This article will help you find the best waterproof hiking pants to make your next hike in rainy weather a guaranteed pleasant experience.
Generally, as hikers, we spend the majority of our time in some of the most severe conditions and crossing the harshest terrain. In times like these, waterproof gear can quickly go from being an option, to becoming a necessity, especially in mountain hiking.
We know it’s no easy task sifting through the plethora of endless articles, so we’ve decided to make your life easy, do that for you, and share what we’ve found.
Our Editors’ Pick
After countless hours of research, harassing the experts and reading various reviews, we’ve chosen the Arc’teryx Beta AR Pants as our top pick.
The Arc’teryx Beta AR Pants are lightweight, 3-layer fabric hiking pants that offer excellent waterproofing and breathability. They are guaranteed to keep you dry and comfortable. Additionally these pants stand for outstanding insulation and durability. So, let’s take a look at the other picks in our list.
- Our Editors’ Pick
- Our Expert’s 3 Top Picks in Comparison
- Do You Really Need Waterproof Hiking Pants?
- The Top 10 Waterproof Hiking Pants Reviewed
- Waterproof Hiking Pants vs. Normal Hiking Pants
- Buyers Guide – What To Look For
Our Expert’s 3 Top Picks in Comparison
|Product||Arc’teryx Beta AR Pants||Outdoor Research Foray Pants||REI Talusphere Full-Zip Pants|
|Price||Check Amazon||Check Amazon||Check REI.com|
|Pros||Durable & comfortable|
Waterproof & windproof (20MPH)
|Lightweight & stylish|
|Lightweight & flexible
|Cons||If pants get dirty they lose breathability||Loses breathability once it becomes dirty||A bit on the baggy side|
Do You Really Need Waterproof Hiking Pants?
Do I really need waterproof hiking pants?
We’ll help you answer that question by outlining a few advantages and disadvantages of these pants, as well as when it’s best to use them over normal hiking pants.
Waterproofing is an important advantage for insulation and comfort reasons. No-one wants to hike in wet, rain-soaked pants, in cold conditions. Wet pants are heavier, and can make for a not so pleasant hiking experience.
Some pants may not be 100% waterproof, but water-resistant, where the water beads, and falls off the surface of the pants. These can be great as well since they reduce the possibility of liquid soaking into the material, resulting in a cold, wet, unhappy hiker.
Most manufacturers try to design their gear with breathability in mind. Having good waterproofing, while maintaining good breathability can be a tricky balance, but some pants out there manage to maintain this balance. Full and half-zip designs allow for good ventilation as well, reducing clammy and sweaty feelings around the legs. The quality of the breathability of the pants depends on the pants you are buying.
In addition, waterproof hiking pants tend to be constructed as lightweight as possible. Designers and manufacturers know the weight of hiking pants is super important to hikers’ endurance and comfort on the trail. We’ve found the majority of our picks to be quite lightweight, owing to the materials used.
On the flip side, these pants tend to be bigger than most hikers expect. This can be a double-edged sword in that, this makes them great if being used as a shell – wearing them over multiple layers, but somewhat annoying if you want them as stand alone pants.
In this case, that’s a matter of personal preference and purpose of use.
The Top 10 Waterproof Hiking Pants Reviewed
Arc’teryx Beta AR
- Durable & comfortable
- Waterproof & windproof (20MPH)
- If the surface of these pants get dirty they tend to lose breathability
The Arc’teryx Beta AR is a great lightweight, durable waterproof pair of hiking pants. Gore-Tex 3-layer constructed fabric provides waterproofing on the surface, and Gore seam tape and a DWR finish offer a “non-stick” type effect, beading water from the surface. These pants owe their comfort to articulated knees, for flexibility and added mobility, and a crotch gusset for maximum stretch.
These pants got nothing but great reviews on Amazon, and other sites. Seasoned hikers reported that these pants stood up well in the heavy snow and rain of the slopes. Other hikers labeled them great for pants for the peak, enduring 3 straight days of rain and 20mph winds. They’ve been described as waterproof, windproof and built like a piece of armor. Definitely worthy to be our Editors’ Pick.
Outdoor Research Men’s Foray Pants
- Lightweight & stylish
- Great waterproofing – heavy downpours
- Great wind proofing (60MPH)
- Quick drying
- Loses breathability once it becomes dirty
These relatively stylish pants from Outdoor Research are made of 100% woven polyester. Lightweight, and fully seam-taped, they feature Gore-Tex fabric to keep out the watery elements, standing strong against heavy downpours and rough conditions. Should you start to feel clammy, double-separating side zippers provide maximum ventilation.
REI Talusphere Full-Zip
- Great waterproofing
- Lightweight & flexible
- Windproof tested up to 60MPH
- A bit on the baggy side
These pants are dry, lightweight and flexible. They feature a full side zipper for trail side layering and ventilation, an adjustable waist drawcord that allows for a comfortable fit, and a zippered pocket on the left side that can double as a storage pouch.
Cuff drawcords keep you sand, mud, snow, and water proof, while hem drawcords seal out any loose debris. 4-way stretch polyester, meaning the fabric of these pants stretch crosswise and lengthwise, reduces “ride-up” and adds to flexibility, and is windproof to over 60 MPH.
These pants owe their waterproofing to 2.5 layer, REI Elements waterproof breathable laminate, and moisture wicking reduces sweat retention. The fabric of these pants is also sun-protective.
Marmot PreCip Full-Zip
- Great waterproofing
- Good insulation
- Waistband is not adjustable
- Not very breathable
The PreCip hiking pants are lightweight and great for almost any weather. They can be worn in mild Fall days, hot summer days, or the bitter cold of winter, over other layers. NanoPro fabric allows for moisture wicking, transferring moisture from your skin to the pants, which is great for staying dry.
An added benefit of these pants is that they’re constructed of RipStop nylon which makes them highly resistant to tearing and ripping. NanoPro waterproof, breathable coating allows for great waterproofing, and 100% taped seams keep the elements out.
Arc’teryx Beta SL
- Great waterproofing
- Adjustable waist for added comfort
- limited color options
Ranked highly in Amazon’s Sports & Outdoors Men’s Clothing category, the Beta SL are lightweight, 100% nylon hiking pants. Gore-Tex fabric, with Pactile technology, make these pants the perfect choice for hiking, where weight and space are important.
With almost no negative reviews, these pants’ lower leg, instep, and hem are reinforced with N150p-X Gore-Tex 3L, with tricot technology – which is basically a lightweight liner for added skin comfort. A DWR finish repels water from the surface, and an elastic waistband with a drawcord offers a snug fit.
The North Face Venture 1/2 Zip
- Relaxed fit & comfortable
- Great waterproofing
- Adjustable drawstring waist
- Slightly on the larger side, but great if intended to be used as a shell
The last on our list, but certainly not the least, is the North Face MEn’s Venture 1/2 Zip Pants. This relaxed fit, waterproof, breathable, seam-sealed DryVent 2.5-layer, works great as a shell.
An elastic waist with a drawstring allows for a comfortable and secure fit while hiking, and secure zip hand pockets are perfect for storing small valuables.
Outdoor Research Men’s Rampart
- Great waterproofing & breathability
- Comfortable & flexible
- Legs are baggy
100% polyester, waterproof, fully seam-taped, and windproof are just a few features of Outdoor Research’s Rampart pants.
Articulated knees for extended mobility, especially across uneven terrain, and an elastic waist with drawcord contribute to the comfort of these pants. The back pocket of the Rampart doubles as a storage sack.
Although these pants do not feature breathable fabric, their full-zip design allows you to open the side vents in the event you start to feel clammy. Double-separating side zippers provide venting, and a drop seat those “nature call” moments.
Mountain Hardwear Men’s Stretch Ozonic
- Comfortable with an all-over stretch feel
- Well ventilated
- Fitted – so not very ideal for shelling unless you buy them a size up
These waterproof, wet-weather athletic pants boast an outstanding all-over stretch for increased mobility and range of motion.
These are the ideal pants for almost any type of outdoor adventures, such as hiking and backpacking. Dry.Q Active technology ensures you’re dry and well ventilated, and prevents you from feeling wet and clammy.
These are more of actual pants, in that, if you want to treat them like a shell – something you wear over other pants, we recommend sizing up. With that said, it can be done without sizing up, but just be sure whatever you fit them over are trim fit and not baggy, and you’ll be good to go. Some users described them as comfy and dry, preventing that sweaty feeling you get with other rain gear. We give these pants 4.4 stars!
NONWE Men’s Outdoor Quick Dry Cargo Pants
- Quick drying
- Potentially makes your neighbors jealous
88% nylon and 12% spandex, these semi-waterproof pants are said to be a potential warm weather favorite.
Water resistant, quick drying, and lightweight, they feature a comfortable fit side elastic and quick dry fabric. These cargo pants are a more casual alternative at a cheaper price than the other hiking pants in this list. Perfect for short walks in rainy weather.
Columbia Men’s Hydro-Tech Packable Rain Pants
- Lightweight & durable
- Great waterproofing
- Made for pairing with the HydroTech Rain Jacket.
- Much larger than advertised – unless you intend on using them as a shell
- No drawstring leading to potential comfort and fit issues
- Poor color options
These are lightweight, 100% nylon, packable, 2.5-layer hiking pants that feature Omni-Tech waterproof, breathable and full seam-sealed, for the best in water protection. They feature zippered front, back pockets, and legs, with inseam lengths ranging from 31.5 to 34.5.
Waterproof Hiking Pants vs. Normal Hiking Pants
“There’s a time and place for everything.” If this could be applied to waterproof hiking pants, we’re not exactly sure it would be a completely valid statement. Most are multi-functional and multi-purpose. It’s quite possible for you to use these pants in all-season weather, but it’s not always practical.
Due to their extremely good waterproofing, these pants can sometimes lack breathability, so it may be more comfortable and convenient to use normal hiking pants on, for example, a warm, summer trek.
Other protective measures
Should the worry of being caught on the trail or summit in a sporadic downpour come up, other protective measures exist that can be taken in the absence of waterproof pants. Rain skirts can keep the bulk of moisture off your lower body, and still provide easy mobility, and good ventilation. It’s also quite stylish if you happen to find yourself in Scotland – just remember to cross your legs when you sit!
Rain over pants are another alternative. They fit snuggly, or sometimes not so snuggly, over your normal hiking pants and can provide a great deal of protection from the elements. We, along with other users, find them to be more comfortable, convenient and effective than waterproof skirts, but that’s a matter of preference.
There’s really no hard and fast way to decide when it’s better to wear waterproof hiking pants, as opposed to normal hiking pants. It’s all dependent on your personal preference, where you’ll be hiking, and under what weather conditions you’ll be hiking.
We wouldn’t recommend you wear normal hiking pants in locations that are predisposed to long, torrential downpours and wet conditions. At the same time, if your hiking conditions are generally dry and sunny with a low chance of precipitation, and you find normal hiking pants to be far more comfortable, then we recommend you pack a rain skirt, or rain over pants that can be quickly popped on, should the need arise.
Buyers Guide – What To Look For
Most of the pants that we reviewed were constructed of 100% nylon. Others were polyester and nylon-spandex blends. These fabrics stand up well against wet, water prone environments, especially the 100% nylon designs. The type of material can also contribute significantly to the overall weight of the pants.
Nylon and polyester are both lightweight materials, but nylon, although more expensive, is more durable and weather-resistant. For example, that’s where our Editors’ pick the Arc’teryx Beta AR nylon pants wins out over the 100% polyester constructed Outdoor Research Men’s Rampart pants. So, fabric is definitely something to keep in mind when shopping around.
You would have noticed we mentioned, for example, 2.5-layer, 3-layer, etc. in our descriptive reviews. Well, this is an equally important consideration to take in choosing these types of pants. Pants like the North Face Venture 1/2 Zip, or the Columbia Hydro-Tech, wouldn’t necessarily be the first choice as these pants feature 2.5-layer construction, as compared to a 3-layer pants such as the Arc’teryx Beta AR, or the REI Rhyolite. The more layers, the more durable and weather-resistant.
Good waterproof hiking pants should be both, waterproof (duh!) and breathable. The goal here is to choose pants that prevent the rain from getting in but allows the sweat and clamminess to get out. At the end of the day, breathability is equally as important as waterproofing, since both precipitation and perspiration can soak you all the same.
Weight & Size
As we briefly touched on already, the majority of the pants we reviewed come lightweight. It’s a matter of figuring out exactly which one suits you best. Pants like the Columbia Hydro-Tech were said to run on the larger side, but again, where this may seem like a disadvantage, if you use this baggier type of pants as a shell, then you’ve got added insulation and water protection.
Ideally, the lighter your pants, the more freedom of range you have, and so, the more comfortable and enduring your hike will be.
We all know the more comfortable you are, chances are the longer you will last. Yes, we are still talking about hiking. Finding pants, like the REI Talusphere, with drawstring elastic waists, for example, can add to your comfort – no-one wants to have to keep adjusting their pants while hiking.
The more windproof and waterproof your pants, the better. A cold hiker won’t endure as long as a warm, comfy hiker. Generally, we all hike for the sheer thrill and enjoyment, so if you can have comfortable rain jackets, boots, backpacks, and rain-proof pants, such as the ones we’ve looked at in this article, we can guarantee your experience will be that much better.
The mountains can be some of the wettest terrain, with some of the lowest temperatures, and a good pair of waterproof pants can provide not only good insulation but good protection. In addition there are a few other essential pieces of waterproof gear that any hiker should consider. Naturally, waterproof jackets go hand in hand with pants and provide great insulation and protection from the elements as well.
Depending on the terrain, waterproof boots and waterproof socks are also a great addition to your gear. Maintaining dry feet in the outdoors is imperative for a safe, comfortable hike. Although they’re proving to be quite rare, waterproof hiking backpacks are an even better addition if you can get your hands on one. There’re also various waterproof covers and liners that also help in protecting you and your gear from the elements.
Hopefully, we’ve been a great help and made your life easier in choosing the waterproof hiking pants that suit your style, needs, and activities.
Further Reading: Review: Arc’teryx Beta AR Pants
Image credits: L.C. Nøttaasen; Greg Grossmeier / flickr (CC-BY 2.0 license), all product images courtesy by the respective manufacturers