Best Overall Rain Pant for Packing
Outdoor Research Foray Pants
: 10 oz | Pockets
Great weather protection
The Outdoor Research Foray is a compact and light protection layer made with excellent materials and 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. Other full-protection and readily breathable products are usually much heavier. Light products in this category are usually inexpensive and compromise on performance through the use of lesser 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. If you will wear your rain pants for more extended use, our next Editors Choice winner is a better option.
Read review: Outdoor Research Foray
Top Pick for Light Weight
Outdoor Research Helium Pant
: 6.5 oz | Pockets
Lightest, most compact in the review
Elastic waistband is comfortable and functional
Less durable than most
Hard to pull on over boots
The Outdoor Research Helium wins for being 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 a just-in-case pair on day hikes, bike trips, cross-country ski days, and just about any outdoor activity in which the weather can take a blustery, wet turn.
The Helium, despite its weight, offers respectable storm worthiness; it just isn't super quick to pull on, and provides only average breathability. However, its upside is a minimal packed-volume (half of most pants in our fleet) that weighs less than seven ounces. This is by far the lightest pant in our review and is undoubtedly a benefit for specific users.
Read review: Outdoor Research Helium Pants
Best Budget Buy
Columbia Rebel Roamer
: 12.5 oz | Pockets
Above average durability
Excellent storm worthiness
Not easy to put on without removing footwear
We scoured dozens of options to find the best pant for the least amount of money. In the end, we felt that the Columbia Rebel Roamer easily stood out in this category, far outperforming its competitors in the budget price range. Even among more expensive options, the Rebel Roamer offers decent weather resistance, packed volume, and versatility, at a lower-than-average weight.
The Rebel Roamer's only downsides are that it isn't super breathable and it offers very few features (not even a single pocket). For folks on a tighter budget, or for those not wanting to spend a lot of money on something they are likely to carry in their pack 90+ percent of the time, the Rebel Roamer is light enough to work as a just-in-case layer but versatile enough to use for downhill skiing or snowboarding.
Read review: Columbia Rebel Roamer
Why You Should Trust Us
Our expert panel was spearheaded by gear testers Jediah Porter and Ian Nicholson. Jed is an international certified American Mountain Guide, leading adventures that range from rock climbing to ski mountaineering. Ian is also an internationally certified IFMGA/UIAGM mountain guide. Living and guiding in the Pacific Northwest, wet weather is a normal occurrence. Ian estimates that over the last two decades, he has donned rain gear over 5,000 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.
We spent upwards of 100 hours testing the 10 best models on the market in the rainy Pacific Northwest. Our team hiked, backpacked, and climbed through Washington's National Parks, amassing a wealth of data about the overall performance of each in real-world applications.
Related: How We Tested Rain Pants
Analysis and Test Results
Rain pants that keep you dry and comfortable when the weather turns soggy can be worth every mile you might have carried them; especially if the sky opens up, and the wind starts to blow. A waterproof shell protects your lower body and ensures comfort and safety on both shorter and extended adventures. Even if these pants live largely unused in the bottom of your pack the majority of the time, they will instantly become worth it when you're prepared on a stormy day (or week), allowing you to continue your adventure, despite the potentially grim weather. The pants tested can be used for hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, snowshoeing, cold-weather nordic skiing, and a slew of other outdoor activities.
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.
We chose our test fleet from over fifty models. We took into account a broad array of designs and features that appealed to our review team. These ranged from affordable rain protection for short day hikes and general outdoor activities to ultralight rain protection for extended backpacking trips and mountaineering.
Trekking and testing our exciting fleet!
Whether you are searching for your first pair, a modern replacement for an old worn out pair, a versatile option that can pull double duty for occasional downhill or backcountry skiing, or an ultralight model to add to your quiver, you're starting your research in the right spot.
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.
The best of these pants lock out the rain and snow while allowing your sweat to escape and minimize any restrictions of mobility. This allows the user to continue their activity despite the conditions, whether scrambling to a mountaintop or out on a rainy morning hike.
We selected 11 models among nearly a hundred options for this review. We picked models based on overall performance, specific features that were advantageous for certain applications and the best options among more price pointed models.
We take pride in determining the cream of the crop for each category we review, as well as the contenders that offer the highest price to value ratio. For 2018 we have honored two Best Buy winners - both of which offer up exceptional performance for a price that won't light your wallet on fire. We've awarded the Columbia Rebel Roamer our Best Bang for the Buck Awards and believe they offer exceptional performance, especially for their price point.
