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Do You Need Rain Pants For Backpacking?

Do you need rain pants for backpacking?

Every backpacker has thought about ditching their rain pants. It doesn’t matter what pair of rain pants I wear, my pants always get wet! I didn’t realize how much I would sweat in rain pants until I started wearing them. What’s the point of rain pants if you still get wet? Do I Need Rain Pants For Backpacking?

You should carry a pair of rain pants for backpacking, but they won’t keep your hiking pants dry! Rain pants are designed to keep you warm by blocking wind and keeping out cold exterior moisture, but you will have to deal with sweat and condensation. You may also want to consider lighter options like ponchos, rain kilts, rain chaps, hiking umbrellas, etc.

I have mixed feelings about rain pants. They cut down on rain/wind, make me warmer, but rain pants won’t keep you dry. They’re great at blocking out rain, but they’re just as good at trapping sweat and condensation.

So why bother wearing rain pants if they don’t keep you dry? Here’s a hint: it’s all about conserving body heat. Let’s go over why I think rain pants are a necessary piece of backpacking gear, even if they don’t keep you dry.

Table Of Contents

Are Rain Pants Necessary For Backpacking?

Honestly, 99% of the time rain pants aren’t necessary. There’s definitely a time/place where it’s nice to have rain pants, but you can usually tough it out and keep hiking without them. If conditions become unbearable, stop to set up camp early, and make up time the following morning.

Rain pants may actually cause more problems than they solve backpacking on hot days with light/moderate rain. Waterproof rain pants are great at blocking out rain, but waterproofing works both ways. They also trap sweat, since it can’t evaporate through waterproof fabrics, and cause condensation issues.

Temperatures drop as it rains and your body temperature will warm up the inside of your rain gear. It won’t take long for condensation to form on the inside of your rain gear. This usually leads to your clothes getting soaked worse than if you hadn’t worn rain gear at all.

With that being said, there are times where it makes sense to carry rain gear. You should always wear rain gear in cold/windy weather or when you’re expecting heavy rain. I always carry some form of rain protection (even if I don’t always use it). It might be necessary to carry rain pants backpacking in hot weather, but it’s nice to have something (like a cheap disposable poncho).

I was surprised to learn that the purpose of rain gear isn’t to keep you dry! Rain pants trap body heat by blocking wind and cold exterior moisture. Sweat and condensation inside your rain gear won’t be comfortable, but it’s warmed up by your body heat. Your clothes will be wet, but at least you won’t be cold.

Check out my post Hiking In Rain Pants Post for more information. It goes over reducing sweat and condensation so you’ll be more comfortable on long hikes. You may also want to check out my ultimate guide to camping in the rain!

Are rain pants worth it? Why wear them if I still get wet?

Yes you will definitely want to carry some type of rain protection. It doesn’t specifically need to be rain pants/jackets, but you need some way to preserve body heat. You can choose lighter options like ponchos, chaps, rain kilts, etc (compactor bags work in a pinch).

Even a cheap disposable poncho will be better than nothing. They’re lightweight, compact, and ridiculously cheap. I don’t always carry rain gear in the summer, but I keep a 2oz poncho in my first-aid kit for emergencies.

Water resistant moisture-wicking hiking pants are good enough on warm days with light/moderate rain. Most of the rain will land on your pack/shoulders and your hiking pants will dry fast if they get damp. Just make sure your hiking pants are made out of a synthetic nylon/polyester blend (I wear these) that resists moisture (never wear cotton).

There are definitely times when you should carry a waterproof jacket and rain pants. You will want the added warmth of rain pants when day time temperatures drop into the 60°F range. Temperatures drop by about 10°-15°, wind picks up, and it will feel seriously chilly without rain gear.

Features To Look For In Backpacking Rain Pants

Not every pair of rain pants will be the same. Look for features that make your rain gear easier to use, while adding in ventilation. A cheap pair of Frogg Togg Rain Pants are better than nothing, but I wouldn’t want to hike all day in them.

