If you’re out hiking in fall or winter and you see ominous black clouds approaching, chances are you’ll reach inside your backpack for your rain jacket. Whilst most hikers won’t leave home without their rain jacket, you should definitely also consider popping a pair of rain pants in your pack as well. The best rain pants for hiking will keep you warm and dry, even in a torrential downpour.
Walking whilst cold and wet is just miserable, so read on for our round-up of the best waterproof pants out there. These pants range from budget ranges suitable for occasional hikers or emergency use all the way up to high-end performance pants designed with mountaineers and serious hikers in mind. If you’re a weekend hiker then you probably don’t need the most expensive pair of pants that money can buy, but equally if you’re outside more than you’re inside it’s definitely worth investing in a quality pair of rain pants.
What sort of Rain Pants should I buy?
As you’d expect, there’s lots of features that differentiate an expensive pair of rain pants for a budget pair. So if you’re not sure what you should be looking for, the main features are summarized below:
Type of material
Budget rain pants will usually be made either of plastic, or nylon with a polyurethane coating. Whilst these do a great job at stopping rain from coming in, they will also trap sweat inside because they are not breathable. Higher-end rain pants will be made from a waterproof breathable fabric, which is explained in more detail below.
Many better quality rain pants are made of material that is not only waterproof but breathable too. This means that whilst water can’t get in (the molecules are too big) sweat with its smaller size, can escape.
Gore-Tex is a good example of a breathable and well-known material, but many brands have their own version too. This is something to bear in mind as whilst hiking you will be expending a fair amount of energy so you’re likely to sweat at least a little.
Waterproof fabrics generally come in three different designs: 2-layer, 2.5-layer and 3-layer.
- 2-layer fabrics have an outer layer with a coating or membrane. Sometimes these will have a loose liner on the inside of the pants as well.
- 5-layer pants will also have an outer layer with a coating or membrane but will also have a non-fabric material on the inside of the pants, which is usually a protective film of some sort.
- 3-layer pant systems will have a face fabric, membrane and liner.
The more layers the better the waterproof performance, but bear in mind that additional layers will have an impact on weight. Pants with 2.5-layers should be sufficient for the majority of hikers, offering good weather protection whilst being lightweight at the same time.
The majority of rain pants will have a system of securing the bottom of the pant more securely around your ankle, thus preventing any water entering this way.
You’ll usually find Velcro, snap buttons and zips as options here. Rain pants for hiking often have wide legs so you can quickly pop them on over your hiking boots if rain looks imminent, and equally take them off easily when the rain stops.
You want your rain pants to fit comfortably and reasonably loosely, certainly not like a close-fitting pair of jeans. This is so you get greater freedom of movement for scaling tricky sections of trail.
You’ll also most likely want to wear your rain pants over your normal hiking pants so bear that in mind when selecting a size. Some hikers choose to buy a size bigger for these reasons.
It’s important to select a pair of rain pants with taped seams. This offers protection over the areas where they have been sewn.
Today’s best products
So now you know a little bit more about which features you want to be looking for in a rain ant, let’s take a look at some options ranging from entry-level pants for hikers on a budget to high-performing technical pants for those hitting the trails frequently.
Dimensions: Available in six waist sizes (XS to XXL) and two lengths (30 inches and 32 inches)
Specific features: Machine washable, elastic waistband and adjustable cuffs
Best use: Great quality waterproof and breathable rain pant for regular hikers
This technical soft-shell pant offers both comfort and protection from a trusted brand. Made from 100% nylon, these pants are lined, and the seams are fully sealed to provide good protection from the rain. These pants are also breathable meaning that you won’t get hot and sticky whilst wearing them. The elastic waistband is comfortable and combined with the adjustable draw cord means that you can achieve the perfect fit no matter your size. The cuffs also have Velcro fasteners so you can ensure a snug fit around your boots. Users have suggested that these pants do come up on the large side, so you might want to order a size smaller than normal if you want them to be closer fitting. Columbia Men’s Rebel Roamer Pant don’t come with a stuff sack or pocket which you can roll up them into, so they can be a little harder to store than some. The quality of the waterproofing has been commented on a lot, with users saying how dry these pants kept them.
