple and functional design
-> Versatile for all kinds of outdoor activities
-> The Dubliner trousers are very comfy and easy to pull over regular pants


-> Not very breathable
-> The material isn't that good; noisy
-> Come in black only

Montane Atomic Pants
Montane Atomic Pants

#14



Side zipper -> 3/4 length with storm flap
Weight -> 195 g (6.9 oz)
Price -> $120
Waterproof technology -> 2.5L PERTEX Shield


-> Lightweight and functional rain pants for use in mountain areas
-> Great design and good craftmanship
-> Enough room for another layer underneath
-> 3/4 length side zippers for easy on and off and for added ventilation when needed


-> No pockets
-> Run small, check the sizing of the manufacturer

Montane Minimus Pants
Montane Minimus Pants

#15



Side zipper -> 1/4 length
Weight -> 147 g (5.2 oz)
Price -> $140
Waterproof technology -> 2.5L PERTEX Shield


-> Ultralight and extremely compact pants that come with mesh pouch for easy storage
-> Simple, streamlined, minimalist design
-> Exceptional breathability for high-intensity activities in the mountain
-> Reflective elements


-> Not the most durable waterproof pants
-> The side zippers are difficult to accommodate solid boots
-> No pockets

 

Rain pants for hiking buying advice or what to consider

Materials

Generally, rain pants are made with woven, knitted or nonwoven face fabric such as nylon (sometimes polyester) and waterproof breathable fabric. The face fabric can be tough, durable, and abrasion-resistant as lighter designs are often more fragile. Various coatings and finishing treatments (durable water repellents or DWR) applied to the shell surface are used to complement the waterproof fabric.  A waterproof breathable material (often a membrane) is bonded to the face fabric. Its role is to carry out water vapor transmission from the body to the environment. The addition of lining can help a lot to protect the membrane from abrasion, body oils, and other pore-clogging contaminants.

Water-resistance

Rain pants need to shield off rain, sleet, and snow to keep the user dry from the outside and from the inside. It doesn’t matter if he/she is backpacking, climbing, working, walking the dog or doing anything else. Water-resistance is what keeps the wearer dry from the outside. There are various degrees of water-resistance. Basically, wearing rain pants with a waterproof rating of 10 000 mm or above is enough to keep the wearer protected sufficiently most of the time (the waterproofness rating of the Marmot PreCip Eco Full Zip with 2.5 layer NanoPro Eco technology is 10 000 mm, for instance).

For harsh conditions, look for something with at least 15 000-20 000 mm water column. Helly Hansen Vanir Lom utilizing 3 layer HELLY TECH Professional (Helly Hansen’s most advanced waterproof breathable membrane) comes at 20 000mm and works great even in the most extreme conditions. Hardshell pants with 2L GORE-TEX PACLITE deliver similar performance. Designed for ease of movement, they are lightweight and very packable. Marmot Minimalist and Outdoor Research Foray are excellent examples of minimalist constructions that use the GORE-TEX PACLITE membrane. Arc’teryx Zeta SL and Arc’teryx Beta SL come with 2L GORE-TEX PACLITE PLUS. It is very similar to the PACLITE PLUS but it’s more abrasion-resistant.

On our site, you can find some excellent articles dedicated to waterproof breathable fabrics, clothing, and gear. For those interested in the types of waterproof breathable textiles, their properties, and various applications, we recommend seeing our in-depth post on the topic. We have also a great article about rain clothes where we go through different constructions, ratings, and types of waterproofs and their features. In our post about the differences between waterproof, water-repellent, and water-resistant textiles and gear, we draw a comparison between the main features of each of them. We believe that reading one or more of the aforementioned articles will be of great benefit to every outdoor lover.

A wide range of waterproof fabrics offer 100% waterproof protection but it is worth nothing if the fabric has poor breathability and average longevity.

Breathability and ventilation

Breathability

Every seasoned outdoorsman knows that staying dry from the outside is a must but staying dry from the inside is equally important. Water vapor permeability or breathability is the ability of a fabric to allow moisture vapor to pass through it. Rain pants with great moisture vapor permeability work like a charm in high-intensity activities. The higher the breathability rating, the more effective a membrane is at passing moisture vapor from the body to the environment where it could evaporate. In other words, the ability of the fabric to breathe is essential for the comfort of the wearer.

Below, you see a comparison table with information about different activities and the corresponding perspiration rates. While perspiration depends on a range of factors and is strictly individual, the table below is included for easy reference:

Table 2: Heat energy produced by various activities and corresponding perspiration rates

Perspiration rates various activities

Source: Waterproof and Water Repellent Textiles**, p.32

Table 3 shows that active walking or backpacking requires rain pants with at least 15 000 gm moisture vapor permeability. Active walking with a heavy pack and mountain walking with a heavy pack require even higher breathability (at least 19 000 and 23 000 gm respectively).

