We tested the best rain pants on the market according to price, weight, waterproofing, and breathability. Read on to see how they performed, which are best for you, and get some buying advice.
Table of Contents
Best Rain Pants
The best rain pants for backpacking are:
- Best Overall Rain Pants: REI Co-op XeroDry GTX
- Best Budget Rain Pants: SHOWERS PASS Storm Pants
- Best Budget Ultralight Rain Pants: OUTDOOR RESEARCH Helium
- Best Durable and Breathable Rain Pants: REI Co-op Rainier Full-Zip
- Best Premium Ultralight Rain Pants: ZPACKS Vertice
The product comparison table below is sortable. Click the arrow in the heading cell to sort the models by preferred spec.
|1. REI Co-op XeroDry GTX
|2. SHOWERS PASS Storm Pants
|3. OUTDOOR RESEARCH Helium
|4. REI Co-op Rainier Full-Zip
|5. ZPACKS Vertice
|6. REI Essential
|7. MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR Stretch Ozonic™
|Ripstop & Polyester
|8. MARMONT PreCip Eco
|9. BLACK DIAMOND Stormline Stretch
|Nylon & Elastane
Best Overall Rain Pants
REI Co-op XeroDry GTX
✅ Excellent waterproofing
- Weight: 10 oz
- Waterproofing: 2-layer GORE-TEX PACLITE® waterproof breathable laminate
- Fabric Type: Polyester (bluesign® approved)
Made with Gore-Tex Paclite, the XeroDry GTX Pants from REI will keep you warm and dry when a cold rain threatens to cancel your hike. We love these waterproof hiking pants for their superior durability and waterproofing out of the models we tested. The Gore-Tex Paclite fabric also keeps them more breathable than similar models. And the Paclite material is known for its packable size.
We found these pants didn’t make as much of the “swish-swish” sound that other rain pants do. The pants are remarkably quiet when you walk. The XeroDry GTX Pants have an athletic fit that's not too snug and not too baggy. Weight-wise, these are a little heavier than the other models on our list. Price is the biggest drawback to these waterproof pants, but their durability means they should last a long time. The XeroDry GTX Pants from REI are our pick for the best overall rain pants.
Best Budget Rain Pants
SHOWERS PASS Storm Pants
✅ Very waterproof
❌ Low breathability
- Weight: 7.5 oz (Medium)
- Waterproofing: DWR
- Fabric Type: Nylon
With a price tag of $75, the Showers Pass Storm Pant is our pick for the best budget rain pants. Showers Pass is known for its biking apparel, and these rain pants feature a biking-influenced design. Fortunately, we found that they work as well on the trail as they do on the saddle. We were impressed by the waterproofing on these pants, some of the best we tested. And at a mere 7.5 ounces, these are also the third lightest rain pants on our list, making that low price tag even more impressive.
The big drawback for us is the breathability, which is much lower than other models we tested. For features, they have an elastic waistband for easy on/off and a zippered pocket for storing your cash when in town.
Best Budget Ultralight Rain Pants
OUTDOOR RESEARCH Helium
✅ Good waterproofing
❌ Not as durable
- Weight: 6.5 oz
- Waterproofing: Waterproof Breathable Insert
- Fabric Type: 100 Nylon Ripstop w/ Pertex Shield+
The Outdoor Research Helium's most notable feature is its ultralight 6.5-ounce weight, the second lightest on our list. Though not stretch pants, the generous cut and elastic waistband make these waterproof pants one of the most comfortable on our list.
We found it falls short in durability, especially when scaling rock is a daily occurrence, but they are still lightweight and packable. An ideal choice when the terrain is forgiving and pack space is a priority.
We found the $119 price tag to be very reasonable for such lightweight and waterproof hiking pants. It’s our pick for the best budget ultralight rain pants.
Best Durable and Breathable Rain Pants
REI Co-op Rainier Full-Zip Pants
✅ Easy on and off
- Weight: 12.6 oz
- Waterproofing: 2.5-layer REI Peak recycled waterproof breathable laminate
- Fabric Type: Recycled Ripstop Nylon (bluesign® approved)
The Rainier rain pants from REI pack a ton of features into their $100 price tag. First and foremost, they have a full-length zipper that lets you control ventilation and take them off instantly, making them some of the most breathable rain pants on our list.