Adding ventilated zippers, adjustable ankles, and other features increases the price, but they’re far more comfortable. I would rarely wear my cheap poorly ventilated rain gear, but now I toss on my Marmot Full Zip rain pants whenever there’s a chance of moderate/heavy rain.

  • Vents Offer More Flexibility: I wouldn’t buy a pair of rain pants that don’t have ventilated side zippers. They add a few oz of weight to your rain gear, but they’re way more comfortable. Leave the zippers open in light/moderate rain to help with sweat and condensation and zip them up in heavy downpours.
  • Adjustable Ankles or Baggy Opening: Look for pants with adjustable ankles since it can be annoying hiking in baggy pants. These aren’t entirely necessary, but it’s nice to have clean lines that won’t catch on everything.
  • Drawstring or Sewn-In: I might be weird, but I prefer the drawstring that wraps all the way around my waist. Drawstrings last longer, and give you cushion after losing or gaining weight. Sewn-in elastic bands are more convenient, but the elastic degrades over time making them sag.
  • Shoe Removal: Can you put on the pants without taking off your shoes? You shouldn’t have to take off your shoes to put on rain pants. Putting rain pants on over your shoes is easy with ventilated side zippers, but you can also go with pants with adjustable or baggy ankles.
  • Pockets: It might seem ridiculous, but cheap rainpants rarely have pockets. Look for a pair of pants with seam sealed zippered pockets to protect your phone and important gear.

As you reduce the overall weight and add features like ankle/full-length zippers, rain pants can get seriously expensive(over $150). I went with the Marmot’s Precip Full Zip Pants (pictured above), because they’re the cheapest full zip pants I could find. They weight 12oz so there are lighter options available, but plan on spending $50+ to save 2-3 oz of pack weight.

If you can’t afford to by ventilated pants Frog Toggs Ultralight Rain Pants are better than nothing.They don’t have fancy features like ventilated zippers, but they’re lightweight (5 oz) keep you warm and are seriously cheap. Plan on spending at least $100 on well ventilated pants with zippered ventilation panels.

You will be more comfortable spending the extra money to get side venting, but don’t blow your budget on rain gear. The main point of rain pants is to keep you warm and any pair of waterproof rain gear can accomplish that task.

Table Comparing Different Pairs Of Rain Pants

Check out the following table to compare the different brands of rain pants. I decided to sort them by my perceived value in relation to their price, weight, and zipper style. Weights will vary depending on pant size, but this should give you an idea of the different options.

Just remember that it doesn’t matter how much money you spend, your clothes will get wet. There will always be sweat and condensation even in expensive rain gear. Staying completely dry is a losing battle on rainy days so come up with a way to dry your backpacking clothes.

Check out my post explaining how to dry clothes while camping and backpacking for more info.

ModelWeightZip Length
(Venting)
Price
Marmot Precip Full Zip Pants
(Affordable Full Length Zipper)
12 ozFull Length$$
Frog Togg Ultralight Rain Pants
(Budget Option)
5 ozNone$
Marmot Precip Eco Boot Pants8.1 ozAnkle Length$$
Montbell Versalite Pants
(Lightest Available Rain Pants)
3.2 ozNone$$$$
Enlightened Equipment Visp
(Lightest Zippered)
4 ozAnkle Length$$$$
Montbell Stretch Full Zip10.8 ozFull Length$$$$
Arc’Teryx Beta SL
(Most Comfortable)
13.2 ozFull Length$$$$$
Outdoor Research Helium6.7 ozAnkle Length$$$$

When Should You Put on Rain Pants?

Nobody can tell you when to throw on your rain pants. There’s a fine line between when you should or shouldn’t wear rain pants. You can’t wait until you get cold, but putting them on early leads to sweat and condensation.

It might sound counterintuitive, but I wait until my pants are soaked before putting on rain pants. Store your rain gear at the top of your pack so it’s easy to grab in the rain. I may take the time to put on a poncho, but I rarely wear traditional rain gear in light/moderate rain.

