Enjoying the trails on a clear day is blissful, but unpredictable rain can transform a pleasant hike into a wet and uncomfortable ordeal. The challenges of wet clothing go beyond discomfort; there’s also the risk of chafing and hypothermia in cooler weather. While a trusted rain jacket is essential, packing rain pants is as important.
Preparation for unexpected downpours is crucial. Arm yourself with the best rain pants, designed to provide waterproofing, comfort, and breathability, to ensure that sudden rain doesn’t ruin your outdoor adventure.
In this guide, you’ll find reviews of good rain pants from brands like Arc’Teryz, Outdoor Research, Marmot and more. We’ll explain why we picked the Arc’Teryx Beta AR pants as our overall top choice, and will explain which features you should consider when choosing the right pair of water resistant pants for you!
Table of Contents
- Top Choices by Category
- What should you consider when buying waterproof pants?
- What should you consider when buying waterproof pants?
- Best waterproof pants for Hiking: The Verdict
At a Glance: Quick Recommendations
Arc’teryx Beta AR
“A comfortable, tough, and high-performing pant that are built to withstand the very worst the weather can throw at you.”
Outdoor Research Foray
“A highly protective pant that boasts a handful of handy, non-standard features and impressive breathability.”
REI Co-op Essential
“This low-cost pant is the perfect pick for hikers who need a simple emergency shell for when the weather takes a turn for the worse.”
“A durable, mobile Gore-Tex pant at a fair price.”
Outdoor Research Helium
“Weighing just 5.4 ounces yet offering protection on par with far heftier models, this ultralight option is ideal for backpackers and gram-counting minimalists.”
Marmot PreCip Full-Zip Rain Pants
“A simple but highly durable emergency shell that ticks all of the essential boxes for the average hiker.”
REI XeroDry GTX
“These lightweight pants provide all the awesomeness of Gore-Tex PacLite technology at a very palatable price.”
Black Diamond Stormline Stretch
“The Stormline combine extra-stretchy fabric with a gusset seat and knee articulation to provide all the mobility needed for more technical adventures.”
Top Choices by Category
Budget: Outdoor Research Helium, Marmot PreCip, REI Co-Op Essential
Gore-Tex: Arc’teryx Beta AR, REI XeroDry GTX, Marmot Minimalist
Performance: Arc’teryx Beta AR, OR Helium, Black Diamond Stormline Stretch
What should you consider when buying waterproof pants?
We’ve shortlisted the following tested rain pants as our top choices after years of trials on the trails.
- Arc’teryx Beta AR
- Outdoor Research Foray
- REI Co-op Essential
- Marmot Minimalist Pants
- Outdoor Research Helium
- Marmot PreCip Eco Full-Zip Pants
- REI XeroDry GTX
- Black Diamond StormLine Stretch
Arc’teryx Beta AREditor’s Choice
Waterproofing: 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro ⸱ HH: 28,000mm ⸱ MVTR: 25.000 g/m2/24 h ⸱ Zipper: ¾ length ⸱ Weight: 12.5 oz.
The Arc’teryx Beta AR achieves the ideal balance of robust waterproofing, optimal breathability, long-term durability, and have a wealth of intelligent features, earning it our Editor’s Choice award.
Along with the Outdoor Foray and REI XeroDry GTX, these are the most waterproof and breathable rainproof pants on our list, boasting a hydrostatic head of 28,000mm and MVTR of 25,000 g/m²/24h. This combo makes them both “bombproof” in regards to waterproofing and breathable enough for use in warm conditions and more high-output activities.
Weighing in at 12.5 oz., the Beta AR are a little on the heavy side, but their feature set makes the added weight worth carrying. There is a thigh-length zipper for ventilation, making them easy to take on and off without removing your hiking boots. They also have articulated knees, a gusset crotch, reinforced cuffs, and a pair of water-tight zippered pockets.
The Beta ARs are among the priciest pants out there. Nevertheless, their outstanding performance in every metric means they provide great value for money regardless.
- Solid waterproofing
- Highly breathable
- 40D ripstop fabric
- Excellent mobility
- Cuff-to-thigh zippers
- Reinforced instep patches help protect against damage by boots and crampons
- Overkill for infrequent hikers
Bottom-Line: Boasting a performance-oriented design, outstanding waterproofing and breathability, and tough, hard-wearing fabrics, it’s easy to see why these are the best men’s rain pants on the market.
