The Marmot Minimalist is exactly that. It's a few frills Gore-Tex PackLite pant that doesn't offer much in the way of extra features, instead focusing on its bomber construction, excellent storm worthiness, and fantastic freedom of movement - all while maintaining a respectable packed weight and level of compressibility.
In both real-world use and in our side-by-side garden hose and shower comparisons, the Minimalist Pant was easily among the most storm resistant models we tested. They did a fantastic job of keeping their wearer dry.
The Marmot Minimalist offers exceptional weather resistance and performed among the best in our review, in both our side-by-side hose and shower tests, as well as over several weeks of real-world testing over a wet Pacific Northwest fall hiking and climbing season. For wet weather hiking or mountaineering, there are few pants we'd rather use than the Minimalist. Our testers were impressed with how effective this pant was in keeping us dry. This contender, along with the Arc Teryx Alpha SL, were the most storm-worthy pants we tested. Because the Minimalist doesn't offer any side-zippers and features waterproof pockets, there are few ways in which water could find its way in. The Gore-Tex PacLite fabric performed to the highest standard and offered long-lasting weather protection. Other top performing contenders (with a lower price point) include the Outdoor Research Helium Pant, REI Talusphere, Marmot PreCip Full Zip, and the Columbia Rebel Roamer, each scoring 8s out of 10s.
The DWR beading up water, not only keeping the wearer dry from the outside, but also maintaining breathability by not wetting out. The photo shows the Minimalist Pant by Marmot.
Comfort and Mobility
The Minimalist offers some of the best freedom of movement and overall mobility of any pant in our review. It features well-designed and articulated legs that move with the wearer; these designs are above average and are comfortable, but do not feel too baggy. While they performed better than most of the options we tested, they didn't offer a comparable level of freedom of movement that can found in the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic or the REI Talusphere Full Zip; both use a stretchy high-quality fabric. It is worth noting that the Minimalist was comparable to our Editors' Choice, the Outdoor Research Foray Pants.
These pants fit our testers well; however, depending on the tester's body, not everyone thought they fit fantastically in the waist area. Unlike most of the pants we tested, they only feature elastic on the back half of the waist area of the pant, and feature no belt-loops and no "cinching or tightening features.
The Minimalist Pant offers only 1/4 length ankle zippers. Even this short zipper helped these pants to be donned over smaller volume footwear like trail running shoes or low-top light-hiking shoes, but anything larger and we were forced to take off our shoes to pull these pants on. While this was a small inconvenience (as when it's rainy the ground is often muddy), it was a trade off, as not having longer side zippers saved 3-5 ounces of weight in our pack. This was a nice weight savings, considering most people carry their rain pant in their pack 95+ percent of the time.
Breathability & Ventilation
This is where the Minimalist name is more apparent; while it does not sacrifice anything in the way of durability, breathability, or storm worthiness, it doesn't feature any ventilation options. It does feature 1/4 length ankle zippers, but these don't allow much (if any) moisture to escape or for any heat to be "dumped". In our real-world testing, our review team didn't find this to be a significant issue. As we mentioned in our main buying advice article, when hiking in the rain (particularly if it's brushy), having the side zippers open is practically inviting water to run into your pants, and consequently, into your boots.
While having ventilation is nice for hiking post-rainstorm, most of the time this isn't a dealbreaker. The Minimalist offers Gore-Tex PacLite fabric, which was one of the most breathable fabrics we tested. The only pant that proved more breathable was the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic; its Dry.Q fabric was air permeable and didn't require the user to work up a bunch of heat in order for the fabric to start transferring heat. The REI Talusphere Full Zip and Arc Teryx Alpha SL weren't too far off in regards to breathability, scoring 9s out of 10s. If you like this pant but wish it had side zippers, check out the Arc Teryx Alpha SL, which sports full side zippers, and features the same Gore-Tex PacLite fabric.
The Minimalist doesn't feature waist tightening features or belt loops, and has quarter-length angle zippers. Our testing team found we could pull these pants over small, low-profile hiking shoes, but pulling the pants over medium to larger sized hiking boots wasn't an option. In the end, not being able to pull this contender over hiking boots wasn't a momentous dealbreaker for day hikers (who have light footwear in most cases), though it was a more significant issue for mountaineers or backpackers.
The Minimalist Pant didn't offer a lot of "extra" features, but instead offers a storm worthy pant that's lighter and more packable than average. One of its few features were two classically located hand warmer pockets that our testers appreciated.
Though it's always worth considering that most backpackers and hikers end up carrying their pants 95% of the time, you might appreciate the slight weight savings in exchange for the occasional inconvenience to sit down to remove your boots for those rare rainy day outings. For mountaineers who may be wearing a climbing harness, bigger volume boots and the possibility of crampons proved to be more of a pain, as sitting and removing boots in the snow is more of an issue than when on a trail.
These pants were slightly smaller than average in regards to other contenders that were tested; they are comparable in packed volume to the Arc Teryx Alpha SL and are slightly smaller than the Marmot PreCip Full Zip Pants, but noticeably more packable than the REI Talusphere Full Zip or The North Face Venture Half Zip. Compared to most Gore-Tex models, these pants are smaller than average and among the most packable to feature Gore-Tex PacLite fabric.
A hair over 11 ounces, these are the lightest Gore-Tex pants we tested; the Arc Teryx Alpha SL is only a couple ounces heavier. The Minimalist remains impressive, as it is lighter than the Columbia Rebel Roamer, which also doesn't feature side zips and is far lighter than the Marmot PreCip Full Zip (14 oz), which uses slightly lighter weight fabric. The Minimalist is nowhere near as light as the Outdoor Research Helium Pant (6.5 ounces), which is by far the lightest and most compact model in our review (however, it's important to note that the Helium is not as durable or versatile).
We think these pants are the most durable pant tested in regard to abrasion resistance and in DWR and weather resistance longevity. After weeks of use on a wide array of backpacking, hiking, and mountaineering trips, our testing team was impressed with how well this contender held up. While the competition was close, these pants are marginally more durable than our Editors' Choice, the Arc Teryx Alpha SL. We found the Minimalist was far more durable than other award winners, like the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, the Marmot PreCip Full Zip, and the Columbia Rebel Roamer. The Minimalist uses 50D fabric which is some of the thicker fabric among models tested; it's made of polyester, which is more abrasion resistant, and more durable than nylon.
The Marmot Minimalist is right at home for nearly all outdoor activities. It's light enough for throwing in the pack as a "just-in-case" layer on single or multi-day backpacking trips, but durable enough that it will last for those times when you actually have to break them out when the going gets rough. The fit and freedom of movement is suitable and allows for other cold and wet snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or even occasional downhill skiing use. In fact, this pair is one of the better options for downhill and backcountry ski boots, as the larger diameter cuff fits over decently.
At $165, the Minimalist is one of the best priced Gore-Tex pants you can buy; that in itself makes it a great value. We think because of its exceptionally high level of durability, this pant will last the user quite some time. Overall, we think most folks will find this model worth every penny.
Our testers love the functionality and overall design of the Marmot Minimalist. It was a strong contender for our Editors' Choice Award, as it offers exceptional versatility, durability, and storm worthiness - all at an excellent price, while providing a respectable weight and packed volume. Several of our testers commented that the side zips didn't help much with ventilation when you truly needed it, which was true. The side zips did make it easy enough to put on without having to take off your boots, snowshoes, or skis. This pair of rain pants remains a sweet rainy day option, with several advantages for folks willing to sacrifice a little convenience for weight savings.