If you’ve ever turned around on a hike or winter tour because wet weather soaked you to the bone, I understand your pain. Admittingly, I used to scoff at the idea of spending anything over a twenty-dollar bill on rain pants. Or at the idea of packing a waterproof pair of pants in the first place. A little rain never hurt anyone, after all, right?
Wrong. And if you ever find yourself days deep in a backpacking adventure with a laughable amount of persistent torrential rain, you’ll understand why. Even just a long day hiking in the rain with the wrong gear can leave a person questioning their lifestyle choices.
And so, learn from my mistakes ladies: invest in your rain gear! Especially in your rain pants. I’ve rounded a list of the top-rated, all-weather rain pants out there, so you can pick the very best of the best.
My Review Process
Being active in the great outdoors is my happy place. And over the past two decades of adventuring near and far in a variety of conditions, I’ve learned that weather does not need to limit your time outside if you have the right gear.
From backcountry adventures in soggy Spring conditions to multi-day hikes in rainforest-like climates, I’ve been met with some pretty gnarly wet days and enjoyed them all the same. The biggest takeaway? Preparedness is paramount! Quality, all-weather layers make all the difference between thriving outdoors when precipitation rolls in, and wishing you weren’t there.
When compiling the best rain pants for wet weather adventures, I spent time nerding out on the stats so that you don’t have to. I’ve prioritized lightweight, waterproof material above all, but breathability was also a key factor in my decisions. The Buying Guide below breaks down these all-important features and what else to look for, so be sure to give it a read!
Versatility and efficient performance rank pretty high in my outdoor gear closet, and Outdoor Research truly understands that sentiment. The company’s best-selling Women’s Aspire Gore-Tex bottoms rank as my favorite rain pants for wet weather adventures.
The Gore-Tex Paclite fabric features a 2-layer construction and fully sealed seams, which is hard to surpass in its level of waterproofing. It offers continuous rain protection (and wind blocking!) all without sacrificing breathability. Another big perk is the hip-high zippers on the sides. They offer extra ventilation for sweaty uphills and make transitions a breeze, no matter how bulky or muddy your hiking boots are.
Now, if I had to make an improvement to the O.R. Aspire pants, I would tweak the fit. While I appreciate the articulated knees, it creates an unnecessary bagginess in the legs. Rain pants are about function not fashion, though, so it’s easy to forgive. Especially since it adds mobility for technical trail sections.
Bottom line is: I trust the Outdoor Research Aspire Gore-Tex pants to keep me dry and comfortable in the most severe weather. I’ve even worn them on Spring ski tours! For a pair of rain pants, that’s a tall order, but they rise up to wet activities every time.
Waterproof Rating: 28,000 / Breathability Rating: 15,000 / Weight: 9.8 ounces
Columbia has long been a leader in providing athletic gear for women of all shapes and body types. With standard and plus-sized options, and inseam lengths for both regular and petite heights, their Women’s Storm Surge Rain Pant is my pick for having the most inclusive sizing. And an inclusive price tag to boot.
It may not be the most technical of styles, but it ticks all the boxes of a great waterproof rain pant. The Storm Surge is lightweight, fully seam-sealed, and has a comfortable elastic waist that cinches for a custom fit. The mesh lining of the Omni-Tech is also a nice touch, providing extra warmth for cooler days. All while maintaining a high level of breathability.
You probably will need to take off your boots to avoid messy transitions in and out of them, but that’s no deal breaker. At such a budget-friendly price, Columbia’s Women’s Storm Surge juggles waterproof technology and outdoor performance like a champ.
Waterproof Rating: 10,000 / Breathability Rating: 10,000 / Weight: 10 oz +/-
Need uncompromising, four-season rain protection, no matter what outdoor activities call your name? Look no further, ladies. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bottom that delivers the level of waterproofing and performance like the Arc’teryx Beta AR Pant.
