6 Best Rain Pants for Hiking: Stay Dry on the Trail in 2021

Last Updated: January 2021


Quick Recommendations


Rain pants are an essential part of any hiking gear list.

However, there are countless options to choose from, so finding the right pair for your needs is no walk in the park.

To help you find the best pair of rain pants for your upcoming hiking adventures, we've put together this list of the top options on the market today. 

We've even created a comprehensive buyer's guide to ensure that you know what to look for as you shop.

Best Overall Rain Pants

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Pant

Built to accompany you on any mountain adventure, the Arc'teryx Zeta SL is a pair of fast and light rain pants for situations where performance is paramount.

The Arc'teryx Zeta SL are built with a Gore-Tex Paclite Plus waterproof breathable membrane for weather protection. They have a set of 3/4 length WaterTight lower leg zippers to make it easier for you to put them on and take them off, even while wearing boots.

To cut weight, Arc'teryx designed the Zeta SL with a microseam allowance (1.6mm), which reduces the pants' overall bulk for increased packability.

Moreover, these rain pants boast an articulated pattern and gusseted crotch for improved comfort and range of movement as you charge up the trail. Arc'teryx also included an internal webbing adjustment system to ensure that you get the perfect fit with these rain pants.

Specifications:

Weight: 8.6oz (245g)

Side Zipper: 3/4 Length

Pros: Lightweight & minimalist design, internal webbing adjustment system for precision fit, watertight lower leg zippers.

Cons: Relatively pricey

More: Built with some of the same excellent materials but at a lower price, the Outdoor Research Foray (Women's Aspire) is a great option for hikers that want bang for their buck.  

Although they're slightly heavier and less packable, they're a good choice for adventures where all-around performance and cost savings are important

Most Affordable Rain Pants

Marmot PreCip Full Zip

Combining performance and affordability into one neat package, the Marmot PreCip Full Zip is a quality option for budget-wary hikers.

Combining performance and affordability, the Marmot PreCip Full Zip are made with Marmot's NanoPro Eco waterproof breathable fabric.

This fabric is completely PFC free and is made from recycled nylon, so it's better for the environment.

Additionally, they come with completely taped seams to keep water out, even in a downpour. For added ventilation on muggy days, Marmot built these pants with full-length side zips. These zips also have bonded storm flaps to prevent rain from sneaking in.

For added functionality on the go, the Marmot PreCip Full Zip pants also have two zippered front hand pockets and one zippered rear pocket for quick gear storage.

Specifications:

Weight: 12oz (430.2g)

Side Zipper: Full

Pros: Eco-friendly materials, full-length side zippers, completely seam-taped.

Cons: Heavy and bulky

More: Boasting a no-frills design with a rock-bottom price, the Columbia Men's Rebel Roamer / Columbia Women's Storm Surge Pant is among the most affordable rain pants on the market. Although they're a bit heavy and bulky, these pants feature Omni-Tech softshell technology, which makes them fully waterproof and superbly breathable, all at the same time.

Most Breathable Rain Pants

Arc'teryx Beta SL Pant

Performance-driven for those soggy uphill climbs in the alpine, the Arc'teryx Beta SL is a pair of technical rain pants that offer maximum breathability.

Built with 2.5 layer Paclite Plus Gore-Tex, the Arc'teryx Beta SL pants provide ample weather protection without sacrificing ventilation. They also have a set of full-length side zippers to allow for ample airflow as you charge up the trail.

Although they're quite pricey, these pants feature soft N40r Gore-Tex fabrics that are soft against the skin for added discomfort. Their regular fit, articulated knees, and gusseted crotch also provide the freedom of movement that hikers crave in the mountains.

Wrapping up a great list of features on the Arc'teryx Beta SL is a reinforced instep, which provides extra durability and tear-resistance for off-trail travel.

Specifications:

Weight: 12.5oz (355g)

Side Zipper: Full length

Pros: Highly breathable Paclite Plus Gore-Tex, full-length side zippers for ventilation, reinforced ankle instep for durability

Cons: Relatively Expensive

More: Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic (see Women's Sizes). Suppose you need breathability in your rain pants but want a more budget-friendly option. In that case, the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic is a sure bet.  Although they don't have side zippers, these much more affordable pants are made with ultra-breathable 2.5 layer Dry.Q fabrics which ventilate well, even on humid days in the mountains.

Best Heavy Duty Rain Pants

Arc'teryx Beta AR Pant

When you get caught in the worst weather conditions, the Arc'teryx Beta AR is the pair of rain pants that you'd hope to have in your pack.

 Crafted to keep you dry in the most heinous weather, the Arc'teryx Beta AR pants are made with 3 layer Gore-Tex Pro, which is a rugged option for all-mountain use. The Beta AR pants are entirely sealed with tiny GORE seam tape for maximum waterproofing.

