Best Waterproof Trousers
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There are two answers to the “What are the best waterproof trousers?” question.
Answer One will refer you to a pair of waterproof, breathable overtrousers which you don’t ever wear unless the rain comes hammering down – as a result, you want them to be easily packable into a small bundle and for them to essentially remain invisible in your rucksack until the storm clouds descend.
Answer Two is to go for some walking/outdoor trousers which are waterproof from the off. The advantage here is that you don’t have to faff around standing comically on one leg while you try to thread overtrousers over your walking boots without ripping them. The disadvantage is that genuinely waterproof walking trousers can be heavy and cloying against the skin because they are often not as breathable as the overtrousers option.
In our view, there is room in your camping wardrobe for both approaches. In the Winter months, when the likelihood of rain is high go for a pair of warm, waterproof walking trousers. In the Spring and Summer, opt for a lighter pair of walking shorts or trousers and keep a packable pair of overtrousers in the rucksack for emergencies.
If you’re only able to buy one pair of waterproof trousers then we would recommend going down the overtrousers route. They provide significantly more flexibility when you are out on the trails and a key factor is often overlooked – overtrousers trap heat very effectively. This is because they consist of several layers within the waterproof fabric itself. Couple this with your standard walking trousers underneath and you have fantastic heat insulation – this combination of clothing can work very well when it’s cold as well as wet. If conditions subsequently dry up or warm up then you can remove the overtrousers and put a spring back into your step!
Key Features of the Best Waterproof Trousers
In putting this article together, we have reviewed many pairs of waterproof trousers and have become accustomed to identifying the essential features to look for when buying. Some are obvious, but others are less so. First the obvious ones…
Waterproof and breathability
The best waterproof trousers must be breathable as well as waterproof. Without breathability (measured by the MVPR number or water vapour flux) then you will end up sweating underneath and get just as wet as if your legs were rained on directly! Go for the biggest MVPR and hydrostatic head (HH – waterproofness) numbers as you can afford.
Thin and Lightweight
For overtrousers, a low weight and small packed size are essential. We recommend that you opt for “Gore-Tex Paclite” fabric or equivalent to obtain the best specifications in this area – the trouble is they can cost a bit more if you don’t shop around.
The images below show the key differences between standard Gore-Tex Professional and Gore-Tex Paclite. The first image shows an open leg of a standard pair of Berghaus Hillwalker Gore-Tex overtrousers. The material is quite thick and also includes a netting layer to keep the wetness off you on the inside. These are effective overtrousers for staying warm and dry but do not fold up small and weigh >450g.
Standard Gore-Tex Professional with netting layer. Helps with breathability but easy to rip and gets in the way when putting the overtrousers on.
Gore-Tex Paclite – no netting layer and half the weight. Definitely worth paying the extra for in our experience.
The second image above shows some Berghaus Gore-Tex Paclite overtrousers. Paclite is also a 2-layer membrane but is significantly lighter (these are half the weight at 228g) and pack up much smaller. Crucially, Paclite garments do not use the netting layer which significantly aids putting the trousers over your boots and existing trouser layer.
We feel that Paclite is worth searching out for your overtrousers as you can literally carry the overtrousers in your rucksack without noticing them. See the photo opposite showing the tiny size they can be compressed down to – about the size of my clenched fist.
In addition, there is some evidence that Paclite garments have better breathability than the standard Gore-Tex Performance.
Zips, Venting and Rip Protection
The final key considerations to look out for chiefly concern the zips on your waterproof trousers. Zips are often a source of water ingress and the best waterproof trousers use an additional stormflap layer either on the outside of the zip, or inside and sometimes both! Look for YKK zips or specific waterproof zips to help prevent water getting in this way.
We also recommend that you buy overtrousers with full length zips which can open from the bottom upwards as well as downwards. Overtrousers are notoriously difficult to put on without falling over or getting your foot stuck. The simpler it is to ‘step-through’ the foot-holes of the legs, the better. Indeed some waterproof overtrousers will completely unzip and so they can be wrapped around your waist like a shirt before zipping up. Saves sitting down and getting a wet bum!
