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Best Rain Pants for Hiking & Backpacking in 2021

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This is a gear review about all the best Rain Pants for Hiking in 2021.

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 you will be safe and dry in the backcountry.

Below I’ve reviewed 8 of the best rain pants for hiking on the market right now, they are all available in men’s and women’s sizes.


Best Ultralight Rain Pants for Backpacking 2021

Here is a list of all the best lightweight rain pants for backpacking in 2021:


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 are secure and durable, thanks to the dual slider zips 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 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 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 two zippered hand pockets and a zippered back pocket that are easy to access.

Overall, they are slightly heavier than some of the other rain pants in this gear review but their environmentally friendly heritage make them a great choice.

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Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic

Weight: 10oz / 283g
Pros:

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

Comfort is of course so important with 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.

These 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 mens pants have a built in belt.

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

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Outdoor Research Helium

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 these 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.

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

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

Overall, these are great ultralight rain pants for thru hiking.

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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 very breathable despite having no zippers for ventilation.

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

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


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 rain pants but they make up for that with their ultra lightweight.

The thin, lightweight material sacrifices a bit of durability. The weight of the pants range 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 the best ultralight rain pants for thru hiking. If you are thru hiking then get a pair of these.


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 make 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 ultralight rain pants pack down incredibly small into their own pocket but the thin material means they are not as durable as some other 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.


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 long zips make it easy to put on and take off. They have no pockets but everything else about these rain pants is great.

Overall, one of the best lightweight rain pants for backpacking. They are good durable option.


Patagonia Torrentshell 3L

Weight: 11.8oz / 335g
Pros:

> Durable
> Long Zips make them easy to get on and off
> Good Pockets and packs into it’s 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 then these are 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, these are great lightweight rain pants but they are bulkier than some other pants, and the material is a bit stiff.  Buy these if you want solid rain pants that are durable and waterproof.


Buyer’s Guide

Rain Pants 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.

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 pants 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 of all rain pants.

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 rain pants on a cold, rainy day, condensation may form on the inside fabric. When people see this, they may assume their rain pants are 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. 

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. 

3-layer pants are 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.


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 unsettle 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. 


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, are the easiest to put on and take off while keeping your shoes. But zippers do add bulk and weight.


Frequently Asked Questions

Best Rain Pants Review

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.

Pro Tip: Wearing hiking pants to bed (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.


Are there alternatives to rain pants?

Yes, if you don’t want to wear rain pants, rain skirts and rain kilts are becoming popular for those who love ultralight backpacking. 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 loose, 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.

Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

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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 Sydney, Australia.

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