Best Rain Pants For Hiking 2023 Ultralight
Here we have the best rain pants for hiking 2023. These are the perfect ultralight, waterproof, breathable solutions to compliment your jacket, and ensure you stay completely dry on the trail, from head to ankle.
All of the ultralight rain pants for hiking in this guide weigh about 10 oz or less. They average only 6.3 oz. Backpackers should pay extra attention to selecting ultralight rain pants, as they spend most of their time stowed.
Coming from a Pacific Northwesterner, rain pants for hiking are perhaps one of the most underrated items in one’s kit. They’re really clutch when you need them. You don’t want to be stuck with wet pants for hours in the backcountry. Not only do they keep you dry, but ultralight rain pants can also act as a windbreaker and insulation piece.
Keep scrolling to shop and compare the best rain pants for hiking 2023, skip ahead to the pro tips and buyer info. And while you’re hear, complete your layering system with our guides to rain jackets, wind pants, down jackets, fleece jackets, and hiking shirts.
Quick Picks: Best Rain Pants for Hiking
- Best All Around: Outdoor Research Helium
- Best Ultralight: Zpacks Vertice
- Next Best Ultralight: Montbell Versalite
- Best Gore-Tex: Outdoor Research Foray/Aspire
- Best Value: REI Co-op Trailmade
- Best with Stretch: Black Diamond Stormline Stretch
- Best Sustainability: Marmot PreCip Eco
- Best For Warm Rain: Zpacks Vertice Rain Kilt
Best Rain Pants Accessories
- Best Rain Jacket: Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket
- Best Rain Shell Mitts: Zpacks Vertice Rain Mitts
- Best Cold Wet Gloves: Showa Gloves TEMRES 282
- Best Cleaner/DWR Refresh: NikWax Hard-Shell Outerwear Care Kit
- Best Repair Patch: Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Repair Patch Kit
Best Rain Pants Comparison Table
|Outdoor Research Helium Rain||$130||6.7||Pertex 2.5L|
|Zpacks Vertice||$149||3.1||Vertice 3L|
|Montbell Versalite||$169||3.2||Windstopper 2L|
|Outdoor Research Foray Aspire||$180||10.7||Gore-Tex 2L|
|Black Diamond Stormline Stretch||$130||8.3||BD.dry 2.5L|
|REI Co-op Trailmade||$70||7.7||Proprietary 2.5L|
|Marmot PreCip Eco||80||8.3||NanoPro|
|Zpacks Vertice Rain Kilt||$80||2.4||Vertice 3L|
Best Overall Rain Pants
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants
Incredibly light, fully waterproof, great value, and more durable than the competition, thanks to its Pertex Shield DiamondFuse shell fabric. The Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants are our go-to option, and the best rain pants for hiking.
- Weight: 6.7 oz
- Price: $130
- Fabric: Pertex Shield with DiamondFuse, 30D Nylon Ripstop
- Side Zippers: Ankle
- Pros: Ultralight. Durable. Great Value.
- Cons: No side pockets or vents. Difficult on/off with shoes.
Relative to other ultralight rain pants, the 30D Nylon Ripstop DiamondFuse is significantly longer lasting, more durable, and less prone to snagging and tearing. And that is even more important for pants than jackets.
Relative to more expensive and fully-featured pants, these weight 50-100% less. In general, rain pants are worn less frequently and stored more frequently than jackets, which is why we strongly prefer ultralight versions to those with the bells and whistles; the weight savings are are more beneficial.
The downside to minimalist gear like this is that it’s very feature-light. There is only one pocket on the entire garment, which also doubles as a stuff sack. There is no zipper venting, and it can be difficult to pull the pants on over shoes unless you have smaller feet.
We prefer featureless rain pants, and this is a great value and a great performer. Helium Rain stand out as the lightest and most durable option in the pack from mainstream brands, and they are our go-to rain pants.
Best Ultralight Rain Pants
Zpacks Vertice Rain Pants
If you want the lightest weight and most breathable rain pants for hiking, choose the Zpacks Vertice. Weighing only 3.2 oz for a men’s medium, these duds are some seriously ultralight rain pants. And they’re super breathable and completely waterproof.
- Weight: 3.2 oz
- Price: $149
- Fabric: 3L Vertice, 7D nylon ripstop
- Side Zippers: none
- Pros: Ultralight. Ultra Breathable
- Cons: Delicate. No mechanical venting.
Thanks to the thin fabric and incredibly air permeable Vertice fabric, these rain pants for hiking have a breathability rating of 56k, more than 3X that of a traditional Gore-Tex garment. Those stats blow the hubcaps off of mainstream rain gear that claims to be super breathable and is a huge cottage industry flex.