They also feature WaterTight external side zippers to keep water out when you need it most. These side zippers also open up to provide ample breathability in light rain.

Plus, Arc'teryx designed these pants for year-round use, giving them a built-in RECCO reflector for skiing and wintertime mountaineering. They also have burly Keprotec instep patches to prevent accidental rips and tears by crampons, snowshoes, boots, and sharp ski edges.

Specifications: 

Weight: 16oz (453.6g)

Side Zipper: 3/4 Length

Pros: Extra burly fabrics, plenty of zippered pockets, built-in RECCO reflector for winter use

Cons: Heavy

More: Helly Hansen Men's Moss Pant (See Women's sizes). Although they were initially designed for off-shore fishermen, the Helly Hansen Moss pants are heavy-duty rain pants that provide lasting waterproof protection. They are budget-friendly and feature fully welded seams to keep water out at all costs.

Best Lightweight Rain Pants

Outdoor Research Helium Pants

For ultralight forays into the mountains, the Outdoor Research Helium is a set of highly packable rain pants that are crafted to keep you dry.

The Outdoor Research Helium pants are made using a premium Pertex Shield 2.5 layer waterproof breathable fabric with a 100% ripstop nylon overlay for added durability.

Tipping the scales at just 5.4oz (153g), the Helium are among the lightest options on the market today.

In addition to their ultralight construction, these pants are also very compact. The back pocket on the Helium doubles as a stuff sack for easier transportation to and from campsites.

Finally, Outdoor Research crafted these pants with a set of YKK AquaGuard Ankle Zippers. That way, it's easier to put on and remove the Helium rain pants while on the trail without adding excess weight to your pack. 

Specifications: 

Weight: 5.4oz (153g)

Side Zipper: Ankle

Pros: Incredibly lightweight, highly packable, fully seam-taped

Cons: No side zipper, crinkly, plastic-esque feel

More: Marmot Minimalist Lightweight Pant (see Women's sizes). Although they're a bit heavier and pricier, the Marmot Minimalist are a solid set of rain pants for hikers that want weight savings, but not at the cost of functionality on the trail. 

These pants feature Gore-Tex Paclite technology for waterproofing and breathability. Additionally, they have a set of hand pockets, ankle zippers, and ankle clips for added performance in a lightweight package.

Most Comfortable Rain Pants

Helly Hansen Dubliner Pant

Designed to provide you with maximum comfort without breaking the bank, the Helly Hansen Dubliner is an athletically-fitting pair of rain pants that doesn't feel constricting on the trail.

Featuring HELLY TECH Protection fabric and a DWR coating for complete waterproofness, the Helly Hansen Dubliner pants offer a great amount of weather protection in the mountains. They also have a fully seam-sealed construction to stop water from seeping in during a storm.

Inside, they have a quick-dry lining, which helps to wick away moisture on muggy days. This helps to reduce the sticky feeling that often results when completing strenuous hikes in rainy conditions.

Plus, the Helly Hansen Dubliner comes with an elastic waistband and a functional fit to provide improved comfort as you hike.

Specifications: 

Weight: 13.4oz (380g)

Side Zipper: None

Pros: Quick-dry lining for moisture control, affordable price point, fully seam-sealed construction.

Cons: Somewhat heavy, no side zippers.

More: The North Face Venture 1/2 Zip (See Women's sizesis a great runner up in our comfort category. These pants have a similarly athletic fit for a free range of motion.  While they don't have a moisture-wicking liner, they do come with a set of knee-length zips for an easier on/off process when you're wearing boots.

hiking mountains snow couple

Rain Pants Buying Guide


Rain pants can be a tricky piece of gear to shop for because they're jam-packed with high-end fabrics and technology. So, here are some of the most important things to keep in mind as you scope out your options.

Rain Pant Features

Modern rain pants are packed full of features meant to make your gear more functional in the outdoors. These are some of the most commonly used features you'll find on rain pants:

Side zippers

Side zippers are an often overlooked aspect of rain pants, but they considerably affect your comfort on the trail. With side zippers, you're able to easily vent your pants in hot, muggy conditions, to improve breathability as you charge uphill.

Moreover, side zippers are essential if you're trying to put your rain pants on without taking off your boots. Full-length zippers are the most practical and easiest to use, but they tend to weigh more than their 3/4, 1/2, and ankle-length counterparts.

Pockets

Interestingly, not all rain pants have pockets. Pockets are popular because they make it easier to store smaller pieces of gear on the go.

However, pockets add weight and bulk to rain pants, so some models forego them altogether. Alternatively, some rain pants have pockets that convert into stuff sacks for easier packing on the trail.