Finally, look for some good protection or reinforcement of the outer material at places which frequently rub. A scuff patch on the inner ankle area (as shown in the photograph) is particularly useful to avoid wear and tear.
So what are the best waterproof trousers out there. Obviously it depends significantly on your budget, but personally we don’t think it’s worth forking out over £150 for something that you will not be wearing that frequently. As such, we’re limiting the range to a maximum budget of ~£100 which can get you an excellent set of high performing waterproof and breathable trousers.
Best Waterproof Overtrousers
Marmot PreCip Eco Waterproof Overtrousers
For many years, Marmot gear passed us by and it wasn’t until a friend of ours rocked up to a hike with one of their Highlander Down jackets on that we decided to do a bit of sleuthing around the brand – fatal mistake! Now they’re one of our favourites due to their sleek, stylish designs.
The Marmot Precip Eco Waterproof trousers are extremely comfortable overtrousers using a 2.5 layer breathable fabric called NanoPro Eco. “Why Eco?” I hear you cry – well Marmot are using recycled nylon in their construction which helps cut down on land-fill and is a gesture towards sustainability. Frankly though, they are a damn good set of lightweight (~250g) overtrousers and will keep you dry for not much expense.
When the package arrived containing the Precip Eco trousers, I was struck by how minimalist they are. The 35cm side zips are covered by a storm flap on each side and there is no cinching at the bottom of each leg – when they’re on you can barely tell that you’re not just wearing a pair of black walking trousers.
The Nano Pro Eco material has a ‘dry-touch’ outer layer which makes it soft to handle and not too noisy or ‘rustly’. I hate it when overtrousers make too much noise, and the Marmots were pretty quiet in that regard when walking. There is also no netting layer inside them which is much my preferred design option as it stops your boots getting caught up when putting them on.
One thing to mention is that there are three integrated pockets on the Marmots – one at each side, and one on the rear. Each pocket is zipped with their own storm flaps, but it’s personal choice whether this is for you. Some people may be concerned that it provides more routes for water entry, but we didn’t notice anything untoward after a weekend of wet weather testing.
Finally, on my final day using the Marmots, I was climbing over a style on an overgrown section of local walk I often use for my tests. The overtrousers got caught on a bramble and I heard that awful scrape noise that puts the fear into anyone who hears it. Miraculously there was no tear visible and I can only attribute that to the ripstop material used. Top marks from Marmot on these overtrousers. A great all-rounder!
We were impressed by the Marmot PreCip Eco overtrousers. The NanoPro Eco membrane worked well for both waterproofing and breathability. We would like to have seen slightly longer zips on the side of the leg, but that's personal preference and not a dealbreaker. The excellent price of the Marmots gives them the 'top allrounder' position in our recommended list. Definitely worth trying a pair.
Berghaus Paclite Overtrousers
The Berghaus Paclite waterproof trousers are pretty much all the overtrouser you will ever need and are our go-to rucksack essential when it’s looking like storms are in the air.
As discussed above, the Gore-Tex Paclite membrane layer enables incredible packability as well as exceptionally light weight design (228g for the men’s and 185g for the women’s).
We gave the Berghaus Paclites a pretty thorough going over in terms of water. Both my wife Alison and I donned a pair and our daughter Loz took great delight at spraying water at us with a hosepipe. The trouble is she couldn’t get us wet! The water was simply beading off the Berghaus trousers and at the end of the exercise they looked completely dry – impressive!
Of course, the breathability is important too, and we have conducted many hill walks with the Berghaus Paclite with absolutely no internal moisture being found on our inner trousers. It simply isn’t an issue – they are great performers.