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You’re probably asking yourself a simple question: why should I wait until my clothes are wet to put on rain gear? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of rain gear? There’s no way to avoid sweat and condensation so it’s usually better to wait until you’re already wet or feel cold.

Rain pants aren’t meant to keep you dry! They’re designed to trap in body heat and keep out the cold outside moisture and block wind). Your backpacking clothes will always get wet in the rain, so conserving body heat is all that matters.

Wear Your Rain Pants Over Regular Hiking Pants

Personally, I recommend wearing rain pants over regular hiking pants. Your hiking pants will get wet from sweat and condensation, but they should dry fast once it stops raining. Just make sure you wear a pair of synthetic or merino wool underwear to prevent inner thigh chafing.

Some people keep their hiking pants dry by stripping down, but I think it’s uncomfortable. The nylon/polyester fabric feels wet and clammy against your skin. It feels like your thighs are wrapped in plastic cling wrap like you’d use on sandwiches.

If you want to keep your hiking pants dry, I recommend wearing a pair of merino wool base layer pants under your rain gear. Merino wool can absorb 35% of it’s weight in water without feeling wet, dries fast, eliminates chafing issues, and won’t feel uncomfortable if it gets soaked in sweat/condensation.

I like Smartwool base layers, but they can be expensive. Meriwool and Merino.tech pants are a much cheaper option if you’re on a budget. They’re not as durable, but they’re good enough for most people!

Your Upper Body and Pants Block Most of The Rain

You can usually fight a moderate storm without needing to put on rain pants. Rain usually starts off slow so your upper body and backpack should block most of it. I’ll rely on my hiking pants/shirts moisture-wicking properties in light rain, use a rain jacket in moderate rain, and toss on the rain pants when the weather starts to get bad or I feel cold.

Why wouldn’t you want to put on rain pants? Sweat and condensation are a big issue, but it’s also because rain pants aren’t comfortable. It’s like wearing one of those sauna suits that I used as a high school wrestler. You sweat like crazy, they feel humid/clammy on your skin, and it’s so much hotter inside rain gear.

It Really Depends on The Temperature

Temperature is another important factor that you need to consider. Generally speaking, you really don’t need rain pants in warm weather. It doesn’t matter how hard it rains, your body won’t feel cold.

Just keep an eye on the temperature, because rainstorms usually bring a 10°-15°F drop in temperature. It all boils down to personal preference! You’re the only person that can say if it makes sense to put on rain gear. Some people get cold in moderately chilly weather and others can wear a t-shirt in 40°F weather.

It’s all about figuring out your comfort level. Do you usually get cold when your legs get wet? Then slow down your pace to minimize sweat and put on your rain pants. I go most of the summer without rain gear, but I’m like a human radiator that rarely gets cold.

Alternatives to Rain Pants

Consider using a cheap rain poncho, kilt, rain chaps, or waterproof gaiters instead of backpacking rainpants.

A lot of people don’t like wearing rain pants. They just get hot making you feel uncomfortable. Plus they just feel baggy, almost like trying to hike in snow pants. Luckily, there are a few alternatives that you might want to consider.

  • Rain Kilts: Rain kilts are basically just a long waterproof poncho that goes over the top of your pants. They keep out water while allowing air to flow in reducing sweat, but they can be cold in windy weather.
  • Rain Chaps: Rain chaps run high up your legs stopping just below the butt. These are basically just long gaiters that block the water in tall wet grass and keep your thighs dry in moderate rain.
  • Ponchos: I almost always carry a cheap poncho to throw over my clothes. They can be a pain to deal with in the wind, but they provide excellent airflow so you won’t sweat. A cheap Frog Toggs Poncho or disposable poncho (like these) will get you through 99% of storms.
  • Waterproof Gaiters: Think about where your pants usually get wet backpacking in light/moderate rain. My upper body and pack blocks 90% of the rain, but my ankles always get wet walking through tall grass. Waterproof gaiters are the perfect solution to this problem and you won’t have to deal with sweat/condensation.

