Home » Hiking » Hiking Gear » Best Rain Pants for Hiking & Backpacking

Best Rain Pants for Hiking & Backpacking

Published:

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure for more information.


Download the
Lightweight Hiking Gear List

Add your name and email to download the Lightweight Hiking Gear List

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Sharing is caring!

This is a gear review about all the Best Rain Pants for Hiking and backpacking in 2022.

I’m a big fan of carrying and using rain pants when out on the trail. During the thousands of miles of hiking I’ve done in my life they always find a way into my backpack. When combined with an ultralight rain jacket or even a Backpacking Umbrella you will be safe and dry in the backcountry.

Below I’ve reviewed the best waterproof pants of 2022, they are all available in men’s and women’s sizes.


Best Lightweight Rain Pants for Backpacking 2022

Here is a list of all the best lightweight rain pants for backpacking in 2022:

Best Rain Pants – Overall

Outdoor Research Helium

Outdoor Research Rain Pants

Weight: 6.7oz / 190g
Pros:

> Ultralight
> Packs into it’s own back pocket
> Reasonable Price
Cons:
> Zippers are not long enough – making it hard to get into and out of
>
Limited ventilation
>
Get them now as they are getting hard to find!

The low weight and packability of the Outdoor Research Helium rain pants make them ideal for activities like hiking and backpacking where keeping bulk to a minimum is so important.

I have been using the Outdoor Research Helium ultralight rain pants for thru-hiking many long trails over the last couple of years. They have served me well and I love their light weight and compact size for affordable ultralight rain pants.

The thin material of the Outdoor Research Helium pants doesn’t make it any less tough but I would not like to take these waterproof pants bushwacking through areas with sharp sticks and branches.

The small ankle zippers make the pants ultralight but make them harder to put on without removing your shoes.

Overall, the Outdoor Research Helium pants are one of the best rain pants for backpacking and thru-hiking.

Compare Prices:

Best Ultralight Rain Pants

Zpacks Vertice

Weight: 2.5oz / 70g
Pros:

> Ultralight
> Small pack size
> Large leg fit
Cons:
> No Pockets
>
Not as durable as other pants on this list

If you’re looking for pants that are as light as possible then the Zpacks Vertice pants are a great option.

Not only are they incredibly light, but their extra-wide legs mean you have increased airflow. They do not have zippers so getting into them is slightly more difficult than other waterproof rain pants but they make up for that with their ultra-lightweight.

The Zpacks Vertice is a thin, lightweight material that sacrifices a bit of durability. The weight of the pants ranges from 2.5oz to 3.3oz depending on what size you are.

Overall, If you want to keep your backpacking gear as lightweight as possible, you can’t go wrong with Zpacks Vertice pants. These are one of my favorite rain pants and the best waterproof rain pants for backpacking and hiking. If you are thru-hiking then get a pair of these.

Compare Prices:

Best Waterproof Pants For Backpacking

Arc’Teryx Beta AR Waterproof Pants

Arc'teryx Beta AR waterproof pants

Weight: 1 lb / 460 grams
Pros:

> Very waterproof.
> Very durable material.
> Can be used as ski pants, mountaineering pants, or snowshoeing pants.
> Great 3/4 length zip.
Cons:
> Very Expensive.
> Very heavy.

The Arc’teryx Beta AR waterproof pants are a serious pair of pants best suited to someone spending a lot of time in the backcountry or who wants their rain pants to double as a pair of non-insulated ski pants.

The Arc’teryx Beta AR is made with Gore-Tex are very waterproof. And features a long 3/4 length waterproof zip which is not only functional but can be used for venting heat when needed.

These waterproof pants might be the most functional and most waterproof pants in this review but they are also the heaviest and most expensive.

Overall, the Arc’teryx Beta AR is a serious pair of rain pants. They are the highest quality and best for people who spend a lot of time off marked trails in the backcountry and take their time in nature very seriously. If you only spend your time on marked trails then these would be overkill for you.

Compare Prices:

Most Eco Friendly Rain Pants

Marmot Precip Eco

Weight: 8.3oz / 235g
Pros:

> 2 Good Hand Pockets and a Back Pocket
> Full-Length Zips – Good for venting heat
> Good baggy fit with room for layers
Cons:
> Doesn’t pack into itself

Made with 100% recycled material, the Marmot Precip Eco Pants are secure and durable, thanks to the dual slider zip on both legs secured by velcro straps at the waist and metal snaps at the ankles. For extra protection, they can be locked down for ultimate rain protection or opened wide on hot days for some relief from the heat.

