Reviews You Can Rely On

Best Rain Pants of 2022

We tested rain pants from Arc'teryx, Outdoor Research, REI, Columbia, and more to find the best pairs for weathering the storm
Best Rain Pants of 2022
Credit: Ian Nicholson
Friday January 28, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more

Our rainy day experts have been testing pants for the last 6 years with over 25 different models exposed to rain and sleet. This review covers 13 top pairs, which we've put head to head in a series of tests. We take the time to test each product in the field while hiking, biking, and exploring through all sorts of rain. Light, heavy, big drops, small drops — our expert testers rate ventilation, comfort, value, and several other key metrics. After exploring all the rainy places from Patagonia to the USA, and stops in between, we offer our award winners and recommendations, unbiased and designed to help you in your quest for the best rain pant.

Our women's testing team performed in-depth testing on women's specific models. While most models come in men's and women's versions, we find they often perform differently for men and women. We do tests to find out.

Related: Best Rain Pants for Women

Top 13 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 13
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award   Top Pick Award 
Price $249 List$134.96 at Backcountry
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$98.97 at Backcountry
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$114.15 at Amazon
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$89.18 at Amazon
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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83
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Pros Lightweight, excellent stormworthiness, packable, sweet 3/4 length side zips, impressive breathabilityLightweight, stormworthy, quiet fabric, good breathability, 3/4 length side zips, effective elastic cuffsDurable, among the most weather resistant on the market, comfortable fit, excellent mobilityMega 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 No 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 frequentlyAnkle length zips, no venting options, no waist tightening/cinching options, no belt-loopsNot quite as abrasion resistant as other models, so-so weather-resistanceLess durable than most, hard to pull on over boots
Bottom Line Lightweight, yet tough, comfortable, and articulated enough for a week long backpacking trips where it rains every dayHighly protective pants that are light and compact for tucking away in your backpackA basic, few-frills Gore-Tex pant that offers fantastic storm protection and mobility; it sacrifices little convenience for weight, without giving up anything in the way of performanceA fantastic all-around pant with rad stretchy fabric, which offers exceptional freedom of movement and the best breathabilityHard 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 Arc'teryx Zeta SL Pant Outdoor Research Fo... Marmot Minimalist Pant Mountain Hardwear S... Outdoor Research He...
Water Resistance (25%)
10.0
10.0
10.0
7.0
8.0
Comfort and Mobility (18%)
9.0
10.0
9.0
10.0
9.0
Breathability & Venting (18%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
Features (5%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
8.0
5.0
Packed Size (12%)
9.0
9.0
7.0
9.0
10.0
Weight (17%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
10.0
Durability (5%)
7.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Arc'teryx Zeta SL Pant Outdoor Research Fo... Marmot Minimalist Pant Mountain Hardwear S... Outdoor Research He...
Measured Weight 8.6 oz / 245g 10.2 oz / 289g 11oz / 292g 10 oz / 283g 6.5 oz / 184g
Waterproof Fabric Material Gore-Tex Paclite Plus 2L Gore-Tex 2.5 Layer Gore-tex with PacLite Technology 2.5 Layer Dry Q Active Stretch 2.5 Layer Pertex Shield+
Face Fabric and Layer Construction 40-denier nylon ripstop 2L 100% Polyester 50D 50D 100% Polyester w / Gore-tex PacLite Waterproof Breathable Membrane 40D Dry Q Active Stretch 30D 100 Nylon Ripstop w/ Pertex Shield+ Waterproof Breathable Insert
Pockets 0 pockets 1 pocket 2 pockets 1 pocket 1 pocket
Side Zips Length? 3/4 length side zips 3/4-Length 1/4 Length Ankle Zips Full Length Side Zips 1/4 Length Ankle Zips
Put on Over Hiking or Mountaineering Boots Yes Yes Hiking Boots, but not all Mtn Boots Yes No
Inseam Length, Size Medium 30, 32, 34 in 30 in 31, 32, 33 in 30, 32, 34 in 31 in
Stows Into Pocket? No Yes No Yes Yes
Waist band Style Nylon Belt + Elastic Band Elastic + shock cord 1/2 Elastic Nylon Belt + Elastic Band Elastic + Shock Cord