Some people claim that the Paclite material is less resistant to abrasion (it doesn’t have the internal netting layer of Gore-Tex Professional). We have not seen any evidence of this at all and would not let this put you off buying any Paclite garment. This is especially the case for overtrousers because by their very nature they will not be used on every walk, and even when they are used, it is not likely to be for the whole time – they are there for protection against the elements when required.
The zips on the Berghaus are excellent quality, as you would expect for an item costing almost £100. They can unzip from the bottom up and make the overtrousers easy to slide over your walking boots. The zips can also descend from the top and this means that you can make large, adjustable air vents in the side of them to let air in and cool yourself down if required.
The colour range is limited to black with some low-key Berghaus branding and Gore-Tex labelling at different positions on the trouser. They look stylish and should go with any upper layer without standing out too much.
Overall, we are definite fans of the Berghaus Paclite waterproof overtrousers and would certainly recommend them to any budding hillwalkers if you can afford the price. Once you see how small they can be bundled up (in the supplied mesh sac) then you will be thankful you invested in them.
We make no apologies for rating the Berghaus Paclites as exemplary overtrousers. The stitching, taped seams and general lightweight and packability make them a great choice for any outdoor excursion. We're knocking off half a point because the side zips don't fully undo - you still need to 'step through' them.
Rab Downpour Waterproof Overtrousers
We were excited to get our hands on the parcel containing the Rab Downpour pants because our expectations were that Rab could conjure up the best waterproof trousers on the market. We were not to be disappointed.
Unusually for Rab gear, the Downpour waterproof overtrousers are not excessively expensive, even though they use Rab’s excellent Pertex Shield 2.5 layer technical fabric. This gives the Downpours an excellent 20000mm HH value with superb breathability whilst also being extremely light. They only weigh 205g and can pack down to a very small size – just what the Doctor ordered!
Rab have incorporated decent waterproof YKK side zips into the legs which allow them to be opened up to about knee level. This offers reasonable access for getting your feet through, but I would have preferred to have seen the zips go all the way up like the Berghaus Paclites. You still have to thread a potentially muddy walking boot through the crotch and upper leg area, and so need to gather up the leg in order to do it effectively. Each side zip is covered by a storm flap to further protect against the raging elements, and there are individual toggles for each ankle area of the overtrousers.
In terms of design, the knee area shows a decent level of articulation, with a taped seam separating the lower half of the leg from the upper. This helps the Downpours follow the natural contour of your legs as you walk and it works well. The waist band is fully elasticated but also includes a toggle cord to draw them extra tightly if you so desire.
In use I was impressed. The Pertex Shield has a quality feel to it and the performance was second to none – no water ingress or internal sweat build up. They held up well for my daily 5 miles morning walk during some seriously driving rain and I could see the water literally beading off – always comforting!
In summary, we would highly recommend the Rab Downpour waterproof trousers as excellent performers for a great price. If money is no object then we would urge you to stretch to the Berghaus Paclites, but the Rabs are definitely quality items which work well. We would just prefer longer zips!
We think the Rab Downpours are some of the best waterproof trousers on the UK market today. Our only gripe is that the excellent quality zips don't go high enough up each leg. Still, it's a minor point and for under £50 these must be the best value Rab gear in the range!
Sprayway Walking Rainpants - Best Budget Overtrousers
When we saw the name of the Sprayway Walking Rainpant (also available in a women’s version) we immediately had visions of these overtrousers walking by themselves – it would certainly be a great sight out in the hills – hordes of overtrousers marching along. Anyway I digress…
The Spray Rainpants are at the budget end of the scale, but offer a good fit and decent(ish) breathability with their two layer HydroDry construction. We like the simple elastic waistband on top, but are less keen on the mesh netting layer inside the rainpants – it can be easy to catch a boot on when trying to elegantly put them on.
That being said, the Sprayways were easy to put on and we had no problems with snagging the mesh layer because they have thoughtfully included 3/4 length zips – we’re a fan of this as it makes it so much easier to put the overtrousers on. Yes the zips could potentially let in water, but we haven’t experienced this as an issue.
