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The Best Waterproof Pants for Hiking and Backpacking

Hiking in the best waterproof pants

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 additional outdoor clothing – 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!

Summary of the best waterproof pants in 2020

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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Houdini W's BFF PantsAtmos70% recycled, recyclable + full length side zips312g / 11oz$$$$$
Patagonia Torrentshell PantsH2No100% recycled nylon face fabric264g / 9.3oz$$
Outdoor Research Helium Rain PantsPertex ShieldVery lightweight152g / 5.4oz$$
Mountain Hardwear Womens Exposure2 Gore-Tex Paclite PantGoreTex PacliteZippered ankles272g / 9.6oz$$$
Arc'teryx Zeta SL PantsGoreTex PacliteHighly durable229g / 8.1oz$$$$$
Columbia Storm Surge PantOmni-techGood valueUnavailable$
Outdoor Research Foray PantsGoreTexThigh to cuff zippers302g / 10.7oz$$$
Marmot Minimalist PantGoreTexGood value292g / 10.3oz$$$
The North Face Venture PantsDryVentZippered ankles230g / 8.1oz$
Haglofs L.I.M. III PantGoreTexMega waterproof224g / 7.9oz$$$$
Salomon Bonatti WP PantsAdvancedSkin Dry TechnologyGood to wear without base layer397g / 14oz$$

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.

02Waterproof rating

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.

Houdini waterproof BFF Pants
Houdini WP Pants Details

Houdini W’s BFF Pants

Eco-conscious: Made from 70% recycled polyester and recycable

These hardshell waterproof pants by Houdini are a superb choice for those who value versatility, function and style in equal measure. Firstly, they don’t look like waterproof pants! The soft and stretchy fabric makes them look more like regular hiking pants which also means they don’t rustle as you walk. Additionally, the tailored fit, full length side zips and waterproof membrane are as well suited to the ski slopes (over warm long-johns) as they are to year-round hikes in wet and windy conditions. Yes, they are the most expensive option for women on our list, but when you’re getting four season waterproof pants that dry very quickly, move with your body, provide excellent waterproofness and feel incredibly comfortable, we think they’re worth every penny.

For more information read our full review of the Houdini W’s BFF Pants.


  • Super stylish
  • Very comfortable
  • Excellent weather protection
  • Full length side zips
  • 3 zippered pockets


  • Pricey!
  • Sizing comes up large

Find the latest price at:
Houdini Sportswear

Patagonia waterproof pants

Patagonia Torrentshell Pants

Eco-conscious: Made from 100% recycled nylon
Patagonia’s Women’s Torrentshell Pants are roomy enough to wear over slim pants without extra bulk. If you get too warm in these pants, just open the knee-to-cuff zippered openings on each leg. The same openings allow plenty of width for putting these pants on without removing your boots – a great feature combined with the elastic waist if you find yourself in unexpected rain or wind. When you don’t need to wear them, they fold down into one of the pockets for easy storage.


  • 100% recycled nylon
  • Easy to put on and take off
  • Price


  • No enclosed vents
  • Sizing runs large

Find the latest price on:
REI | Patagonia

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants

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
  • Portable


  • Too short to use as a cycling pant
  • Less durable than some
  • No vents

Find the latest price on:
REI | Outdoor Research | Amazon

MH pants

Mountain Hardwear Womens Exposure2 Gore-Tex Paclite Pant

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.


  • Lightweight
  • full length side zip
  • Adjustable tabs at calf and ankle


  • Only one color option
  • No storage bag

Find the latest price on:
Mountain Hardwear | Backcountry

Arc'teryx Zeta LT Pants

Arc’teryx Zeta SL Pants

Some of the most durable pants on our list are the Zeta SL Pants from Arc’teryx. With a reinforced hem, inseam, and lower leg in addition to articulated knees and seat, these pants will last through your most rugged adventures. They are super lightweight (SL), durable and highly packable thanks to Gore-Tex ACLITE Plus tech. This fabric isn’t lined but has improved next-to-skin comfort. Though an ideal option for long trips in changeable conditions, this comfort and durability are reflected in the cost, making them the most expensive pair for women on our list.


  • 3/4 length leg zips
  • Durable Gore-Tex fabric
  • Super lightweight


  • Price
  • No storage bag

Find the latest price on:
REI | Amazon | Backcountry

Columbia Storm Surge Pant

Columbia Storm Surge Pants

Columbia’s Storm Surge Pants are great pants for wearing over another layer – the drawstring waist and tabs at the cuff give you plenty of room for another layer or heavy boots and are adjustable for a completely personalised fit. The small interior pocket is perfect for keys or other essentials, but is not large enough for most smartphones. If you need a durable pair of waterproof pants for regular use, you will want pants with sturdier material. For occasional use and layering, however, the Storm Surge Pants are a top pick because they are so affordable.


  • Adjustable waist and cuffs
  • Fit over fleece pants or leggings
  • Price


  • No exterior pockets
  • Not as durable as other pants

Find the latest price on:
Backcountry | Amazon | REI

hiking pants gear guide

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:

OR Foray waterproof pants

Outdoor Research Foray Pants

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


  • Price
  • Only pocket hard to reach with gear on

Find the latest price on:
Outdoor Research | Amazon | Backcountry

Marmot Minimalist Pant

Marmot Minimalist Pants

Of all the waterproof hiking and backpacking pants on our list, Marmot’s Minimalist Pants look most like regular pants with a slim fit, zippered fly, and snap button closure. If you are looking for a pair of Gore-Tex pants, these are the least expensive option in that brand. The pants are true to their name, without any extra bells and whistles, but they do have two zippered hand pockets for storage and articulated knees to keep them from riding up while you climb.


  • Gore-Tex
  • Slim fit


  • Very short ankle vents
  • No lace hooks or ankle snaps

Find the latest price on:
REI | Backcountry

The North Face Men's Venture 2 Half Zip Pants
The North Face WP Venture Pants Details

The North Face Men’s Venture 2 Half Zip Pants

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.


  • Price
  • Two zippered pockets
  • Lifetime warranty


  • No belt tabs or loops
  • Not Gore-Tex

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

Haglofs L.I.M. III Pant

Haglofs L.I.M. III Pant

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


  • Price
  • Lack of pockets

Find the latest price on:
REI | Backcountry

Salomon Bonatti WP Pants

Salomon Bonatti WP Pants

A slimmer pair of pants great for wearing by themselves or over a base layer is Salomon’s Bonatti WP Pants. In addition to being made from reflective material, three bright reflective strips run along the back of one leg for extra visibility at night. A special 2.5-layer construction is specifically designed to protect you from wind and rain without adding unnecessary bulk. This is the most comfortable pair of men’s pants on our list for wearing without any base layer, although you can layer these pants over something slim too.


  • Price
  • Slim, athletic fit
  • Reflective material


  • May not fit over regular pants
  • Softness comes at the price of ruggedness

Find the latest price on:
Salomon | Amazon | Backcountry

hiking pants gear guide

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.

About the author


Kimberly Mays is a writer and editor living in Western North Carolina, where she spends weekends in the garden and hiking with her husband and children.

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