Best All-Around


Arc'teryx Zeta SL Pant


89
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Water Resistance 10.0
  • Comfort and Mobility 9.0
  • Breathability & Venting 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Packed Size 9.0
  • Weight 9.0
  • Durability 7.0
Weight: 10 oz | Pockets: 1
Lightweight
Excellent storm worthiness
Packable
3/4 length side zips
Impressive breathability
Average durability
Minimal features
Expensive

The Arc'teryx Zeta SL is ready to wait out any storm and stands out as the best on the market. Its lightweight construction is packable and comfortable to wear all day long. Arc'teryx utilizes one of our favorite waterproof fabrics, Gore-Tex Paclite Plus, and the Zeta is durable for most use cases, as well as stormworthy and versatile. Toss the Zeta into your pack as a just-in-case item on a longer multi-day trip, and you won't even know it's there. It'll keep you dry when the clouds condense, darken, and rain down on you for days.

A trade-off for a lightweight and simple design is a lack of features. This pant has no pockets and lacks abrasion resistance. It suited us fine for mountaineering above treeline or backpacking on a trail, but it's ill-equipped for thorny bushwacks or canyoneering adventures where the material might rip.

Read review: Arc'teryx Zeta SL Pant

Best for Comfort


Outdoor Research Foray Pants


88
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Water Resistance 10.0
  • Comfort and Mobility 10.0
  • Breathability & Venting 8.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Packed Size 9.0
  • Weight 8.0
  • Durability 7.0
Weight: 10 oz | Pockets: 1
Exceptionally comfortable
Lightweight, yet incredibly protective
Tough
Good breathability
Quiet fabric
3/4 length side zips
Effective elastic cuffs
No zip fly
Only one marginally useful pocket
DWR didn't last as long as other models
The fabric needs retreatment more frequently

The Outdoor Research Foray Pant is a compact, light protection layer that is made with excellent materials and ensures careful attention to detail. The fabric is soft and stretchy, and the cut is close and athletic; the pants weigh just 10 ounces and pack smaller than most t-shirts. In even the wettest and coldest of Adirondacks hikes, they kept us dry and comfortable. This is a rare combination. Packable and fully functional don't usually go together in rain pants, and other full-protection and readily breathable products are typically much heavier. Light products in this category are usually inexpensive and compromise on performance by using lower-quality materials.

The OR Foray makes fewer compromises. The primary limitation, as it pertains to function, is in durability. These are thin pants that won't hold up to extensive bush-whacking or use around sharp and abrasive things.

Read review: Outdoor Research Foray Pants

Best for Light Weight


Outdoor Research Helium Pant


83
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Water Resistance 8.0
  • Comfort and Mobility 9.0
  • Breathability & Venting 7.0
  • Features 5.0
  • Packed Size 10.0
  • Weight 10.0
  • Durability 6.0
Weight: 6.5 oz | Pockets: 1
Lightest, the most compact in the review (6.5 oz)
Great mobility
Elastic waistband is comfortable and functional
Less durable than most
Hard to pull on over boots

The Outdoor Research Helium is the best option for folks who put a premium on every extra ounce and cubic inch of space in their pack. This award is also for folks who end up carrying an emergency pair on day hikes, bike trips, cross-country ski days, and just about any outdoor activity in which the weather can take a blustery or wet turn.

The Helium pant isn't super quick to pull on and only provides average breathability. They pack down very small, though, and at 6.5 ounces, they are by far the lightest pants in our review. Despite their light weight, they still manage to offer respectable storm worthiness.

Read review: Outdoor Research Helium Pants

Best Budget Buy


REI Co-op Essential Rain Pants


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Water Resistance 7.0
  • Comfort and Mobility 9.0
  • Breathability & Venting 7.0
  • Features 6.0
  • Packed Size 9.0
  • Weight 9.0
  • Durability 6.0
Weight: 9.5 oz | Pockets: 1
Cost
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
Surprisingly versatile
Not especially breathable
Clammy with moderate aerobic activity
No front hand-pockets (just a single side pocket)
Below average articulation

The REI Co-op Essential Rain Pant is simply the best rain pant you can buy for the price. It boasts impressive stormworthiness, weight, and packed volume that we found comparable to many high-end options. The Essential Rain Pant is constructed with a 2.5-layer proprietary coated waterproof fabric that performs similarly in weather resistance and breathability to many higher-end rain pants. Another major advantage is that these weight just 9.5 ounces, which is less than many of its price-pointed competition. This attribute, combined with top-notch compressibility, allows it to easily disappear in our pack until needed.

