There is nothing quite as uncomfortable while hiking, backpacking, and camping as getting soaked through in an unexpected rainstorm. Waterproof hiking pants are essential for anyone planning to spend time outdoors, especially in places where rain is common. Most waterproof hiking pants are designed to be worn over a base layer or hiking pants/leggings – think of them like a rain coat for your legs! They need to be tough, easy to take on and off, not weight much, and of course, be waterproof!
- Things to consider when choosing waterproof pants for hiking
- The best women’s waterproof hiking pants
- The best men’s waterproof hiking pants
Summary of the best waterproof pants in 2023
Take a look at the quick comparison of the best waterproof pants for men and women, with more info on each later in the article.
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Things to consider when choosing waterproof pants for hiking
Although most of the best waterproof pants follow a fairly standard formula, there are still a number of things to consider and look out for when it comes to the level of waterproofing, durability and ease of use. Take a read of these important things to consider:
Premium waterproof backpacking pants are made from Gore-Tex (or other similar materials like eVent and OutDry): a synthetic fabric that is both waterproof and breathable at the same time, in addition to being durable and lightweight. You can expect to pay a higher price for Gore-Tex pants, although Marmot’s Minimalist Pants are a decent option if you want name brand Gore-Tex without breaking the bank.
Another common material for waterproof hiking pants is ripstop nylon—the same material that makes up most tent flys. Although ripstop nylon is not as breathable as Gore-Tex, it is extremely durable. Mountain Hardwear’s Exponent Waterproof Pants are a great example if you prefer ripstop nylon.
Higher end hiking and backpacking pants include a waterproof rating, which is rated in millimeters. The higher the rating, the better the material performed in waterproof testing. Pants with a rating above 15,000mm should be more than enough for light-to-moderate rainfall. If you need pants that can withstand sustained heavy rainfall, look for a rating above 20,000mm like Haglof’s L.I.M. III Pants which are rated at 28,000mm.
03Comfort and ease of use
Most waterproof hiking pants are lightweight and feature adjustable waistbands, so they tend to be quite comfortable. The primary concern is usually heat; you want something that will keep the water out while still letting your legs breath. Look for pants with zippered leg vents like Patagonia’s Women’s Torrentshell Pants or Outdoor Research’s Foray Pants. These will give you the option to open the leg for more airflow and also make the pants easier to take on and off while wearing boots.
04Other features to consider
Although waterproof backpacking pants are more like a shell layer than full hiking pants, some styles do offer special features. Articulated knees (like on the Xeta LT Pants from Arc’teryx) are constructed in a way that keeps the pants from riding up when you bend your legs. Whether or not the pants have pockets—and the size and location of those pockets—is another important factor to consider depending on your needs. For pants that will stay in place and prevent water from getting in at your boot tops, look for lace hooks at the cuffs.
The remaining differences in fit—slim or loose cut, a button or drawstring closure, elastic waistband or belt loops, elastic or straight cuffs—vary from style to style. As with all hiking and backpacking gear, choose the fit that you are most comfortable in. The best waterproof hiking pants should be easy to put on and comfortable to wear for hours on the trail.
The best women’s waterproof hiking pants
The basics are the same in both men’s and women’s waterproof hiking pants; the main difference is in the cut. Women’s waterproof hiking and backpacking pants run smaller, shorter, and slimmer than men’s pants.
If low weight, minimum fuss and low environmental impact are what you’re after in your next pair of waterproof pants, then look no further that the Rab Downpour Eco Pants. Made from recycled 2.5-layer Pertex and weighing only 205g / 7.2oz, they are the second lightest option on our list after the Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants. However, they exceed the appeal of the Helium’s in other areas, including very good waterproofing (20,000 HH) and elasticated hems as well as a button and knee-high zippers.
Aside from that, the Eco Pants are simply designed with an elasticated waist and adjustable drawstring. They feel incredibly lightweight on. But they’re also quiet to wear! Rustle-free roaming contributes hugely to the illusion that these waterproof pants are so lightweight that you feel like you’re not even wearing them at all! As does the The slightly flexible fabric for unrestricted movement, windproofness and decent breathability.
- Super lightweight and packable
- Highly waterproof and breathable
- Knee-high zippers
- Elasticated hems with button
- Made from recycled materials
- Quiet to wear!
- No pockets
- No vents
- Waist is on the snug side for their size
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- 100% recycled nylon
- Easy to put on and take off
- No enclosed vents
- Sizing runs large
When you need the lightest, most portable waterproof pants for occasional rain, the Helium Rain Pants from Outdoor Research are an ideal option. They are made from lightweight nylon and fold down into next to nothing. Although they won’t stand up to heavy, regular use or torrential rain, they are a great choice for bringing lightweight rain protection without adding much weight to your pack. A small zippered cuff gives you some leeway when taking the pants off without removing your shoes.
- Extremely lightweight
- Too short to use as a cycling pant
- Less durable than some
- No vents
Mountain Hardwear’s Womens Exposure2 Gore-Tex Paclite Pant offers a similar design and protection as the Arc’terx Zeta SL Pants, but with a slightly friendler price tag! Full length zips make pulling these lightweight pants on and off much easier on the trail. Plus, the Gore-Tex Paclite membrane reduces bulk for compact storage between rain showers. The pants have adjustable tabs at the waist and also feature popper buttons at the ankle and calf for a customised fit.
