Benefits & Features of Rain Pants
What To Look For In Rain Pants?
The key feature every camper needs to look for in a pair of rain pants for men is waterproofing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a casual or serious hiker; high-quality waterproofing technology is the highlight of rain pants and should be the first thing you look into.
After you’ve ensured that the product has a good waterproofing technology, other major considerations include breathability, durability, affordability, and weight. These secondary features will, of course, change in order of importance depending on your the needs for your hiking or backpacking rain gear.
Waterproofing Versus Water-Resistance: Is There A Difference?
Many people use the terms waterproof and water-resistant interchangeably. It’s important, however, to draw a distinction between these products because they offer customers different degrees of weather protection.
Simply put, water-resistant pants are not as strong as waterproof ones. Only invest in water-resistant trousers if you plan to go to areas where there isn’t a great deal of heavy or moderate rainfall.
What Are Waterproof Ratings?
Over the years manufacturers have devised a standardized ranking system measured in millimeters that lets consumers know how well waterproof products wick off moisture. A product can’t be considered water-resistant until it reaches 1,500mm.
Standard Waterproof Rating Ranges
As mentioned above, any product that measures 1,500mm or slightly below is merely considered water-resistant. You’ll only get good weather protection from water-resistant products in areas with a light drizzle.
The first official waterproof ranking is between 1,500mm and 5,000mm. This low-end range is best for protection against light rainfall. Even casual campers should strive to get a product that falls between these ranges for decent protection.
Mid-range waterproof rain pants measure between 5,000mm and 10,000mm. These are good for hikers expecting moderately heavy rainfall on their trek. They might not be able to keep out moisture from torrential downpours, but they offer the best mix of lightweight construction and weather protection.
The highest waterproof ratings top out over 10,000mm. Serious hikers who often travel into hazardous weather conditions should look for a product with these specs.
What’s The Hydrostatic Head Test?
To test any rainproof product, manufacturers take a piece of fabric and put it underneath a cylindrical container of water. Scientists then record the amount of water in milliliters they can pour into the container before water starts leaking through.
The minimum amount of water required to leak through a piece of waterproof fabric is known as the hydrostatic head (sometimes abbreviated as HH). Hence, manufacturers call this standard waterproof screening the Hydrostatic Head Test.
The Pros & Cons Of Waterproof Membranes Versus Water-Resistant Coatings
There are two major distinctions in the world of waterproof vs water resistant design: membrane inserts and waterproof coatings. While membrane products are stronger than those with water-resistant coatings, there are advantages and disadvantages to investing in either of these constructions.
Waterproof Membrane: Durability Over Compressibility
In addition to keeping rain out, membranes are designed to effectively vent for sweat and body oils. Manufacturers do this by tightly bonding a thin waterproof membrane to the pants’ face fabric. The internal membrane usually has billions of tiny pores that are too small for rain to penetrate, yet large enough to let internal condensation out.
The greater breathability and durability membrane products offer make them the preferred choices for serious hikers. Name-brand membrane products like Gore-Tex hiking pants, however, tend to cost and weigh more than less advanced waterproof coated trousers.
While Gore-Tex is a prominent name in the industry, many people mistakenly refer to all membrane constructions as “Gore-Tex.” There are, however, many other big names in the membrane manufacturing industry such as eVent and MemBrain Strata.
Lightweight Waterproof Coating
Waterproof microporous coatings are only designed to keep water from penetrating the fabric; they aren’t designed to let sweat out. For this reason, you can often get an accumulation of sweat on the inside of the material. On the plus side, products with waterproof coatings are easier to pack and more affordable than membrane products.
The coating often used is called Durable Water Repellent (aka DWR). DWR fabrics are essentially a thin chemical layer that use fluorocarbons or fluoropolymers to effectively wick off moisture on the trousers’ outer layer. Whether it’s on a raincoat or rain pants, DWR’s main purpose is to stop water from clumping on your fabric (DWR products require occasional reapplication with a DWR detergent).
Importance Of Taped Seam Construction
Even if your product has the highest-quality waterproof membrane, you won’t get the full benefits of rain-protection unless it’s made with taped seams. These heat-sealed seams are an essential design feature because they help keep water from trickling through your materials’ stitching. Ensuring the product has a seam construction is critical if you’re a serious hiker going to areas with a lot of rain.