A rain pant should keep its user dry in the rain, whether hiking, backpacking, watching a sporting event or out walking the dog. In our scoring, this was the most heavily weighted category - at 30 percent. Manufacturers used many different construction styles and waterproof fabrics. While there has been a significant amount of testing (conducted via the manufacturer) to quantify how waterproof the fabrics are, it's important to understand that all of the pants in this review use fabrics that are waterproof, and it's more a matter of design as to how well they kept us dry.
The stormy environments included in our testing spanned from exceptionally wet spring ski mountaineering on the volcanos above Chile's temperate rain forests to snowshoeing around Lake Tahoe, with a handful of classic mountaineering adventures thrown in for good measure.
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.
All the pants we tested had the seams taped after sewing, offering as watertight of a package as possible. What differentiates the performance when the rain starts driving down mostly comes down to each models' overall design, including pocket closures, how well the vents stayed closed, and to a slightly lesser extent, the longevity of its DWR.
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.
The material makes a more noticeable difference regarding breathability and 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.
All 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.
Rain, sleet, or snow is not going to 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.
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.
We also tested how each contender kept us dry in the field, using them over the course of 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 Beta AR kept us the driest in both real world and side-by-side testing. All four of these scored a perfect 10 out of 10.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic and the REI Talusphere Full Zip performed nearly as well as the previously mentioned models in our testing, scoring an 8 out of 10.
The DWR beading up water, not only keeping the wearer dry from the outside, but also maintaining breathability by not wetting out. The photo shows the Minimalist Pant by Marmot.
Another important factor to take into consideration is the longevity of the pant's water resistance and its durable water repellent (DWR) treatment. This treatment is factory applied to the exterior of the fabric 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 a little 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 REI Talusphere Full Zip stood out above the rest for their DWR treatment. All the pants we tested beaded water well when we first bought them. Re-apply DWR when needed.
Ian Nicholson runs into... rain pant testing!
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 users range-of-motion and ability to engage in particular actives. The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, with its super stretchy material, had the best overall mobility and was by far 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 REI Talusphere Full Zip also featured a stretchy fabric, but it wasn't nearly as stretchy as the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic; both of these contenders scored a perfect 10 out of 10 in the Comfort and Mobility metric.
For most extended outings, we are often carrying a great deal of equipment. Saving a few extra ounces on a piece of gear that most people are carrying anyway is a plus, especially if you find a pair that doesn't sacrifice much in the way of weather resistance. Photo: preparing for the storm while camped at Sahale Arm, North Cascades Washington.
The Marmot Minimalist wasn't too far behind the Talusphere, offering a solid design with good articulation. It's worth noting that the Columbia Rebel Roamer, despite being inexpensive, offered above average mobility and comfort, taking home an 8 out of 10.
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.
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 was 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.
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 wear to quickly pull the pant on, or easily remove them over larger volume footwear. The reason they don't offer ideal ventalation is because if it's actually raining hard or you're walking up a damp bushy trail, water will just run inside your pants. This soaks your pants and your boots quicker than if you weren't wearing them at all.
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 an overgrown trail, having your side zippers open isn't an option. In fact, opening your side zips on a rainy day is a quick way to soak your legs and your boots, as any water that comes in your vents is likely to run down the inside of your pant leg and directly into your footwear. Brrrr. Due to this unavoidable problem, we weighted breathability significantly higher than a pant's ability to ventilate.
Side-By-Side Hiking Test
Comparing breathability was a difficult task. We asked several testers and friends of testers to help compare models through extensive real-world use and side-by-side testing.
We tested the breathability of all of these pants on wet hiking and backpacking trips as well as in a handful of more systematic tests.
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.
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 and you can't stop and take your pants off. The reason that most shell pant manufacturers design pants with full and three-quarter length side zippers is to make them easier to quickly put on and remove (AKA pull on without having to remove footwear).
In the end, the most breathable pant in our review was the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic; it took home the only perfect 10 out of 10 score in this metric. The Ozonic is constructed with Dry.Q Elite fabric. This is a General Electric fabric (they also make EVent) that has been rebranded by Mountain Hardwear. Unlike Gore-tex, Dry.Q Elite is air permeable and doesn't require the wearer to build up heat in exchange for breathability. The Arc'teryx pants achieve their breathability with Gore-Tex and full-size zip ventilation. Trailing closely behind, the next most breathable options were the Marmot Minimalist and REI Talusphere Full Zip both scoring a 9 out of 10.
The last models worth noting is the Marmot PreCip Full Zip and regular 1/4 zip iterations. While these Marmot PreCip pants are not quite as breathable as the previously mentioned models their breathability is impressive at the price points they hit. The Patagonia Torrentshell pants breathe similarly to the Marmot PreCip products.
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.
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.
