Mom Goes Camping

The Best Waterproof Women’s Hiking Pants

best womens waterproof hiking pants

Up until recently, most of the hiking I’ve done was in the summer months when rain isn’t an issue.  Now that I’m hiking in spring and fall more, waterproof hiking pants are an absolute necessity.  After all, what’s the point of wearing a waterproof jacket if your legs are just going to be drenched (possibly resulting in hypothermia when you can’t get dry)?

Thus began my hunt for waterproof women’s hiking pants.  The search has once again reminded me of how often women are forgotten in the world of outdoor sports.  While there are tons of men’s waterproof pants available, the options for women are very limited.

In my local sports store, there were literally ZERO options for women’s waterproof hiking pants!

I wouldn’t mind wearing men’s pants, but the sizes won’t fit my small frame.  I would have gotten Junior Boy’s pants, but they also didn’t have my size. Plus, the fit is sometimes weird when women try to wear men’s or boy’s pants.  Thankfully internet shopping makes it easier to find women’s hiking pants, but I still wish gear makers and sellers would think of women more!

 

8 Best Waterproof Women’s Hiking Pants

1. Arc’Teryx Beta All-Around Gore-Tex Pants

Arc’Teryx Beta All-Around Gore-Tex Pants

These are probably the best waterproof hiking pants for women that you will find anywhere – hence the high price tag.  For serious hikers who go out in bad weather or climbers who need something extra durable, the price might be well worth it.  For backpackers who need something lighter though, these will be way too bulky.

Core Features:

  • Gore-Tex Pro 3 layer
  • N40r-X face fabric
  • Ripstop fabric on front legs and N80p-X fabric on high-wear areas
  • ¾ length side zippers
  • Belt (that supposedly doesn’t interfere with backpack hip straps) and zippered fly
  • Hip pocket with zipper

Pros:

  • Super-durable
  • Full rain protection
  • Comfortable fit and features like side zippers
  • Suitable for 4-season use

Cons:

  • Very bulky
  • Don’t pack down well
  • Not very breathable (breathability 25,000)
  • A bit baggy for hiking

Price: $475Buy Here

 

2. Arc’teryx Zeta LT Waterproof Women’s Hiking Pants

Arc’teryx Zeta LT waterproof pants womens

If you want really high-quality, durable waterproof hiking pants but don’t want to pay over $400 for them, then this option by Arc’teryx might be the better option.  They are lighter than the Beta pants and pack down better.  Of course, this means that they aren’t as durable, but I don’t think anyone will be complaining about durability with these waterproof pants!

Core Features:

  • Gore-Tex 3-layer
  • Gore C-Knnit backer technology for lighter weight and breathability
  • Side zippers
  • Zippered fly
  • Gusseted crotch, articulated seat and knee

Pros:

  • Very waterproof
  • Breathable
  • Durable
  • Good fit

Cons:

  • No pocket
  • No internal gaiter or good instep crampon patch

Price: $375 – Buy Here

 

3. Fjallraven Karla Hydratic Women’s Hiking Pants

Fjallraven Karla Hydratic womens waterproof Trousers

These are my personal favorite women’s waterproof pants.  They are tough, breathable, and they actually look enough like normal pants that you can wear them around town – which means you’ll get more out of the investment.

Core Features:

  • Brushed G-1000 silent material
  • Adjustable width
  • Seven pockets

Pros:

  • Pockets!!!
  • Great fit and style
  • Very durable

Cons:

  • A bit heavy
  • Will need to be waxed eventually

Price: $199 – Buy Here

 

4. Outdoor Research Women’s Aspire Waterproof Women’s Hiking Pants

Outdoor Research Women's Aspire Waterproof Pants

These are made from Gore-Tex 2L material, which has the same waterproofness as the Pro material (28,000mm) but is a lot more breathable (25,000).  If you don’t like getting clammy, these are the waterproof pants for you!

Core Features:

  • Gore-TEx 2L nylon 50D
  • Rear pocket which doubles as stuff sack
  • Taped seams and water-resistant zippers
  • ¾ length side zippers

Pros:

  • Very waterproof and breathable
  • Lightweight and packable

Cons:

  • Would be nice to have more pockets
  • No fly
  • Not very durable

Price: $174 – Buy Here

 

5. Mountain Hardware Ozonic Stretch Waterproof Women’s Hiking Pants

Mountain Hardware Ozonic Stretch Women's Waterproof Pants

These are the best mid-priced waterproof pants for women that I found.  They have a waterproof rating of 20,000 and a breathability rating of 15,000.  It’s not the best, but it will withstand most heavy rains without getting you too clammy.

Core Features:

  • Dry Q active material
  • Full length side zippers
  • Knee articulation
  • Belt with elastic back

Pros:

  • Good ratio of waterproofness to breathability
  • Nice fit for women

Cons:

  • Front pocket is a bit annoying for bulky items

Price: $150 – Buy Here

 

6. Haglofs L.I.M. III Waterproof Women’s Shell Pants

Haglofs L.I.M. III Shell Pants for women

These waterproof pants were made for running, so they aren’t as durable as something you’d find specifically for hikers. However, if you aren’t thrashing through thick vegetation, these shell pants will be suitable.

Core Features:

  • Gore-Tex Paclite fabric
  • Side zippers
  • Articulated knees and seat and tapered fit

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Waterproof rating of 28,000mm
  • Decent breathability (15,000)
  • Good fit

Cons:

  • No pockets
  • Not very durable
  • No zipper fly

Price: $172 – Buy Here

 

7. Marmot Precip Waterproof Women’s Hiking Pants

Marmot Precip Waterproof Women's Pants

Once we start getting into the budget waterproof pants, the waterproofness and breathability suffer.  However, these are still one of the better waterproof pants for under $100 that you will find.