This leads us to its primary drawback; while perfect as a just-in-case pant that you may put on for an afternoon thunderstorm or a couple of times during a week-long backpacking trip, it simply isn't as durable or breathable for someone who anticipates a great deal of aerobic use.

Read review: REI Co-op Essential Rain Pants

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price Our Take
89
$249
Editors' Choice Award
This performance oriented all-around model is stormworthy enough for rainy week long backpacking trips but light enough to throw in the bottom of your pack as a just-in-case layer on day hikes
88
$180
Top Pick Award
Waterproof and breathable rain pants that protect well and go largely unnoticed in your backpack
86
$165
The Minimalist is a basic pant that screams mobility and storm protection
85
$150
The Ozonic offers some of the best breathability and mobility in our fleet
83
$119
Top Pick Award
An excellent choice where packed space and weight are a priority
82
$80
Hikers on a budget, with limited and short exposure to truly foul weather will dig these pants as an emergency product in the bottom of your pack
79
$119
Simple, basic shell pants for typical casual use
78
$60
Best Buy Award
You can certainly buy a nicer pair of rain pants but you'll find it difficult to buy a better pair for the price
77
$100
For the price this is tough to beat; they are breathable, wallet-friendly, and feature full-length zippers
77
$109
REI's offering is friendly on the wallet, and is versatile and storm-worthy; however, it's not as light as others in our fleet
74
$50
Best Buy Award
The Rebel Roamer won't break the bank; while it doesn't boast a ton of extras, it's storm worthy and versatile
74
$499
It is a small niche that these pants fill; for that niche, they are very well made and virtually over-prepared
71
$80
Versatile and a decent weight, this model is perfect for downhill skiing or day hikes

rain pants - trekking and testing our exciting fleet!
Trekking and testing our exciting fleet!
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Why You Should Trust Us


Our expert panel consists of gear testers Jediah Porter and Ian Nicholson; both international certified IFMGA/American Mountain Guides. Jed is based in the Eastern Sierra leads adventures that range from rock climbing to ski mountaineering. Ian is based in the Pacific Northwest, where wet weather is a regular occurrence. He estimates that over the last two decades, he has donned rain gear over 2,000 days. When they aren't guiding, Jed and Ian spend most of their time pursuing their own outdoor objectives. This team knows the value of having the right gear and is no stranger to unpredictable and inclement weather.

After spending several hours researching different products and making a selection for this review, we purchased each product (at retail) to test each product in hand. Our experts have spent 100+ hours testing the best models on the market in the rainy Pacific Northwest. We've hiked, skied, backpacked, and climbed in remote terrain with wind and rain pouring down on us. These experiences help us amass a wealth of data on each rain pant to objectively compare each product. In addition, we keep tabs on the market, making sure we have the low down on the best products and the latest technology, and testing them as they become available.

Related: How We Tested Rain Pants


Analysis and Test Results


Great rain pants will keep you dry and comfortable when the weather gets wet and soggy. The best rainpants offer ventilation to keep you from overheating while you're on the move. You also want a pant that'll pack away when not in use.

This review focuses on a broad range of rain pant designs and features. The ones we select offer some level of packability, breathability, and water resistance. After testing each product while backpacking, hiking, and mountaineering, we evaluate each comparatively using six key metrics. These include water resistance, comfort & mobility, breathability & ventilation, features, packed size, and weight. This is where our award winners and recommendations spawn from. Read on to learn about the technical comparisons of each product out there.

rain pants - drying out after several days of testing and side-by-side...
Drying out after several days of testing and side-by-side comparisons in the field. A large fall storm rolled through and we "took advantage" of the conditions on an extended backpacking trip.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Value