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 having to remove our boots or shoes). We also took into account any features or adjustments that helped keep different models from falling down. Finally, we considered pockets in the features category.
We thoroughly tested and compared each model regarding 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 completely zip in half. While this wasn't a necessity, it certainly made it easier to don the pants over larger volume footwear, snowshoes, crampons and even skis.
We compared several features that made these pants easier to use, focusing mostly on how easy each model was to put on and remove. Here, Rebecca Schroeder pulls a pair of shell pants over the top of her skate skiing tights to add some warmth on a cold day in Mazama, WA.
We did discover a few small downsides to the full zip models. For example, some models needed to have a beefy velcro or snap closure at the waist (near the top of the zipper along the waist); if there wasn't a robust enough closure, our pants sometimes slid down. Some of these models' velcro flaps could have been beefier, as they'd unexpectedly come undone, even when we were hiking with our pants zipped up. Once undone, the side zips would slowly start to unzip, and our pants would annoyingly slide down. Conversely, 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.
While we liked the idea of full side zips and their ability to be pulled over any boot, our hips appreciated the comfort that a 3/4 length zipper provided while wearing a backpack; there wasn't any excess Velcro or other materials to be pinched against our hips.
Among full zip models, we liked the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic. It features a low profile side closure that performed well while worn under larger packs. Built-in webbing waist belt meant that it rarely, if ever, slid down.
When you need shell pants, you don't want to take off your boots. Whether with full side zips, or smaller openings at the cuffs, you need to be able to get your pants on over whatever your chosen footwear.
Among the price-point pants, the The North Face Venture Half-Zip offered a nice balance of price and functionality. Despite featuring only a half-length zipper, its larger diameter legs made it possible to pull over smaller and even medium volume footwear without much effort. The Marmot PreCip Full Zip received a multitude of high scores but were the most prone to coming un-velcroed while wearing a backpack. Once the velcro failed the zipper would creep open. The REI Talusphere Full Zip was also a strong performer in other categories but had a waistline that was our least favorite when worn under larger packs with heavier loads.
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.
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.
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.
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. That said, it is nice to have at least one pocket option. Our testers didn't particularly enjoy low pockets on pants (mid-thigh) because they would generally feel less comfortable when storing heavier items.
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.
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 people's packs, only taken out occasionally and sparingly used 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 product in our review. Even the next closest models, such as the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, or Columbia Rebel Roamer were all at least 40% bulkier than the Outdoor Research Helium.
The Editors Choice Outdoor Research Foray takes this honor for its excellent weather protection and breathability in a form that packs smaller than most. These are the pants you choose for excellent weather protection but will carry in your pack most of the time.
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.
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.
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.
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 Outdoor Research Helium lacked durability and features, it makes for an excellent "just in case" rain pant. If weight is a primary consideration of yours, the Helium is hard to pass up.
The Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic was particularly impressive; for a little more than 10 ounces, it finished among the top contenders in our fleet in this scoring metric. These include full-length side zippers, a webbing belt closure, and mega stretchy fabric; these were all features that the Outdoor Research Helium didn't offer (and the Stretch Ozonic was only three ounces heavier). While a little heavier than the Ozonic and the Helium, the Marmot Minimalist Pant was still lighter than average while providing some of the best durability in the review. The OR Foray is about the same weight as the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, but packs a little smaller. This is attributable mainly to the shorter zippers on the Foray.
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.
Many people appreciate having the ability to purchase a high-quality product that will be as light as possible; however, it's worth noting that most of the time, rain pants see far more wear than their rain jackets counterparts - even though they're often used less.
Every time you kneel or sit while traveling in the backcountry, there is a chance of tearing of 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 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.
The most robust pants we tested were the Arc'teryx Beta AR, the Marmot Minimalist, and The North Face Venture Half Zip. All of these competitors exceeded our expectations for durability, especially when compared to others in the review. Each competitor withstood at least one week-long mountaineering traverse which involved a fair amount of bushwhacking, holding up better than we expected. The least durable include the Outdoor Research Helium and the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, which not surprisingly, also happen to also be the lightest and most packable options. It is worth noting that the Outdoor Research Helium and the Mountain Hardwear 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.
For most users, packed size, along with weight, is one of the most important considerations, especially for a pant that is more frequently carried rather than worn.
Using rain pants is not that much fun. Nor is choosing them, for most. We hope that our review and our diligence delivers advice for the selection part. We also hope that making a good choice for you means that the times you do use rain pants "in the wild" will be more enjoyable and comfortable. Even if you carry rain pants 50 days to use them 4 short hours, you will likely be thankful for making a thorough and wise examination of the options.
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.