The 2.5L fabric is made from recycled nylon and has a comfortable 4-way stretch. It’s also very durable compared to other models we tested. Weight-wise, these are the heaviest on our list though. If you’re looking for a pair of durable and breathable rain pants that won’t break the bank, the REI Co-op Rainier Full-Zip is a great pick.
Best Premium Ultralight Rain Pants
✅ Good waterproofing
❌ Not durable
- Weight: 3 oz
- Waterproofing: C6 Water Repellent
- Fabric Type: 1.50 oz/sqyd Vertice Waterproof Breathable Fabric
If ultralight is what you are looking for, then it is hard to beat the Zpacks Vertice. At 3 ounces, the Vertice is the lightest hiking pant on our list by a large margin. To keep the weight low, the ZPacks Vertice doesn't have features like zippers or pockets. The 7D nylon fabric is not durable when hiking on a brushy path, but on open trails, they work just fine.
We found they have good waterproofing and average breathability. These premium-designed rain pants come at a higher cost than most models we tested. But if weight is your ultimate concern. The ZPacks Vertice is our top pick for the best premium ultralight rain pants.
The Other Noteworthy Models
❌ Less durable
❌ low breathability
- Weight: 9.5 oz
- Waterproofing: 2.5-layer waterproof breathable fabric
- Fabric Type: Nylon
At $60, we like the REI Essential rain pants as an inexpensive pair of minimalist pants for emergencies. We found they have average waterproofing and average weight. We liked the low-profile waistband that doesn’t interfere with your backpack and its roomy, comfortable fit. The ankle-length zippers make them easy to throw them on when a sudden storm hits.
The REI Essential Rain pants don't breathe as well as higher-end rain pants and are less durable, but in climates where rain pants are for emergency or brief use, they are a good budget-conscious option.
MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR Stretch Ozonic™ Pants
✅ Very breathable
- Weight: 10.9 oz (Medium)
- Waterproofing: 2.5-layer Dry.Q Active
- Fabric Type: Dry.Q® 50D Stretch Ripstop 2.5L, 100% Recycled Polyester
Mountain Hardwear has a winner with its Stretch Ozonic Pant. The company managed to create a super stretchy pants with the best breathability on our list. It may not be as storm worthy as other options we tested, but in conditions with light rain or short periods of rain, these are a good pick for a comfortable and breathable hiking experience.
At $150, these are the second most expensive rain pants we tested. They also run heavier than most options we tested.
MARMOT PreCip Eco
✅ Good waterproofing
✅ Budget favorite
❌ Not as breathable as some
- Weight: 11.4 oz
- Waterproofing: 2.5-layer NanoPro Eco
- Fabric Type: Marmot® NanoPro™ Waterproof/Breathable Fabric
The Marmot PreCip Eco has long been a favorite in the hiking community for their inexpensive price and good water resistance. However, this year we found that the price increase makes other options a better budget buy. At 11.4 ounces, their weight is the second heaviest on our list.
We do like that these waterproof hiking pants stand out for their sustainability. The PreCip Eco pant is made from a 100% recycled nylon fabric. If you like pockets, you're going to love the PreCip Eco. The pants have front-hand pockets and a back pocket. All the pockets have zippers to keep the contents inside safe and dry.
The standard version we tested is less breathable than most models. We strongly recommend upgrading to the full-zip version, which improves ventilation and makes it easy to slip them on even when a storm is raging outside.
BLACK DIAMOND Stormline Stretch
✅ Allow good movement
❌ Less waterproof option
- Weight: 8.3 oz
- Waterproofing: BD dry waterproof breathable laminate
- Fabric Type: 88% nylon/12% elastane
As its name implies, the Black Diamond Stormline stretch rain pants are made from stretch nylon and feature a gusseted design that moves as you move. We love how comfortable these rain pants are. We found that they have below-average waterproofing with just an outer DWR finish. They run in the middle of the pack compared to other models we tested for weight, durability, and breathability.
Design-wise, the Stormline Stretch earns praise for its 1/3 length side zippers and its low profile waistband that fits seamlessly under the belt of your backpack. At $130, these rain pants run slightly more expensive than other models on our list.
Key Factors To Consider When Choosing
Layer construction is a primary indicator of price. 2-layer rain pants are the least expensive due to their simple design. 2.5-layer pants are more highly designed and lightweight and come at a mid-range price. 3-layer pants are premium rain pants made of the most durable fabrics and offer additional features like articulated knees and like zippers, pockets, and flexible fabric at the knees.