We take pride in determining which models to select as the cream of the crop for each category we review. We also do some deep deliberating as we calculate which contenders offer the highest price to value ratio. We've recently awarded the REI Co-op Essential our Best Bang for the Buck Award, as no other model can match its stormworthiness, weight, and packed volume for the price.


rain pants - don&#039;t let a poor forecast keep you from embarking on a hike or...
Don't let a poor forecast keep you from embarking on a hike or backpacking trip you've been planning for ages. With the right rain gear, even a wet and windy trip can be nearly as enjoyable as a sunny one. At the very least, it's likely to have a little more solitude. In the review below, we break down the advantages of different pants for different applications.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Water Resistance


A rain pant should keep its user dry in the rain, whether hiking, backpacking, watching a sporting event, or out walking the dog. As a result, this was the most heavily weighted category - at 30 percent. Manufacturers use many different waterproof fabrics and construction methods with different design characteristics and, thus, different performance levels depending on the application. While each manufacturer conducts a significant amount of testing to quantify exactly how waterproof each fabric is, it's important to understand that all of the pants in this review use waterproof fabric. How well they keep us dry is more a matter of design.


The stormy environments included in our testing spanned from exceptionally wet spring ski mountaineering on Washington's Ptarmigan Traverse as well as the volcanos above Chile's temperate rain forests. Testing also included snowshoeing around Lake Tahoe and backpacking in Olympic National Park, with a handful of classic mountaineering adventures across the western US thrown in for good measure.

rain pants - it is in duress that the full zip attribute of a pair of shell pants...
It is in duress that the full zip attribute of a pair of shell pants becomes truly valuable. Here, lead test editor Jed Porter on a Chile's Volcan Lonquimay in tough weather, preparing for a white-out ski descent.
Credit: Jediah Porter

All the pants we tested have the seams taped after sewing, offering as watertight of a package as possible. What differentiates the performance when a light sprinkle turns to a downpour mostly comes down to each model's overall design, including pocket closures, how well various vents stayed closed, and to a slightly lesser extent, the longevity of the outer materials DWR.

rain pants - all of the fabrics used in the pants we tested proved to be...
All of the fabrics used in the pants we tested proved to be waterproof. While differences in fabric have a big impact on breathability and longevity, the water resistance a given pant has more to do with its design than the actual fabric. Tracey Bernstein breaks out the shell pants during a week long ski traverse in the French and Swiss Alps.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The differences between the various materials are more noticeable when it comes to breathability and overall longevity. However, from a strictly water-resistant standpoint, the fact that one fabric is waterproof to 30 PSI and another to 50 PSI doesn't make a functional difference to the wearer despite some manufacturers' hype.

rain pants - ll of the pants we tested were waterproof. the field comparison of...
ll of the pants we tested were waterproof. The field comparison of shell pants here demonstrates kneeling and rolling around in wet snow while teaching crevasse rescue techniques on Mt. Hood, Oregon.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Rain, sleet, or snow will not penetrate the fabrics that make up these pants. However, in a downpour, running water could potentially seep in through a pocket, leak in via a side pocket that is not completely closed, or work its way down to where the waistband meets your body. To test water resistance, we stood in a standard indoor shower for four minutes, determining which contenders could withstand the test. We also performed a side-by-side spray down with a garden hose (for five minutes) to systematically compare their weather resistance and storm worthiness.

rain pants - in addition to using these pants on trips over several months, our...
In addition to using these pants on trips over several months, our review team also performed two side-by-side tests: a four minute in the shower test, and a five minute garden hose comparison to help fine tune the water-resistance metric.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

We also tested how each contender kept us dry in the field, using them for several months, enduring many wet fall overnight backpacking trips, day hikes, and mountaineering excursions in the Pacific Northwest. After extensive testing, we found that the Marmot Minimalist, OR Foray, and Arc'teryx Zeta SL kept us the driest in both real-world and side-by-side testing. The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic and the REI Talusphere Full-Zip performed nearly as well.