You Might Want to Try Wind Pants

Wind pants are a great option in warmer weather. They’re usually made out of water-resistant nylon/polyester blends so you get 90% of the benefit of backpacking rain pants without the sweat.

Wind can have a similar effect to rain and it can quickly strip heat away from your body (Strong Wind=Cold Body). Wind pants are a great alternative to dedicated rain gear when you’re not expecting rain, but you should probably carry a cheap poncho to deal with heavy downpours.

Wind pants are a great option for light/moderate rain, but you might get chilly in colder early spring or late fall weather. Pair them with moisture-wicking synthetic hiking pants for water-resistance without the sweat and condensation.

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Can You Use Rainpants for Skiing and Hiking? (Do You Need Them?)

Can You Use Rainpants for Skiing and Hiking?

Rain pants have been around for a long time, and there’s a reason for that: They keep you warm, dry, and comfortable when the weather turns foul. But are they worth it for backpacking or other forms of hiking? And what about when you’re skiing?

Rain-resistant pants are ideal for those who want extra protection from wind and cold but don’t need the breathability of a waterproof membrane. For example, people who hike on rainy days or walk their dogs on rainy nights may appreciate a little extra protection from the elements while remaining comfortable and dry enough to return home before getting out of the rain.

The good news is that many manufacturers make rain-resistant hiking pants with great features like built-in belts, functional pockets, and adjustable waistbands that allow you to layer with ample room for comfort and mobility.

If you’re thinking about buying some rain pants, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Are you looking for waterproof rain pants or just water-resistant?
  2. Do you need good breathability?
  3. Do you want to look fashionable or go with the classic look?
  4. Will they be warm enough?
  5. How much do you want to spend?

All of these factors will help determine which rainpants are best for your needs. Now let’s look at what situations you can use rain paints or can do without them…

Can You Use Rain Pants for Skiing?

The truth is that you can use rain pants for skiing. The problem is that they’re not made to be used in the snow, which means that they won’t do a great job of keeping you warm, and they’re not particularly effective at repelling water.

You’ll have to accept the fact that wearing them will make it more likely that you get soaked from the snow and packed down snow than if you were wearing snow pants.

Trying to ski in rain pants is a sure way to get cold and wet. Rain pants are heavy and cumbersome, they’re difficult to put on while wearing skis, and they restrict your range of movement. They also are not breathable and trap moisture close to your body.

Can You Wear Water Resistant Pants for Skiing?

Yes, but your ski pants must be made of the right material and they have to fit properly. If they don’t fit well, you might find yourself getting wet even though you’re wearing the right kind of clothes. Water-resistant gear is not the waterproof gear, and water can get through if fitted loosely or made from the wrong material.

If you’re facing inclement weather, bring some rain gear that’s designed for skiing. This includes pants with water-resistant shells and waterproof zippers, along with waterproof boots and a jacket. Ideally, you want gear that breathes well so that perspiration doesn’t build up inside your layers.

Are Rain Pants the Same as Ski Pants?

Rain pants are not the same as ski pants. This is a common misconception, especially among those new to the sport of mountaineering. While both are typically waterproof, ski pants are made to withstand extremely cold temperatures, while rain pants protect from the precipitation alone.

Tightly woven and with a full lining, ski pants (Available at Amazon) can be worn over multiple layers of winter clothing for maximum warmth.

They also feature an elastic waistband and drawstring for a perfect fit, adjustable boot gaiters that seal around your ankle to keep snow out of your boots, and a stow pocket that allows you to tuck away excess length in order to prevent tripping.

As such, they are a critical component to every climber’s arsenal – particularly if you plan on tackling colder climates.

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Rain pants are made with lighter weight fabric than ski pants and usually have adjustable cuffs at the bottom that ties around your shoes. Many mountaineers who regularly climb in wet environments swear by them due to their lightweight and breathability.

They are best suited for summer months or areas where the temperatures may rise above freezing during the day but fall below it at night. Rain pants should never be worn in lieu of proper winter weather gear. They should be worn as an additional layer

Do I Need Rain Pants for Hiking?