- full length side zip
- Adjustable tabs at calf and ankle
- Only one color option
- No storage bag
Waterproof pants are often light and flimsy. They’re easy to snag and are really only meant for occasional use. So, what if you spend a lot of time out in the rain? You’ll need rain pants that are built to last.
These Beta AR rain pants from Arc’teryx are made for day-long use. Constructed from three-layer Gortex with reinforced seems, they feature long side zips for easy on and off and built-in shoulder straps to prevent them from going south unexpectedly.
While the price may bring a tear to your eye, these rain pants are tough enough to survive whatever you throw at them and should provide many years of faithful service.
- Highly waterproof, windproof and breathable
- Articulated knees for freedom of movement
- Full-length zips for easy on and off – even over boots
- Reinforced instep patches to protect from wear and tear
- Plenty of pockets
- A sustainable “bluesign” product
- Available in short, medium, and long leg lengths
- Quite heavy
- Large pack size
REI’s XeroDry GTX women’s Gore-tex pants are a lightweight, comfort-fit walking trouser that’s roomy enough to wear as an outer layer too. With ripstop fabric in abrasion areas and articulated knees they’re durable on the trail as well as at camp. A few thoughtful features add value for money; boot hooks keep the trousers in place in rough undergrowth while ankle zips with snaps make the pants easy to get on and off as well as improving the fit over boots. The waist has an elasticated back for extra movement after a too-large lunch and zippered pockets keep essential items secure. Back home or at the campground these versatile Gore-tex hiking pants pack into the left hand pocket for easy storage.
- Fast drying
- Boot hook keeps trousers in place
- Hybrid fabrics for quieter walking experience
- Fairtrade factory manufactured
- Potentially sweaty without an underlayer
- Comfort fit could look baggy
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The best men’s waterproof hiking pants
Men’s waterproof hiking and backpacking pants tend to be roomier and looser fitting than women’s pants. Here are our favourite styles:Outdoor Research’s Foray Pants will keep you completely dry on the trail without adding extra weight thanks to lightweight Gore-Tex construction. Each leg features a thigh-to-cuff zipper to release extra heat and make it easy to pull the pants on and off over boots. Even though the pants are loose enough to wear over another regular layer, lace hooks at the bottom of each cuff keep the pants attached to your boots so water won’t come in at your ankles. A zippered rear pocket doubles as a stuff sack when you need to store or transport your pants.
- Four color options
- Lace hooks
- Durable Gore-Tex
- Only pocket hard to reach with gear on
Some of the best waterproof pants in their price range for breathability as well as waterproofing, are the Marmot PreCip Eco Full Zip. They have the added environmental credentials of being manufactured from fully recycled materials with a 2.5-layer polyamide NanoPro Eco fabric being Bluesign approved for sustainability. With an elasticated waist and loose design they fit comfortably over jeans or trousers. They also work well for hiking, trekking and on the cycle commute to work in rainy weather. Full length zips make them super easy to get on and off while three zipped pockets (2 front, 1 back) keep a few small items safe. There are taped seams at potential weak spots for added waterproofing and ripstop adds durability and strength. Great performance for the price.
- Made from fully recycled materials
- Full length side zips
- Choice of leg length
- Sustainable Bluesign approved fabric
- Pockets are not large
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For times when you need a lightweight waterproof layer, but you don’t want to spend the money for name-brand material or extra features, consider the Venture 2 Half Zip Pants from The North Face. With articulated knees and a comfortable easy fit elasticated waistband, these entry level pants provide comfort and protection in moderate conditions. On the surface, this is a no-nonsense pair of waterproof pants, but don’t look past some of the details: three different length options, fully taped seams, knee to cuff zips, and adjustable ankle tabs.
For more information read our full review of The North Face Men’s Venture 2 Half Zip Pants.
- Two zippered pockets
- Lifetime warranty
- No belt tabs or loops
- Not Gore-Tex
Haflog’s L.I.M. III Pants are constructed from a Gore-Tex shell with a waterproof rating of 28,000mm for maximum water and wind protection without sacrificing breathability. Knee-to-cuff zippers on each leg add extra ventilation and aid with getting the pants on and off while wearing boots. In addition to taped seams, water-resistant zippers will keep even the worst rain off your legs so you can stay dry on the trail. The lower portion of each pant leg is adjustable for a completely customisable fit.
- 28,000mm waterproof rating
- Breathable Gore-Tex shell
- Adjustable leg openings
- Lack of pockets
Helly Hansen’s Dubliner men’s rain pants are a versatile, lightweight pair of waterproof, windproof and breathable outdoor pants with a comfortable lining that works well in warm and cold weather. The great fitting design makes the pants look almost like joggers as much as outdoor gear, great for wearing around town as well as hiking, trekking and wet weather commuting. The seams are fully heat-welded and the fabric is Bluedesign approved for sustainability. These versatile and durable pants are a great affordable option for year round use in a variety of scenarios. Plus, they can be tumble dried to revive waterproofing.
- Matching Dubliner jacket available
- Lined for comfort
- Quick dry lining
- Versatile and affordable
- Bluesign approved for sustainability
- Lined for comfort not insulation
You don’t have to stay home when rain is in the forecast, thanks to these waterproof backpacking and hiking pants. Simply toss a pair of lightweight, waterproof pants in your pack and hit the trail. When rain and wind do come, you will be ready to go in seconds.