If you want to go hiking, backpacking or cycling in spring or fall, you’ll need a pair of waterproof pants. 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 options for men available, the options for women’s rain pants 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!
- Best Overall: REI Talusphere Rain Pants
- Best for cold weather: Tofern fleece-lined rain pants
- Best for serious adventurers: Arc’Teryx Zeta Shell Pants
- Best low-budget option: Mountain Warehouse Pakka rain pants
*Tip: If you are on a very tight budget, check out REI Outlet for deals on last year’s models. You can often get 50% off great products.
Best Waterproof Women’s Hiking Pants Reviewed
1. Arc’teryx Zeta LT Waterproof Women’s Hiking Pants
Arc’teryxmakes professional quality mountaineering gear. These women’s rain pants are some of the best you can get for hiking. They are made with two layers: Core-Tex 3 and Gore C-Knit backer technology. The combination provides complete waterproofness while still being breathable.
The fit on the Arc’teryx Zeta pants is also great. They have a zippered fly and gusseted crotch, so fit like normal pants. The knee and seat areas are articulated. I also love the ¾ length side zippers. They are waterproof when closed but you can open them for easy on/off or for ventilation.
The only real downside to the Zeta pants is that they are pricy. It’s a good investment for women who go adventuring in bad weather often though, especially since they can work as winter snow pants if you wear a fleece pant underneath them.
- Completely waterproof
- Great breathability
- Side zippers
- Zippered fly, gusseted crotch, and articulated seat and knee
- No pockets
- No internal gaiter or good instep crampon patch
- Very pricy
Price: $$$$– Get here at REI
2. REI Talusphere Rain Pants
The REI Talusphereare very well-designed rain pants for women which don’t cost a fortune. I love that they have zips up the legs for getting the pants on/off easily and ventilation. The zip is covered to prevent leakage and there’s a snap to ensure the pants don’t unzip as you hike. The material is slightly stretchy so you get a good range of movement. The waterproof rating isn’t listed, but the material is REI’s 2.5 layer Element which keeps you dry even in downpours. The material is also windproof. Another nice extra feature is the drawstring waste so you can get a better fit.
- 2.5 Layer Element waterproof material
- Two pockets
- Drawstring waist + elastic
- Legs unzip to mid-claf
- Good fit and range of motion
- Not as noisy as other cheap rain pants
- Breathability not the best
- Not everyone will love the drawstring
Price: $$ – Get it here at REI
3. Mountain Hardware Ozonic Stretch Waterproof Women’s Hiking Pants
If you want a pair of women’s rain pants which look like normal pants, these ones by Mountain Hardware are fantastic. They have a comfortable elasticized snap waist and the material is slightly stretchy so you get a good range of movement. It doesn’t make an annoying sound as you hike. You can get the rain pants on/off easily with the zippered sides. There is also Velcro around the legs to keep the pants secure around your boots.
As for the waterproofness, they are rated to 20,000 and have a breathability rating of 15,000. It’s not the best, but it will withstand most heavy rains without getting you too clammy.
- Good ratio of waterproofness to breathability
- Dry Q active material
- Full length side zippers
- Knee articulation
- Belt with elastic back
- Nice fit for women
- Front pocket is a bit annoying for bulky items
Price: $$ – Buy Here (Amazon)
4. Little Donkey Women’s Rain Pants
The Little Donkey rain pants for women are fairly cheap but still do their job well. They have a waterproof rating of 3000mm and the seams don’t leak. The pants are also made to fit well with articulated knees so you get a good range of motion. Their standout feature though is that the rain pants don’t look super nerdy like most. These are pants that I can wear around the city without my kids getting embarrassed by me. 🙂
As you’d expect from cheap rain pants, the breathability isn’t great. It’s also annoying that there isn’t a zipper up the legs, so putting the pants on (especially with muddy boots) isn’t easy. Basically, it’s a question of fashion vs. function with these rain pants.
- Stylish and lots of colors
- Very comfortable fit
- Zippered and elasticized waist
- Articulated knees and hip areas
- Three pockets
- Not very breathable
- No zipper opening on legs
- Very affordable
Price: $ – Get it here (Amazon)
5. Tofern Fleece-Lined Rain Pants
These women’s rain pants by Tofern are great for cold-weather hiking. They have a fleece lining which serves as your mid-layer. Note that you still need to wear a base layer or you’ll end up sweaty and the fleece will get wet. The outer shell is 10,000mm waterproof and still fairly breathable. The shell material is also durable.