Taped Seams

Taped seams are becoming more and more common in rain pants. They're essential for preventing water from seeping through the seams in the fabric of your pants.

Since seam tape is thin, it generally doesn't add much weight or bulk to your pants. However, seam tape can be expensive, which means a higher sticker price on your gear. Additionally, you'll likely have to reapply seam grip to the seams on your rain pants occasionally to maintain their waterproofing.

Reinforced ankles

On some heavy-duty pairs of rain pants, you'll often find reinforced ankles. These reinforcements are made from thick, ripstop fabric pieces designed to prevent your pants from tearing in rugged conditions.

As you can imagine, this extra fabric means extra weight, but many hikers find it's well worth the added bulk in exchange for longer-lasting gear.

pants hiking

Rain Pants Buying Considerations

Here are some key considerations to ponder before you buy a new pair of rain pants for hiking:

Water-Resistance

Rain pants are designed to keep you dry, so they should have a completely waterproof construction. This waterproof construction is typically achieved using a waterproof breathable fabric, like Gore-Tex, Pertex, B.Dry, Q.Dry, or H2NO.

In addition to a waterproof breathable membrane, rain pants often have added features, like taped seams and waterproof zippers to keep water out at all costs.

Breathability & Ventilation

Although rain pants are primarily crafted to keep you dry, many people don't realize that much of the moisture inside their rain pants is not rain, but sweat. Thus, most rain pants are designed with breathability in mind.

Many models come with side zips that can be used to create airflow in moderately rainy conditions to ensure breathability. Moreover, the waterproof membrane used in most rain pants does offer some semblance of breathability while hiking.

Packability

Depending on where you're hiking, rain pants often spend more time in our backpacks than on our legs. Thus, finding a model that packs down small for easy transport is ideal.

That being said, highly packable models often skimp on some features, like side zippers, and often opt for thinner, less durable fabric. So, packability is usually a trade-off between functionality, durability, and compactness.

Durability

No one wants to buy a pair of rain pants that rips after the first hike. When searching for durable models for your adventures, look for a pair with thick fabrics, such as those that are over 50D in thickness. These fabrics will be more resistant to wear and tear than their thinner counterparts. 

Weight

Weight is a concern with any piece of gear, and rain pants are no exception. The lightest models on the market will tip the scales at under 6oz (170g) while the heaviest will often be well above 12oz (340g).

Keep in mind, though, that heavier rain pants often come with great features, like extra-durable fabrics and full-length zippers that usually aren't included in lightweight alternatives.

rain pants hiking

FAQ

How Should your Rain Pants Fit?

Fit is somewhat subjective, so it's hard to give clear guidelines about how a pair of rain pants should fit.

That being said, if you're looking for a pair of rain pants to wear over your hiking pants, then you'll want a reasonably loose-fitting pair. With a loose-fitting pair of rain pants, you'll get unrestricted range of motion for hiking up and over obstacles on the trail.

For rain pants that you'll wear without hiking pants underneath, you'll want to look for a pair that fits just like a regular pair of pants. Since it can get a bit chilly underneath rain pants, it's also worth sizing up so that you can fit a pair of base layers underneath for shoulder season use.

How Do You Take Care of Your Rain Pants?

Rain pants require extra care and attention to ensure that they stay in tip-top shape throughout years of regular use. Here are some top tips for maintaining your rain pants in between hiking trips:

Wash Them Often

There's a bit of a misconception out there that rain pants and rain jackets shouldn't be washed very often. Since rain pants have little microscopic pores to allow them to be both waterproof and breathable, washing them often is critical for their breathability.

Regular washing (follow the manufacturer's instructions) can ensure that these pores aren't clogged up by dirt. That way, you can get maximum performance from your pants.

Reapply DWR Spray

The vast majority of rain pants are treated with something known as "DWR." DWR, or durable water repellent, is a chemical treatment added to rain pants, rain jackets, and tents to prevent water from soaking through a fabric.

This DWR naturally wears off with frequent use, so it's critical that you reapply it every few months. You can buy DWR in spray form and follow the bottle's instructions to renew your rain pants' protective coating.

Roll Or Hang, Never Fold

With rain pants, it's best to store them either rolled up or on a coat hanger. Gear, such as rain pants, shouldn't be folded up because folding creates tiny creases in the fabric that cause it to wear out much more quickly over time.

So, to ensure your rain pants' longevity, never fold them up and place them on a shelf. Either roll them up or hang them up on a hanger for better performance on every hike.

Final Takeaways

Rain pants are an essential part of any hiking gear list.

However, there are countless options to choose from, so finding the right pair for your needs is no walk in the park. After reading our reviews and buying guide you should now have no problem finding the best hiking pants for you.

Happy Hiking!

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