The endless list of tech features is truly unmatched. WaterTight hip zippers for ventilation and ankle side zips for easy on/off? Check. An adjustable built-in belt with suspender loops, and instep patches for extra protection from crampons, ski edges or boots? Double check. A 3-layer construction Gore-Tex Pro material capable of tackling the most inclement weather? Oh yes; it’s widely considered the best waterproof technology out there.
Will the price put a dent in your wallet? For most of us, yes. But it’s an investment that will prove its worth for many years of adventuring. From snow-based winter sports to alpine hikes and overgrown trails, they’re the most durable option for whatever wet-weather mountain activities you crave, in whatever season.
Waterproof Rating: 28,000 / Breathability Rating: 25,000 / Weight: 15.9 oz
If range of motion is a priority on your adventures, you need rain pants that’ll move with you no matter what terrain you encounter. Enter the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonics, one of the more technical —and by far the stretchiest!— pairs of rain pants on our list.
You’ll find comfort and ease of movement at the forefront of the Ozonic design. The pants feature a tried-and-true, four-way-woven DryQ Active fabric that’s waterproof, flexible and super durable all at once. I’d say they blend the gap between rain pants and normal hiking pants like no other.
What about the cons? Well, the seams are not sealed; probably due to their stretchiness. That’s not exactly ideal for persistent bad weather or activities in very heavy rain. If you don’t need continuous rain protection for days on end, though, the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic pants will provide a range of movement that’s truly hard to beat.
Waterproof Rating: 20,000 / Breathability Rating: 15,000 / Weight: 10 oz
Are you the kind of outdoorswoman that’s constantly shaving pack weight in any way you can? Z Packs Women’s Vertice Pants are for you! Clocking in at under 3 ounces, they’re the reigning ultralight champs of the rain pant market, and show no signs of slowing down.
Weight isn’t (always) everything, though, so what’s the next standout feature? They come with a breathability superpower, one of the highest ratings out there. That’s thanks to the super innovative, three-layer Z Packs Vertice material. It combines a trinity of tricot, ripstop nylon and a waterproof, moisture-permeable membrane in the center. All of which offer unmatched waterproofing to boot.
Something so featherlight does have its drawbacks, of course. Thinner material usually means more fragility and less durability. If you’re not scrambling craggy peaks on the day-to-day, however, they should have no issues with durability if cared for properly. Ultimately, if going ultralight is your priority, nothing compares to the performance of the Z Packs Vertice Pants. They’ll be your indispensable winning ticket for staying dry no matter what adventure you’re on.
Waterproof Rating: 20,000 / Breathability Rating: 56,000 / Weight: 2.9 oz
Budget rain pants are a bit of a coin toss, but that’s not really the case with the Acme Projects Rain Pants. For what you pay, they balance waterproofing and performance like the best of them.
Yes, the style is straightforward, ladies. But it’s a functional rain pant, with an elastic waistband that’s adjustable with drawcord, and velcro closures at the pant cuffs. And while the synthetic fabric remains a mystery blend, it’s rated at 10,000mm. That’s pretty huge for a budget rain pant! Fully taped seams ensure there’s no leakage, too.
Now, at around 14 ounces (for a size L,) they’re not the most lightweight rain pants. And the breathability rating is indeed low. For a budget option, though, that’s no surprise. If you’re looking for a super cost-effective, quick fix to occasional rainy weather activities, the Acme Projects Rain Pants will do the job in a pinch- as long as your expectations align with the price!
Waterproof Rating: 10,000 / Breathability Rating: 3,000 Unknown / Weight: 14 oz +/-
Women’s Rain Pants Buying Guide
Gone are the days when waterproof clothing meant heavy knee-high rain boots and a trash bag-esque poncho to keep you dry in the elements. Materials, styles and waterproofing technology for rain gear have come a long way.
While the type of waterproof pants you pick should mainly depend on your intention for them —are there buckets raining every day, or light sporadic drizzles?— mobility, breathability, and overall function are equally important. Read on as I delve into these essential features below.