Outdoor Research ForayRunner Up
Waterproofing: 2-layer Gore-Tex PacLite ⸱ HH: 28,000mm ⸱ MVTR: 25,000 g/m2/24 h ⸱ Zipper: ¾-length, two-way ⸱ Weight: 11.5 oz.
The Outdoor Research Foray combines the benefits of Gore-Tex’s lightweight, ultra-breathable, and highly waterproof PacLite technology with a well-thought-out design, making them a solid option for all types of inclement weather and our runner-up.
With a hydrostatic head of 28,000 and MVTR of 25,000 g/m2/24 h, the Foray are the most waterproof and breathable rain pants on our list, along with the Arc’teryx Beta AR and REI XeroDry GTX. While a little heavier than both these models, the Foray includes a few nice touches that are worth the extra weight.
In addition to mobility-enhancing features like knee articulation and a gusset crotch, the Foray have two-way zippers for easy ventilation, an elastic drawcord waist, snap closure cuffs, loops for instep laces, and a handy carabiner loop that lets you attach them to the outside of your pack.
- Highly breathable and waterproof fabric
- Gusset crotch
- Articulated knees
- Two-way zippers
- Rear pocket doubles as a stuff sack
- Quite heavy
Bottom-Line: These waterproof pants for men might be a little on the heavy side for some but offer outstanding protection and durability.
REI Co-op EssentialBest Budget
Waterproofing: 2.5-layer waterproof-breathable fabric ⸱ HH: N/A ⸱ MVTR: N/A ⸱ Zipper: ¼-length ⸱ Weight: 9.5 oz.
The REI Co-op Essential are simple yet reliable rain pants that do exactly what you need them to do when the wet weather starts, and all at a budget-friendly price.
Despite this option being geared towards the average hiker it still offers significantly above-average performance and at a very palatable price point. They’re made with 2.5-layer waterproof-breathable fabric that provides enough airflow for moderately intense hikes and is more than capable of fending off heavy rain showers.
At 9.5 oz., these are also the second lightest in our review after the OR Helium.
Compared to the next cheapest pant on our list, the Marmot PreCip, the Essential are a little more basic. There’s no ripstop fabric, only one zippered pocket instead of three, and they aren’t quite as breathable. However, the Essential do have nicely articulated knees, sealed seams, an elastic waist, and pack into a similarly tiny bundle when not in use.
- Waterproof and breathable
- Not as waterproof or breathable as pricier options
- Only one pocket
- ¼-length ankle zippers
Bottom-Line: A simple and unpretentious pant that does what most hikers will need it to do and to a relatively high standard.
Marmot Minimalist PantsHonorable Mention
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex PacLite ⸱ HH: 28,000 ⸱ MVTR: 20,000 ⸱ Zipper: Quarter-length ⸱ Weight: 11 oz.
Marmot Minimalist Pants are an excellent choice for hikers willing to carry a few extra ounces in exchange for outstanding weather protection and nearly unmatched durability, making them well worth mentioning in our list.
The Minimalist are among the most popular rain pants out there and the reason for this is simple. In addition to using tough materials and their robust waterproofing, they’re incredibly comfortable and very fairly priced. While they weigh a little more than the Beta AR, they offer similar performance and cost significantly less.
The 50-denier, 2.5-layer Gore-Tex PacLite fabric used in the Minimalist also makes them among the most rip-resistant and durable options in our review.
The design of the Minimalist is carefully dialed into the needs of the hiker. There’s an elasticated waist, articulated knees, and a roomy enough crotch that no extra gusset is required. There are also two zippered thigh pockets for storing small essentials.
The only real downsides are the lack of venting options and a belt.
- 50D fabric
- Waterproof and breathable
- 20% recycled materials
- Ankle-height zippers
- No vents
- No waist adjustment
Bottom-Line: A well-thought-out option that combines the mobility of a lightweight hiking pant with the robust protection of the most high-end rain pants.
Outdoor Research HeliumBest Ultralight
Waterproofing: 2.5L Pertex Shield ⸱ HH: 20,000 mm ⸱ MVTR: 20,000 g/m2/24 h ⸱ Zipper: ¼-length ⸱ Weight: 5.4 oz.
Weighing only 5.4 oz. and compressing into a bundle the size of a tennis ball, the Outdoor Research Helium are the most packable and ultralight rain pants on the market.
