testing the best hiking rain pants in a subalpine forest

Best Rain Pants Comparison Table

Rain Pants Price ($) Weight (oz) Fabric
Zpacks Vertice Rain Kilt 80 2.4 Vertice 3L
Zpacks Vertice 149 3.1 Vertice 3L
Montbell Versalite 169 3.2 Windstopper 2L
Lightheart Gear  75 4.4 Sil-nylon
Outdoor Research Helium Rain 130 6.7 Pertex 2.5L
REI Co-op Trailmade 70 7.7 Proprietary 2.5L
Marmot PreCip Eco 80 8.3 NanoPro
Black Diamond Stormline Stretch 130 8.3 BD.dry 2.5L
REI Co-op XeroDry GTX 159 10.5 Gore-Tex 2L
Outdoor Research Foray Aspire 180 10.7 Gore-Tex 2L

Full Reviews

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.

Construction & Features

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.

Verdict

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 Value Gore-Tex Rain Pants

REI XeroDry GTX Pants

Choose the REI XeroDry GTX Pants because they’re the least expensive pair of high quality Gore-Tex rain pants you’ll find anywhere. And they come with lots of great features! Shop now.

  • Weight: 10.5 oz
  • Price: $159
  • Fabric: 2L Gore-Tex Paclite, 100% recycled polyester face fabric
  • Side Zippers: Ankle Zips
  • Pros: Gore-Tex waterproofing. Affordable. Hand pockets. Reinforced knees/seat. Available in tall, short, and plus sizes.
  • Cons: Mid-tier weight. 2-layer is never preferable.

Construction & Features

The REI XeroDry GTX pants are your quintessential, basic Gore-Tex pants. The 2L Paclite is their most economical offering, but on the plus side, it’s fairly lightweight. The down side is that Paclite always as a more plastic-y interior feel, so better to pair with pants than with shorts.

Speaking to standout features, we’ve got hand pockets! This is very rare to find in lightweight rain pants, but very welcome as it makes them much more user-friendly for all-day rain hiking. The ankle zips are moderately helpful – if you have small or medium sized feet, they may allow you to pull on/off without removing your shoes. But if you have size 12 clod-hoppers like me, this features is largely useless.

A few other notables are the 100% recycled face fabric – sustainability is always welcome, elastic drawcord waistband, and reinforced knees and seat.

Verdict

These a great buy for serious gore-tex waterproofness, in a lightweight and highly economical package. Love the pockets, love the GTX, love the price tag. This is a great all-arounder.

Best Budget Lightweight Rain Pants

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

Construction & Features

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.

Verdict

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 Stretchy Rain Pants

Black Diamond Stormline Stretch Pants

Stretchy hiking rain pants are trending among outdoor gear brands, and the Black Diamond Stormline Stretch are the lightest weight pair at 8.3 oz for a men’s medium.

  • Weight: 8.3 oz
  • Price: $140
  • Fabric: 2.5L BD Dry, two-way stretch
  • Side Zippers: Ankle
  • Pros: Lightweight. Slightly stretchy and movement accommodating. More comfortable than average.
  • Cons: Solid waterproofness, average breathability. Unimpressive waist cinching mechanism.

Construction & Features

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 leggings. It’s more like a light touch of stretch that adds some extra comfort and mobility. But this comes with a few downsides as well. 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 as features go, the Black Diamond StormLine Stretch pants have ankle zips and a zippered back pocket that can hold the entire garment when compressed. The waist cinching mechanism is not the most secure, and requires tying a slippery hitch to fasten it closed, which can be a bit annoying.

Verdict

These aren’t the most impressive rain pants for hiking in terms of weight, but they have the best weight and value among rain pants with stretch properties. The Black Diamond StormLine Pants are good all-around performers.

Top Pick Lightweight Rain Pants

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.

Construction & Features

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.

Verdict

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.

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.

Construction & Features

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.

Verdict

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.

Best Value Ultralight 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.

Construction & Features

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.

Verdict

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.

Top Pick 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.

Construction & 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.

Verdict

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.

Most Waterproof, Least Breathable Ultralight Rain Pants

Lightheart Gear Rain Pants

The Lightheart Gear Rain Pants are unique pair, offering true 100% tent-fly-grade waterproofness, in exchange for literal 0% breathability, all at a great price.

  • Weight: 4.4 oz (men’s medium)
  • Price: $75
  • Fabric: 30D sil-nylon/poly
  • Side Zippers: 7″ ankle zips
  • Pros: 100% truly waterproof. Ultralight. Great price. Pass through pocket.
  • Cons: 0% breathable. Clammy feeling.

Construction & Features

Unlike every other pair of rain pants, this model from Lightheart Gear is 100% waterproof, but not at all breathable. However, it’s not even trying to be. Buyers can choose between 30d sil-nylon or 20d sil-polyester. Either way, it’s closer to a tent fly fabric than it is to Gore-Tex.

There are scenarios where simple/old fashioned waterproofness gets the job done best! We recommend these ultralight rain pants for cooler environments, when you are less likely to get sweaty, and more likely to get wet from the outside. They offer a similar rain jacket, but between them, the pants version seems more appealing since legs get less sweaty than torsos.

Speaking to features, they’re quite minimalist. They have covered pass-through pockets, an ingenious design allowing you to access the contents of your pants pockets without pulling them down or adding excess zippers. A non-elastic draw cord waist keeps them up, and elastic ankles close off the hem.

Verdict

In these ultralight rain pants, Lightheart Gear has delivered an ingenious-yet-simple, old-school-yet-effective weatherproof garment. We recommend them for going ultralight in cool/wet climates, but not for warmer or dryer ones.

 

Best For Warm Rain & Humidity

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.

Construction & Features

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.

Verdict

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.

Recommended 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

About

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.

Verdict

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.

 

Recommended 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

About

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.

Verdict

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.

 

Pro Tips and Buyer Info

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 waterproof pants

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.

Testing the best lightweight rain jacket in Patagonia during a storm on a bridge over a river

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.

testing lightweight rain jackets in stormy patagonia

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