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REI Co-op Essential Rain Pants Review

Perfect for those who want to bring a pair of rain pants but aren't likely to use them very often.
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $60 List | $59.95 at REI
Pros:  Inexpensive, lightweight, excellent packed size, reasonably weather-resistant, baggy cut makes it easy to wear over other layers, low profile waistband doesn't pinch under a backpack
Cons:  Not especially breathable, clammy with moderate aerobic activity, no front hand pockets, below average articulation
Manufacturer:   REI
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 23, 2019
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78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 13
  • Water Resistance - 25% 7
  • Comfort and Mobility - 18% 9
  • Breathability & Venting - 18% 7
  • Features - 5% 6
  • Packed Size - 12% 9
  • Weight - 17% 9
  • Durability - 5% 6

Our Verdict

The REI Co-op Essential is our OutdoorGearLab Best Buy winner because it is simply the best rain pant you can buy for the price. At the price, it's extremely comparable, and in some aspects slightly better than most other pants in a higher price range. They've been constructed with a 2.5-layer proprietary coated waterproof fabric that looks and performs similarly to many of the more popular name-brand rain pants. At a mere 9.5 ounces, it offers top-notch compressibility that disappears in the bottom of our pack when needed. They're perfect for storing in the bottom of your pack in case of an afternoon thunderstorm or to take on a week-long backpacking trip.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Top Pick Award 
Price $59.95 at REI$225.00 at REI
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$121.73 at REI
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$149.00 at Amazon
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$118.95 at Backcountry
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Pros Inexpensive, lightweight, excellent packed size, reasonably weather-resistant, baggy cut makes it easy to wear over other layers, low profile waistband doesn't pinch under a backpackLightweight, excellent stormworthiness, packable, sweet 3/4 length side zips, impressive breathabilityLightweight, stormworthy, quiet fabric, good breathability, 3/4 length side zips, effective elastic cuffsMega stretchy fabric, best breathability in the review, built in belt is the bombBy far the lightest and most compact pant in our review, great mobility, elastic waist band is extremely comfortable and functional
Cons Not especially breathable, clammy with moderate aerobic activity, no front hand pockets, below average articulationNo pockets, waist band is not as nice as others, expensiveNo zip fly, one marginally useful pocket, DWR didn't last as long as other models and needed to be retreated more frequentlyNot quite as abrasion resistant as other models, so-so weather-resistanceLess durable than most, hard to pull on over boots
Bottom Line Perfect for those who want to bring a pair of rain pants but aren't likely to use them very often.Lightweight, yet tough, comfortable, and articulated enough for a week long backpacking trips where it rains every day.Highly protective pants that are light and compact for tucking away in your backpack.A fantastic all-around pant with rad stretchy fabric, which offers exceptional freedom of movement and the best breathability.Hard to beat for any trip where weight and packed space are at a premium - as long as there isn't too much off-trail travel, where their lower than average durability could be an issue.
Rating Categories Co-op Essential Arc'teryx Zeta SL Pant Outdoor Research Foray Pants Stretch Ozonic Pants Outdoor Research Helium Pant
Water Resistance (25%)
10
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7
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
0
8
Comfort And Mobility (18%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
9
Breathability & Venting (18%)
10
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7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
Features (5%)
10
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6
10
0
8
10
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6
10
0
8
10
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5
Packed Size (12%)
10
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9
10
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9
10
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9
10
0
9
10
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10
Weight (17%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
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10
Durability (5%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
7
10
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7
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6
Specs Co-op Essential Arc'teryx Zeta SL... Outdoor Research... Stretch Ozonic Pants Outdoor Research...
Measured Weight 9.5 oz / 271g 8.6 oz / 245g 10.2 oz / 289g 10 oz / 283g 6.5 oz / 184g
Waterproof Fabric Material 2.5-layer REI Proprietary waterproof breathable fabric Gore-Tex Paclite Plus 2L Gore-Tex 2.5 Layer Dry Q Active Stretch 2.5 Layer Pertex Shield+
Face Fabric and Layer Construction 40-denier nylon ripstop 40-denier nylon ripstop 2L 100% Polyester 50D 40D Dry Q Active Stretch 30D 100 Nylon Ripstop w/ Pertex Shield+ Waterproof Breathable Insert
Pockets 1 pocket 0 pockets 1 pocket 1 pocket 1 pocket
Side Zips Length? 1/4 Length Ankle Zips 3/4 length side zips 3/4-Length Full Length Side Zips 1/4 Length Ankle Zips
Put on Over Hiking or Mountaineering Boots No Yes Yes Yes No
Inseam Length, Size Medium 31.5 inches 30, 32, 34 in 30 in 30, 32, 34 in 31 in
Stows Into Pocket? Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Waist band Style Elastic + Shock Cord Nylon Belt + Elastic Band Elastic + shock cord Nylon Belt + Elastic Band Elastic + Shock Cord