While most rain pants in the “ultralight” category make a few compromises in terms of comfort, durability, and/or features, the Helium holds its own in each of these metrics. They’re made with tough, 30-denier ripstop fabric, have a gusset crotch for added mobility, an elasticated drawcord waist, and a nicely sized zippered back pocket.
While we would have preferred a full-length side zipper, hand pockets, and a little more articulation in the knees, it’s hard to quibble given the Helium’s emphasis on keeping weight to an absolute minimum.
- Highly waterproof and breathable
- Tiny packed size
- Ripstop fabric
- ¼-length zipper
- No hand pockets
Bottom-Line: The ultralight Outdoor Research Helium pants have a tiny packed size and robust waterproofing making them a shoo-in for those who like to travel fast and light, whilst still being among the best backpacking rain pants out there.
Marmot PreCip Eco Full-Zip PantsBest Value
Waterproofing: 2.5-layer, PFC-free DWR Marmot NanoPro™ ⸱ HH: 10,000 mm ⸱ MVTR: 17,000 g/m2/24 h ⸱ Zipper: Full-length ⸱ Weight: 11.4 oz.
The Marmot PreCip Eco Pants, with their durable and reliable outer layer, offer excellent wet-weather protection, making them great value for money and a worthwhile choice.
The Marmot PreCip have been around for a while now, and in that time has amassed a slew of rave reviews from hikers everywhere. While not the most “technical” option on our list, they do what most hikers need a rain pant to do…and do it at a very reasonable price.
With a hydrostatic head of 10,000 mm, the Marmot PreCip pants lag far behind all other pants on our list in the waterproofing stakes. They’re also the second heaviest option after the OR Foray and offer a middle-of-road degree of breathability (17,000 g/m2/24 h).
While these factors make them less suitable for high-output activities and exposure to sustained, heavy rainfall, they’re still ideal for buyers seeking an affordable protective layer to pack in case the weather turns during their hikes.
- Recycled nylon ripstop fabric
- Zippered pockets in front and rear
- Ample breathability for most
- Full Zip rain pants
- Low waterproof rating
Bottom-Line: A basic but highly durable pair of waterproof shell pants that are more than adequate for the needs of the average hiker.
REI XeroDry GTXBest Gore-Tex
Waterproofing: 2-layer GORE-TEX PacLite ⸱ HH: 28,000 mm ⸱ MVTR: 25,000 g/m2/24 h ⸱ Zipper: ¼-length ⸱ Weight: 10 oz.
The REI XeroDry GTX is our top pick for rain pants featuring Gore-Tex technology. While any GTX rain gear ensures dryness, these pants offer the same level of protection at a more affordable price.
These pants use 2-layer GORE-TEX PacLite, one of the most waterproof and breathable performance fabrics on the market. Nevertheless, they cost significantly less than both the Arc’teryx Beta AR and OR Foray, the two other Gore-Tex rain pants on our list.
In terms of features, the XeroDry is up there with the best of them. They have articulated knees, zippered hand pockets with storm flaps, an elasticated drawcord waistband, and under-leg gussets that prevent restriction when hiking uphill.
The only real downsides to the XeroDry are the quarter-length zippers and polyester lining, which can feel a little sticky when you wear them with shorts. That said, it feels unfair to hate on them too much for these minor flaws when otherwise there’s so much to love about them.
- Highly breathable
- Robust waterproofing
- Great value for money
- Adjustable waist
- ¼-length zipper
- Polyester lining is a touch uncomfortable when worn with shorts
Bottom-Line: The best gore-tex pants that offer comparable levels of breathability and waterproofing to most models that cost twice as much.
Black Diamond StormLine StretchBest Mobility
Waterproofing: BD.dry 2.5L with DWR ⸱ HH: 10,000 mm ⸱ MVTR: 10,000 g/m2/24 h ⸱ Zipper: ⅓-length ⸱ Weight: 7.65 oz.
One of the main drawbacks to most rain pants is that they tend to restrict movement when we’re hiking upslope or negotiating trickier terrain. If you’d prefer a rain pant that doesn’t hold you back when you’re hiking hard, the Black Diamond StormLine Stretch may provide the perfect solution.
These ultralight men’s rain pants are made with BD.dry 2.5-layer technology. This isn’t the most waterproof or breathable option out there, granted. However, its two-way stretch outer fabric, in combination with the pants’ gusset seat and full knee articulation, means the StormLine are far more mobile than almost anything else out there.