From nylon and Gore-Tex to complex, seven-syllable performance fabrics, rain pants are made from a variety of complex constructions to keep you dry.
Materials will usually either have a waterproof coating or a waterproof laminate, and anywhere from one to three layers. A 3-layer rain pant is generally indicative of top-of-the-line performance.
Nearly all waterproof pants will have a waterproof and breathability rating attached, and it’s worth looking at to get an overall idea of how they might perform (more on those immediately below!)
You do need to know that even the most expensive, high-tech waterproof rain pants are susceptible to moisture when met with persistent severe weather (rain, wind, etc). If you want extra protection, I recommend maximizing the performance of your outdoor gear by using a waterproofing treatment or spray, like from gear companies NikWax or Grangers.
The waterproof rating of a fabric, measured in “mm,” refers to the amount of water that it can withstand (in a controlled setting) without permeating water over a 24-hour period. How important is it when choosing a pair of rain pants? It’s pretty up there, but that’s not to say a pair of rain pants with a lower number will be a bust.
While it largely depends on where and how you plan on adventuring, generally, rain gear should have a minimum rating of 5000mm. That should keep you dry in light to moderate rainfall. To really feel confident in heavy rain, though, aim for something 10,000mm or higher. If you plan on setting out on something longer or more serious, where staying dry is imperative for safety, a minimum of 20,000mm would be your best bet.
When it comes to rain gear, traditional waterproofing often comes at a cost: breathability. Sure, heavy-duty rain pants made with PVC or the ilk are pretty sweet for sailors or kayakers. But if you plan to move and break a sweat, you need something that allows moisture to escape.
Luckily, breathability can also be measured these days. Although the methods vary, it is typically rated in g/m²/24 hours. This reflects how many grams of moisture can be released from a certain material in a 24-hour period. I’ve included this rating on all my choices above, so you can understand the relationship between waterproofing and breathability, and pick a model which best suits your outdoor goals.
Unless you’re heading out into a five-day bout of inclement weather, chances are that your rain pants and rain jacket will be stuffed into your backpack until the need for them arises. Having a pair of pants that’s lightweight and very packable, then, is key. Something under 12 ounces is ideal, but if you’re heading out on a backpacking trip or thru hike, I’d choose something under 6 ounces if possible.
Seams on your rain pants should ideally be fully taped, sealed, or welded. You can have the most high-end waterproof fabric out there, but if all those tiny holes around needle-stitched seams aren’t properly sealed, water will find its way through them.
Zippered Legs vs Velcro Cuffs
There are two main styles of rain pants found on the market. Slip-on pants with wider leg openings, usually adjustable with velcro straps at the cuff, or zip pants with partial or full-length zipper sides. Having tried both styles, your choice mainly depends on personal preference and desired convenience.
Are partial or full length side-zippers super awesome when it starts pouring and you have crampons or muddy hiking boots on? Absolutely. They also have the bonus of allowing extra ventilation if it’s warm out. Zippers do add some weight, though, and are something that can potentially break.
Like most backpacking gear, essential rain gear comes at a cost. Can you make do with a budget pair of rain pants, especially if you simply need “just in case” protection? Sure. For reliable, quality rain pants, though, expect to pay anywhere from $60 to upwards of $200.
Cheap rain pants may work well as a quick fix, but they’re often not made with long-term durability in mind. If you need a pair of rain pants to hold up for years worth of trailblazing and serious adventures, trust me: pay the higher price.
For me, the most solid women’s rain pants should balance weight, versatility and waterproof technology.. That’s why I’ve chosen the Outdoor Research Aspire Gore-Tex Pants as my best overall pick.
If you’re on a tighter budget and something simple will do, the Columbia Women’s Storm Surge Rain Pants offer excellent waterproof performance-to-price.
Now, if you’re in search of a technical powerhouse that will hold up in all four seasons, the Arc'teryx Women's Beta AR Pant is one of the best investments you can make for your gear closet.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.