Rain pants (Available at Amazon) are great for hiking, and for other cold-weather activities. They tend to be less expensive than snow pants too, which is a bonus if you want to keep your costs down.

Rain pants are designed to repel water from your legs, not keep them warm. While they aren’t necessary for every hike, they can make for a more pleasant experience on wet hikes.

Some people think that they need waterproof hiking shoes or hiking boots, but they really don’t. Hiking in the rain is still possible without waterproof hiking boots.

It’s best to hike in light-weight waterproof shoes instead of heavy boots when it’s raining though. Some people even wear water socks instead of using waterproof shoes. Water socks are blue-toe socks. They are not only water-resistant but also comfortable to wear.

You can even use rubber boots if you have them, but there’s a slight risk of getting your feet wet because you can’t control your foot positions as well when you walk through mud or water puddles.

Are Rain Pants Worth It Backpacking?

Rain pants are an unnecessary weight and add extra bulk to your pack when you are backpacking. If you’re going to spend the money to get lightweight backpacking gear why would you want to add something extra?

Rain gear is needed for very specific conditions, but unless you live in the Pacific Northwest or somewhere where it rains A LOT there’s no reason to bring them on every trip.

That being said if there’s a chance of rain on your trip then yes bring them along. Backpacking in the rain sucks but if it’s going to happen it’s better to be prepared.

Rain pants are a great piece of kit for backpackers. They can be used both on and off-trail, and their versatility is well worth carrying an extra ounce of weight into the backcountry.

Benefits of Rain Pants

  1. Rain pants are relatively inexpensive and lightweight compared to other types of hiking clothing. They are designed to stretch over your boots and stay snug against your body while allowing plenty of ventilation to keep you dry and comfortable.
  2. They usually feature elastic bands around the ankles and waist that keep them from shifting out of place or blowing up around your legs when the wind picks up. Some models also have drawstrings at the waist for adjustment if needed.
  3. Rain pants help protect your skin from irritation caused by wetness and exposure to sunburn.

What Do You Wear Under Rain Pants When Hiking?

Do you wear long underwear under rain pants? How about socks? What about a liner? And do you have suggestions for what to do if it’s raining and you only have shorts on, but your rain pants are miles and miles away?

Rain pants are made from waterproof material and are designed to keep the rain from penetrating your clothes. Unfortunately, waterproof material is not breathable.

You will want to wear clothing that is lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying. This will help keep you dry and comfortable during your hike.

The result can be that your pants will keep water out of your clothing on the outside, but trap moisture on the inside. This can lead to clamminess and discomfort.

Because of this, people often suggest wearing a pair of breathable shorts or underwear under your rain pants. Some even suggest wearing both a liner and a second pair of socks underneath their rain gear.

Underneath the shell, it is best to wear synthetic fibers like polypropylene or polyester. These fabrics will wick away moisture quickly.

  1. A cotton T-shirt or a wool sweater works well under a rain jacket or fleece jacket.
  2. If you are wearing a poncho as your outer layer, then layers of synthetic fabric are not necessary underneath because you want your sweat to pass directly through the outer layer so that it can evaporate into the air quickly.
  3. When hiking in colder weather, be sure to wear layers of clothing underneath the rain suit for added warmth.
  4. A long underwear top with a fleece shirt works well for this purpose.

In summary, a good pair of rain pants should completely cover your legs when you’re standing up. That means there should be no gaps between the top of the pant and the top edge of your boots.

The back should also have a decent amount of coverage from the waist down so that water doesn’t run along the backs of your legs into your boots. If designed properly, this will ensure that any water that rolls off of the pant will hit the ground instead of running down into your shoes.

Hiking In Rain Pants: Are Hiking Rain Pants Worth It?

Hiking in rain pants

Every hiker that’s ever purchased rain gear has thought about ditching their rain pants. They’re great for keeping your pants dry in heavy rain, but they’re usually not worth the hassle. There’s a fine line between getting a benefit out of wearing rain pants and your legs sweating so bad that it would have been better to keep them off. So when should I hike in rain pants and are rain pants worth it?

