A durable and well-made pair of rainproof pants can make the difference between marching confidently through a downpour and shivering under a tree, waiting for the clouds to part. Together with a waterproof rain jacket, rain pants are an essential part of your wet-weather defense team. 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. From there, choosing the perfect pair is all about finding the right balance of key features for your chosen activity.
Find our quick recommendations here, or read on to discover our staff and members’ favorite rain pants.
- Best All-Around Rain Pants: REI Co-op Rainier Full- Zip Rain Pants
- Best Rain Pants for Hiking: REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants
- Best Rain Pants for Commuting/Cycling: Showers Pass Transit Bike Pants
- Best Multisport Rain Pants: Arc’teryx Beta AR Rain Pants
- Best Rain Pants for Kids: REI Co-op Rainwall Rain Pants
Best All-Around Rain Pants
REI Co-op Rainier Full-Zip Rain Pants
Fabric Recycled ripstop nylon
Waterproofing 2.5-layer REI Peak recycled waterproof breathable laminate
Sustainability attributes Made in a Fair Trade Certified™ factory; contains materials that meet the bluesign® criteria; contains recycled materials
For an everyday insurance policy against the rain, the REI Co-op Rainier pants get the job done. Whether you’re camping, traveling, running errands or caught in a spring shower mid-hike, these full-zip pants can be pulled on quickly when the weather takes a sudden turn. And for under $100, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more versatile pair at this price.
“Several times I’ve had to set up and break down camp in the pouring rain. These pants kept me bone dry,” says one co-op member from Virginia, adding, “I really like the full-zip. [It] made getting the pants on and off over my size 14 shoes a breeze.” Another co-op member used the Rainier pants for outdoor work in Alaska, saying the pants “kept me dry for the whole three months I was there, and I used them about every other day.”
The two-way extended zippers also allow heat to escape when you’re moving quickly, preventing moisture buildup on the inside. “ You can either zip up [along] the leg or down [from] the hips to give yourself more airflow,” says Raleigh, North Carolina, sales associate Jillian Langston.
The Rainiers aren’t super technical, nor are they the quietest. Still, the four-way stretch fabric and articulated knees accommodate movement, and the roomier fit works well over base layers or regular clothes. The pants are seam-sealed and windproof with an elastic waist that can be adjusted for fit; drawcords on the pant cuffs help keep out debris. Zippered hand pockets keep small essentials dry and safely stored, and the pants pack down into their own pocket for easy stowing.
If you expect heavy rain or big days out, consider opting for the GORE-TEX Co-op XeroDry pants.
Best Rain Pants for Hiking
Our staff raves about the REI Co-op XeroDry GTX pants. Given how quiet, comfortable, lightweight and fairly breathable they are, we think they have all the required attributes to make them a top choice for hiking in the wind and rain. “The XeroDry is one of the more phenomenal pieces we carry,” says Rhonda Krafchin, a sales lead at the REI in Tysons Corner, Virginia, who’s been with the co-op for two decades.
These trail-worthy pants utilize a hybrid design that places ripstop nylon in high-wear areas for added abrasion resistance and quiet, softer polyester everywhere else, so you won’t hear a constant “swishing” sound as you travel. The waterproofing is Paclite®, a more breathable and lightweight 2-layer GORE-TEX laminate that’s better for dumping heat when moving fast and working hard. “The benefit of GORE-TEX is that it’s more durable than other laminates,” says Krafchin. One co-op member stayed sweat-free while hiking in the Olympic Mountains and called the XeroDrys “bulletproof in driving rain and winds.”
The XeroDrys have under-leg gussets and articulated knees, which makes moving in them more manageable, especially when hiking up steep terrain. They’ve also been treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish, so water beads off, and boot hooks keep the pants down and overspray out, eliminating the need for gaiters in most conditions. The ankle zips are secured with a snap, though the shorter zipper length makes them a little tougher to pull on over boots. Still, they weigh next to nothing and pack away into their own pocket for easy storage, a big bonus if you’re on an extended backpacking trip.
To find a matching jacket, visit the full XeroDry line.
Best Rain Pants for Commuting/Cycling
The Showers Pass Transit pants get a lot of love from REI members who bike to and from work. “These pants have changed my life,” gushed one reviewer who wears them on her daily ride. “These are so perfect for commuting I don’t know what I did without them!” another wrote. The cycling-specific cut supports movement, and the ample reflectivity on the Transits helps motorists see you in low light.
“Being visible on the road is the number one priority in keeping you safe when commuting with traffic,” says Jennifer Dallas, REI’s buyer for cycling clothing. That’s why she likes the Transit’s full-length reflective trim — a thick strip that runs from hip to foot.. Other dialed-in elements include the articulated fit through the knees and thighs, making pedaling more comfortable. Plus, cinch straps allow you to taper the fit to help prevent the pants from getting caught in your chain, which can be especially important when you’re high-tailing it home on slick, wet roadways.
