- Pants tend to run long
- Knees may wear out quicker for more frequent hikers
Nothing can dampen the mood (literally!) on a hike quite so much as an unexpected burst of rain showers when you’re out on the trail. If you’re going to be hiking in a variety of weather conditions, it’s best to be prepared and ensure you choose the best rain pants for hiking, so you don’t end up drenched and frustrated.
Today, we’re going to walk you through what you need to look for when selecting the best rain pants for hiking, plus our top 5 picks to consider adding to your hiking wardrobe.
Here’s what you need to know to make sure you pick the best rain pants for all your outdoor needs.
The first key aspect of selecting the best rain pants for hiking is to understand the different kinds of fabric available and which are best to suit your outdoor needs. There are many varieties of waterproof fabric available, and they are certainly not all created equal.
Rain pants are often designed with layers of waterproof fabric. Typically, the outer layer is made from polyester or nylon, which has to be treated with a special Durable Water Repellant to stay light and breathable.
The inner layers of rain pants are an overlay of fabrics that offer space for air and evaporated moisture to move through. There are both waterproof non-breathable fabrics and waterproof breathable fabrics, with breathable options typically being a much costlier selection.
In general, non-breathable fabrics are best for lighter hikes, while breathable fabrics are going to be a good option for longer excursions and warmer climates.
Non-breathable waterproof fabrics, in particular, come in a few different styles, with the most cost-effective options typically being those with polyurethane coating. The choice between breathable vs. non-breathable waterproof fabric is partly a matter of personal preference, but it is important to note that the latter will not allow even the slightest hint of condensation or air in or out.
That said, non-breathable fabrics are usually much lighter than breathable ones, only using a single fabric layer with water repellent coating. Breathable pants with more layers tend to be more durable though, which is reflected in their often-higher price point.
Many of the best rain pants for hiking, especially the waterproof breathable kind, are usually treated with Durable Water Repellent or DWR. DWR is a chemical that helps fortify the overall water-impervious design of these pants and reduce wear on the exterior.
When hiking pants become wet, the DWR treatment helps to keep the pants dry and avoid any moisture seeping through to your legs. Non-breathable rain pants are so impenetrable in nature that they do not require DWR coating.
Another fabric coating option is a polyurethane coating. The best rain pants for hiking coated with polyurethane are usually very cost effective and easy to find. Polyurethane is not typically as durable as DWR coating but combined with the built-in nylon shell layer, you can expect a highly waterproof pair of pants.
Just know that polyurethane coated rain pants for hiking are not typically as durable and will not last as long if you are a frequent hiker. In general, you can expect to get about 2 to 3 seasons out of a pair of polyurethane rain pants with extreme use, and potentially longer with less recurrent use.
Seam tape is a very important component to look for when selecting the best rain pants for hiking. Seam tape keeps your waterproof rain pants together and functions as an adhesive strip over the natural seams in the garment’s fabric. The tape protects the stitching on your pants so it doesn’t fray or let water seep through if you hit a downpour.
We cannot stress enough how essential seam tape is — you should never purchase a pair of rain pants that don’t have this adhesive protectant.
Of course, when you’re carrying your heavy gear and a rainstorm hits, the last thing you want to worry about is being bogged down by your rain pants! Weight is another key consideration to take into account when hunting for the best rain pants for hiking.
Lightweight options with a few, powerful layers and sufficient seam tape are going to serve you much better out on the trail than bulky options that just weigh you down.
The time of year that the best rain pants for hiking are going to be most appropriate is during the spring, fall, and into winter. During these periods, you’ll probably also be outfitted with heavier hiking boots or similar footwear for added stability and warmth in the great outdoors.
If an unexpected rain cloud appears and you find it’s time to put your rain pants on, boot zippers are a handy feature to have. Not all of the best rain pants for hiking include these, but boot zippers make it easy to slip your rain pants on and off as needed without having to take off your footwear and endure freezing feet.
Here are the top 5 best rain pants for hiking to keep water out and ensure you’re nice, warm, and dry when stormy weather hits.
The first best rain pants for hiking selection on our list are these 100% nylon pants by Marmot. Featuring the all-important waterproof coating, plus multiple pockets for handy storage, these pants are simple and comfortable to boot. The Marmot Men’s Precip Pant is highly durable and easy on the wallet, making it a great selection for long wear use.