Marmot Precip Eco Pants uses NanoPro waterproofing in many of its clothing items, and while it may not be as effective as Gore-Tex, Pertex or eVent it still performs well. The ‘Eco’ in the name of course refers to its environmentally friendly construction, so when you buy these pants you know you’re helping the planet!

The elastic waistband will stretch to fit well, while the velcro at your hips secures the zipper and makes sure the pants fit around your waist. The waterproof pants have a casual baggy fit, which gives you plenty of room for layers.

The full two-way zippers allow you to open the pants from hip to foot, making them even more breathable when you need to vent some of the heat build-up. The pants have two zippered hand pockets and a zippered back pocket that is easy to access.

Overall, the Marmot Precip Eco Pants are slightly heavier than some of the other waterproof pants in this gear review but their environmentally friendly heritage makes them a great choice.

Check Prices:

Most Comfortable Rain Pants

Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic

Weight: 10oz / 283g
Pros:

> Comfortable
> Quiet
> Built-in Belt (men)
> Full-Length Zip
> Compact – Packs into own pocket
Cons:
> A bit Heavy
> Average Pockets

Comfort is of course so important with breathable rain pants, and you can’t go wrong with the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic. The soft, stretchy fabric is not only easy to move in but also quiet to move around in.

The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic pants also have full-length zippers for ventilation which also makes them easy to put on or take off.  The soft, stretchy fabric allows for relaxed, unrestricted movement.

Despite its compact design and good ventilation, it is a bit heavier and bulkier than ultralight pants. They do pack up quite small into their own pocket for storage but I would have liked to see better pockets and only the men’s pants have a built-in belt.

Overall, I like the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic. The quiet stretch material is great and I think we will start to see many more gear companies making quality rain pants from material like this in the future.

Compare Prices:

Best Lightweight Rain Pants

Montbell Versalite

Weight: 3.2oz / 91g
Pros:

> Ultralight
> Small Pack Size
Cons:
> No Side Zips – Difficult to put on and take off without removing your shoes
>
No Pockets
>
Limited Ventilation

A good minimalist option, Montbell Versalite pants are incredibly lightweight and pack down incredibly small, making them perfect for thru-hiking and backpacking. 

While the material isn’t as durable as some others, they are still breathable despite having no zippers for ventilation.

The small zippers make the waterproof pants ultralight but make them harder to put on without removing your shoes.

Overall, these are one of the best ultralight rain pants for thru-hiking but they lack the durability to be used off marked trails.

Compare Prices:

Best Stretch Rain Pants

Marmot Bantamweight

Weight: 3.7oz / 104g
Pros:

> Very comfortable
> Ultralight
> Small Pack Size
Cons:
> Short zips make it hard to put the pants on and off
> Not as durable as some of the other pants on this review

> Getting difficult to find in most retailers

Compact, nicely fitted, and extremely lightweight, the Marmot Bantamweight are made with a thin, stretchy material that makes them easy to move in and fairly breathable.

The waistband in particular is very comfortable under a backpack hip belt. However, being so lightweight means you do have to be very careful with them. Nonetheless, they are still incredibly comfortable, light, and packable.

These packable rain pants pack down incredibly small into their own pocket but the thin material means they are not as durable as some of the rain pants in this review. The small zippers make the pants ultralight but make them harder to put on without removing your shoes.

Their thin lightweight material means these pants are not as durable as others. The zippers mean these pants are difficult to put on and remove without taking off your shoes in the process.

Overall, I like these ultralight stretch rain pants but they are getting harder to find, so get them quick before they disappear.

Compare Prices:

Most Durable Rain Pants

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L

Weight: 11.8oz / 335g
Pros:

> Durable
> Long Zips make them easy to get on and off
> Good Pockets and packs into its own pocket
Cons:
> Heavy
>
Large pack size

Affordable, durable, and solidly made, the thicker fabric used in Patagonia Torrentshell 3L makes it more protective against brush and heavy rain than other ultralight pants.

They also feature convenient pockets where you can store your keys or wallet. These are particularly suited for front-country use. Their thick fabric protects against heavy rain.

If you want lightweight rain pants for the backcountry where the trails end and the bushwacking begins, the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L is worth considering. These offer good protection and are easy to take on and off.

The pockets are good and work better than most in this gear review. 

Overall, the Patagonia Torrentshell 3L are great lightweight rain pants but unlike other rain pants they are bulkier and the material is a bit stiff.  Buy these if you want solid rain pants that are durable and waterproof.

Compare Prices:

More Rain Pants to Consider

Outdoor Research Foray

Outdoor Research Foray Rain Pants

Weight: 10.7 oz / 302 grams
Pros:

> Lightweight.
> Very waterproof Gore-Tex material.
> Good 3/4 length Zip.
Cons:
> Like most other lightweight rain pants they are not so durable for backcountry use.