The Transits aren’t overly technical, but the durable 3-layer construction and taped seams mean they stand up to wind and rain, and they breathe well enough that you can avoid showing up to work all sweaty. They don’t have pockets but do pack down into a mesh stuff sack so you can toss them in your bag when the sun comes out.
Reviewers report that these pants run true to size over thin layers; consider sizing up if you’re planning to wear them over heavier fabrics or street clothes. Buy here.
Best Rain Pants for Multisport Use
We won’t be coy about it: These pants aren’t for everyone. They’ll only appeal to those willing to spend a pretty penny and looking for waterproof pants that are truly built for all four seasons and a variety of activities. That’s what the AR stands for: All Round. No matter the inclement weather you find yourself in (and no matter the state of water your rain, snow or hail arrives in), the comfortable but tough Arc’teryx Beta AR pants will keep you dry. (Water-resistant zippers and taped seams keep out any other water that may try to sneak in.)
The GORE-TEX Pro fabric is designed for maximum durability with good breathability. The proprietary fabric will shield you above treeline when there’s little protection on a summer mountaineering trip, withstand a weeklong backpacking trip through soggy, wet terrain, and carry you through winter. But the Beta AR stands out for its double-duty capabilities as snow pants, with elastic and boot hooks and Keprotec™ instep patches (a material originally designed for motorcycle clothing) that prevent shredding from boots, crampons and ski edges. Reviewers liked layering them over hiking pants in wet conditions as much as they did for skiing, snowshoeing and mountain climbing.
What the Betas may lack in sleekness, they make up for in movability, with articulation at the knees and seat and a gusseted crotch. The pants are tailored to be slightly roomier than Arc’teryx’s slim-cut pants, which should be a bonus for those doing all things bendy, climby and speedy. “It offers enough room to move fully so when I'm ice climbing it doesn't hinder me in a squat or a stem,” one reviewer says. The 3/4-length zippers start just above the knees and allow for ample ventilation while eliminating extra bulk around the waist that comes with full zips. And the pants allow for adjustments with a webbing belt and, on the women’s version, shoulder straps. The only downside for these upgrade picks: limited sizing. Currently, the Betas don’t come in extended sizing and only the men’s pants are available in a tall version. Reviewers have also noted that the pants can run large and a little long for shorter folks, so size down unless you’d like the option to layer them over other pants. Buy here.
Best Rain Pants for Kids
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 bad weather out, but it also breathes well, so your kiddo will be less likely to overheat while working up a sweat at the playground. 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. Buy here.
When choosing the best rain pants for you, consider how you plan to use them. 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.
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, 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. Some of the pants on this list feature a 2.5-layer construction, like the Rainier Full-Zips and the kids’ Rainwall.
3-Layer Construction: Rain pants featuring 3-layer construction, like 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 Beta ARs take that up a notch with Paclite® Plus, with an even more abrasion-resistant and protective inner layer.
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.
When to wear rain pants
Whenever conditions are cold and wet, rain pants prove useful for staying dry and comfortable. Whether you’re caught in a thunderstorm while backpacking, planning for prolonged rain on your bike commute to work, camping in the Pacific Northwest, running errands, or stashing them away for emergency use, rain pants protect your clothes and provide warmth when needed. Rain pants also offer wind protection in exposed terrain.
How to change into rain pants quickly
When conditions turn wet, getting your rain pants on as fast as possible is essential to avoid trapping moisture inside the pants. Always have them easily accessible. Know where they are in your backpack, or if they zip into their own pocket, secure them to the outside of your pack with a carabiner.
When choosing rain pants, make sure the elastic or lower leg zippers open wide enough to fit your footwear through. For pants with zippers on the top and bottom, unzip both to give yourself larger openings. If your hiking boots are muddy, take them off before putting your pants on and lean on a friend, tree, or trekking pole, so you don’t fall over and dirty your socks.
How to avoid getting sweaty in rain pants
Choose rain pants that prioritize breathability and feature options to vent out, like zippers and mesh pockets. Wear a breathable base layer underneath to avoid trapping moisture in. Opt for merino wool or synthetic blends because these fabrics are wickable—keeping you dry and comfortable by drawing perspiration away from your skin—and they’re quick-drying, so even if you do work up a sweat, they won’t stay wet long. Select the lightest weight possible so that you’ll stay warm but not overheat.
We asked REI co-op staffers what their favorite rain pants are at REI. They reported back with their top picks for all-around use, hiking, bike commuting, pouring rain, outdoor play, running errands and everything in between. We also took into consideration REI member reviews about how these pants performed in the wild. These five pairs are the co-op community’s can’t-go-wrong faves.
- How Rain Gear Works
- How to Choose a Rain Jacket
- How to Choose Kids’ Rain Gear
- Durable Water Repellent (DWR) Care
- How to Care for GORE-TEX Rainwear
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.