We really liked the polyurethane coating inside these rain paints with the durable nylon outer layer to keep you warm and dry on blustery, rainy days. We were also pleased to see that these pants feature a handy boot zipper so you can slip them on and off without too much fuss. Even better, these seams are sealed to perfection, so you won’t have to stress about getting soaked if you run into a storm cloud.
Another cool feature we liked about the Marmot Men’s Precip Pants is that they feature velcro cuffs, allowing you to adjust them as needed based on the type of footwear you have on. The ultra-comfortable elastic waist is just another reason why these are some of the best rain pants for hiking available today.
The next best rain pants for hiking we chose are these breathable waterproof hiking pants by Arc’teryx. The waterproof breathable design is ideal for longer outdoor adventures, while still being lightweight enough that you won’t feel too warm or bogged down. We love the handy boot zippers, plus the added fly zipper is a functional touch.
These pants sport highly durable Gore-Tex fabric, which further secures the hem, lower leg, and instep areas. These pant regions are the areas that will bear the brunt of intense hiking and outdoor elements, so you can depend on the Gore-Tex design to see you through many a rough terrain.
We also liked the comfortable elastic waistband on the Arc’teryx Beta SL Pant. They are fitted enough to ensure secure wearing but not so tight that you won't have plenty of room to move around.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Outdoor Pants feature 4-way stretch fabric that is ideal for long climbs and hikes in the great outdoors. There are full-length zippers on each pant leg, plus a secured seam to ensure no water slips through to your skin during a torrential downpour. We also really like the style of these pants, since they are just as attractive as they are functional.
These best rain pants for hiking are designed to be more fitted rather than loose, so if you are looking for a pair that combines both durability and style, you may have found your match. These pants are designed from waterproof breathable fabric to ward off moisture.
The side zippers made getting these pants on and off over any type of hiking footwear a total breeze.
One thing to note is if you like to layer your pants in colder climates, these rain pants are a bit too fitted to allow for much if any layering underneath. We were pleased to see the elastic waistband for comfort with a webbed nylon belt to secure it.
Unfortunately, these pants only feature 1 pocket situated at the mid-thigh, so you won’t have much storage space for little extras while out on the trail. The pants do sport a fly zipper though, which is a helpful bonus.
These best rain pants for hiking by Outdoor Research are super light, weighing in at just 5.9 ounces. So, if you want to pack a pair of rain pants without noticing a difference in your gear, these could be for you.
We like the handy boot zippers and were pleased to see the waterproof seam tape design. These pants are manufactured from 100% nylon for a weightless, breezy pant you can depend on when hiking in different types of weather.
It is important to note, that the lightweight nylon design is durable, but not ideal for super long hikes in very rough terrain. Hiking off the grid in rugged brush and thickets could wear these pants out pretty fast. However, for rain and stormy weather conditions, these waterproof rain pants are a comfortable, light, and functional option.
Our final pick for the best rain pants for hiking are these 100% nylon ones by Columbia. The first helpful feature we noticed was the leg openings that you can adjust for user-friendly ease. If the affordable design of non-breathable waterproof pants is your preference, these could be for you. They are a simple, no-frills option but they get the job done and look great as well.
The 70-denier nylon is highly durable, with a comfortable adjustable elastic waistband to give you plenty of freedom of movement. The Columbia Men’s Rebel Roamer Pant is lacking in terms of a zipper fly, pockets, and zip cuffs, but this mainly comes down to a matter of personal preference.
If you don’t care too much about pockets and would prefer to store all your essential items in your pack, you probably won't miss those pocket features too much. While these pants are missing a fly zipper, the elastic waistband is easy to loosen and tighten as you need to when out on the road.
While each of the options listed above will suit a range of hiker needs, in our humble opinion, the best rain pants for hiking would have to be the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Outdoor Pants. These rain paints really ticked all the key items off our checklist, with features from taped seams and stretch fabric to full-length zippers and a lightweight design.
We love that you can wear these pants with just about any type of hiking footwear, making them a useful addition to your outdoor wardrobe for many seasons. We were also drawn to the fitted, sleek design that we didn’t see as much of with the other products listed. For functionality, long wear use, versatility, and durability, you can’t go wrong with the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Outdoor Pants.