The Best Hiking Waterproof Rain Pants of 2020


Outdoor Research Helium Pants

Outdoor Research Helium Pants

In a perfect world all hikes would be conducted in sunny dry weather, but rain and wind should not put you off from going on a hike as long as that’s safe. In rainy weather a pair of waterproof pants is a great addition to a rain jacket as it decreases the wind-chill effect and keeps your lower body dry. However, not all waterproof pants are suitable for hiking and other aerobic activities (trekking, mountaineering etc.). Waterproof pants for hiking should provide good breathability so that the moisture (perspiration) from the inside can pass through them to the outside. Otherwise, you might keep the rain out but anyway be soaked in your own sweat.

Therefore, modern waterproof pants are made of so-called waterproof/breathable fabrics (such as Gore-Tex and Pertex). These fabrics prevent rain drops from penetrating, but at the same time allow moisture to escape from inside to the outside. In addition to breathability, hiking waterproof pants should also be lightweight, functional and durable.

Here we selected and reviewed the best waterproof pants to make your buying decision a little easier. Note that all products in this review are normally worn over regular hiking pants – you only wear waterproof pants in case of rain or strong wind.

We regularly update our reviews and selections to always recommend you the best products on the market.

1. Buying Waterproof Pants – What is important?

Weight and size:

Aerobic activities such as hiking, trekking and mountaineering require lightweight gear. Waterproof pants are usually light, but you can still eliminate some weight by wearing/carrying a pair of particularly lightweight rain pants. Read more about why it is important to use lightweight gear for hiking in our article Why hike lightweight. As waterproof pants are often carried in the backpack and only used in case of heavy rain, it is also important that they pack small. In this review of the best waterproof pants we only listed lightweight products which pack very small.

Material:

High-quality waterproof pants are made of materials that do not only provide protection against rain and wind but also breathability. However, it’s important to note that there is no such thing as a completely waterproof fabric that is also breathable; there is always a trade-off between water-resistance and breathability.

Nevertheless, some fabrics offer better breathability than others while maintaining a similar level of water-resistance. Popular waterproof/breathable fabrics are Gore-Tex, eVent and Pertex. Some outdoor clothing brands develop their own high-performance waterproof/breathable fabrics, like Mountain Hardwear (Dry.Q) and Marmot (MemBrain).

The level of water resistance is measured by the hydrostatic head while the “breathability” is measured by MVTR (Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate). Check out our article Rainwear: Hydrostatic Head and Breathability (MVTR) to learn more about these two parameters.

Waterproof fabrics differ in construction and waterproof technology.

Waterproof Technology:

There are two different waterproof technologies; laminates and coatings.

Laminates feature a membrane that prevents liquid water from passing through from the outside but at the same time allows vapor from the inside to pass through. These membranes are typically extremely thin (0.01 millimeters) and therefore they are sandwiched between two other layers for protection. They are usually made of polytetrafluoroethylene or polyurethane.

Coatings on the other hand are applied directly to the interior of a garment – a polyurethane layer is basically painted onto the interior of the fabric. As it is quite complicated to paint the polyurethane onto the fabric in an even layer, the polyurethane coat becomes relatively thick. The coating is made porous in the process of application by using an agent that creates tiny holes in it.

In general, coatings differ from laminates by breathability and price. They are significantly less breathable but on the other hand they are also less expensive. Other properties such as durability and water-resistance depend more on the actual garment than on the waterproof technology.

In this review of the best waterproof pants we listed both products that utilize laminates/membranes and products that utilize coatings.

Fabric Layers:

There are three different types of waterproof fabrics; 2-layer, 2.5-layer and 3-layer waterproof fabrics. Note that the layers are very thin and bonded together and thus you can’t see them with the naked eye.

2-layer fabrics consist of an outer layer with a coating or a membrane. 2.5-layer fabrics consist of a face fabric with a coating or a membrane and a non-fabric material on the inside (protective film). 3-layer fabrics consist of a face fabric, a membrane and a liner.