It’s worth wearing rain pants when you’re hiking in heavy rain, but you might want to leave them in your pack in light/moderate rain. Buy a pair of well ventilated rain pants and wait until the rain picks up to put them on. Just make sure you pair them with a pair of moisture-wicking hiking pants to cut down on sweat.

I have mixed feelings about rain pants. Rain pants are great in heavy rain, but there’s a fine line between when you should or shouldn’t wear them.

Table Of Contents

Hiking In Rain Pants: Pants For Hiking In The Rain

Most people don’t know how to properly wear their waterproof rain pants. There’s a fine line between the right and wrong time to wear rain pants. Put them on too early and you’ll end up with sweat and condensation. Wait for the rain to pick up and your hiking pants will get soaked.

There’s a serious problem with waterproof rain pants. Waterproof pants are great at keeping out rain, but they’re just as good at trapping in moisture. Sweat won’t be able to evaporate and you’ll end up with a layer of condensation on the inside of your pants.

It only makes sense to wear rain pants in heavy rain and when you’re hiking in cold or windy weather. Wearing waterproof pants in light/moderate rain usually ends up causing more harm than good. Your pants end up soaked in sweat/condensation and worse than they would have been without wearing rain gear.

Mesh ventilation and side zip panels help some, but they can only do so much. I’ve found that wearing a pair of moisture-wicking hiking pants in light/moderate rain is better than dealing with rain pants. They get slightly wet at first, but it won’t take long for them to evaporate. Plus your upper body blocks the vast majority of rain unless there’s a heavy crosswind.

I usually just tough it out and ignore the rain, but there is a time and place for rain pants. Let’s go over a few times when it makes sense to wear rain pants. Just make sure you spend the extra money on a quality pair of pants with proper ventilation (my favorite).

You may want to check out my ultimate guide to camping in the rain! It goes over drying your clothes, and everything else you might need to know.

When Should You Put on Rain Pants?

There’s no defined, right or wrong time to put on rain pants. It all depends on your personal preferences, the temperature, and level of precipitation. There’s a fine line between needing them and being better off without them. Don’t wait until you get cold, but you don’t want to put them on early either. Putting them on early almost always leads to sweat and condensation on long hikes.

This will probably sound counterintuitive, but I put on rain pants once my thighs are completely soaked. You’re probably asking yourself why I wait until my clothes are wet? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of rain gear?

This might sound crazy, but I know that my hiking pants will become just as wet from sweating and condensation in my rain gear. I’ve tried every way to eliminate sweat/condensation and there’s no way to get around it.

It doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside, the inside of your rain pants will always get soaked. You’ll sweat like crazy in hot weather, and in colder weather the temperature difference will cause condensation to form (inside body temperature vs outside air).

Why Wear Rain Pants If They Don’t Keep You Dry?

What’s the purpose of rain pants if they don’t keep you dry? This is just my theory, but I’m gonna go with it. Manufacturers market rain pants as a way to keep you dry, but that’s not the true purpose. Rain pants keep you warm by trapping body heat, blocking wind, and keeping out cold exterior moisture.

Rain pants aren’t designed to keep you dry! They keep out exterior moisture, but there’s no way to eliminate sweat and condensation. It doesn’t matter if your clothing is wet as long as you conserve body heat.

Just make sure you wear a pair of quick-dry hiking pants made out of some kind of synthetic material. I usually wear a pair of Columbia Hiking Pants, but any type of moisture-wicking pants will work.

Are Rain Pants Worth It? Why wear them if I still get wet?

It’s usually worth carrying a pair of rain pants in your pack, but it depends on a few factors. How long will you be out in the rain? Does it seem like the rain will get worse or is it a light steady drizzle? What kind of pants are you hiking in and how long will it take for them to dry?

I always carry some type of rain protection, even in the summer, but it doesn’t have to be a complete rain suit. In the summer, I usually carry a lightweight water-resistant windbreaker. It’s breathable so I don’t sweat and good enough to keep me dryish/warm in light rain.

