The Best Rain Pants of 2021: Staff Picks

Stay dry in wet weather with these 7 waterproof pants.

12 reviews with an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars
Two hikers in rain gear pause before a waterfall.

A durable and well-made pair of rain pants can make being outside more fun by helping you stay dry and comfortable. Together with a waterproof rain jacket, they form your essential wet-weather defense team. Choosing the perfect set of rain pants is all about finding the right balance of key features for your chosen activity. At a minimum, rain pants should be waterproof, breathable and have some degree of articulation, meaning they’ll move with you, whether you’re spectating a sporting event or scrambling above treeline.

The next time you plan to hike, bike or run errands in the rain, stay dry with our staff’s favorite rain pains available at the co-op, which we’ve broken down by intended use. 

 

REI Co-op Talusphere Rain Pants

Best Rain Pants for Hiking

REI Co-op Talusphere Pants

For avid hikers, an annual trek through spring drizzle is usually part of the equation. The REI Co-op Talusphere rain pants are waterproof, windproof to 60 miles per hour and a versatile all-around choice when the weather is finicky. “The benefit of the Talusphere is that they are super durable,” said Rhonda Krafchin, a sales lead at the REI in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

“I’ve had these for over four years and they’ve been amazing,” wrote one REI customer reviewer. “I’ve used them as an extra easily removable layer for cold morning starts, for afternoon storms (including hail) in the mountains and packed them along for 2- to 3-week backpacking trips where getting caught in a downpour was bound to happen.”

Soft, quiet and comfortable, the Talusphere’s fit works well over base layers or regular clothes, meaning they double as good pants for running errands or walking the dog in the rain. They also move with you, though they lack vents for dumping heat on warmer days. Tightly sealed pockets help keep your vulnerable essentials dry and safely stored, and the pants pack down into their own pocket for easy stowing.

The Taluspheres unzip to mid-calf, not as high as some other rain pants, but enough so you can get them on and off over hiking boots fairly easily. The zippers aren’t waterproof, but they’re protected by a fabric tab to help keep rain out. For a full-zip option that’s easy to take on and off over muddy hiking boots, crampons and even snowshoes, consider the REI Co-op Rainier Full-Zip Pants in women’s or men’s.

 

Showers Pass Transit Bike Pants

Best Rain Pants for Cycling

Showers Pass Transit Pants

  • Versions: Women’s, Men’s
  • Fabric: Nylon
  • Waterproofing: 3-layer waterproof, breathable Artex fabric
  • Price: $129

The Showers Pass Transit bike pants get a lot of love from REI customers. “These pants have changed my life,” gushed one reviewer. “These are so perfect for commuting I don’t know what I did without them!” another wrote. 

Our staff concurs—these pants live up to the praise. The durable 3-layer construction and taped seams mean the Transits stand up to wind and rain, and they breathe well to help you avoid overheating while biking. Plus, their articulated fit is a game-changer. “Articulation is what makes the biggest difference in terms of rain pants,” said Krafchin. “If you’re doing something active, the cut of the clothing is going to allow the piece to move better with you.” This can be especially important when you’re high tailing it home on slick, wet roadways. A healthy dose of articulation through the knees and thighs on the Transits make them comfortable for pedaling, plus cinch straps allow you to taper the fit to help prevent the pants from getting caught in your chain.

Another cycling-specific perk: Reflective trim runs the length of the legs, which helps make you more visible to motorists in low light. One trade-off, though, is that the Transits don’t have pockets.

Reviewers reported that these pants run true to size over bike shorts and base layers; consider sizing up if you’re planning to layer them over heavier fabrics or street clothes.

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Rain Pants

Best Rain Pants for Everyday Wear

Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Rain Pants

  • Versions: Women’s, Men’s
  • Fabric: ECONYL recycled ripstop nylon (bluesign® approved)
  • Waterproofing: 3-layer H2No Performance Standard face fabric with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish
  • Sustainability attributes: Contains recycled materials; Fair Trade Certified™ sewing; product meets the bluesign® criteria
  • Price: $119

Wet weather is no match for the take-anywhere Torrentshell rain pants from Patagonia. Light enough to toss in your bag should the skies open up while you’re coaching your kid’s soccer game yet durable enough to withstand a day in the mountains, these do-it-all pants help keep you dry when you’re on the move. Carlos Rodriguez, an avid ultrarunner and an REI sales specialist based in Wichita, Kansas, swears by the Torrentshells during training runs and races. “I need something that’s going to protect me,” he said, “These pants do just that.”

The fully recycled, 3-layer face fabric boasts a bevy of features. ECONYL nylon is made from discarded fishing nets and ocean waste, and it manages to achieve the tough combo of being both durable and breathable. The pants are coated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish—even the zippers—causing moisture to bead up and glide off the fabric. And, as Krafchin pointed out, “The benefit of having that extra lining on the inside is that if you’re wearing shorts, it’s more comfortable against your skin.”