If you’re buying pants for extremely wet conditions, then there are better options out there. The Beta AR and REI XeroDry, for example, are more practical options in a downpour. If, however, you want a pant that marries the best bits of a technical hiking pant – comfort, mobility, durability – with the waterproof capacity of a rain pant, then the StormLine are well worth considering.
- Stretchy fabric
- Gusset seat
- Full knee articulation
- Tiny packed size
- Less waterproof and breathable than competitors
Bottom-Line: A stretchy, extra-mobile pair of rain pants that are ideal for technical hikes, scrambling, mountaineering, or anyone who places a priority on unhindered movement.
What should you consider when buying waterproof pants?
When selecting rain pants, we recommend you consider the following factors.
- Water Resistance
- Breathability & Ventilation
- Comfort & Mobility
- Materials – Coating or Membrane?
- Weight & Packed Size
- Pant Features
The level of water resistance provided by rain pants depends primarily on the fabric, as well as the presence of taped or welded seams and waterproof or storm-flapped zippers.
The level of waterproofing a fabric has is measured by the hydrostatic head test. This test measures how much water pressure the fabric can withstand before it starts to leak. Hydrostatic head ratings, given in millimeters (i.e. 10,000mm, 15,000mm, etc.), indicate the fabric’s waterproof capability, with higher figures denoting greater waterproofing.
The rain pants with the highest HH in our review are those that use Gore-Tex PacLite or Gore-Tex Pro such as the Arc’teryx Beta AR, Marmot Minimalist, OR Foray, and REI XeroDry GTX (all 28,000mm). These are followed by the Outdoor Research Helium (20,000mm), while those with the lowest HH are the Marmot PreCip (10,000mm).
Some rain pants double down on waterproofing by using a durable water-repellent (DWR) coating that causes water to bead up on the surface rather than saturate the fabric. This acts as a “first line of defense” against rainwater and improves breathability by making it easier for your sweat to escape through the minuscule pores in the membrane of the water-repellent pants.
Sealed seams provide additional protection at the most vulnerable part of the garment—where two sections of the pants are sewn together. When sheets of fabric are stitched together to create rain pants, the “join” between them is punctured with numerous tiny holes, through which the pants’ defenses can be breached.
To avoid leaving this part exposed, the best water-resistant hiking pants use either welded or taped seams to create a water-tight seal. With welded seams, the fabric is joined without stitching using glue or sonic bonding. With taped seams, waterproof tape is applied to the inside of the pant leg along the line of the stitching.
The difference between taped and welded seams is minimal, though the welded variety is usually more resistant in the longer term since taped-sealed seams often fray and need to be replaced every year or so.
Most manufacturers use waterproof zippers or “storm flap” zippers to prevent rain from sneaking in at the pockets and/or sides of your pants. While the use of one of the above is fairly standard across the industry, it’s advisable to double-check if you opt for a pair not included on our list.
Of the options on this list, the Arc’teryx Beta AR and Marmot Minimalist use water-tight zippers, while the others use storm flaps.
Breathability & Ventilation
Rain gear that lacks breathability and ventilation is likely to leave you as soaked in sweat as you would have been by rainwater. As such, these are as crucial as waterproofing when selecting your rain pants.
The breathability of waterproof-breathable rain gear is measured with the Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate (MVTR). This tells us how much water vapor can pass through the fabric from inside to out in a 24-hour period. In product specs, this is shown as a figure followed by “g/m²/24h” (e.g. 15,000 g/m²/24h), and the higher the figure, the more breathable the fabric is.
Below, we’ve put together an at-a-glance overview of the performance you can expect from various MVTRs:
- Less than 10,000 g/m²/24h: These are the least breathable pants and therefore more suitable for short hikes, camping, and more stationary activities like hunting or outdoor photography.
- 12,500-17,500 g/m²/24h – Wearing rain pants with this rating hit the sweet spot for general hiking.
- 20,000+ g/m²/24h – The most breathable of the bunch, these are ideal for high-output activities like mountaineering, ski touring, and more intense, fast-paced hiking.
The most breathable models in our review are the Arc’teryx Beta AR, Marmot Minimalist, and REI XeroDry GTX (both 20,000 g/m²/24h). The least breathable are probably the REI CoOp Essential (there’s no MVTR stated by the brand, but they left our legs a little sticky after an hour or so’s steady hiking).