For more information about waterproof/breathable materials, check out the Hardshell section in our article Comparison of Shell Materials.

Seams:

Waterproof pants for hiking should be equipped with taped seams for maximum weather protection. All products in this review have taped seams. Learn more about taped seams in this blog post from Trespass.

Expert Selections
We only list top-tier products. Read how our selections of best hiking products differ from others here.
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2. The Best Five Hiking Waterproof Pants Review

The Best Waterproof Pants

The Best Waterproof Pants

The Best Five Hiking Waterproof Pants of 2020 – List

  1. Outdoor Research Helium Pants
  2. Outdoor Research Foray Pants
  3. Marmot Precip Pants
  4. Arcteryx Beta SL Pants
  5. Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Pants

Comparison:

Feature/Product Outdoor Research Helium Outdoor Research Foray PantsMarmot Precip Arcteryx Beta SL PantsMountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic
Average Weight5.4 oz.10 oz.8.9 oz.13 oz.9.5 oz.
Average Weight (Metric)153 g302 g255 g355 g269 g
MaterialPertex Shield+Gore-Tex PacliteNanoProGore-Tex PacliteDry Q Active
Fabric Layers2.522.522.5
Waterproof TechnologyLaminate/MembraneLaminate/MembraneCoating Laminate/MembraneLaminate/Membrane
Taped SeamsYesYesYesYesYes
Pockets112/1
Outdoor Research Helium Pants

Outdoor Research Helium Pants

1. Outdoor Research Helium Pants

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Everyday use

The Outdoor Research Helium waterproof pants are super lightweight (they weigh merely 5 ounces) and therefore perfect for those who prefer lightweight hiking. Furthermore, they also pack very small into their own pocket and thus take up very little space in a backpack. The pants are made of the 2.5-layer Pertex Shield+ material which features a 30-denier ripstop face fabric and a polyurethane membrane. The Pertex Shield+ material has a hydrostatic head of 20000 millimeters and breathability of 20000g/m2/24hrs which is indeed a great result. The Outdoor Research Helium waterproof pants have taped seams for increased weather protection and are equipped with ankle zippers, one zippered pocket, gusseted crotch, internal loops for instep lace and an elastic waist which can be adjusted with a drawcord. As they are lightweight and offer great weather protection, the Outdoor Research Helium pants are great for hiking, backpacking, trekking and similar activities. They are also very useful for travelling and everyday use.

Women's Version: Available - Outdoor Research Women's Helium Pants

Note: Women's version might slightly differ from the men's version.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Breathability
  • Pack small
  • Pack into pocket

Cons:

  • /

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Outdoor Research Foray Pants

Outdoor Research Foray Pants

2. Outdoor Research Foray Pants

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Everyday use

The Outdoor Research Foray rain pants are made of Gore-Tex PacLite material which is lightweight and well-packable. The Gore-Tex PacLite material utilizes only two layers (face fabric/membrane) and features a durable protective layer made of an oleophobic substance and carbon on the inner side of the membrane. This protective layer eliminates the need for lining and thus the fabric is lighter without compromising the durability of the garment. The Foray pants feature articulated knees which provide great freedom of movement when hiking uphill. They are also equipped with an adjustable elastic waist (drawcord) and ¾ side zippers. The side zippers are very useful to pull the pants over the footwear. The OR Foray pants are indeed one of the best waterproof pants currently available.

Women's Version: Available - Outdoor Research Women's Aspire Pants

Note: Women's version might slightly differ from the men's version.