Rain pants that provide the greatest value:
Affordable rain pants:
Premium rain pants (most expensive):
The lighter the pants, the more simple they are in construction. The most lightweight pants have zero vents, no pockets, and lightweight material that can tear easily. The heavier pants have ample zippers, a thicker material to withstand abuse, and extra features like belts and articulated knees.
Layer construction also plays into weight. 2.5-layer rain pants are the lightest, followed by 3-layer pants, with 2-layer pants being the heaviest. We recommend under 12 ounces for your rain pants weight.
The Lightest rain pains:
Several factors go into waterproofing. The two most important are layer construction and DWR finish. We will cover these in more detail below, but in short 3-layer pants offer the most waterproofing, 2-layer pants offer medium protection, and 2.5-layer pants provide minimal protection.
Look for rain pants that also come with a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish. DWR is a waterproof coating that is applied to the outside of rain pants for extra protection. Most waterproof gear comes with a waterproof rating measured by the mm of water it would take to penetrate a piece of fabric. In general, the higher the number, the more water-resistant the material is.
- 5,000mm waterproof rating can handle short periods of drizzle and light rain.
- 10,000mm to 20,000mm waterproof rating can take more prolonged periods of steady rain but will get wet during a heavy downpour.
- 20,000mm+ waterproof rating can withstand heavy rain, wind, sleet, and snow.
The most waterproof Rain Pants:
Breathable rain pants allow moisture, i.e. sweat, to vent while still being waterproof. However, even with the most breathable rain pants, you will likely still sweat. Layer construction plays a big part in breathability. 3-layer rain pants are the most breathable, followed by 2.5-layer rain pants, with 2-layer rain pants being the least breathable.
Features like size zippers add extra breathability. Some pants are given a breathability rating, but these ratings are not standardized. However, hikers should look for rain pants with at least 10,000g/m2. Runners and high-intensity hikers should aim for pants with a 20,000 g/m2 or higher rating.
The most breathable Rain Pants:
Other Things to Consider
When assessing comfort, look for rain pants that allow full movement and have a comfortable waistband without being too baggy. Comfort is less important in conditions where your rain pants will only be used occasionally. Most rain pants come in either men's or women's cuts. Women's rain pants often offer a shorter inseam and a more tailored cut around the hips for curvier body types.
Your pants must be durable enough to hold up to brush and abrasion. In general, lightweight fabrics are the least durable. Thicker pants offer the most durability. If you’re hiking in overgrown areas, be mindful of ultralight rain pants, which tend to rip and snag easier.
Waterproof and breathable rain pants have two basic components—an outer shell and an inner waterproof membrane layer. When we discuss laminates, we are looking specifically at this inner layer (the outer shell protects the waterproof membrane from bumps, scrapes, and contamination).
Laminates, like Gore-Tex, use a waterproof and breathable membrane attached to the underside of a jacket's outer fabric. This membrane works because of the size difference between rain droplets and sweat. Each membrane has micropores big enough to let sweat out but small enough to prevent larger rain droplets from seeping inside.
Gore-Tex may be the brand name for laminate waterproofing, but companies increasingly are using their own technology or Gore-Tex competitors such as Pertex or eVent.
Laminates are available in three different types: 2-layer, 3-layer, and 2.5-layer. Each type describes how many layers are used in the construction of the waterproof fabric.
- 2-Layer: use a two-layer construction that bonds the waterproof membrane to the outer fabric. There's usually a liner that protects the membrane from damage on the inside. For this reason, 2-layer rain pants tend to be more durable than their counterparts. It also causes them to be heavier than other waterproof pants (although more affordable).
- 2.5-Layer: 2.5-layer pants, just like 2-layer pants, have a waterproof membrane that’s bonded to an outer shell fabric. But, instead of a liner, they have a thin coating to cover the waterproof membrane. This half layer only provides minimal protection. These pants are lighter and more sports-oriented than their 2-layer counterparts, making them ideal for most hikers. Most of your sub-$200 hiking rain pants fall into this 2.5-layer category.
- 3-Layer: 3-layer rain pants provide some of the best waterproofing, breathability, and durability you can buy, but it comes with a cost ($100+). They have a third fabric layer that is bonded to the membrane on the inside. And because they do not use a liner, these pants are lighter than the average 2-layer pants. These are your premium pants that have the best fabrics, all the extra features like articulated knees and rugged construction.