rain pants - the dwr beading up water, not only keeping the wearer dry from the...
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 DWR on the REI Essentials pant.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Another vital factor to consider is the longevity of the pant's water resistance and its durable water repellent (DWR) treatment. This treatment is factory applied to the fabric's exterior and makes water bead and shed rain and snow. Even though nylon and polyester are both quite water repellant to begin with, if they aren't treated with a DWR (or once their DWR has worn off), they will absorb moisture. The result is the exterior of the pant becomes covered with a thin but continuous film of water, which results in a heavier pant and reduced breathability. The DWR used on the Marmot PreCip Full Zip, Marmot Minimalist, and Arc'teryx Zeta SL stood out above the rest. All the models we tested beaded water well when we first bought them; however, similar to any piece of rain gear, they should be retreated to renew DWR when needed.

rain pants - ian nicholson runs into... rain pant testing!
Ian Nicholson runs into... rain pant testing!
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Comfort and Mobility


Whether hiking, climbing, Nordic skiing, riding your bike, or just crawling over a downed log, comfort and mobility were defined by how much the pant's design and fabric might limit the user's range of motion and ability to engage in particular actives. The super-stretchy Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic had the best overall mobility and was a cut above the rest. We mean it when we say this fabric is stretchy; almost at a level like we haven't even seen before.


The Arc'teryx Zeta SL was our next best performer regarding mobility and freedom of movement. Though its fabric doesn't stretch, it offers incredible overall articulation and moves with us while hiking or climbing as well as any model — something that was even more impressive considering its slimmer fit.

rain pants - we saw some of the biggest differences between models when it came...
We saw some of the biggest differences between models when it came to mobility and freedom of movement. Some models like the Arc'teryx Zeta SL offered excellent articulation for their mobility while others like the REI Essentials relied on a baggier cut to minimize how much movement they restricted.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The Marmot Minimalist and Outdoor Research Foray offered a solid design with good articulation, and we could easily clamber over downed logs blocking the trail. Among the more price-pointed options, the REI Co-op Essential and the Patagonia Torrentshell Pants offered above-average mobility and comfort and performed exceptionally when it came to comfort and mobility.

rain pants - testing rain gear is uncomfortable. but hiking without it in the...
Testing rain gear is uncomfortable. But hiking without it in the rain is even less comfortable. We made sure to test all the attributes in all the conditions. Here, assessing mobility in a driving South American rain storm.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Breathability & Ventilation


Our water resistance category compared how well each pant kept their user dry from the outside, while the breathability and ventilation metric quantifies how well each competitor keeps their user dry from the inside. We considered two main factors when awarding scores for this metric (which is weighted at 25% of our overall ratings).


First, we took into account the ability of the pant's fabric to breathe; this is where the different waterproof technologies distinguished themselves, as the differences between models were quite dramatic in some cases. These multi-layered fabrics allowed water vapor to pass through the material, from the inside to the outside, where it could subsequently evaporate. We also studied how well each model's features allowed for ventilation and moving moisture directly.

rain pants - many of the pants we reviewed feature three-quarter or full-length...
Many of the pants we reviewed feature three-quarter or full-length side zippers. These sidezips can facilitate some ventilation, but their primary design is to allow the wearer to quickly pull the pant on or off without removing footwear.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

While breathability and ventilation are essential in keeping their wearer dry, these two factors do not play an equal role. For example, if it's raining hard or you're simply walking up a wet, brushy, or overgrown trail, having your side zippers open isn't an option. In fact, opening your side zips in anything more than a light drizzle is a quick way to soak your legs (and likely your boots, too). Brrrr. Due to this unavoidable problem, we weighted breathability significantly higher than a pant's ability to ventilate.

rain pants - there was a pretty big difference in breathability among models we...
There was a pretty big difference in breathability among models we tested. We found that models using Gore-tex PacLite scored the highest in our breathability tests (though not by much), with the Mountain Hardwear Ozonic and the REI Talusphere performing similarly.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Side-By-Side Hiking Test

We tested the breathability of all of these pants on wet hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering trips, as well as in a handful of more systematic tests, such as during a 10-minute stair master test at the Seattle Vertical World.