Related products: If you’re impressed by the quality of this rain pant then you may well want to consider purchasing a Columbia Men’s Evapouration Jacket which has the same great technical coating, has an adjustable storm hood and comes in a wide range of colors.
Dimensions: Eight waist sizes, from XS to XXXL
Specific features: Quick dry inside, welded seams
Best use: Hikers looking for a basic pant with a wide range of sizing options
These pull-on pants are very flexible and lightweight, coming with Helox+ technology to keep you warm and dry. These budget pants come with an adjustable elasticated waist and adjustable snap bottom hems. Users have noted that these pants are not as breathable as more expensive options but they do a good job of keeping out the rain. These pants don’t have pockets so if you have anything in your inside pant pockets it’s a little bit tricky to get to. The fact that these pants don’t have any option for different leg lengths could be a downside if you’re smaller or taller than average. Helly Hansen Men’s Voss Rain Pant don’t come with a storage pouch so if you’re looking to roll them up in your backpack they’re not the most compact.
Related product: These Helly Hansen Voss Rain Pants are also available in specific sizing for women. They feature all the same qualities as the mens rain pants but with a different cut.
Dimensions: Sizes available from XS – XXXL
Specific features: Lightweight design, elastic waistband with adjustable cord
Best use: Budget rain pants for infrequent hikers
Frogg Toggs Rain Pants are waterproof and breathable, made from 1000% recyclable non-woven polypropylene. The taped teams on these pants are improved, and the pants also come with a locking shock cord to the waist, easy-access pass-through pockets and a high-rise back section for improved coverage. These pants have an elasticated ankle band. Some users did not like this feature as although it’s possible to put these rain pants on over your hiking boots, to remove them often requires taking off your boots as well which is not ideal if you’re out on a trail. These rain pants don’t fold away into a pocket so you may find that they take up a lot of room in your backpack if you don’t fold them carefully. Users have commented on how well these rain pants perform for the price and were impressed by their breathability.
Related products: If you find it a pain rummaging through your backpack to find your rain pants, you can buy a Frogg Toggs Stuff Sack made of the same pateneted material as their rain pants. You can use this to stuff (or roll!) your rain pants into and hang or clip it to the outside of your backpack or tuck it in a pocket for easy access.
Dimensions: Eight sizing options including three options for taller users
Specific features: A choice of three camouflage colorways
Best use: Hunters looking for a rain pant for all-day use, or hikers looking for something different
MidwayUSA Men’s Rain Pants are lightweight, breathable and come in three different camouflage colorways. The brushed tricot outer shell provides both breathability and durability, essential if you’re kneeling in rough terrain whilst stalking your prey. These pants also have fully taped seams and a mesh lining to make them easier to put on and take off. Users have commented that whilst the waist sizes are true to size, the legs are quite baggy. As with many waterproof pants out there, these don’t have any pockets. Some users have also commented that these are a little noisy for hunting. These pants feature leg zippers which makes them easy to put on and take off over your hiking boots. The waist is elasticated with Camlock adjusters to the sides, allowing a perfect fit. Some users were disappointed that these pants do not have snap-buttons or Velcro to secure the lower leg around your ankles.
Related products: If you do plan on heading out hunting in these rain pants, you will probably want to consider investing in a matching Midway USA Men’s Rain Jacket. Available in the same three camouflage colorway options as the rain pant, this will ensure you blend perfectly into your surroundings.
Dimensions: Three size options
Specific features: Hand pockets, ankle zipper gusset, mesh lining
Best use: Serious hikers looking for a reliable and well-fitting rain pant
These pants from The North Face are machine washable, with a mesh lining providing breathable protection. They have an elasticated waist which combines with a drawstring closure to provide a great fit. The North Face Men’s Resolve Pants feature two hand pockets along with zippers at the ankle to allow easy on-off access. These technical pants are made from HyVent DT fabric, which provides lightweight and breathable waterproof technology. For easy storage, they roll up and fit inside their own pocket so you know that they will fit neatly into your hiking backpack taking up next to no room. Users have commented on the fact that these pants really do keep you warm and dry in very wet weather. These come in two different lengths so should cater well to hikers of different heights.