Additional perks include handwarmer pockets, an elasticized waistband and cuffs that secure around your shoes. The two-way zippers extend from cuffs to mid-thigh, which makes ventilating and putting the pants on over footwear easy. As a nice bonus, the built-in stow pocket has a carabiner clip-in loop for hanging the pants from your pack.

REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants

Best Rain Pants for Pouring Rain

REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants

For stormier weather, our staff raves about how the REI Co-op XeroDry GTX pants hold up during downpours. Known to be durable and robust, the pants’ GORE-TEX waterproofing can handle harsh conditions. “The XeroDry is one of the more phenomenal pieces we carry," said Krafchin.

Whether you’re climbing, hiking or cycling, these hefty (read: not heavy), waterproof pants move with you. They have zippered hand pockets, though the lower cuff detail is what really stands out; a simple fastener lets you unbutton and unzip the bottoms of the XeroDry quickly, while the boot hook keeps the pants down and overspray out.

The short ankle zippers mean the XeroDry pants are a little tougher to pull on over boots, and they don’t ventilate as well as a half- or full-zip pants. If those two factors are a priority, opt for something like the REI Co-op Rainier Full-Zip Pants (women’s, men’s). To find a matching jacket, visit the full XeroDry line.

REI Co-op Essential Rain Pants

Best Budget Pick Rain Pants

REI Co-op Essential Rain Pants

If you’re just starting out and don’t want to spend more than $100 or more or you want a pair of pants for occasional use, said Krafchin, the Essential rain pants from REI Co-op get the job done. They also conveniently pack down into their own pocket for easy stowing.

After putting the pants to the test in Alaska, one customer reported, “I was completely dry after a three-hour hike in heavy rain and sleet in Juneau. Everyone else’s rain pants did not hold up. [I’m] very impressed with these pants!”

When wet weather strikes, the zippered ankles allow you to quickly don the Essentials over boots while a simple elastic drawstring lets you cinch them tight to your body. Plenty of room around the knees and a wide range of sizes means many people will find the fit comfortable. The no-frills design doesn’t skimp on nice-to-have features, including a zippered side pocket for stashing your phone and other essentials.

If you expect heavy rain or big days out, consider opting for the GORE-TEX Co-op XeroDry pants.

Arc’teryx Zeta SL Rain Pants

Best Upgrade Pick Rain Pants

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Rain Pants

  • Versions: Women’s, Men’s
  • Fabric: 40-denier nylon ripstop
  • Waterproofing: GORE-TEX Paclite® Plus
  • Price: $249

Gram counters won’t be disappointed with the packable Arc’teryx Zeta SL rain pants. They’ll easily see you through an unexpected downpour or a weeklong backpacking trip through wet terrain as part of a solid layering system. At 8.6 ounces for the men’s size medium, these are the lightest waterproof pants in the Arc’teryx fleet (the SL stands for “superlight”) and the lightest pants on our list by nearly an ounce.

No matter the inclement weather you find yourself in—trekking through the Pacific Northwest’s Olympic Rainforest, for example, or commuting to work in torrential rain—these pants will help you stay dry. “When you see those ragers coming in, and Mother Nature is going to remind you who’s in charge ... you can really embrace that experience in the Zetas,” said Rodriguez.

Versatile and built with intention, the Zeta’s straightforward minimal design focuses on performance with a few key features that really stand out. Not only is the GORE-TEX Paclite® Plus waterproofing highly durable and breathable, the articulated fabric throughout the trim fit allows for a full range of motion and a next-to-skin feel. The 3/4-length zippers start just above the knees and allow for ample ventilation on the trail—plus the reinforced instep around the bottom cuff adds durability where it’s needed most. There’s only one trade-off for dropping those extra ounces: no pockets.

REI Co-op Rainwall Rain Pants

Best Rain Pants for Kids

REI Co-op Rainwall Rain Pants 

  • Fabric: Nylon
  • Waterproofing: 2.5-layer waterproof, breathable coating
  • Sustainability attributes: Contains materials that meet the bluesign® criteria
  • Price: $49.95

Parents know mobility is key when it comes to outdoor play. The articulated knees on the REI Co-op Rainwall rain pants let kids run and jump freely, making them a top choice for our staff with little ones. The 2.5-layer ripstop fabric features seam-sealing to keep weather out, but it also breathes well, so your kiddo will be less likely to overheat while working up a playground sweat. And reflective trim on the lower leg provides some visibility—a bonus if your child spends any time walking or riding a bike in low light.

The elastic waistband and internal waist adjusters on the Rainwall Pants are a nice perk that just might help extend the life of the pants beyond a single season. (If not, they’re destined to become a favorite hand-me-down.) Another plus: hook-and-loop tabs at the ankles that make it easy to get pants on and off while still cinching tight over boots.