The Spraysways weigh around 400G and have a quality feel to the material – you can’t imagine water getting in at all – they performed very well on several dog walks through a rainy local park and we are excited to try them in slightly more challenging terrain.
Stormflaps around the ends of the overtrousers are a welcome touch and help seal you up completely against the elements. We must also mention the overall style of the Spraysways – they look great and seem to have a better shape/fit than more expensive competition. Great work Sprayway!
In short, we can highly recommend the Sprayway Walking Rainpants – they have a great fit, don’t cost too much and do an excellent job of keeping rain out – just watch that inner mesh layer!
Apart from the disappointment of not seeing them strolling along by themselves, the Sprayway Walking Rainpants are an excellent budget offering even without the full 3 layer membrane technology. They look good and keep you dry in all but the most arduous, humid conditions.
Hi Gear Typhoon Overtrousers
If you only want to pay a rock-bottom price for your overtrousers then we were impressed with the Hi Gear Typhoons.
Hi-Gear equipment is typically sold at Go Outdoors, Millets and Blacks which all fall under the Frasers/JD Sports conglomerate behemoths. It is typically excellent value gear for those of us on a budget and can usually be relied on to get the job done for not much expenditure.
The Typhoons are a case in point. Although they’re not Gore-Tex and lack full breathability through the fabric, they have excellent side zips which extend 3/4 of the way up each leg. This means you can create natural vents to let air circulate effectively.
The right hand pocket of the overtrousers is an actual pocket, sewn into them nicely. I found this to be pretty useful as I din’t have to worm my hands down through the zip into my inner pocket of my trousers as you do on the left hand side.
You may expect that because the fabric is only a single Teflon-coated waterproof layer that the trousers would compact down well. Actually, the material is thicker than you would expect and they are reasonably bulky overtrousers – weight is 460g – you could even consider wearing them as your only pair of trousers although there is no button at the top – just an elasticated strip to hold them up.
Overall, the Hi Gear Typhoons are a cheap and cheerful option for outdoor walking. If you’re serious about spending alot of time in the outdoors then I would urge you to invest slightly more cash to get a proper breathable pair. However, for protection against showers and short-term jaunts then these will do you fine.
The Hi Gear Typhoon use fairly thick, Teflon-coated material to keep you both warm and dry. They are not properly breathable but this can be circumnavigated by opening the zips to promote airflow. Not bad for £25!
Jack Wolfskin Rainy Day Pants
As we’ve said before, Jack Wolfskin gear often flies under the radar – people equate it with Peter Storm or other ‘ruggedly sir-named’ individuals. The truth is that in our opinion Jack Wolfskin is invariably better made than the other brands seen in the main highstreet outdoor stores. German made with great focus on decent fabrics and materials as well as functional yet stylish design – we like them alot!
The Jack Wolfskin Rainy Day Pants take this principle and confirm it 100%! With a 10000mm hydrostatic head waterproof level and MVTR (breathability) of greater than 6000 g/m2/day these are excellent waterproof trousers indeed.
Weight is a magnificently low 170g (for a medium size) by virtue of the Texapore ripstop shell fabric used in their construction. They pack up very small in your rucksack and keep you bone dry even in torrential conditions. Trust us on this!
So where’s the catch with the Rainy Day Pants if there is one? Well it could be related to the zips or the lack of them! There are no side zips on these waterproof trousers meaning that you cannot create your own air vents at top of the trousers.
The bottom of each leg has a velcro tab which means the opening can be expanded to fit your boot through. This is fine for most applications and means there’s no chance of water ingress through the zips – however we found they were easier to put on if we were sat down – not something you always want to do in pouring rain. However for the price, the value of the Jack Wolfskins cannot be denied.
Sizing wise, the Rainy Day Pants are classed as ‘unisex’. This essentially means if you’re buying online that you need to take a punt on whether they will fit or not. I’m a 6ft3 male and found that XL was a good fit. If you’re a smaller lady then you will probably want the small (S).
