Updated: Oct 14, 2016
Review of the Best Rain Pants - Waterproof Pants Guide:
- What to look for when buying rain pants
- Benefits of waterproof rain pants
- How much do waterproof pants cost? Which should I buy?
Are you involved in a lot of outdoor activity? Hiking, biking, even regular walks or jobs can mean that you are exposed to the elements, and if you're really avid you will be outside rain or shine. Being outside in a rainstorm without the proper gear can be unpleasant to say the least. While no one goes out without a jacket, waterproof pants are often an afterthought. But they shouldn't be. Rain pants are one of the best ways to stay dry when you're out in rainy weather. Good rain pants will keep rain and wind out, while wicking away moisture and heat that you build up from doing whatever outdoor activity you might be up to.
Outdoor athletes aren't the only people who require waterproof pants from time to time either; if you bike or walk to work, a surprise rainstorm can really ruin your day if you don't have the right protection. Some of the big names in the rainproof gear market include North Face, Marmot, Cabela, GoLite, Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, and Columbia. In this guide, we will take a look at some of the best-selling rain pants, and review things like materials, sizing information, and what kind of budget you'll need.
The video below shows the basic functions of waterproof pants and what you can expect:
Men's Rain Pants and Women's Rain Pants - Sizing
One problem you are bound to come up with as you shop for a pair of good rain pants is the sizing. Keep in mind that not only are there rain pants for men and rain pants for women, there are also Unisex models. And then there's the fact that unlike jeans, rain pant designers don't follow a universal code. Sizes used by one company can be different from another. Usually those sizes aren't too far off of each other.
For example, LL Bean's line of rain pants, including the Stowaway, have different sizes for men and for women. Men's sizes are standard as far as measuring regular pants; medium, large, X Large, and XX large correspond to the waist/inseam measurement you will see on your jeans or dress pants. 31x30 is medium, 40x31 large, 44x32 X large, and 48x34 XX large (sizes are also available in tall for men's rain pants). Women's rain pants on the other hand come in much smaller sizes, and they start with XS instead of medium. Women's rain pants are measured by the circumference of the waist and the hips, and because women are shaped differently there are different fits for each size.
You will also find that each manufacturer of rain pants has a size chart specific to their company. It's important to order the right size from whatever company you are going to buy from (Amazon usually includes a link to manufacturers sizing charts to help you pick the right size), because rain pants need to fit snugly in order to do their job well. At the same time, you will be doing a lot of activity in them, so they need to feel very relaxed and comfortable.
As a hiker and golfer, I've been a fan of Marmot rain gear for more than a decade - they keep you warm, dry, and comfortable, which is usually all you need. Below we'll talk more about the Marmot Precip Pants, but I also like the Marmot DriClime Pants.
Best Rain Pants - Best Waterproof Pants - Marmot Rain Pants:
Let's talk some prices. At the low end, you can pick up some basic rain pants for around $20 -- usually just a simple waterproof shell. But as with most other clothing and outdoor equipment, rain pants come in a range of styles, each with different features and prices to match. At the higher end of the scale are the best rain pants as far as durability and comfort go. This includes lines such as the FX Ultra by Mountain Hardware and Arc'Teryx Beta AR. Both are similar in structure; the biggest difference between these pants and cheaper models are the weight added due to extra material as well as the material itself.
A good pair of waterproof rain pants will have several layers: an outer layer that should be waterproof and hopefully act as a windbreaker; and an inner layer that is moisture wicking and breathable to keep your pants from turning into a sauna inside. In general, high end rain pants will be made with a fabric from Gore-Tex, which increases the breathability of the pants (moisture is kept off your body from the inside as well as the outside). They also have extra padding at high wear areas such as the knees and the seat, so the pants don't wear out as quickly. The price tag shows it too; both companies price these high end rain pants at $300.
At outside.away.com, reviewers suggest that while these are great expedition pants, they might not be suitable for the casual hiker. Reviewers point out that while cheaper rain pants might not be as durable, often you can buy several pairs before reaching the price you paid for higher end pants. For example, Marmot's Precip rain pants (which customers praise for keeping them dry while bicycling to work and while snowshoeing) sell for $90 a pair, while Sierra Designs Peak Bagger and Cyclone rain pants are about $115.
You can buy three pairs of either before you get to the price you paid for the expensive rain pants, and those three pairs are likely to last as long as one pair of the expedition rain pants. However, heavy duty rain pants are going to be more comfortable for harder hikes, treks, and rides, so if you are really hardcore about your outdoor activities, the higher end rain pants are the better choice. If you're just looking for casual wear, stick with the lower priced rain pants.
To check out complete reviews on waterproof pants from Frogg Togg and Patagonia - click the image below to go to video.
Lightweight Rain Pants:
We've covered the importance of Gore-Tex material in rain pants for people who really like to hit the back country for a while. There are other features that you should take into consideration as you buy your rain pants as well. Because you will be doing exercise in them (presumably), the lighter the pants, the better. Sportsmansguide.com points out that the heavier pants are more durable, but that lighter pants such as LL Bean's Stowaway ($125) make for an easier hike.
In fact, of all the rain pants we looked at, the Stowaway had perhaps the most going for it as far as a middle of the road pair of rain pants. Light at 10 oz, the rain pants can be folded up when not in use and tucked into a pocket so they don't take up a lot of carrying space. They also include full length zippers down the pants legs, for an easy change should you need it out on the trail. Zip fronts make for a snugger fit, while an elastic waist in a pair of rain pants will allow you to pull them on and off faster. And the Stowaway also includes a lighter Gore-Tex material for better breathability, at a very low price compared to other rain pants which include Gore-Tex; this might make them the ideal choice for rainy days outdoors.
Frogg Togg vs Columbia Sportswear:
Two brands that dominate this space with mid-range prices are Frogg Togg and Columbia Sportswear. They both create waterproof rain gear that keeps you dry when the rain and moisture are coming down. We really like the Columbia rain jackets but their rain pants are just as good when it comes to staying dry. The Men's Rebel Roamer Pant sell for less than $50 and are perfect for those hikes where you need leg protection from the moisture. They are lightweight and comfortable, which are the two things we look for when buying any kind of rain gear. Frogg Toggs makes a variety of rainwear too and their Pro Action Pants are very popular amongst outdoor enthusiasts. The breathable material is perfect for hiking, biking, or just walking in wet conditions. The one inch ankle band keeps the pants snug against your boots and the waistband also keep unwanted water from getting underneath.
More videos and resources are here on our Rain Pant Resource Page.
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