While we’re grateful for the use of ripstop nylon, this is a 7D fabric, which is incredibly thin for rain pants, and they must be worn with care. These are not compatible with bushwhacking, and can only be used on-trail. To extend the life of the garment, make sure not to sit on abrasive surfaces.
As hiking rain pants go, they’re also very feature-light, but this we’re okay with. Rain pants spend most of their time stowed anyway. The Vertice have an adjustable shock cord waist band and dual ankle adjustment straps. No pockets or zippers.
If you want the lightest and most breathable ultralight hiking rain pants, then the Zpacks Vertice is your go-to option. Just treat them respectfully.
Next Best Ultralight Rain Pants
Montbell Versalite Pants
The Montbell Versalite pants are a minimalist pair of ultralight rain pants weighing in at a scant 3.2 oz.
- Weight: 3.2
- Price: $169
- Fabric: 2L 10D WINDSTOPPER
- Side Zippers: None
- Pros: Breathable. Ultralight.
- Cons: 2-layer. Slightly delicate. Few features.
Versalite is designed to minimize the number of seams on the garment, which in turn reduces weight, leakage points, and manufacturing costs. It’s a very smart strategy and helps them to be one of the very best rain pants for hiking.
Interestingly, Montbell has used WINDSTOPPER instead of traditional Gore-Tex, but it seems to be plenty waterproof enough.
These hiking rain pants are very minimalist. They and have few features, except for a nifty “Samue Leg Closure System” inspired by the Zen monks of Japan. It uses an elastic band that can be pulled out to cinch, and secured around the ankle. It’s nifty, but we could take it or leave it.
Noteworthy drawbacks include it’s 10D fabric. 10D is plenty durable enough if you treat this jacket respectfully, but it certainly cannot be abused. Check out our top overall pick, the Outdoor Research Helium Rain for a more durable ultralight model.
It is also a 2-layer construction, which can feel clammy against skin and fails to protect the interior, shortening the lifespan of the garment.
Montbell Versalite rain pants are extremely ultralight and very effective. That said, we feel they are outcompeted by the Zpacks Vertice pants, which also weigh about 3 oz, but are more breathable.
Best Gore-Tex Rain Pants
Outdoor Research Foray and Aspire Pants
For a lightweight, super waterproof pair of all-purpose Gore-Tex hiking rain pants, grab the Outdoor Research M’s Foray and W’s Aspire pants.
These are the best rain pants for hiking when seriously wet backcountry conditions are expected. We choose them when all-day rain is in the forecast, and they’ve accompanied us all over the PNW. But they do great with any rainy outdoor activities, such as camping, or even just walking around the park.
- Weight: 10.7 oz
- Price: $180
- Fabric: 2.5L, 50D polyester Gore-Tex Paclite
- Side Zippers: ¾ length
- Pros: Gore-Tex. ¾ side zippers. Excellent venting.
- Cons: Mid-tier weight.
Built with 2.5L Gore-Tex Paclite, this is a good version of a widely replicated formula. The double separating ¾ length zippers run from ankle to mid-thigh. This allows for excellent ventilation as you hike in them. It also gives you the ability to take the rain pants on or off over shoes, even large ones.
Other features include an adjustable waist, and the ability to stuff down into their own back pocket.
Foray/Aspire are constructed with 50D polyester, which holds up well to abuse. However, we must ding them for being a bit on the heavy side. They’re too heavy to justify packing in less you expect lots of rain, and we would not prefer them for backpacking.
All said and done, the Outdoor Research Foray and Aspire are an excellent and versatile pair of all purpose Gore-Tex rain pants. They are suitable for all outdoor activities, not just hiking and backpacking.
Best Rain Pants With Stretch
Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Pants
Stretchy hiking rain pants are trending among outdoor gear brands, and the Black Diamond Stormline Stretch were the lightest weight models we could find at 8.3 oz.
- Weight: 8.3 oz
- Price: $130
- Fabric: 2.5L BD Dry, two-way stretch
- Side Zippers: Ankle
- Pros: Lightweight. Slightly stretchy.
- Cons: Average waterproof/breathability.
Stretch comes with pros and cons, but considering how much we move our legs while hiking, it definitely adds comfort and is appreciated.
Notably, this is a two-way stretch. When we say stretch, we’re not talking about how it feels to move in a pair of yoga pants. It’s more like a light touch of stretch that adds some extra comfort and mobility. When we say downsides to stretch, there are some to consider. First off, stretchy materials tend to be less durable, and repeatedly stretching the membrane is unlikely to be good for the longevity of the garment’s waterproofness.