Ventilation

Ventilation is also very important for the transportation of moisture to the environment as air circulation moves moisture directly from the skin to the environment. Full-length and 3/4 length zippers can help shed excess body heat in warm temperatures and light drizzle as they can be unzipped for extra ventilation to help you avoid sweating. However, they don’t work that well in heavy rain, cold, and stormy conditions because you can’t just open the side zippers in such conditions. Actually, doing that is probably the best way to soak your legs and boots. Thus, breathability is much more important for rain pants than ventilation to keep the wearer dry.

Overall, models such as Mountain Hardwear Ozonic, Outdoor Research Foray, Arc’teryx Zeta SL, Marmot PreCip Eco Full Zip, and Marmot Minimalist are more breathable. Unsurprisingly, more inexpensive models such as Helly Hansen Moss, Columbia Rebel Roamer, and The North Face Venture 2 Half Zip offer less breathability.

Features

There are many technical features of rain pants that can be of use. Main features of rain pants include but are not limited to:

  • Side zippers – from no zippers and ankle-length to 3/4 length and full-length zippers with storm flap, side zippers are one of the most sought after features of hardshell pants. Their main function is to ensure easy on and off of the pants over footwear, crampons, snowshoes, etc. In addition, side zippers can be used for added ventilation.
  • Elastic waistband – keeps trousers from falling down and guarantees individual fit. Not all designs come with a stretchy waistband but most of them have either elasticized adjustable waist or back elastic.
  • Adjustable drawcords and cord locks – similarly to the elastic waist, their main role is to ensure an individual fit. Some models come with internal webbing cinch straps, built-in belts or Velcro fasteners with side closures for a comfortable fit. Various leg cuff closures such as Velcro straps and interior adjustments of cuffs are used to cinch them tight.
  • Reinforced instep, seat, and knees – add wear and abrasion-resistance as well as durability, and make useful life longer.
  • Pockets – a variety of small and big pocket options for storing small personal items, maps, documents, money, and whatever else one might need exist. Pockets often have waterproof or water-resistant zips that provide secure storage.
  • Waist loops – if the trousers don’t fit perfectly, belt loops give the user an opportunity to buckle a belt around the waist.
  • Taped seams – most quality hardshell pants are fully seam-sealed constructions to eliminate the chance of wetting from the outside for complete protection from the elements. Cheaper designs are not necessarily seam taped, which increases the chance of failure of the seams. This makes such trousers unreliable in heavy and/or driving rain.
  • Compressibility – packed size is an important feature of waterproof pants for hiking. Since they spend a lot of time at the bottom of the backpack, many hikers find it really important to have rain pants that pack well and can fit inside the backpack without taking up too much space. Outdoor Research Helium and Outdoor Research Foray are among the most compressible pants on our list.

Regardless of how many interesting, attractive or distinguishing features certain waterproof pants may have, they are worth nothing if these features aren’t utilized properly. So try to make good use of the features.

Fit, functionality, and comfort

Stretchy or loose-fitting rain pants are preferable because they could fit comfortably over other pants. Wearing additional layers underneath is more of a rule than an exception, which makes good fit essential for all kinds of rain gear from jackets and gloves to trousers.

Overall functionality is much more than the sum of different features, materials, and other technical characteristics of a construction. It’s a combination of mobility, features, and other material and non-material characteristics of a garment. Comfort and freedom of movement are among the most important things to consider when looking for rain pants. Articulated patterns – knee articulation, gusseted crotch, etc. give an exceptional fit and increase mobility. Comfort is strictly individual as it depends on everything associated with the overall experience. Arc’teryx Zeta SL and Helly Hansen Vanir Lom are among the best performers regarding functionality and comfort. Outdoor Research Foray and Marmot PreCip Eco Full Zip also perform very well when it comes to fit, comfort, and functionality.

Snow bikers

Functional hardshell pants should provide enough comfort during sports and pursuits in various conditions

Price

The prices of waterproof pants vary a lot. You can find high-quality rain pants for $300 or more as well as for less than $100 (the majority on our list cost between $100 and $175). Of course, there are also less expensive options that perform exceptionally well given the price. Models such as the Helly Hansen Moss and Columbia Rebel Roamer are a great example of a balance between price and functionality for less than $50. It is no coincidence that both of them are in our top 7 despite the fact that these are basically the cheapest trousers among all 15 on our list. They are there because the ratio between price and value is high.