Related products: IF you’re looking for a rain jacket with the same great HyVent waterproof and breathable fabric technology, then The North Face Men’s Resolve Jacket will fit the bill. Designed to provide lightweight and high performance protection, this jacket comes in a huge array of colorways so you’re bound to find one to suit you.
Dimensions: Six colorways and nine waist sizes
Specific features: Lightweight and easily packable, 100% polyester with PVC coating
Best use: An economical pair of emergency pants for occasional hikers
These budget rain pants have a roomy fit which makes them comfortable to wear over your hiking trousers. The wide range of colors means you’re likely to find that to suit you, especially if you’re looking for something a bit different to the standard black or navy. These Portwest pants also come with an elasticated waistband and taped seams, designed to keep you dry. A snap-button at the hem is designed to allow a secure and snug fit around your hiking boots. Portwest Classic Rain Trouser also come with side pocket access meaning you can gain entry to the pockets on your hiking pants underneath. For the price, these are a good quality pant, but don’t expect them to be breathable. There’s only one length option for these pants so if you are shorter or taller than average these may be too long or short for you.
Related products: If you’re considering buying these rain pants as part of your emergency kit, then you should also invest in a Portwest Men’s Classic Rain Jacket to make sure you’re fully protected in those unexpected downpours with a jacket in the same color options as your rain pants.
Dimensions: Five waist sizes from S – XXL and two leg lengths
Specific features: Packable into back pocket, with zipped hand pockets
Best use: Occasional hikes and emergency use
Columbia Men’s Glennaker Lake Rain Pants are made from treated nylon, with an elasticated waist. The waist also has a draw cord for finer adjustments to allow for a great fit. These are machine washable so if you head out on a hike that turns particularly muddy then you can just throw these in the machine and they will be clean again! A great feature of these pants is that they fold up nearly to be stored in the back pocket, so they won’t take up much space in your backpack at all. They also feature zipped side pockets for easy access to essential items. The pockets are mesh so you may find a little water seepage through these if your rain jacket doesn’t cover over the pockets. These pants are not breathable, so if you’re doing some heave hiking over tough trails expect some perspiration buildup. Some users have commented that the sizing comes up small in the waist.
Related products: If you’re looking for a packable and lightweight jacket to match these rain pants, the Columbia Men’s Rain Jacket is a nylon rain jacket which will be a great addition to your wet weather gear arsenal.
Outdoor Research Men’s Helium Pants
Specific features: Ankle zippers, treated with Pertex Shield+ for breathability
Best use: Frequent hikers looking for a high quality breathable rain pant which packs up easily
Outdoor Research Men’s Helium Pants are a high quality rain pant with Outdoor Research’s Pertex Shield+ technology for excellent protection from the elements combined with a high level of breathability. These pants have fully taped seams and ankle zippers for a snug fit against your hiking boots. The elasticated waistband also has a draw cord to cinch the waist in further if necessary. These waterproof pants by Outdoor Research pack away neatly into a back pocket. Users have commented that these rain pants fit true to size. Some users also found that the seam taping started to peel away after extended use. If you are tall then these pants only come in one length so you may find them too short for you which will lead to water leaking into your boots.
Related products: If you’re looking for a breathable and waterproof jacket of the same quality as these rain pants, then look no further than the Outdoor Research Men’s Helium II Jacket. This lightweight but high performance jacket comes with a stuff pocket for easy storage, reflective trim on the hood to optimize your visibility to others in low-light conditions, and great protection from the elements.
So which rain pants will you take on your next hike?
With so many different options to choose from, making a final choice can be a little overwhelming. We recommend thinking carefully about which features are important to you, and how much hiking you will actually be doing over the rainy season. If you’re more likely to stay at home in front of the fire on a rainy day, then we suggest opting for a basic budget pair which you can pop in the bottom of your backpack for those unexpected downpours when you’re already out and about.
If you know you’ll be hitting the trails most weekends, whatever the weather, then be prepared to spend a bit more on a high-performance pair and they won’t let you down! If we haven’t mentioned your favorite pair, or missed off a feature that you just can’t do without, be sure to let us know in the comments.