 

Pros:

  • Breathability
  • Pack small
  • Freedom of movement
  • Pocket
  • Can pack into the pocket

Cons:

  • /

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Marmot Precip Pants

Marmot Precip Pants

3. Marmot Precip Pants

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Everyday use

The Marmot Precip rain pants differ from the Outdoor Research pants above in waterproof technology. While they feature a membrane, the Marmot Precip pants utilize a coating. Therefore, the pants are slightly heavier – they weigh 9 ounces. The Precip pants are made of Marmot’s NanoPro fabric which uses a polyurethane coating along with a ripstop nylon face fabric. Marmot states that NanoPro fabric has a hydrostatic head of 10000 mm and breathability of 11500g/m2/24hrs which is indeed a good result for a coating technology. The Precip pants are also equipped with taped seams, one zippered pocket and ankle side zips so that you can easily pull them over hiking boots. The waist is elastic and adjustable (drawcord). The Marmo Precip pants are best for those who want high-quality waterproof pants for a lower price than the two previous pairs.

Women's Version: Available - Marmot Women's Precip Pants

Note: Women's version might slightly differ from the men's version.

 

Pros:

  • Price
  • Functionality
  • Breathability (for coating technology)

Cons:

  • /

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

Arcteryx Beta SL Pants

Arcteryx Beta SL Pants

4. Arcteryx Beta SL Pants

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Everyday use

The Arcteryx Beta SL rain pants utilize Gore-Tex Paclite material and thus provide good protection against the elements while being lightweight and well-packable. The pants feature articulated knees, gusseted crotch and an ankle adjustment system. The articulated knees and gusseted crotch increase freedom of movement and the ankle adjustment system allows you to tighten the pants against the footwear to reduce the body heat loss. The Beta SL pants are also equipped with high-quality full-length YKK side zippers which allow you to regulate the temperature and put the pants on without first taking off your footwear. The main downside of the Beta SL pants is that they don’t have any pockets. However, it is a great pair of waterproof pants for various activities.

Women's Version: Available - Arcteryx Women's Beta SL Pants

Note: Women's version might slightly differ from the men's version.

 

Pros:

  • Freedom of movement
  • Breathability
  • Pack small
  • Fit

Cons:

  • No pockets

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

Mountain Hardware Stretch Ozonic

Mountain Hardware Stretch Ozonic

5. Mountain Hardware Stretch Ozonic Pants

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Everyday use

The Mountain Hardware Stretch Ozonic waterproof pants are made of Mountain Hardwear’s Dry Q Active fabric which utilizes a 40-denier nylon face fabric and a polyurethane membrane. The Dry Q Active fabric combines waterproof technology with a stretchy material and thus the pants provide great freedom of movement. The Mountain Hardware Stretch Ozonic pants are equipped with full length side zippers for ventilation. The side zippers also allow you to easily put the pants on without first taking off your footwear. Additionally, the pants feature an elastic waist, articulated knees and leg cuffs for better fit. They come with an integrated and easy adjustable belt. The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic pants are best for those who want a comfortable pair of waterproof pants for spending time in the outdoors.

Women's Version: Available - Mountain Hardware Women's Stretch Ozonic Pants

Note: Women's version might slightly differ from the men's version.

 

Pros:

  • Stretch
  • Comfort
  • Functionality

Cons:

  • /

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

 

4. Questions and Answers

What are hardshell pants?

Hardshell pants (also called rain pants or waterproof pants) provide protection against rain, wind and snow while they are also breathable, so you won’t get soaked in your own sweat. Hardshell pants are typically worn over regular pants because they are made of very thin and hydrophobic fabrics.

What are waterproof pants made of?

Waterproof pants are made of so-called waterproof/breathable fabrics such as Gore-Tex, eVent, Pertex etc. These fabrics utilize a membrane or a coating which allows the moisture (perspiration) from inside to pass through but blocks the water drops from the outside.

What is the difference between hardshell and softshell pants?

Hardshell pants provide better protection against the rain and are lighter than softshell pants. They also pack smaller. However, softshell pants provide better breathability and are more comfortable to wear – the fabric is less stiff.

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Post Author

Post Author

Blaz

Outdoor enthusiast with experience in all types of hiking and mountaineering. Hiked in the Alps, Iceland and other countries. In love with via ferrata trails and snow-covered slopes. Check out my hikes.

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