Our Analysis and Test Results

The REI Essential Rain Pant is a basic but extremely functional rain pant that is nearly impossible to beat for the price. For less than half the cost of the majority of the models in this review, these pants work exceptionally well for folks looking for a pant for just in case it rains day-hiking and backpacking trips.

Performance Comparison


You can certainly buy a nicer pair of rain pants, but it's nearly impossible to find a better pair for the price. The Essential isn't a top performer, particularly when it comes to breathability, limiting its aerobic applications but it did prove plenty storm worthy, and its weight and packed size are in line with some of the highest-scoring models we tested.

This model is the winner of our OutdoorGearLab Best Buy Award for being the best waterproof pant you can buy for the money. While they are a budget pant  they're fully functional and are perfect for those who want a just-in-case shell but aren't likely to use them very often.
This model is the winner of our OutdoorGearLab Best Buy Award for being the best waterproof pant you can buy for the money. While they are a budget pant, they're fully functional and are perfect for those who want a just-in-case shell but aren't likely to use them very often.

Water Resistance


The Essential uses REI's proprietary 2.5-layer waterproof breathable fabric. While this pant is basic, it kept us dry in both real-world uses while mountaineering and backpacking in the North Cascades as well as our side-by-side shower and hose tests.

This model uses REI's proprietary 2.5-layer waterproof breathable fabric. The Essential is just as waterproof as any other model in the mid price range  and its DWR is decent.
This model uses REI's proprietary 2.5-layer waterproof breathable fabric. The Essential is just as waterproof as any other model in the mid price range, and its DWR is decent.

All of our testers wondered how this budget pair would stack up against more expensive models. This model performed similarly to the majority of other price-pointed proprietary 2.5-layer models, like the Patagonia Torrentshell, the Marmot Precip Pant, or the North Face Venture pant.

This pant has a slightly looser cut which helps with mobility. However  the Essential does not offer up the best freedom of movement.
This pant has a slightly looser cut which helps with mobility. However, the Essential does not offer up the best freedom of movement.

Comfort and Mobility


These pants have a slightly loose fit; this makes them easy to layer over the top of hiking pants or shorts in the event of unexpected rain showers, or to help stay warm on colder days. This baggier cut also gives this pant a reasonable range of motion and mobility but has limited articulation overall, which is one of the few drawbacks when compared to other budget-friendly contenders.

We liked the wide elastic waistband which can be tightened with a simple drawstring tied in the front.
We liked the wide elastic waistband which can be tightened with a simple drawstring tied in the front.

These pants, like other models using a more basic 2.5-layer coated waterproof insert, will feel clammy if you are working up almost any type of sweat. They can feel downright wet inside if you are truly exercising aerobically. The below average breathability is made worse by the fact that there is no real ventilation option to help dump heat and help manage moisture. These disadvantages are mostly shared with the non-side-zip Marmot Precip Pants and the Patagonia Torrentshell, though several of our testers noted that the interior of the PreCip and Torrentshell feel ever-so-slightly better against bare skin.

We liked the inch (and some change) wide elastic waistband, which was able to be tightened with a simple drawstring, which can be tied in the front. The waist belt is low profile enough and we could easily wear these pants comfortably under a heavily laden backpacking pack's waist-belt without feeling any pinching. The stretchiness of the waistband allowed us to easily pull them over additional layers.

The Essential does not offer any ventilation options nor is particularly breathable. However  it does offer decent performance for the price and is similar to many of the higher end models in our fleet.
The Essential does not offer any ventilation options nor is particularly breathable. However, it does offer decent performance for the price and is similar to many of the higher end models in our fleet.