Price differences depend on several factors such as:

  • Technical features and overall functionality of the trousers – functional pants with more technical features usually cost more.
  • Waterproof rating of the fabric, its breathability, quality of the materials, and high standards of craftsmanship will translate into higher prices – garments using more advanced waterproof technologies such as GORE-TEX with PACLITE Plus, PERTEX Shield, Dry.Q Active, and HELLY TECH Professional cost more.
  • Brand popularity and brand loyalty – popular brands famous for making top-notch quality products normally charge more. There are two reasons for this: 1) loyal fans are willing to pay more and 2) many people are prepared to pay premium prices for renowned brands such as Arc’teryx, Helly Hansen, Marmot, Outdoor Research, and Berghaus.

Weight and packability

Depend on both design and fabric. All other things being equal, lightweight waterproof pants that pack well (the best overall trousers – Arc’teryx Zeta SL Pant are a good example) will cost more than heavier pants. One of the reasons is that in most cases lighter pants are more versatile and compressible than heavyweight trousers. There’s one exception though – solid constructions engineered to excel in cold temperatures and harsh conditions (Helly Hansen Vanir Lom Pant). They are relatively expensive (good models start at $150) and sometimes even have a lining.

Durability

Lighter products often sacrifice durability for low weight. Emergency and minimalist shells such as the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Pants, Outdoor Research Helium Pants, and Montane Minimus are very comfortable, have great design, and offer excellent wind, water-resistance, and breathability but they are far from being the most durable constructions. Unlike them, more affordable models like The North Face Venture 2 Half Zip are solid and sturdy. Outdoor Research Foray is another robust model that can withstand more unpleasant environments and conditions including some bushwhacking.

Need and individual preferences

The objective conditions (climate, environment, expected weather conditions, type of trip) are a critical factor as regards the necessity for bringing rain pants with you on the trail. However, individual preferences are no less important.

Obviously, hiking in warm temperatures makes the use of more breathable and lighter pants such as the Outdoor Research Helium (they come in at a bit more than 150 g or 5.5 ounces) and Montane Minimus (a bit lighter at 147 g or 5.2 ounces) preferable to using heavier and more solid hardshell pants that are not breathable enough like the Helly Hansen Moss (410 g or 14.5 ounces).

In cold temperatures and worsening weather conditions, you’ll need waterproof pants that ensure reliable all-day protection from wind, cold, and water. They should also breathe reasonably well to lessen the chance of wetting from the inside. Such trousers often weigh a bit more (Helly Hansen Vanir Lom – 430 g or 15.2 oz; 15 000 gm moisture vapor permeability).

Girls wearing rain pants in snowy conditions

Having reliable all-day protection from the elements is essential for cold environments and conditions

Storage

Use waterproof pants only when it is really needed. Meanwhile, store them properly so that they could retain their special characteristics. Proper storage can increase the useful life of all kinds of waterproofs for hiking and backpacking. Stuff sacks are convenient for short-term storage. If prolonged storage is needed, fold them neatly or let them hang freely on a coat hanger in a cool and dry storage area to avoid wrinkles and damage of the cloth. Meanwhile, follow as many as possible of the best practices before storing a garment – it should be cleaned and dry, with fastenings closed, no belts in the loops, and sprayed to prevent prospective insect attacks.

Washing

Keeping rain pants clean is of critical importance to maintain sufficient levels of breathability. Keep in mind that waterproof breathable membranes are quite easy to get clogged up with dirt, sweat or detergent residues. They are also very fragile making proper washing even more important for maintaining the fabric’s breathability. Apparel utilizing GORE-TEX membrane should be cleaned in accordance with its instructions for safe cleaning and drying. Yet, machine washing at 40°C using a detergent without bleach or softener is ideal for cleaning. Rinse well to remove any traces of detergent residue.

Generally, avoid commercial dry cleaning for a GORE-TEX membrane to prevent any damage. Theoretically, dry cleaning can be used. However, the dry cleaner needs to do it with great care.

It’s quite easy to remove the DWR finish or impair its ability to repel water, especially after using your rain garment in bad weather and after multiple cleaning. Hence, you have to reapply the DWR finish (Nikwax offers some really good water-repellents) regularly, i.e. every few months to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Conclusion

The maintenance of user comfort on the trail is heavily dependent on using rain gear in bad weather. Yes, waterproofs have some limitations and won’t work in all conditions. However, knowing more about them and their use will, hopefully, make your adventures more comfortable.

This guide discussed some of the best designs available on the market and everything that could be of use to help you choose the right pair of waterproof pants for your needs.

If you have comments, suggestions or remarks, do not hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.

 

We classified the prices in $-$$$ scale in the following manner:

  • usual price is between 0 and $100 -> $
  • the usual price is between $100.01 and $200 -> $$
  • usual price is above $200 -> $$$

** In J. Williams (Ed.), Waterproof and Water Repellent Textiles and Clothing, 2018, Elsevier Ltd.

 

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Water-Repellent vs Waterproof vs Water-resistant

Waterproof Breathable Fabrics

Waterproof Breathable Clothes

Hiking Clothing

Backpacking in the Rain

 

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