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I also carry Cheap Disposable Ponchos (weigh 2oz) for moderate or heavy rain. You can also wear full length gaiters/chaps or rain kilts to save some weight.

It took a while for me to commit to a pair of high quality ventilated rain pants. I would carry a pair of cheap Frogg Togg Rain Pants and they were terrible. They were fine around camp, but I’d be completely drenched in sweat/condensation whenever I’d hike in them. So I would only wear them in serious downpours.

Now I carry a pair of Marmot Precip Eco Full Zip Pants in my pack and they’re way better. There’s a full length zipper running along both legs so there’s plenty of ventilation to eliminate sweat and condensation.

I wear them over my hiking pants and keep the zipper completely open 99% of the time. A little bit of water will probably get in, but it dries fast with moisture wicking hiking pants. I’ll zip them up a little bit in heavy downpours, but the only time I completely zip them is when I need the added warmth on cold windy days.

You May Not Need Rain Pants In Warm Weather

In warm weather, you can usually get by with a pair of moisture-wicking hiking pants. Just make sure your hiking pants are made out of a synthetic nylon/polyester blend. They speed up evaporation and dry fast, and nylon and polyester blends are naturally moisture-resistant.

So light rain will shed off without absorbing into the fabric and moderate rain will evaporate fast. Plus your pack and top half of your body will block most of the rain. The only time you need 100% waterproof rain pants is heavy rain, and cold or windy weather.

Generally speaking, you really don’t need rain pants in warm weather. It doesn’t matter how hard it rains, your body won’t feel cold. Just keep an eye on the temperature, because rainstorms occasionally bring a drop in temperature.

It’s all about figuring out your comfort level. Do you usually get cold when your legs get wet? Then slow down your pace to minimize sweat and put on your rain pants. Hike through the rain if you don’t think it will bother you. You can always toss on your rain pants if you get cold.

Features To Look For In Hiking Rain Pants

Other features to look for in hiking rain pants.

As I mentioned above, rain pants aren’t designed to keep you completely dry. Their primary purpose is to keep you warm by conserving body heat, and blocking cold exterior moisture/wind. You can’t completely eliminate sweat and condensation, but there are ways to minimize the problem.

Every pair of rain pants will block wind and keep out exterior moisture, but some options are better than others. A quality pair of rain pants will increase ventilation and help cut down on sweat/condensation. Consider the following features before choosing a pair of hiking rain pants.

  • Vents Offer More Flexibility: Every pair of rain pants have different levels of ventilation. Cheap rain pants supposedly use breathable fabrics (Frogg Toggs), but they won’t be comfortable for long. It’s worth spending the extra money on rain pants with full length zippers running up the legs. Vents keep you cooler, reducing sweat and condensation buildup, but they add 2-3 oz of weight to your pack.
  • Choose Adjustable Ankles and Baggy Openings: Look for pants with adjusters to tighten up around your boots/shoes. It’s easier to put on rain pants with baggy openings since they go over your shoes, but hiking in baggy rain pants can be annoying so make sure they have adjusters.
  • Drawstring or Sewn-In: I might be in the minority, but I prefer the drawstring that wraps all the way around your hiking rain pants. Drawstrings last longer, plus they give you some cushion after losing or gaining weight. Elastic bands are more convenient, but the elastic will eventually start to fail.
  • Shoe Removal: Can you put on the pants without taking off your shoes? You don’t want to take your shoes off on wet grass or muddy trails so find a pair of rain pants with large ankle openings.
  • Pockets: It might seem ridiculous, but cheap rain pants rarely have pockets. Look for rain pants with seam-sealed zippered pockets to hold your phone and other important gear.

Choose Side Zip Panels When Hiking In Rain Pants!

Side zip panels reduce sweat and condensation when hiking in rain pants.

Every feature that you add to your rain pants will increase the price and weight of your pants. There’s a fine line between price and comfort once you get into premium models. I couldn’t stand the thought of spending $150 on a pair of rain pants, so I searched for a moderately priced pair of rain pants with all the features I need.