Whatever the MVTR of your slacks, it’s handy to have a model with two-way side zippers that let you dump heat quickly when need be. Full-length zippers like those on the Marmot PreCip, Marmot Minimalist, and REI Rainer are the best option in this respect as they allow you to unzip as much as is required when things start getting a little sweaty under the waistband.
Comfort And Mobility
Rain pants should be comfortable enough, and allow sufficient mobility, to let you move freely during outdoor activities like hiking or mountaineering. The features most conducive for both comfort and freedom of movement include articulated knees, a gusseted crotch, and stretchy fabrics.
- Articulated knees: these prevent the fabric from bunching up at the back of the leg when bending your knees.
- Gusseted crotch: a diamond-shaped insert of extra material provides a little more room for movement in the groin area and upper legs, as required when hiking uphill.
- Stretchy fabric: this allows for more unhindered movement and is usually found in models geared towards more technical pursuits.
Aside from the Marmot Precip, all the models in our review have articulated knees. The Arc’teryx Beta AR, OR Foray, OR Helium, BD Stormline, and REI XeroDry GTX have a gusseted crotch. Only the BD Stormline use a stretch fabric.
Materials – Coating Or Membrane?
Brands use two methods to make rain pants resistant to water: a waterproof coating or a microporous waterproof-breathable membrane as further described below.
Coatings, typically a polyurethane layer applied directly to the fabric interior, are usually cheaper but less breathable than membranes.
The only coated model in our review is the Marmot PreCip.
Membranes are thin layers attached to or sandwiched between fabric layers, that allow garments to “breathe” while keeping you dry. These are pocked with minuscule pores that are too small for rainwater to pass through but large enough for your sweat to escape as vapor.
The degree of waterproofing and breathability provided by membranes varies from model to model, though almost all outperform coatings in both of these metrics.
A waterproof membrane is used on 2-layer models like the Outdoor Research Foray and REI XeroDry GTX, 2.5-layer models like the REI Co-op Essential, Marmot Minimalist, Outdoor Research Helium, and Marmot PreCip Full Zip, and 3-layer models like the Arc’teryx Beta AR.
Although there are a few exceptions, 3-layer models are normally the most durable but also heavier, bulkier, and less flexible than 2.5-layer models. 2-layer models, which are usually the cheapest, are typically the heaviest, bulkiest, and least durable rain pants of the bunch.
Durability depends primarily on the density of fabric used which is measured in denier (D). As a general rule, a higher denier rating indicates greater tear-resistance and durability.
All of the models in our review use fabrics in the 30-to-40D range, making them more than tough enough for use on rugged trails. If we were to pick one as the most resistant to rips and wear and tear, it would be a toss-up between the Arc’teryx Beta AR and Marmot Precip, both of which use 40D ripstop nylon, and the Marmot Minimalist (50D).
Weight & Packed Size
Because rain gear often stays in your pack, ready for deployment when conditions worsen, the weight and packed size of your rain pants are crucial considerations.
Of all the models in our review, the Outdoor Research Helium (5.4 oz.) are the lightest and the Outdoor Research Foray men’s rain pants (11.5 oz.) are the heaviest.
Non-standard features that can significantly enhance rain pants’ performance and practicality include an elasticated waistband, cuff closures, pockets, and reinforced insteps.
- Elastic Waistband: Prevents your slacks from falling down and guarantees a good fit at the waist.
- Cuff Closures – Keep the ankle fabric tight around the boots area to stop groundwater sneaking in.
- Pockets – Handy for storing small items you want to keep to hand like a GPS device, phone, compass, camera, etc.
- Reinforced Insteps – This refers to tougher, thicker material used in the inner ankle to prevent scuffing, wear and tear, or rips caused by crampon spikes.
Best waterproof pants for Hiking: The Verdict
Our favorite rain pants are the Arc’teryx Beta AR. While pricey, they provide unmatched weather protection and a host of well-designed features that make them a pleasure to wear on rainy adventures.
If you’re looking for lightweight rain pants, we recommend the OR Helium, which weigh a piddly 5.4 oz. but offer enough protection for 3-season adventuring.
And if you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, it’s hard to go wrong with the REI Co-Op Essentials and Marmot PreCip, both of which lack a few bells and whistles but will do the job you need them to do.
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