Ventilation

As far as keeping the user dry, ventilation makes less of a difference in real-world applications when compared to breathability. Why? It can be challenging to utilize ventilation if it's raining with any amount of volume. Ventilation can be worthwhile after it has stopped raining, before your remove your rain gear. Most shell pant manufacturers design pants with full and three-quarter length side zippers to make them easier to put on and take off without removing your shoes.

rain pants - three-fourth length zippers offer nearly all the same benefits of...
Three-fourth length zippers offer nearly all the same benefits of full-length-zippered models, such as ease of putting on over bulky footwear and excellent ventilation. However, all of our testers found that the lack of Velcro and subsequent lower profile waist to be far more comfortable (particularly with a pack on) than their full-zip counterparts.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

In the end, the most breathable pant in our review is the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic; the Ozonic is constructed with Dry.Q Elite fabric. Unlike Gore-Tex, Dry.Q Elite is air permeable and doesn't require the wearer to build up heat in exchange for breathability. This means they keep breathing even if once you have stopped working hard, something that products using Gore-Tex and other ePTFE fabrics can't do nearly as well.

The next most breathable models are the Arc'teryx Zeta LT, Outdoor Research Foray, and the Marmot Minimalist. All three of these pants offer similar designs while using Gore-Tex Paclite Plus. If we are exerting effort and the outside air temperature is cold, these fabrics could breathe equally as well as the Stretch Ozonic. However, if we weren't working as hard or it's warmer out, the Stretch Ozonic offers superior breathability.

rain pants - being able to dump a little heat especially once it has stopped...
Being able to dump a little heat especially once it has stopped raining, between storms, or is if it is only misting is certainly an additional benefit
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The last model worth noting on the more price-pointed end of the spectrum is the Marmot PreCip Full Zip and regular 1/4 zip iterations. While the Marmot PreCip pants are not quite as breathable as the previously mentioned models, their breathability is impressive at the price point they hit.

rain pants - we found breathability to be a far more important attributed than...
We found breathability to be a far more important attributed than ventilation for backpacking, hiking, mountaineering or most other outdoor sports. This is because if it is really raining hard opening vents to "stay cool" is a sure way to get wet.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

A Note on Breathability
Remember that you can get hot and sweaty while hiking uphill when you're only wearing a base layer. We've overheard far too many people complaining that their shell pants didn't breathe at all, or enough for their needs. Every competitor in this review allows moisture to pass through them. However, they might not always be capable of letting as much moisture pass through as you'd like at any given moment, primarily if you're working hard while potentially wearing too many layers, or while operating at a high exertion rate in warmer temperatures. Consider that if there is a point when your lightweight t-shirt can't pass moisture quick enough to stay completely dry, know the same is likely true for the pants you're wearing. Wear the minimum you can get away with for the conditions.

rain pants - whether day hiking and encountering a fallen log that must be...
Whether day hiking and encountering a fallen log that must be negotiated, hopping across rocks over a stream, or putting up a new route in Patagonia, there are a near infinite amount of reasons why having exceptional range of motion and mobility are important factors (when buying a pair to keep you dry on stormy days). Photo: Graham Zimmerman climbing a new route on Los Gemelos, Torres del Paine area of Chilean Patagonia.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Features


In this category, we compared several features that made a given model easier to use. This includes things like putting on and removing a pant quickly and how well it could be donned over various pieces of footwear. When it starts to rain, it is rarely convenient to remove your footwear; because of this, we gave higher scores to models that were quicker to pull on without removing our boots or shoes. We also take into account any features or adjustments that keep different models from falling down. Finally, we considered pockets in the features category.


We thoroughly tested and compared each model and how easy they were to pull over larger volume boots while mountaineering, snowshoeing, or Nordic skiing (where many people deploy these pants for additional warmth) compared to low volume trail runners or light hiking shoes. Several models utilized designs that let the pants zip entirely in half. While this wasn't a necessity, it certainly made it easier to don the pants over more substantial volume footwear, like snowshoes, crampons, and even skis.

rain pants - all of our testers appreciated the benefits of side zippers...
All of our testers appreciated the benefits of side zippers. However, after extensive testing, most of our testers preferred the 3/4 length designs because they still offered nearly all the benefits of full-length models while being slightly lighter and typically more comofrtable in the waist area.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

We discovered a few minor downsides to the full-zip models, which zip 100% of the way from the waist to the ankle. These models needed to have beefy Velcro or snap closure at the waist (near the top of the zipper along the waist area); if not robust enough, our pants would come undone and sometimes slide down.