Overall, the Jack Wolfskin rainy day raining pants are great outdoor waterproof trousers and a fine addition to any kit. Just bear in mind how important the ability to unzip at the top of the leg is to you. The breathability is so good that it’s not really an issue, but sometimes it’s more about getting too hot and having that versatility is useful.
Jack Wolfskin never fail to deliver something slightly different and in the case of the Rainy Day Pants it's a zipless set of overtrousers with excellent heat retention, waterproofing and breathability. If you can grab them for under £50 then we think you'll be very happy - if you have more to spend then there are better options. Go for it!
Rohan Vapour Trail Waterproof Overtrousers
Rohan’s Vapour Trail waterproof overtrousers are an excellent performer for outdoor rainy days with a number of decent design cues from the top to the bottom. In particular, the knee high side zips are excellent quality and we loved the storm flap over each which is continuous to the bottom of the leg to enable adjustment of the leg tightness around the ankle – nice!
The Rohan’s use their proprietary Barricade membrane which is a 2.5 layer system – you’re unlikely to find any trousers for sub £100 which have 3-layer membrane tech – well we certainly haven’t found any! The Barricade works very well though as it is additionally treated on the exterior with Rohan’s Durable Water Repellency finish – this is fantastic stuff which stops the familiar “wetting out” of the fabric when the rain is pummeling down. This means the breathability stays high under all conditions and is a real highlight of the Vapour Trail overtrousers. The numbers agree – 20000mm HH and 20000g/m2/day MVPR are very impressive, and the pick of our roundup if specs are your thing.
Weight is not earth shatteringly light at 290g but certainly light enough in our experience. They pack down to a verifiable 600ml volume and can hide away well in the backpack. Packing is remarkably simple as there is a side pocket which contains a mesh inside into which the whole pair of trousers can be bundled into! I was very impressed and it highlighted Rohan’s pedigree to me once again when it comes to providing classy outdoor gear. The Vapour Trails really do look the part and the photographs don’t do them justice.
Overall, the Rohan Vapour Trail waterproof overtrousers are an excellent outdoor garment and perfect for packing into the rucksack for a potentially wet day’s walking.
If you've got an eye for the numbers then the Rohan Vapour Trail waterproof overtrousers should be top of your list. They have class leading 20k/20k numbers for waterproofness and breathability - fantastic performance for this price point. They also look great and perfromed very well. Again it's the lack of full length zips (knee level only) which knock a point off for us. You may well disagree!
Best Waterproof Walking Trousers
If you just want a pair of waterproof walking trousers without the faff of putting on overtrousers then there are a range of options available. This is not generally our preference for walking as these trousers are often thicker material which can get hot if you’re wearing them all day and it doesn’t rain. For mountain/alpine hiking etc in snow or rain though they can be invaluable, especially with ruggedized knee and seat areas for kneeling/sitting.
Craghoppers Kiwi Pro - Best Budget Waterproof Walking Trousers
These Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Waterproof Trousers are great all-round walking trousers – the fact that they also offer excellent waterproof performance via an AquaDry membrane for a great price make them a no-brainer if you’re after some all round trousers. For women, we also recommend the Airedale trousers which have even better waterproof performance.
The Kiwi Pros use a stretch material which allows them to blend around your bum and upper thighs, and this really helps prevent chafing when walking for long distances.
Waterproof performance is surprisingly good – we experimented by pouring a glass of water directly on to the trousers and it just beaded up and slid right off – impressive for a budget pair of trousers. Craghoppers specify a hydrostatic head of 8000mm which is better than most tents! The Women’s Airedales are even better at 20000mm and cheaper to buy!
Breathability is excellent at 10000 g/m2/24hrs (40000 for the Airedales) and this is so important when you could be wearing the trousers all day. There is no doubt that you will get warm wearing these, so we recommend that you use them in autumn and winter rather than spring/summer.