The Outdoor Research Foray rain pants are like the big brother of the Helium Pants except they aren’t much stronger.

The pants use high-quality and lightweight 2-layer Gore-Tex Packlite fabric. The fabric is not only very waterproof but allows the pants to pack down to a small size into the back packet.

The Outdoor Research Foray has a good waterproof 3/4 zip which not only works well to allow you to put on and take off the pants without needing to remove your boots, but they also work well at venting heat when needed. Not all pant zips are able to do this.

Overall, the Outdoor Research Foray pants are good quality lightweight Gore-Tex Rain Pants.

Compare Prices:

Marmot Minimalist

Weight: 13.7 oz / 298 grams
Pros:

> Good hand pockets.
> Very waterproof Gore-Tex Packlite fabric.
> Lightweight.
Cons:
> Not much availability at the moment.

The Marmot Minimalist rain pants are an interesting pair of pants. They almost bridge the gap between rain pants and hiking pants.

The Marmot Minimalist has features usually only found in hiking pants such as side hand pockets, a zipped fly, and articulated knees for increased range of movement. These handy features work in favor of the user.

The Gore-Tex Paclite is a lightweight 2-layer fabric that does a very good job and keeping you dry and offering an above-average level of breathability. The ankle zip is good enough that you don’t need to take off your boots when using these pants.

Overall, the Marmot Minimalist is a good pair of functional rain pants for someone wanting pants that have features similar to normal hiking pants.

Compare Prices:

Arc’teryx Zeta SL

Weight: 8.1oz / 230g
Pros:

> Lightweight
> Durable
> Good fit
> Good long zips
Cons:
> No Pockets
>
Can feel a little stiff

The Arc’teryx Zeta SL Rain Pants offer a great balance of being lightweight and durable at the same time, made of tougher and more substantial materials than similar pants.

Their trim, natural-looking fit means they’ll look as good as they feel. Not only are these pants incredibly lightweight but you can pack them down small too. They are durable, especially around the reinforced cuffs, and provide good ventilation.

The Arc’teryx Zeta SL has long zips that make it easy to put on and take off. They have no pockets but everything else about these rain pants is great.

Overall, the Arc’teryx Zeta SL is one of the best waterproof pants for backpacking but as they are discontinued there are not many of them left, so if you can find a pair you are getting quality. They are a good durable option and one of the best overall.

Compare Prices:


Other Waterproof Pants to Consider

Here are some other pants that are not on the list but worthy of consideration:

  • REI Co-Op Essential rain pants: The REI Co-Op Essential rain pants are a budget lightweight option.
  • REI Co-Op Rainier Full Zip pants: The REI Co-Op Rainier Full Zip pants are a full feature full-length zip option that still comes at a good price.

Buyer’s Guide

Testing waterproof Pants for the gear review

You may have noticed there are a few features that make up a high-quality pair of rain pants. It’s important to look out for these features when buying, as there is nothing worse than a hike being ruined by subpar clothing and equipment. If you plan on being outdoors then you should take a look at the Tips for Backpacking in the Rain.

Below, we’ll take a look at some key features.


Ventilation

You can never have too much airflow, or at least, the option of having more airflow. Zippers along the sides of rain gear mean you can let excess heat out if you get too warm. But they come at the cost of weight and durability. Zips are a weak point on the best rain pants just as they are on a rain jacket.

However, some ultralight rain pants zippers (especially those with a roomier fit) breathe almost as well with pants featuring zips because they’re normally made of thinner materials. 


Condensation

When wearing a pair of rain pants on a cold, rainy day, condensation may form on the inside fabric. When people see this, they may assume the rain pant is faulty, but in fact your rain pants are doing their job.

If you feel wetness forming inside your pants, don’t panic. As long as you’re wearing appropriate wicking layers underneath it’ll likely evaporate with body heat, and as long as you keep moving you should stay dry and comfortable.

But to be as comfortable as possible when backpacking, make sure you look after your rain gear, such as airing it out at night. You should also avoid bushwhacking, that is a guaranteed way of ripping holes in the pants and also your rain jacket. 

However, it must be noted that no hiking gear will ever be truly 100% waterproof. If you spend all day in torrential rain, then the gear will become wet at some point.

It’s good to know this to avoid disappointment if your rain pants do get wet on a particularly wet, miserable day.

The most important thing is that your rain pants keep you dry for as long as possible, but always keep in mind that there is a limit to just how dry they’ll keep you.