Some models with beefy Velcro or snap-style closures would pinch under a pack's waist belt if it was heavily loaded. Full-length zippers are an obvious weight trade-off. Most of our testers (depending on activity) thought that these few ounces (3-5 additional ounces on average for side zips) made donning and shedding our rain trousers far easier and thus were worth the minimal extra weight, particularly for mountaineering applications.

rain pants - some models only had a quarter-length zipper near the cuff of the...
Some models only had a quarter-length zipper near the cuff of the pant. This helped facilitate dawning the pants over lightweight footwear like trail-runners or lightweight hikers but any medium-to-high volume footwear like hiking or mountaineering boots would need to be removed in order to put the pants on.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Among full-zip models, we liked the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic. The Stretch Ozonic feature a low-profile side closure that performed well while worn under larger packs. A built-in webbing waist belt meant that it rarely, if ever, slid down.

With all that talk about full-length zippers, our testers found that in the majority of cases, they preferred 3/4 length, as they strike a nice balance of easy on and off, and ease of use. We loved that the 3/4 zipper saved a bit of weight and didn't require a bulky closure system near the waist of the pant. We also found that we could still pull these pants over most light-to-medium weight footwear.

rain pants - a feature we liked for several reasons and applications (especially...
A feature we liked for several reasons and applications (especially snowy ones) is some type of pant cuff cinching feature. Several pants either sported a Velcro flap or a piece of shock cord and toggle. These types of features were particularly nice for snowy applications because they helped keep snow out of your boots while snowshoeing or hiking and made it less likely that you'd catch a crampon on them while climbing or mountaineering.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The North Face Venture Half-Zip offers a nice balance of price and functionality. Despite featuring only a half-length zipper, its larger diameter legs make it possible to pull over small and medium-volume footwear without much effort. The Marmot PreCip Full Zip received a multitude of high scores but was the most prone to coming un-velcroed while wearing a backpack. Once the Velcro failed, the zipper would creep open.

We loved contenders that featured a waist cinch or belt of some kind as it would help keep our rain pants from creeping down. We liked the Marmot Precip's low profile drawstring closure, but the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic's built-in flat webbing waist belt was the cream of the crop for comfort and functionality.

rain pants - rain pants with hip pockets are nice, but you won&#039;t actually put...
Rain pants with hip pockets are nice, but you won't actually put your hands in them all that often. Doing so funnels rain water from your upper body right towards your crotch.
Credit: Jediah Porter

We also compared the pockets on each model. Because shell pants are worn only occasionally and almost always over pants or shorts that have pockets of their own, we weighted pockets below other features. This was much less of a factor than say, the ease of putting on or our pants off.

rain pants - pockets are useful features, adding to a pants ease of use and...
Pockets are useful features, adding to a pants ease of use and functionality. However, because most folks tend to use their jacket pockets more often, we didn't weigh a pant's number and functionality of pockets as importantly as other factors.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

That said, it is nice to have at least one pocket as an easy place to stash something while cooking in camp or out on the trail. Our testers didn't particularly enjoy low pockets on pants (mid-thigh) because they generally felt less comfortable when storing heavier items.

rain pants - on a super wet hike near snow line on chile&#039;s volcan llaima, lead...
On a super wet hike near snow line on Chile's Volcan Llaima, lead test editor Jed Porter took multiple opportunities to swap pants. It is this head-to-head comparison that allows us to make authoritative conclusions.
Credit: Jediah Porter

Packed Size


For most users, regardless of application, packed size is likely one of the most important features when on the hunt for a pair of shell pants. Even more than rain jackets, rain pants tend to live in the bottom of most packs, taken out occasionally, and used sparingly when the weather turns grim.