Core Features:

  • Precip 2.5 layer ripstop material
  • Zippered pockets

Pros:

  • Affordable price
  • Lightweight and packable

Cons:

  • Poor waterproofness and breathability (15,000mm and 10,000)
  • Bad fit on short women
  • Zippers may leak

Price: $92 – Buy Here

 

8. Frog Toggs Java Toadz Waterproof Pants

Frog Toggs Java Toadz Waterproof Pants

Just need some cheap waterproof pants to keep you dry during rainy hikes?  These ones will do the trick.  Just don’t expect anything special in terms of breathability or to stay dry in a deluge.

Core Features:

  • 100% polyester DriPore
  • Zippered leg openings

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Lightweight and packable

Cons:

  • Not very durable
  • Pocket zips aren’t waterproof
  • Bulky fit

Price: $39.99 – Buy Here

 

Before You Buy Waterproof Pants

Here is a guide to how to buy waterproof hiking and backpacking gear.

Water Resistance

There are two main types of waterproofing technology: laminates and coatings.

Laminates:

Laminates have very thin membranes which prevent water from passing through but still allow vapor to pass through.  Because they are so thin, they can get damaged easily and are often sandwiched between two other layers.

  • Pros: Thinner, breathable
  • Cons: More expensive
  • Examples: Gore-Tex, eVent

 

Coatings:

With coatings, a waterproof layer has basically been painted onto the interior side of the fabric. To make the material more breathable, tiny holes are put into the coating as it is applied. Depending on how thick the coating is, the material can be lightweight or heavier.

  • Pros: Cheaper
  • Cons: Much thicker, not as breathable, often heavier than laminates, material wears down faster

 

DWR:

DWR stands for “Durable Water Repellent” treatments.  These are applied to the outside of a material to help it shed water. When you see water beading on your gear, this is the DWR at work.

Most waterproof hiking pants have a DWR exterior.  The laminate or coating are in the inside.  These layers allow for better breathability, abrasion-protection, and more water resistance.

Note that DWR is NOT the same as waterproof!

However, DWR is often good enough for hiking and backpacking (especially in warmer seasons when rains don’t last very long). When the DWR is on nylon, not much water will be absorbed and the pants will dry quickly. You’ll have to reapply the DWR coating eventually, but DWR sprays are fairly cheap.

If you want to learn more about waterproofing technology, REI has a great detailed article here.

 

Waterproof Layers

Waterproof materials come in layers of 2, 2.5, or 3 (sometimes there is also an interior liner material too).

  • 2 Layer: This means that there is an outer layer with waterproofing and a separate fabric liner. These are lighter and more packable, but not as durable or waterproof.
  • 5 Layer: These have a face fabric with waterproofing and a protective non-fabric material inside.
  • 3 Layer: These have a face fabric with waterproofing, a membrane, and a liner. They provide the most protection and are durable, but are heavier and stiffer.

 

Breathability vs. Waterproofness

A material which is completely waterproof but also breathable does not exist.  The more waterproof a material is, the less breathable it will be.  However, waterproofing technology is getting better and you can achieve a high amount of breathability and waterproofness.

 

Breathability Ratings:

Breathability is rated in grams per square meter. It says how much vapor can pass through a square meter or material in 24 hours.  A 15,000m2 rating means 15,000 grams of vapor can escape.  The higher the rating, the more breathable the material.

  • 5,000 to 10,000 grams/m2: This is a very low amount of breathability. It is only suitable for situations like skiing or hanging around camp.  You’d start sweating quickly if you were hiking in it.
  • 10,000 to 15,000 grams/m2: This is a good amount of breathability. If you are doing intensive hiking or are in humid areas, you would want more breathability.
  • 15,000 to 20,000 grams/m2: This level of breathability is great for high-humidity areas and situations where you will be sweating a lot.

 

Waterproof Ratings:

  • 5,000mm: This is the base level of waterproofing. It is fine for light rains but not suitable for heavier or long downpours.
  • 10,000mm to 15,000mm: This is a good level of waterproofing to shoot for. It will withstand most rains and some snow. However, it will not withstand high amounts of pressure – so areas like where your backpack straps are will likely get wet.
  • 15,000mm to 20,000mm: Going out into the tropics? This is the level of waterproofing to aim for. Worn with insulating layers, it can even be suitable for winter months.

To give you an idea of how breathability and waterproofness are inversely related, check out the ratings of these common waterproof materials.

 

Material Breathability Waterproofness
Gore-Tex 3L 17,000 28,000
eVent 3L 25,000 30,000
Gore-Tex Pro 3L 15,000 28,000
Helly Tech Performance 2.5L 10,000 10,000

(Source: http://www.paddypallin.com.au/blog/all-about-waterproof-fabrics/ )

 

Integrated Belts

I love integrated belts because they make the rain pants look more like everyday pants, so you could wear them around town without feeling too geeky.  The downside is that the belt can interfere with your backpack hip straps.

 

Articulated Knees and Gussets

Waterproof pants with these features are great for hiking because they allow for a great range of movement.  If you do any sort of climbing, you’ll definitely need these features.

 

About the author /


Diane Vukovic is an avid traveler, outdoor enthusiast, beetle lover, sometimes sculptress, couchsurfer, and loves finding ways to explain complex topics to her 6-year old daughter. Follow MomGoesCamping on Facebook and Twitter @MomGoesCamping to stay in touch!

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