Breathability & Venting


This pant offers no ventilation options nor is particularly breathable, which is why we recommend it as a just in case layer rather than something you'll plan to wear for more aerobic activities. While we didn't find it near as breathable as some of the higher-end pants such as the Arc'teryx Zeta SL, the Outdoor Research Foray, or the Marmot Minimalist, it offers similar breathability to other pants that used a proprietary 2.5 layer material (and will cost you eighty to one hundred and twenty dollars). While all of those models featured superior ventilation options, none were notably better for straight-up breathability.

This model only features one side zippered pocket  which doubles as a stuff sack. The pocket isn't in a particularly useful spot and we weren't entirely convinced our pants wouldn't fall down if we placed a heavy object inside the pocket.
This model only features one side zippered pocket, which doubles as a stuff sack. The pocket isn't in a particularly useful spot and we weren't entirely convinced our pants wouldn't fall down if we placed a heavy object inside the pocket.

Features


This pant, like its namesake implies, is bare-bones and just the essentials. It features a quarter-length zipper to helps pull the pant on without having to remove your shoes. Something we found easy with trail-runners, manageable with light hiking boots, and possible with limited pairs of mountaineering boots but it took some effort. This pant has no true front hand pockets, just a single side hip pocket that doubles as a stuff pocket. After extensive use, none of our testers found this to be a problem, instead noting that when wearing these pants, we nearly always had a rain jacket on, which had pockets that were generally more comfortable to utilize.

Partly to save weight  partly to minimize cost  this model features a 1/4 length zipper  which helps facilitate pulling these pants over lower volume footwear. With medium to higher volume footwear like hiking or mountaineering boots  we had to take our shoes off to put these pants on.
Partly to save weight, partly to minimize cost, this model features a 1/4 length zipper, which helps facilitate pulling these pants over lower volume footwear. With medium to higher volume footwear like hiking or mountaineering boots, we had to take our shoes off to put these pants on.

Weight


This pant is impressively light, weighing in at 9.5 ounces. This makes it lighter than a majority of options that use a similar proprietary 2.5 layer waterproof fabric.

At 9.5 ounces  these were one of the lighter models in our review. None of our testers minded the simple design when looking to save weight.
At 9.5 ounces, these were one of the lighter models in our review. None of our testers minded the simple design when looking to save weight.

The Essential is similar in weight to the Patagonia Torrentshell (9.5 oz) and the (non-full side-zip) Marmot Precip pant, and offers similar levels of stormworthiness. Both of these options feature zippered hand pockets at a slightly higher price.

Packed Size


Smaller than much of its sub $100 competition, the Essential is perfect for those who want to bring a pair of rain pants just-in-case but aren't likely to use them very often. These pants aren't quite as small as the Outdoor Research Helium pants which were the most compact in our review, but offer a similar packed size to many higher-end models.

Offering a decent packed size  they compressed into a reversible side zippered pocket  shown here next to a 1-liter Nalgene for size reference.
Offering a decent packed size, they compressed into a reversible side zippered pocket, shown here next to a 1-liter Nalgene for size reference.

Durability


These pants are tough enough for what they are intended for, which is to be used sparingly for afternoon thunderstorms, or a few rainy days along a week-long backpacking trip. While we wouldn't say they are notable for durability, they are comparable to models in the one hundred dollar and under range.

Best Applications


These pants are an excellent option for those who need a basic pair of waterproof rain pants. They're perfect for day hikers, trekkers, and backpackers who will often want to bring a pair of rain pants in case of foul weather but aren't likely to use them much. For folks who aren't likely to be deterred by soggy backpacking trips or who regularly go out in damp weather, we might recommend something a little more durable, breathable, and/or heavily featured. These pants will do the trick for occasional downhill skiing or snowboarding and will fit over a majority of ski and snowboard boots, but they aren't tough enough to use regularly for this purpose.

Value


These pants are a fantastic price and offer similar performance to some of our favorite models, like the Marmot Precip or Patagonia Torrentshell. While many of these models offer more features, we don't mind the simplicity of the REI Essential, and appreciate how light and compact they are.

While there are higher performing options out there  there aren't any for this price. The Essential truly outdoes itself for its cost-to-performance ratio.
While there are higher performing options out there, there aren't any for this price. The Essential truly outdoes itself for its cost-to-performance ratio.

Conclusion


This pant is the best overall model you can buy for the least money. Constructed with a similarly performing material as several of the more expensive models, this rain pant is certainly no-frills but will perform well for the types of applications that most people are looking for.


Ian Nicholson