I like that the pants are designed to fit very well. They look almost like normal pants and aren’t dorky or baggy like most rain pants. There aren’t zippers up the side, but these are pants that you’ll start your hike wearing. The most annoying thing is that the pants make a sound when you walk. There also is no ventilation, so you can end up sweaty. Make sure you get a size or two bigger so the rain pants will fit over your base layer.
- Very affordable
- Good waterproofness and breathability
- Lined with fleece
- Great fit
- Stretchy material provides good range of motion
- Make sound as you walk
- Sizes run small
- No ventilation
Price: $– Get here at Amazon
6. Red Ledge Thunderlight Rain Pants
The standout feature of these rain pants is that they have zipper which goes completely up the sides. This makes them very easy to put on. I wish the zipper was 2-way so you could customize the ventilation, but you’ll have to settle for zipping from the bottom only. These pants are fully waterproof, but the breathability isn’t the best – which is no surprise considering the affordable price of the pants.
Bear in mind that these are unisex rain pants. They should fit most women and have articulated knees for a good range of motion. However, they might be a bit tight on curvier women.
- Full-length zip up legs
- Articulated legs
- Thin material can tear easily
- No side pockets
- Unisex design might not fit all women’s bodies
Price: $ – Get here at Amazon
7. Acme Projects Rain Pants
Just need a pair of cheap rain pants for occasional hiking? These rain pants aren’t the best, but the price is right. With a 10,000mm waterproof rating, the pants will also keep you dry. The breathability rating of 3,000 also isn’t bad considering the low price.
The main reason I’d recommend paying a bit more for another pair of rain pants though is these ones don’t have a zipper up the leg. It makes it difficult to get the pants on with muddy boots on. The pants do come in women’s sizes but they are unisex, so expect them to fit baggy. The knees aren’t articulated so the range of motion isn’t great either. Still, for the price, they do their job.
- 10,000mm waterproof
- 3,000gm breathability
- Baggy fit
- No zippers on the legs
- Make some noise as you walk
Price: $– Get here at Amazon
8. Mountain Warehouse Pakka Women’s Rain Pants
These are another cheap pair of rain pants designed to fit women. They don’t have zippers up the legs but the Velcro openings are pretty wide. So long as your boots aren’t very muddy, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting them on while hiking.
Compared to other rain pants, the waterproof rating is pretty low (just 1,500mm). However, this does mean that the rain pants are more breathable and lightweight. There’s a mesh lining to improve air circulation. The pants don’t have pockets but do have a slot so you can reach your pants underneath.
- Cheap yet functional
- Come in three colors
- Decent breathability
- Lightweight and pack down small
- Low waterproof rating
- No pockets
- Baggy fit
Price: $ – Get here at Amazon
Waterproof Pants Buying Guide
Here is a guide to how to buy waterproof hiking and backpacking gear.
Water Resistant Technologies
There are three main types of waterproofing technology: laminates, coatings and DWR.
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
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
Water-resistant treatments (usually DWR or “Durable Water Repellent”) are applied to the outside of a material to help it shed water.
DWR is NOT the same as waterproof: DWR onlyl repels water. It doesn’t prevent water from going through the material. When you see water beading on your gear, this is the DWR at work.
For hiking in warm weather where you might get an occassional shower, DWR clothing is adequate. The DWR coating prevents lots of water from absorbing into your pants or jacket. If they are made from nylon, they will dry quickly once the rain stops. You’ll have to reapply the DWR coating eventually, but DWR sprays are fairly cheap.
Some good waterproof hiking pants have a DWR exterior plus a laminate or coating on the inside. These layers allow for better breathability, abrasion-protection, and more water resistance.
- Pros: Good breathability
- Cons: Not waterproof by itself, needs to be reapplied
If you want to learn more about waterproofing technology, REI has a great detailed article here.
Number of Layers in the Waterproof Pants
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.
- 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.
- 5 Layer: These have a face fabric with waterproofing and a protective non-fabric material inside.
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 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.
- 1,500 to 5,000 grams/m2: 1,500 is the minimum rating for something to be conidered waterproof. It’s okay for warm-weather showers but you’ll want better protection in spring/fall temperatures to ensure you don’t get wet and thus cold.
- 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.
- 5,000mm: This is a good base level of waterproofing. It is fine for most 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.
|Gore-Tex Pro 3L||15,000||28,000|
|Helly Tech Performance 2.5L||10,000||10,000|
For me, zippers going up the legs of the rain pants is a must-have feature. The zippers allow me to put the rain pants on over my boots. This is incredibly convenient, especially when your boots are covered in mud. Some pants only have small zippers whereas others have zips which go completely up the legs. A benefit of the full-length zippers is that you can undo them for ventilation.
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.
Want to learn more about hiking in the rain? Read: