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Hands-on Gear Review
Columbia Rebel Roamer Review
Cons: No pockets, breathability, ventilation, not easy to put on without removing footwear
Bottom line: A killer pant for the price, offering better than expected feel and weather resistance, but does not offer much in the way of features.
The Columbia Rebel Roamer is our new favorite $50 and under pant (including options that aren't reviewed here). If you're on a tight budget for a rain pant and want something that can be used for backpacking and hiking, and occasional ski or snowboard use, look no further. The Rebel Roamer competes against basic, much less functional or storm worthy pants in its price range, and is truly a stand out pant. We were impressed by the level of weather resistance, combined with a respectable weight and compressed volume. They don't have much in the way of features and do not sport even a single pocket. For $30 more, The North Face Venture Pant ($80) could be a better option for some, offering features like pockets and half-length side zippers; but for those on a tight budget, this pair of rain pants dominates.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Rebel Roamer provided exceptional weather resistance and kept our testers dry in our side-by-side garden hose and shower tests, as well as in real-world use on soggy day hikes and backpacking trips. The DWR held up far better than we expected and is comparable to several more expensive pants in our fleet.
Compared to other $50 and under contenders, the Rebel Roamer is incredible. It offers some of the best weather resistance of any rain pant in its price range, with no other pant coming close in price. Compared to other options in our review, we found that the Rebel Roamer was comparable in performance to the Marmot PreCip Pant ($100) and The North Face Venture Half Zip ($80), though it didn't have as many features.
Comfort and Mobility
These pants are pretty darn comfortable; the waist band has a low profile, allowing a backpack's waist belt to be worn over the top, with minimal pinching. The Rebel Roamer's shock cord and cinching toggle did not interfere or bother us while hiking or wearing a pack; it functioned as intended and did a fine job of preventing our pants from inching down.
The internal fabric was comfortable against our bare skin and the wider than average cut (and overall design) gave the Rebel Roamer slightly above average mobility. Our testers thought this pant crushed most others in its $50 price range. It's worth mentioning that the Roamer is a little baggier than average, though most of our testers didn't find the issue to be significant.
Breathability & Ventilation
Overall, these pants lacked breathability and were likely the least breathable contender that we tested. They did not feature any ventilation options. When we tested ventilation, the Rebel Roamer performed the poorest, even with the other models having their vents completely zipped closed.
However, for a just-in-case type pant, or for someone saving their pennies, they will work fine. In fact, we wore them on three resort ski days, where their minimal breathability didn't prove to be a big issue. If you have the extra dollars to spend, we would recommend upgrading to the Marmot PreCip Full Zip or the REI Talusphere, as both of these contenders scored highly and were in the $100-$110 price range.
There aren't a lot of "extra" features on the Rebel Roamer - this pant is as basic as it gets. There are no pockets or side zippers (not even short ankle length zippers). The only true extra feature is the Velcro pant tighteners/closures on the lower cuffs of the pant, which help seal out snow or other debris. Despite this relatively basic feature, our testers found it performed surprisingly well during snow based adventures.
This competitor offers a surprisingly decent packed size, especially considering its durability and price point. Overall, they are smaller than average and are more compact than many of the more expensive (though more featured) options.
Our testing indicated that the Rebel Roamer pants are more packable than the Marmot PreCip Full Zip and The North Face Venture Half Zip and offer a comparable packed sized to our Editors' Choice Outdoor Research Foray Pant or the Marmot Minimalist Pant.
The Rebel Roamer clocks in at a respectable 12.5 ounces (on the OutdoorGearLab scale). This puts the pant on the slightly lighter than average end of the spectrum, as it weighed less than several of the more expensive models. It achieves this low weight, despite a relatively heavy construction style by not offering many features (like pockets) or zippers of any kind.
Despite its price, the Rebel Roamer is lighter than pants like the REI Talusphere Full Zip (19.5 oz), the Marmot PreCip Pants (14 oz), and The North Face Venture Half Zip (13 oz). They were only half an ounce heavier than our Editors' Choice Outdoor Research Foray Pant (12 oz), though all these pants offered far more features, including full-length or three-fourth length side zippers.
Despite weighing in on the lighter side, this contender is durable; in fact, they are one of the more abrasion resistant pants in this review. We think these pants are more durable than the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic or the Marmot PreCip Pants, but not quite as durable as the Outdoor Research Foray Pants or Marmot Minimalist Pants. We would easily ski in these pants and use them on trips with off-trail travel, earning a 7 out of 10.
Ease of Use
The Rebel Roamer is the most basic pant in this review. It doesn't have any side zippers (even 1/4 length ankle zippers), though we found it wasn't difficult to pull the pants over lower profile shoes like trail runners or light hiking shoes; this is due to the Roamer's looser fit and slick internal fabric. When pulling over medium to large volume footwear, like more traditional hiking boots, we had to remove our boots in order to put these pants on and visa-versa.
Despite the Columbia Roamer's reasonable price, it performs surprisingly well when worn during a wide range of activities. It is light and packable enough for backpacking and hiking, though it doesn't offer any side ventilation and does not feature exception breathability; however, as a true rain pant, it is decent. This pant is durable enough for downhill skiing or snowboarding and its boot cuff is wide enough to fit over higher volume boots (though you will likely have to take your boots off). The Velcro tab at the bottom allows for the Roamer to perform well when worn on snow-based adventures.
At $50, the Rebel Roamer is the best pair of rain pants that you can buy in the price range. It is basic and does not feature any pockets or side zippers, but it does an excellent job of keeping the wearer dry. It is durable, lightweight, and versatile, ranging from backpacking to downhill skiing. While it is not the most breathable pant, we still think it's the best pant in its price range.
Conclusion and the Bottom Line
The old mantra of: "There are better pants, and there are cheaper pants, but there are no better, cheaper pants" stands. If you are willing to spend a little more, you can buy a slightly lighter pant that will breathe better and will have more features (like pockets). If you like these pants but wish they had a few more features, we'd recommend giving The North Face Venture Half Zip ($80) a look, as they are similar in versatility and durability, with the Venture offering a few more features, like half-length side zips and pockets and better breathability. If you're on a budget or just don't want to spend a bunch of money on rain pants that you might not use very often, then these versatile bad boys blow the $50-and-under competition out of the water. You can certainly buy nicer rain pants, but with all things considered regarding weight, compressed size, and weather resistance, these pants are a fantastic value.
— Ian Nicholson
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