As far features, the Black Diamond StormLine Stretch pants have ankle zips and a zippered back pocket that can hold the entire garment when compressed. That said, we’re not big fans of ankle zippers, they’re just not very helpful.
These aren’t the best rain pants for hiking in terms of weight or value, but they have the best weight and value among rain pants with stretch fabric. The Black Diamond StormLine Pants are good all-around performers.
Best Rain Pants – Value
REI Trailmade Rain Pants
If you want functional, lightweight rain pants for hiking for the lowest possible price, turn to the REI Trailmade.
- Weight: 7.7 oz
- Price: $70
- Fabric: 2.5L nylon with W/B membrane
- Side Zippers: ankle
- Pros: Affordable. Lightweight
- Cons: Mid-tier waterproofness and breathability
There’s nothing fancy about the REI Trailmade Rain Pants. In fact, they don’t even bother to name its waterproof/breathable technology. It’s just listed as a pair of 2.5 layer, seam-sealed nylon shell pants. But what can we say… at $70, the price is right.
The Trailmades have very few features, which is why they weigh only 7.7 oz, a respectfully low number for this category. They are lighter than many pairs of significantly more expensive pants and thus earn a place among the best rain pants for hiking.
As features go, there isn’t much to write about. They have ankle zips, which we don’t find very useful. The elastic waistband is par for the course. We like that these are available in short, regular, and tall inseams, as well as sizes up to XXXL in men’s and 3X in women’s.
They aren’t the best rain pants of all time, but they certainly are the best rain pants you can find for $70. And they’re legitimately lightweight!
Best Rain Pants – Sustainability
Marmot PreCip Eco Pants
Do you prioritize sustainability and value? We recommend the Marmot PreCip Eco to get the most bang for your buck. At $80, they’re far less expensive than average. And weighing 8.3 oz, they’re only a tad heavier than average. What’s more, they’re made of 100% recycled nylon!
- Weight: 8.3 oz
- Price: $80
- Fabric: Nanopro 100% recycled nylon
- Side Zippers: Ankle
- Pros: Lightweight. Hand Pockets. Recycled Fabric. Good value.
- Cons: Average waterproof/breathability.
Marmot’s PreCip line has been around forever. By now, they are considered proven on the trail as a value rain gear option. But now, the PreCip pants are constructed with 100% recycled nylon, doing a huge solid to the environment. Thanks Marmot!
There’s nothing at all fancy with these hiking rain pants, but we’ll call out what we can. Just to confirm, they are built with a waterproof breathable membrane and do have an eco-friendly DWR finish. Checks all of the basics.
As far as features, they have a drawcord adjustable elastic waist, and ankle zippers, which we don’t feel are worth weight. But a feature we do love is hand pockets! Rarely ever are lightweight hiking rain pants given hand pockets, and we were delighted to note that Marmot included them while still keeping the weight and cost to a minimum.
Perhaps the biggest downside is the mediocre waterproof breathable fabric. It’s functional, but not spectacular.
If you want a pair of rain pants that is both affordable and sustainable,, this is it. We’re pleased to recommend the Marmot Precip Eco.
Most breathable rain protection
Zpacks Vertice Rain Kilt
The Zpacks Vertice Rain Kilt is the best and most breathable option for hiking in warm, muggy, rainy conditions when paired with shorts.
- Weight: 2.4 oz
- Price: $80
- Fabric: 3L Vertice, 7D nylon ripstop
- Zippers: Full length.
- Pros: Ultralight. Ultra breathable.
- Cons: Slightly delicate. Does not protect lower legs.
Break free of the idea that waterproof pants are the only form of rain protection for legs! Weighing just 2.4 oz and made with incredibly breathable waterproof fabric, the Vertice Rain Kilt is a steal of a deal for high performance ultralight gear.
So when and why would you choose a rain kilt over rain pants? For starters, we only recommend wearing a rain kilt when paired with shorts. If worn over full length hiking pants, your lower legs will be soaked as they are unprotected and get the double whammy of water running off of the kilt.
But for those warm, muggy, rainy days, when you were already going to wear shorts, a rain kilt is the perfect pairing and superior to pants in almost every way.
That’s because a kilt is SO much more breathable than rain pants, and the fact that it’s shorts weather presumes breathability is desirable. A kilt provides the best possible ventilation, and that’s on top of the Zpacks Vertice fabric being top tier in breathability to begin with.
Conversely, rain pants paired with shorts are not fun. Skin on rain gear always feels clammy and uncomfortable. And in warm weather, simply allowing your feet and lower legs be wet is actually comfier.