The Kiwi Pros are a really decent budget pair of waterproof trousers and I was very pleasantly surprised by both their fit and performance during some howling local dog walking on Sutton Park recently. The three pockets (two side and one rear) are all zipped which allows you to secure your phone and wallet if needed, although you’re probably better off using a day backpack for storage to keep your legs free.
The Craghopper Kiwi Pro Waterproof trousers are an excellent combination of walking trousers with waterproof and brethable membrane included. The stretch fit material molds to your body well and they really deliver on all fronts. Just make sure you buy the waterproof version as there is also a cheaper non-waterproof version.
Solognac R900 - Best Rugged Waterproof Trousers
For a more hands-on approach to outdoor life (e.g. fishing, hunting or general camping activities) then you may require something a bit more rugged. We can highly recommend the Solognac R900 reinforced waterproof trousers for these kind of activities. They are superb.
The R900s are perfectly adept for walking, but they are certainly heavier than standard walking trousers at around 1kg. But you are getting doubly reinforced front thigh, knee and calf areas which means you can kneel down without fear of tearing your trousers.
The fit is good and there are a range of large pockets which are all zipped and taped to be fully waterproof – you feel like a commando putting these on!
Waterproof performance is excellent (5000mm HH) but because of the thickness of the material, these are not fully breathable trousers in the Gore-Tex sense of the word – instead the R900s incoporate side zips which can be opened to allow cool air to circulate in around your legs and nether regions. This works well, but again we don’t recommend using these trousers on a hot summer’s day – you’ll probably melt!
The Solognac R900 trousers are an excellent pair of waterproof breeches, and can be comfortably worn all day at the campsite instead of jeans. If you’re planning on major hill walking then we would recommend looking elsewhere for something with thinner, stretchier material, but as all-round waterproof trousers, these take some beating!
The Solgnac R900 waterproof trousers are a great all-round rugged outdoor pair of breeches. The material feels almost bullet proof and these are perfect for all kinds of more strenuous outdoor activities. Highly recommended for everything but the longest walks on hot summer days
Fjallraven Vidda Pro G-1000 Men's Trousers
Sweden – a land renowned for Ikea, Volvo and a veritable smorgasbord of other quality items. Well since 1960 they have also had outdoor company Fjӓllrӓven who have been quietly making exceptional quality equipment for those in the know.
Amongst the hiking fraternity, Fjallraven gear is highly regarded and the G-1000 Vidda Pro trousers get excellent ratings consistently. I can’t disagree and have basically been living in the review pair I was lucky enough to receive – cutting the lawn and doing the weeding was never easier with them on!
It should be said that the waterproofing is achieved via a waxed outer coating, and you will need to take care of that layer over time to keep it fresh. We have a useful article on the waterproofing process and products to use. The trousers are a blend of polyester and cotton (similar to polycotton tents) which give the best attributes of each (lightness vs breathability and tactile feel).
With ruggedized knees which are pre-shaped for ease of walking, the Vidda Pro G-1000s are a joy to walk in, and weigh only 590g which is reasonable for adventure pants.
The bottom portion of each leg incorporate hooks to clip on to your hiking boot laces as well as adjustable straps to create a seal against the boot. Nice attention to detail.
We like the pockets available on both the men’s and women’s versions. There are two side pockets and then three leg pockets (two left and one right) which are closed via pop-studs rather than zips – less to go wrong, but less protection against water getting in.
We found the Fjallraven Vidda Pro G-1000 Trousers a real joy to use and can thoroughly recommend them, even at the >£100 price point. You can tell the designers have actually been hill walking themselves and have taken that experience into creating an excellent pair of breeches for men or women respectively.
That concludes our roundup on the best waterproof trousers on the market today. If you need a great value waterproof and breathable jacket to round off the ensemble, then be sure to check out our companion article highlighting the best waterproof jackets we’ve tested.