Common Layering Of Membrane Pants
Most are made with one of these three fabric layers: 2, 2.5, and 3. Although they will often appear to only have one layer when you hold them in your hands, manufacturers bind these fabrics so tightly that you won’t be able to notice them. Usually these inner fabrics have a special construction that’s able to capture sweat, oils, and moisture, thus increasing breathability without sacrificing warmth retention.
What Layering Design Is Best For Casual Hikers?
2 and 2.5-layer products are made with a waterproof exterior fabric and an internal membrane. Usually the inner lining of 2-layer products is made with some combination of polyester and mesh fabric. In the case of 2.5-layer trousers, manufacturers use a thin layer of polyurethane laminate to provide extra breathability and moisture-protection. 2-layer products are ideal for casual campers who expect to face moderate rainfall on their hikes.
On the other hand, 3-layer rain pants usually have a stronger polyurethane film inside them. Although 3-layer garments are made with an outer waterproof fabric, an internal membrane, and another internal bonded lining, these three fabrics are woven so tightly together that they can feel like one layer. Three-layer products are best suited for serious hikers who expect to face torrential downpours.
Obviously, 3-layers are more durable and long-lasting, but they are also heavier than the 2.5 and 2-layer options. Casual hikers who expect to experience light to moderate rainfall will prefer 2.5 and 2-layer fabrics because they are lightweight and easier to pack.
Breathable Rain Trousers?
After considering how much protection you need from rain, it’s time to look at how well they should let internal moisture out. If there’s no way for sweat and body oils to escape from your clothing, then expect to deal with soggy legs on your hike.
However, breathability isn’t just about comfort. Besides being uncomfortable, sweaty legs can sap your energy and significantly reduce the quality of your hike. This is a serious concern if you’re someone who often goes on arduous hikes.
Rain products with a breathable fabric usually offer the most comfort for campers seeking to avoid the sticky feeling of sweat-drenched legs. There are, however, many weatherproof coated products that have long side zippers you can use to manually vent (and a few with full length leg zips).
How Is Durability Measured?
For most hikers, durability shouldn’t be as big a concern as water-resistance and breathability. Durable products obviously have the benefits of increased longevity and strength, but they tend to be heavier and more difficult to pack. Only prioritize durability if you’re a serious hiker who expects to put your apparal to the test often on challenging hikes.
You’ll often see denier (abbreviated “D”) used when describing fabric type and durability. A denier refers to the density of fabric per length and weight of the garments’ fibers. One denier is measured as a single strand of fabric, so higher denier numbers mean each strand of fabric has a greater diameter.
Extra Features To Look Out For In Waterproof Gear
Whenever you see “additional features” you should instantly think “additional weight.” The only extra features worth your time are side pockets and side-zippers. Beyond these two considerations, any other additional features will only add unnecessary weight to your backpack.
Convenience of Side Pockets
Side pockets are a handy feature for keeping your hands warm on cool nights and storing a few handy items for quick access. Often rain trousers have either a pair of side pockets or a back pocket in their design. Sometimes these pockets double as a stuff sack, which makes packing them up in the wild a great deal easier.
When examining pockets, be sure to look into whether they are made out of a breathable material. It’s also important to consider if these pockets have a zippered construction and whether that zipper is waterproof.
The Benefits Of Side Zippers
Garments with waterproof zippers on the sides are easier to pull over your boots while on the go. In addition to the ease of pulling zippered pants on and off, ones with side zippers allow you to quickly vent off if your legs feel stuffy.
One thing to look out for when examining zippered products is how far the zipper goes up. The shortest length a side zipper will go is usually a quarter length of the your pant leg. There are a few zippered options that go up to the knee and some run the whole length of the leg.
What’s The Ideal Weight For Rain Pants?
No matter what camping item you’re researching, weight will always be a concern. Even if you’re an ultra light camper, however, you need to prioritize the quality of waterproof protection over weight.
Don’t just go hunting for the lightest waterproof breathable pants. The main point of buying them, after all, is to protect you from the rain.
For reference, the median weight tends to be between ten and eleven ounces.
Next up, we’ll review the best waterproof hiking pants…
Outdoor Research Foray
Made out of 50D polyester with a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane, the Outdoor Research Foray is ideal for hikers and occasional mountaineers looking for extreme protection against the elements. The Foray hydrostatic head measures >28,000 mm.