This rain kilt has only two features to call out. First is the elastic shock cord cinch around the waist – simple enough. Second is the full length waterproof zipper, which can be partially unzipped for improved mobility.
Durability could be an issue with the kilt, as its fabric is only 7d, and a big step could overcome the zipper’s teeth and cause damage. But treat it respectfully and it will last as long as any other ultralight rain gear.
The Zpacks Vertice Rain Kilt is an excellent, affordable, ultralight, and unusual solution for warm rain when paired with shorts. It is comfortable and highly breathable, and superior to pants in every way under the the right circumstances.
Hiking Rain Pants Accessories
Best Overall Rain Jacket
Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket
The Outdoor Research Helium Rain is a premium ultralight rain jacket at a lower than expected price. It’s our pick for best lightweight rain jacket, and definitely the best backpacking rain jacket. Primarily, that’s because it checks all of the boxes while only weighing 6.3 oz.
Relative to other top performing lightweight rain jackets, Helium Rain is significantly lighter weight but still gets the job done well. And relative to other ultralight jackets, it’s more durable, and less expensive, offering a better value and longer lifespan. This is a true backpacking rain jacket, and with it, you can have your cake and eat it too.
- Weight: 6.3 oz
- Price: $170 (M’s) $180 (W’s)
- Fabric: Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse 2.5L
- Pros: Ultralight. Great value. Durable.
- Cons: No pit zips. Not 3-Layer.
The Pertex Shield technology with DiamondFuse yarn makes the Helium Rain Jacket very resistant to ripping and tearing, and the entire jacket punches above its weight class when it comes to durability.
However, one of the primary weight savings design elements is that there are very few features. As of Q1 2023 hand pockets were added to the W’s version along with a $10 price increase, but not M’s. However, neither version has pit zips for mechanical venting.
As far as performance rain gear goes, this jacket exhibits breathability and waterproofness stats that are mid-tier, but not top of the heap.
The Helium is our go-to hiking rain jacket when packing for unknown conditions in late spring through early fall (AKA most of hiking season), or when you have a forecast that calls for light to moderate rain.
However, in the event that you are knowingly hiking into a heavy storm and/or expect to wear your rain gear most of the day, we would recommend a burlier jacket. This jacket runs a little smaller than average, so if you’re in between sizes, consider sizing up.
To conclude, this is the lightweight rain jacket we grab most. We recommend it to all, and especially pack-weight conscious backpackers, like ourselves.
Best Rain Shell Mitts
Zpacks Vertice Rain Mitts
If you want the lightest and most breathable waterproof handwear, pull on a pair of Zpacks Vertice Rain Mitts.
- Weight: 1.0 oz
- Price: $70
- Fabric: 3L, 7D Vertice ripstop nylon
- Pros: Ultralight. Very breathable.
- Cons: Delicate.
Constructed with the same fabric as the corresponding Vertice Rain Jacket and Pants, the mitts have a breathability that is greater than 3X Gore-Tex. What’s more, a pair weighs only an ounce.
The biggest drawback is that they use a 7d fabric, which is about as thin as it gets. You can handle rough objects with them, and you should even be careful not to rub them too hard on trekking pole straps for hours at at time.
We recommend packing them in conjunction with any basic fleece liner for a complete 3-season hand system. These are great rain mitts to just always have in your backpack by default. But if we knew we were hiking into super rainy weather, we would pack something a bit burlier.
Zpacks Vertice Rain Mitts offer a significant amount of weather protection to a critical area. And they do so comfortably while only weighing an ounce. It doesn’t get better than that.
Best Cold Rain Gloves
SHOWA Gloves TEMRES 282
For sleet and cold rain, we use the SHOWA Gloves TEMRES 282, designed for winter-use in the maritime industry. These gloves are at home in truly nasty weather. and are 100% waterproof and never wet out from the exterior.
- Weight: 3.5 oz
- Price: $27
- Fabric: TEMRES Technology
- Pros: Extremely waterproof. Lightly insulated.
- Cons: Clumsy. Low breathability. Unusual looking.
As out-of-place as they look in the backcountry, their performance is simply superior to alternatives from traditional outdoor brands, and they’re plenty warm enough. Dexterity and breathability are both lackluster, but functional enough for non-technical use. They run small so size up.
BEST CLEANER/DWR REFRESH
Nikwax Tech Wash and TX Direct
When you notice your rain gear starting to “wet out,” it’s time for a renewal with Nikwax Techwash and TX Direct. This two phase rain gear refresh starts by cleaning dirt and oil off of the garment, and finishes by restoring and rebuilding the DWR (durable water repellent).