Layers

The number of layers a pair of rain pants has will determine how waterproof and breathable they are. It’s more common to find 2-layers and they are usually the most affordable.

They’re typically designed with a Durable Water Repellent-coated (DWR) outer shell and a breathable liner that is usually made with mesh.

Meanwhile, 2.5-layer pants are typically the lightest and made with the same DWR outer shell. The inside layer is made of a thin polyurethane laminate or coating that is designed to prevent sweat and dirt from clogging up the breathable pores of the pants from the inside. 

A 3-layer rain pant is the most effective. They have everything 2-layers and 2.5-layer pants have, such as a DWR-coated outer shell, a breathable and waterproof midlayer, and then a polyurethane lining of the innermost layer. But they are also heavier.

Pro Tip: Wearing hiking pants to bed in your sleeping bag (only if they are clean and dry) adds an extra layer of insulation. They work much better than you think. Try it and you might be amazed how much warmer you will be.

Weight and Packability

Good packability and a light carrying weight is so important when it comes to rain pants. Layering can be tricky to get a hang of when you first start hiking, and you definitely learn from experience.

After a while, you’ll have it down pat, but you may be unsure what to take with you at first, or when you need to add or remove a layer. Your rain gear is your outer layer, a shield protecting you from the elements.

Rain gear will usually be in your pack a lot of the time, only busted out when you need it.

Therefore, your rain pants can’t be heavy or bulky and must be easy to carry around when you’re not wearing them. They should be easy to wrap up and tuck away into your pack.

Most rain pants fit this bill and are packable and lightweight by default. However, some will be better and lighter than others. Lightweight, minimalist pants are often all the protection you need from light rain and wind.


Comfort

Hiking gear has evolved to the point where you no longer have to settle for plasticky materials, pants that restrict your movements, or uncomfortable waistbands that dig into you.

There are plenty of great rain pants that are designed with movement, comfort, and hip-belt compatibility in mind. All of the items in the gear review are compatible to be worn over the top of hiking pants.

Best Rain Pants Review

Durability

While ultralight rain pants are great when you want to reduce the amount of weight you’re carrying around, the fabrics do wear out quicker. If you’re venturing out into severe weather or tough terrain, you may want to invest in a thicker pair of heavy-duty rain pants.


Zippers

While I touched on zippers when talking about ventilation, let’s talk about their other function: removal of the pants.

Rain pants that have full-length zippers offer the most airflow and are the easiest to put on and take off while keeping your shoes. But zippers do add bulk and weight.


Price

A good pair of waterproof pants are quite reasonably priced compared to many other items of outdoor clothing. Many of the backpacking waterproof pants on this list are priced between $100 to $200 with the best of the best rain pants coming in at almost $500. You would only spend that amount of money if you lived in a wet area and went to the backcountry A LOT.


Conclusion

Here is a list of all the best backpacking rain pants in 2022:

Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

Frequently Asked Questions

When Should I Put My Rain Pants On?

Because rain pants retain body heat, you’ll probably sweat and get them wet from the inside if you put them on too soon. As long as you’re wearing synthetic clothing, it’s alright if you get a little wet before you get into your rain pants.
If you keep moving you will warm up quickly and the layers underneath will start to try.
But when you’re hiking in dewy mornings when the vegetation is wet, it may be a good idea to put your rain pants on straight away. The ability to dress for hiking comes with experience.
While taking off your shoes to get into rain pants can be a pain, there are sit pads you can stand on to avoid getting your feet wet. It also protects the backside of your pants when you sit down to remove your shoes.

Are There Alternatives To Rain Pants?

Yes, if you don’t want to wear rain pants, rain skirts and rain kilts are becoming popular alternative to wearing rain pants. They’re easier to take on and off than rain pants, have great airflow, and are often lighter. However, they don’t trap body heat as well as rain pants, don’t block the wind as well, or protect your lower legs. They can also get caught on brush easily when hiking on overgrown trails. 

How Should Rain Pants Fit?

Just like any other pants, you should always review your size before buying rain pants so you’re getting the correct fit.
While you want the waist to fit well, the pants themselves should be a bit loose to allow for air circulation. It’s also important to bear in mind you will be wearing hiking boots with your rain pants.
These boots are usually bulky, so you need to make sure your rain pants will fit over them. 
While they should be a bit lose, they need to fit comfortably over your normal gear. As elasticated waists are now common on rain pants, they should sit snug but not too tightly on your waist.


Best Backpacking Rain Pants

Sharing is caring!

Photo of author
About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Chile.

Download the
Lightweight Hiking Gear List

Add your name and email to download the Lightweight Hiking Gear List

Invalid email address
We promise not to spam you. You can unsubscribe at any time.