Ultralight 3-layer pant construction (Zpacks Vertice)
Durable Water Repellent (DWR)
DWR is an acronym for durable water repellent. It is a liquid waterproof coating that is applied to the outside of rain pants. DWR can't be damaged physically, like the internal membrane of the waterproof laminate fabric. It does tend to wash off and lose its effectiveness over time.
Thankfully, DWR can be reactivated by a few minutes in the dryer. It also can be reapplied either with a liquid you spray on the surface of the pant or a solution that is added to a wash cycle and infused directly into the fabric.
DWR can be used as the only form of waterproofing, but it is often used in conjunction with a laminate membrane to provide an additional defense against rain.
Seams are the weak point when it comes to waterproofing. Whether it's a pair of pants or a tent body, seam sealing is critical to preventing water from leaking through these areas where the pieces of fabric are joined together. Some rain pant manufacturers use stitching or specialty thread to help secure the seams.
Seams can be further sealed with a water-repellent liquid or covered with a special seam sealing tape to prevent leaking. Just like DWR, seam seals sometimes need to be replaced. You can re-tape each seam or spray them with a liquid waterproofing solution.
Seams sealed for additional waterproofing
Zippers are another area that can leak when exposed to rain. To prevent leaking, many pants treat their zippers with a waterproof coating that gives them a rubberized feel. Some pants also add a flap underneath the zipper that serves as a storm shield. You typically won’t see this flap on ultralight rain pants, which cut these extra features to trim weight.
Two kinds of waterproof zippers (left: Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic; right: Showers Pass Storm Pants)
There are two primary types of fabrics used in the outer layer of hiking pants—nylon and polyester.
- Nylon is the most common fabric you'll find in hiking gear. It's used to make tents, backpacks as well as rain gear. It is abrasion and UV resistant, but it is slightly hydrophilic and will absorb water. As it absorbs water, it will get heavier and start to stick to your skin. You can treat it with a DWR coating to offset this tendency to absorb moisture. Still, it is a battle you will face for the lifetime of the pants, especially as the DWR wears out.
- Polyester, on the other hand, is hydrophobic and naturally repels water. It is not as abrasion-resistant as nylon and is more susceptible to UV damage. You may have to be a bit more gentle with polyester pants, but they will continue to keep you dry even when the DWR breaks down. Polyester has an Achilles heel, though. It's oleophilic, which means it absorbs oils. All that hiker stink you produce on a thru-hike will be absorbed into the fabric. You can wash away some of that stank, but not all.
Almost all rain pants are very packable. You can roll them up and shove them into the nooks and crannies of your backpack. If you want the smallest packed size, opt for the minimal pants as they have less extra zippers or belt buckles that add some girth. We write about these features in detail below the product reviews.
Most rain pants are multi-sport but cater to a specific sport. Skiing pants tend to have a layer of insulation for cold winter conditions, while biking pants may have padding for the bicycle seat. Climbing pants are similar to hiking pants but have more stretch to accommodate the movement needed for climbing. They also tend to be reinforced in those areas more likely to come in close contact with the rock. Hiking rain pants may have articulated knees for freedom of movement and zippers for easy removal.
Rain pants are not only waterproof, but they also are windproof. Almost all pants provide some protection from the wind, but some pants have a specialized layer that improves their ability to block the wind. This extra wind-proofing is typically heavily advertised by manufacturers.
A growing number of companies are making their rain pants with sustainability in mind. Some pants are made with milder waterproofing that doesn't use harsh chemicals harmful to the environment. Some pants are even made from recycled bottles and other repurposed materials.
Are rain pants worth it?
Yes, rain pants are worth it because they shield you from the elements without adding too much weight. In hiking conditions that are rainy, windy, or in colder climates, rain pants keep you dry and warm. Most rain pants are lightweight and pack down small, making them worth packing when the forecast doesn’t look ideal.
Many thru-hikers leave their rain pants at home because they want to keep their base weight as low as possible. Rain pants provide protection for a limited amount of time and eventually wet through. Ultralight backpackers figure that you will get wet no matter what, so why bother bringing them? They might as well stick with their DWR-coated, fast-drying shorts or hiking pants.
However, wearing rain pants can really help provide protection in harsh environments without compromising your pack weight much.