- Weight: 0 oz (once applied)
- Price: $23
- Technology: TX.Direct
- Pros: Renews waterproof performance. No harsh chemicals.
- Cons: Slightly less effective than off-the-shelf DWR treatment
The DWR finish is the technology on the outer surface that causes water to roll up and bead off, and it works in conjunction with the waterproof breathable laminate membrane to provide complete rain protection and comfort.
TX.Direct will never perform quite as well as the factory applied DWR that your jacket came with, but it will probably get you at least 90% of the original performance.
This is a trade off we accept for Nikwax creating a biodegradle, harsh-chemical-free product that can safely be used at home in your washing machine. For frequent hikers, we feel that washing your rain jacket and pants once at the start of hiking season, and once at the end is probably sufficient.
Nikwax Techwash and TX Direct are an integral part of staying dry in the backcountry and we highly recommend this product to improve your experience with rain gear.
Best Repair Patch
Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Repair Patch
For small to mediums sized rips and tears, we prefer using a Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Repair Patch, precut in a hexagonal shape.
- Weight: 0.1 oz (once applied)
- Price: $5
- Technology: Tenacious Tape
- Cons: Long lasting. Works in backcountry. Very adhesive. Waterproof.
- Cons: Requires smooth surfaces
When applied to a smooth, relatively clean surface, the repair patches are incredibly long lasting and durable. The adhesive is significantly stickier than duct tape. The patch itself is waterproof and will prevent leaks. We recommend the hex shaped patches because the corners are less sharp than rectangles, thus less prone to catching and peeling.
These repair patches work on tents, backpacks, rain jackets, hiking clothes, and pretty much any other fabric item that can be laid flat and smoothed out. However, they won’t work well on textured surfaces, like shoes or mesh.
Nonetheless, Gear Aid makes a best in class product that should be a staple in every hikers repair kit, especially those who use ultralight tents with thin fabric. We always carry them and you should too.
10 oz or less rule for hiking rain pants
When shopping for a pair of rain pants for hiking, you should begin with the 10 oz rule. Anything above that is too heavy duty, and will do more harm than good weighing down your backpack.
Consider how infrequently hikers and backpackers actually use rain pants over the course of a season. Most hikes don’t involve rain, and even when they do, a rain jacket is usually sufficient.
Thus, aside from keeping the wearer dry, the next most important thing for rain pants is that they don’t weigh down your backpack. However, there are exceptions. For example, if you will be bushwhacking in the rain.
Considerations on different zipper configurations
Rain pants for hiking have an array of zippers, ranging from none at all, to ¼, ¾, and full length zippers. It is our perspective that zippers are a nice to have, but not a need to have. They provide benefit in how they add ventilation and if large enough, can allow you take your hiking rain pants on or off without first removing your shoes.
That said, zippers are a feature that manufacturers have to build into the garment, which will add cost and weight. This is not always a good exchange.
If you have small-to-medium size feet, ¼ zips can be very helpful allowing you to take the pants on/off without removing your shoes. However, they don’t help or do anything if you have large feet, and in that case, we would rather have no ankle zipper. In that scenario, we prefer ¾ or full zips pants that run high enough to allow for leg ventilation and the ability to interface nicely with large shoes.
Tips for wearing rain pants for hiking
When wearing your waterproof pants on a hike, there are a few things that can help you optimize their performance. For starters, if you’re wearing the rain pants over top of hiking pants, we recommend tucking your pants into your socks so there is no chance that the bottom of the hiking pants will stick out below the bottom hems of your rain pants.
If your hiking rain pants have an elastic shock cord or ability to cinch, we recommend taking advantage to prevent the pants from sagging, which can create a gap where the top of your pants meet the bottom of your jacket and backpack. Lastly, if your rain pants have zippers, we prefer to leave them open along the quad for ventilation, unless it’s outright pouring.
How to care for hiking rain pants
Like with rain jackets, a little care goes a long way for rain pants. We recommend keeping a patch kit with gear aid tenacious tape stored in your backpack for field repairs. They are very effective and long lasting.
Once per year, or periodically if used and dirtied frequently, we also recommend using NikWax Techwash and TX.Direct to clean your hiking rain pants and restore the DWR finish. This will help revive its ability to have water bead up and roll off upon contact. The best rain pants for hiking all require a bit of periodic upkeep, and that’s completely normal.
A complete guide to the best rain jackets
Don’t miss our buyers guide for the best rain jackets of the year! Make sure you’re fully waterproof.
This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, a small portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you. We are never under an obligation to write a review about any product, and no companies pay us to write reviews. Finally, this post expresses independent opinions and do not represent those of the manufactures whose product is featured.
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!