Outdoor Research manufacturers used their patented PacLite Technology to make the Foray easier to compress and lightweight. The average weight of these hovers around 12 ounces and they are available in five sizes ranging from small to xx-large. Considering these are Gore-Tex, the Outdoor Research can pack down quite nicely in your backpack.
They have an elastic waistband with a drawcord. If you’re into wearing suspenders, you’ll be happy to know there are loop attachments. You can put them on over your boots and vent off thanks to the three-quarter length water-resistant zippers that run from the ankles upwards.
Overall, the Foray have a looser fit, so feel free to wear heavy pants underneath if you’re traveling in colder weather. To help with flexibility, the knees on this product are articulated and the crotch area is gusseted.
One slight negative with the Outdoor Research Foray is that it only has one pocket in the back of the right hip. A nice feature of this back pocket, however, is that it doubles as a stuff sack. If you’re not satisfied with these pants for whatever reason, you should know that Outdoor Research products have a lifetime warranty.
Hikers who want a pair of pants that have been engineered to offer the durability and breathability of a Gore-Tex product with decent weight and compressibility should look into the Outdoor Research Foray.
- Easily compressible.
- Gore-Tex membrane.
- Three-quarter length zippers.
- Lifetime warranty.
- No front zippered pockets.
- At 12 ounces, slightly heavier than other rain pants.
Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic
The main feature of Mountain Hardwear’s Ozonic is that they are the most flexible on the market. As the name suggests, Mountain Hardwear designed them to stretch four ways. This makes these ideal for people who will be doing a great deal of arduous hiking or climbing on their outdoor adventures. There are also slight grooves in the knees to help increase flexibility.
Another nice feature of Mountain Hardwear’s Stretch Ozonic is that they have side zippers that run up the full length of the leg. Anyone with bulkier boots won’t have any issues getting these pants on.
For a comfy fit around your waist, Mountain Hardwear decided to use an elastic waistband with a clipped belt. There are Velcro tabs on the sides you can place over the side zippers for added protection. You can choose from five sizes of Ozonic going from small to xx-large.
As for the material in their construction, the Stretch Ozonic are made out of 40D nylon 2.5 layer with a treatment of the company’s patented Dry Q Active waterproof technology. They are easy to compress and only weigh approximately 10 ounces.
The Stretch Ozonic are best for hikers or mountaineers who want a lightweight pair of pants that offer extreme flexibility. You won’t get the same degree of durability as with heavily padded products, but the Stretch Ozonic are great for hikers who want a quick pair of stretchy rain pants that offer good enough protection.
- Excellent for hikers or mountain climbers who want increased flexibility.
- Five sizes available.
- Full-length side zippers.
- 10 ounces.
- Velcro tabs can pinch into sides.
- Designed for flexibility rather than weather protection.
Best Rain Pants
Marmot’s Minimalist are made of 50D polyester with a 2.5 layer Gore-Tex waterproof Paclite membrane. Despite the durability of the Gore-Tex membrane, they pack up quite well and only weigh 11.2 ounces.
To further protect you from the elements, Marmot coated these pants with a DWR treatment. Marmot’s pants have a waterproof rating of 10,000mm HH. You’ll also enjoy two welded zippered pockets on the sides of the hips.
The waist belt on them is elastic with a draw closure. There are only three sizes available: small, medium, and large.
By the ankles there are snap closures as well as zippers that open one-forth of the way up the boot cuffs. Marmot Minimalist can be a bit difficult to get over bulky boots due to these small zippers.
Marmot’s Minimalist are best for intermediate or advanced hikers looking for a good balance between durability and packability. While wearing them, you’ll experience some of the best Gore-Tex weather protection in the industry without sacrificing ease of packing.
- Great balance between Gore-Tex durability and compressibility.
- 11 ounces.
- DWR finish.
- Side pockets
- One-quarter length zippers.
- Only three sides available.
Outdoor Research Helium
Runner-Up Rain Pants
If your main priority is lightweight construction, then you need to check out the Outdoor Research Helium. This ultralight option clocks in at only 6.5 ounces a pair – there’s no denying the Helium are one of the lightest available on the market.