If your toddler’s outdoor adventuring style is more of a full-coverage affair, the REI Co-op Rainwall Rainsuit is the best option. With dual-panel zippers, it easily slips over outerwear, and the three-panel adjustable hood offers ample overhead protection.

 

Shop All Rain Pants 

 

Buying Advice

Consider how you plan to use them when choosing the best rain pants for you. Above all, rain pants need to be waterproof and breathable, but attributes like construction and other added perks can help you determine how well the pants will hold up for the type of activity you like to do.

Waterproofing vs. Breathability

It’s all about finding the right balance of breathability and waterproofing—two seemingly opposing forces. Breathable materials let moisture escape from the inside, while waterproof materials seal out moisture from the outside. Although it’s tough to create fabrics that release moisture and seal it out, good rain pants do both.

Construction

Generally, rain pants are constructed with 2, 2.5 or 3 layers. All rain pants have an outer face layer (the first layer). Typically made from nylon or polyester, this layer stands up to abrasion and repels rain. It’s almost always treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish that makes water bead up and roll off the face fabric, preventing precipitation from saturating the garment’s exterior. Every couple of months, when your pants start to feel clammy or raindrops start to soak in the surface, it’s time to renew the DWR.

We’ll get into the technical specifics below, but the bottom line when choosing rain pants is that they should let you easily pursue your chosen activity. For high-output activities, breathability should be a top focus; for more rugged pursuits, focus on staying dry in inclement weather.

  • 2-Layer Construction: Found in less technical pants, 2-layer construction bonds the outer fabric to a waterproof, breathable laminate or coating (the second layer). In terms of breathability, that second layer is a key component, as it does the trick of blocking rain while allowing sweat vapor to escape. A loose hanging liner on the inside protects the coating or laminate. None of the rain pants in our gear guide feature this basic 2-layer construction.
  •  2.5-Layer Construction: Like 2-layer construction, 2.5-layer rain pants have a waterproof, breathable coating applied to the underside of the first layer but add to the mix a porous protective material (the half-layer) that’s applied over the second layer. This half-layer takes the place of an inner liner and makes rain pants lighter and more flexible than 3-layer rain pants. Several of the pants on this list feature a 2.5-layer construction, like the Talusphere, the Essential and the kids’ Rainwall.
  • 3-Layer Construction: Rain pants featuring 3-layer construction, like the Torrentshells and the Transits, are the toughest of the bunch in most scenarios. There are no coatings, just a waterproof, breathable membrane (the second layer) between a rugged face fabric (the first layer) and a shield-like lining (the third layer). This construction, though it sounds counterintuitive, allows 3-layer pants to be lighter than 2-layer pants since they don’t include the weight of the hanging liner. They’re also often more durable and breathable than 2.5-layer pants.

To help picture how the layers work together, think of waterproof, breathable membranes in 3-layer pants as wallpaper applied to a wall and waterproof, breathable laminates in 2.5-layer pants as spray paint applied to a wall.

Note: The XeroDry pants feature 2-layer GORE-TEX Paclite®, which isn’t the standard in 2-layer construction, but closer to what you'll find in 3-layer construction. The outer layer is bonded to a membrane, then covered with a durable protective coating, rendering a separate lining unnecessary. The payoff is that you lose a little weight but retain all the weather protection from the GORE-TEX laminate. The Zeta SLs take that up a notch with Paclite® Plus, with an even more abrasion-resistant outer layer.

To learn more about the technical aspects of waterproof gear, read our complete guide on how to choose rainwear and our series on rainwear basics.

Features

Activity-specific features can make a big difference when shopping for rain pants. Though nice to have, things like pockets, adjustment tabs and zippers tend to make rain pants heavier and less packable. Fastpackers may opt for the lightest-weight pants, while climbers may want fabric with more stretch. For cyclists, articulation tends to matter a lot, whereas mountaineers may be interested in warm materials that are easy to pull on over boots. Think about how you’ll use the pants and choose accordingly.

Methodology

We asked REI Co-op staffers what their favorite rain pants are at REI. They reported back with their top picks for hiking, bike commuting, pouring rain, outdoor play, running errands and everything in between. We also consulted with REI customer reviewers has to say about these pants. These seven pairs are the co-op community’s can’t-go-wrong faves.

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Article by Ebony Roberts. Ebony is a freelance writer and editor covering the outdoors, travel and the environment. As a gear reviewer, she’s hiked, camped, paddled and more to find the best stuff to help people get outside. Now, with a toddler in tow, she still does all that—only slower. When not crafting stories about life outdoors, she’s looking for the next adventure, whether exploring trails with her family in their home base of Squamish, British Columbia, or planning her next Tofino camping trip. REI member since 2019.