The most packable pant in our review was the Outdoor Research Helium, which took up about half the volume of nearly every other contender. Even the next closest models, such as the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, Outdoor Research Foray, or Columbia Rebel Roamer, were all bulkier than the Helium.

rain pants - packed volume is worth considering since your rain pants will live...
Packed volume is worth considering since your rain pants will live inside your pack more often than not.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The Arc'teryx Zeta SL earns high marks for its excellent weather protection and breathability in a form that packs smaller than most. These are the pants you choose for superior weather protection but will carry in your pack most of the time. They're a little smaller than the compared models above but still more substantial than the Helium.

rain pants - since rain pants are a piece of gear most people end up carrying...
Since rain pants are a piece of gear most people end up carrying more than wearing weight is an obviously important factor and we weighed each pair of pants in-house for our review.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Weight


Most people carry their rain pants in their packs more often than they end up wearing them, and thus, we weighted weight higher in our scoring metric than other pieces of technical outerwear we've tested. Even among the selected models, which are all designed to be lighter weight, there was a significant difference in weight.

rain pants - weight is an important factor when selecting rain gear for outdoor...
Weight is an important factor when selecting rain gear for outdoor activities. Most people will likely carry their rain gear much more frequently than they'll wear it, and there is a pretty big difference in weights among models, even among options we tested, despite the fact that they are all geared towards backpacking and hiking.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

We measured the mass of all models on our scale. The Outdoor Research Helium came in at around seven ounces, which was nearly half the weight of many of the pants on our list. While the Helium lacks durability and features, it makes for an excellent "just in case" rain pant. If weight is your primary consideration, the Helium is hard to pass up.


The next lightest pants we tested are the non-full-zip Marmot Precip and the Arc'teryx Zeta SL, which both weigh an impressive 8.0 and 8.6 ounces, respectively. In the case of the Zeta SL, this is notable, particularly because that pair features 3/4 length side zippers. The next lightest models were the Patagonia Torrentshell, the Outdoor Research Foray, and the REI Co-Op Essentials Pant.

rain pants - whether you are simply out for a day hike or 20 pitches up el...
Whether you are simply out for a day hike or 20 pitches up El Captain when it starts to rain, it seems you can never get your rain gear on quick enough. Being able to pull your shell pants over your shoes and existing clothing can never be too convenient, whether it's due to a muddy trail and not wanting to get your socks wet, or because your harness is the only thing keeping you alive. Ryan O'Connell getting prepared just as it starts to rain on the final (exposed to weather) pitches on Tangerine Trip.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Durability


Many people appreciate having the ability to purchase a high-quality product that will be as light as possible.


Every time you kneel or sit while traveling in the backcountry, there is a chance of tearing or puncturing your pants. There is also more overall wear. Your rain pants will walk down overgrown trails, play near crampons, and crawl over logs. While most people don't end up wearing their rain pants as frequently as their rain jacket, they are exposed to more threats.

rain pants - rain pants can see a lot of wear, often even more so than their...
Rain pants can see a lot of wear, often even more so than their upper body counterparts. Even more than the obvious bushwhacking and overgrown trailing hiking, many folks don't think about the times when you sit down on a log for a break, or when you kneel down to fill up your water bottle at a stream. Often times, you are (even unknowingly) grinding rocks, dirt, and pine needles into your pants, slowly wearing them out.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

The most robust pants we tested were the Marmot Minimalist, Outdoor Research Foray, and The North Face Venture Half Zip; these competitors exceeded our expectations for durability. Each competitor withstood at least one week-long mountaineering traverse, which involved a fair amount of bushwhacking. The least durable include the Outdoor Research Helium and the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, which not surprisingly, also happen to be the lightest and most packable options. It is worth noting that the Helium and the Ozonic Pants are durable enough for most hiking and backpacking trips - as long as there is only minimal bushwhacking and you take care crawling over downed trees and the like. The Arc'teryx Zeta SL is surprisingly durable for its 8.6-ounce weight.

rain pants - hopefully you have found this review helpful in choosing the best...
Hopefully you have found this review helpful in choosing the best option to help you to continue to have fun on your next rainy (or wind, or snowy) adventure.
Credit: Ian Nicholson

Conclusion


Using rain pants can help you make the most out of even the stormiest of days. We hope our review delivers the advice you need to help you make the best selection for your next trip, outing, or ambitious goals down the line. We know that making a good choice means that the times you do use rain pants while out on an adventure will be more comfortable and hopefully near every-bit-as-enjoyable than if it was bright and sunny.

Jediah Porter & Ian Nicholson


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