Although these lightweight rain pants weight is their main selling point, they are also durable enough to handle heavy downpours. They are made out of 30D nylon ripstop with a 2.5-layer Pertex Shield and a waterproof, breathable insert. The Helium have a waterproof score of 13,000mm HH.
The Helium come in six sizes ranging x-small to xx-large. All have elasticated waistbands with a cinch cord to help tighten them around your hips.
While Outdoor Research’s Helium have water-resistant zippers on the sides, they are only one-fourth length. There is one pocket in the back of these pants that also serves as a stow sack.
Bottom line, if you’re someone who’s looking for one of the lightest and most compressible rain pants in the industry and don’t mind sacrificing conveniences like full-length zippers and side pockets, Outdoor Research’s Helium Pants may be for you.
- 6.5 ounces and easy to compress.
- 2.5-layer Pertex Shield.
- Six size options available.
- One-fourth length side zippers.
- Only one back pocket.
Environmentalists are sure to admire the Torrentshells’ design, which uses 100 percent recycled BlueSign-approved nylon. Patagonia also included its unique 2.5-layer H2No Performance Standard waterproof technology in this design to help protect against moisture. For even more water-resistance, the Torrentshell manufactures put a DWR treatment on the outside.
These patagonia rain pants have side zippers that run from the ankle to the knee, so it’s easy to pull them on over your hiking shoes and open them for ventilation. There are also two zippered pockets on the sides with mesh interiors for additional comfort. You can use the left pocket as a stuff sack.
Patagonia’s Torrentshell weigh 11 ounces on average and are available in three sizes: large, x-large, and xx-large. The waistband is elasticated and has a drawcord to help wearers feel as comfortable as possible. Patagonia manufactures also articulated the Torrentshells’ knees to help with flexibility.
Eco-conscious hikers who place a high valuation on the comfort of their rain pants should give the Torrentshell a try. With convenient features like two front pockets, long side-zippers, H2No Performance Standard technology, and a lightweight construction, the Torrentshell were designed to make hiking in the rain as comfortable as humanly possible.
- 11 ounces.
- Side zippers go up to the knees.
- Made out of environmentally-friendly recycled nylon.
- DWR finish.
- Only three size options
Columbia Rebel Roamer
Best Value Rain Pants
Made out of 70D nylon fabric, the Columbia Rebel Roamer also has a layer of Omni-Tech waterproof technology. One interesting feature about the Rebel Roamer’s construction is that there are smooth taffeta inner linings that are sure to keep your legs nice and warm.
The average weight of Columbia’s Rebel Roamer is 12.5 ounces. Columbia offers six sizes of the Rebel Roamer from x-small to xx-large. Rebel Roamer’s waistband is made of elastic and there is a drawcord you can use to tighten them.
A major negative for the Rebel Roamer is that it has few bonus features. In particular, the Rebel Roamer has no pockets or side zippers. Also, since they don’t have an internal membrane, don’t expect strong windproof protection in the event of a major downpour.
If you’re a beginning hiker looking for an affordable and easy-to-pack pair of rain pants without side zippers or pockets, the Rebel Roamer might be for you.
- Cheap, so good for new hikers who go to rainy regions infrequently.
- Easy to compress.
- 70 D nylon and Omni-Tech waterproof technology.
- Soft taffeta inner linings
- Not durable enough for long treks or mountaineering.
- No pockets.
- No ventilation and minimal breathability.
The North Face Venture 2 Half Zip
North Face’s Venture 2 are made up of a 40D combination of 62 percent nylon and 38 percent polyester. The lining of these pants, however, is 100 percent polyester. For stronger weather-protection, North Face included a 2.5 layer DryVent polyurethane insert.
The North Face Venture 2 has Velcro straps on the ankle tabs as well as side zippers that go as high as the knees. There are two zippered hand pockets by the thighs, one of which serves as a handy stow sack.
North Face’s Venture 2 comes in four sizes available from small to xx-large. The waist is elasticated. Expect to add about 12 ounces to your backpack with them.
Hikers who can spare a few extra ounces in their backpack and want an easily compressible pair of rain trousers with half-length side zippers and polyurethane insert might enjoy the Venture 2.
- Half-length side zippers.
- DryVent polyurethane insert.
- Two side pockets.
- No DWR finish
- 12 ounces.