I carry Marmot’s Precip Full Zip Pants (rain pants pictured above) and they’re everything I could ask for in a pair of rain pants. They’re the cheapest pair of full-zip pants I could find and I couldn’t be happier. They might not be the lightest at 12 oz, but they’re extremely comfortable for the price.

I really don’t think it’s necessary to buy expensive rain pants. They always end up getting trashed and they don’t need to breathe as much as the top shell. With that being said, you will definitely be more comfortable spending the extra money to get side venting.

I wore a cheap pair of Frog Toggs Ultralight Rain Pants for years and they fit my budget. They don’t have fancy features like ventilated zippers, but they’re seriously cheap and weigh about 5oz. You will sweat like crazy on long hikes, but you can’t find a pair of rain pants with side ventilation without spending $100.

Table Comparing Different Pairs Of Rain Pants

I recommend checking out the following table to compare the different brands of rain pants. I decided to sort them by my perceived value in relation to their price, weight, and zipper style. Remember that weights will vary depending on pant size and full-zip models will be a few oz heavier.

Just remember that it doesn’t matter how much money you spend, you will still get wet. There’s no way to completely eliminate sweat and condensation inside your rain gear. Staying completely dry is a losing battle on rainy days, so buy whatever fits your budget.

ModelWeightZip Length
(Venting)
Price
Marmot Precip Full Zip Pants
(Affordable Full Length Zipper)
12 ozFull Length$$
Frog Togg Ultralight Rain Pants
(Budget Option)
5 ozNone$
Marmot Precip Eco Boot Pants8.1 ozAnkle Length$$
Montbell Versalite Pants
(Lightest Available Rain Pants)
3.2 ozNone$$$$
Enlightened Equipment Visp
(Lightest Zippered)
4 ozAnkle Length$$$$
Montbell Stretch Full Zip10.8 ozFull Length$$$$
Arc’Teryx Beta SL
(Most Comfortable)
13.2 ozFull Length$$$$$
Outdoor Research Helium6.7 ozAnkle Length$$$$

Table Comparing the weight, zipper length, and price of rain pants.

Alternatives to Rain Pants

A poncho will increase ventilation instead of wearing rain pants on a hike.

Rain pants are great for keeping you warm in wet/windy weather, but you might prefer other options.

  • Rain Kilts: Rain kilts are a long waterproof skirt that goes over the top of your pants. It’s basically a poncho that covers up your legs. They keep out water while allowing air to flow in, but they don’t offer protection against wind.
  • Rain Chaps: Rain chaps run up your legs stopping just below the butt, but they offer excellent ventilation. These are basically just long gaiters that block the water in tall wet grass, but they are a close alternative to hiking in rain pants.
  • Ponchos: I almost always carry a cheap poncho to throw over my clothes. Ponchos can be annoying in wind, but they provide excellent airflow so you won’t sweat. A cheap Frog Toggs Poncho will get you through 99% of storms, but even $2-$3 disposable ponchos are better than nothing. I don’t carry my rain gear in warm mild weather, but I keep a cheap disposable poncho (these ponchos) in my first-aid kit to use in emergencies.
  • Waterproof Gaiters: Think about the part of your hiking pants that absorb 99% of water. It takes a lot of rain to soak your thighs, but the bottom 6-12 inches of your pants will get soaked as you walk through wet grass. That’s when waterproof gaiters come in handy! They keep your ankles and socks dry without making the rest of your legs sweat.

You Might Want to Try Wind Pants

Wind pants are a great alternative to dedicated rain gear when you’re not expecting rain. Wind can have a similar effect to rain, since it can quickly strip heat away from your body (Strong Wind=Cold Body).

They’re not entirely waterproof, but they’re made out of water-resistant fabrics (nylon/polyester blends). So you get 90% of the water-resistance without the sweat and condensation. Wind pants paired with a moisture-wicking hiking pants are a great combo in light/moderate rain, but I would carry a disposable poncho just in case the rain picks up.

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