If you’re in a rush and want to find out what the best waterproof hiking pants for women are, we recommend the REI Co-op Talusphere 2.0 rain pants.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Hiking conditions can be wild and unpredictable. Especially in the mountains, you have to be sky aware because showers can pop up at a moment’s notice!
While much outdoor clothing is water resistant nowadays, that will only get you so far if you find yourself in a torrential downpour. What you need are a pair of waterproof hiking pants, and in this review, we’ll be looking at some of our favorite options for women.
Waterproof Women’s Pants At A Glance
If you’re in a hurry, check out this quick list of our favorite waterproof hiking pants for women – otherwise, keep on scrolling to get to the full reviews!
Most Versatile Pants: Artilect Women’s Kinetic Fusion Pants
Best Pants with Suspenders: Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Bib Pants
Best for Cycling: Craft Adv Hydro Cycling Pants
Editor’s Choice: Helly Hansen Verglas Infinity Shell Pants
Most Affordable Pants: REI Co-op Women’s Essential Rain Pants
Best Bang for Your Buck: REI Co-op Women’s Talusphere 2.0 Rain Pants
Best Overall ↟: Arc’teryx Beta AR Rain Pants
The main reason that you’re reading this right now is because you want to find some pants that are actually waterproof. It’s a surprisingly tough ask, since many bottoms will eventually get soaked through when exposed to enough water. The material used in the pants’ construction can make all the difference, and some are definitely better than others.
You’ll notice that the pants we’ve reviewed below are exclusively made from synthetics, such as nylon and polyester. These are easier to waterproof than something more organic, like cotton. Just think of the difference between a modern-day polyester tent and an old-fashioned canvas shelter. One is a lot more likely to leak than the other!
Waterproof vs Water Resistant
With that in mind, it’s important to note the difference between waterproof and water resistant. If something is waterproof, that means water won’t pass through the material no matter what. It’s the sort of attribute that you want to find in a pair of pants, if you’re serious about staying dry through thick or thin.
Water resistance is different in the sense that it will keep you dry up to a point. In a light rain, you’ll manage to stay dry, and you may even see the water beading on top of the fabric before rolling off completely. This is an effect that’s often created by DWR (durable water repellent), which is a factory coating that gives a material water resistance. It’s effective until the fabric becomes over saturated, at which point it becomes no better than regular clothing that absorbs moisture immediately.
It can be a little confusing at first, but you should know that waterproofing isn’t as simple as saying “this is waterproof” or “this isn’t waterproof.” It’s a sliding scale, determined by how much water the fabric can take before it starts to leak. As a rule of thumb, anything with a 3,000mm rating or higher can be considered waterproof…to a certain extent. But why is this? And why is it measured in “mm”?
Waterproofing is measured using the hydrostatic head test. Basically, a piece of fabric is spread taut and a one inch diameter tube is placed upright on top of it. On the side of the tube are different height measurements, such as 1,000mm, 5,000mm, and so on, all the way up to the top. Water is poured into the tube until the fabric can no longer withstand the pressure, and it starts to leak. Whatever height measurement the water reached when the fabric started to leak is the waterproof rating that you find on that particular item.
As a general guideline, here are some number to look out for on the fabric:
3,000mm: The lowest rating that’s actually considered waterproof. Don’t get too excited about it, though, as this is something that would only help you in a light rain.
5,000mm – 10,000mm: This is about the average range of most waterproof gear. Decent in a moderate amount of rain and snow, you’re still not going to be prepared for heavy showers.
10,000mm – 15,000mm: This is about as low as you’d want to go for any winter gear, or pants that you plan on wearing in a moist environment.
15,000mm – 20,000mm: Thanks to improved technology, many brands are able to hit 15,000mm for their products. In general, this is more waterproofing that you’ll probably need.
20,000mm – 25,000mm: You’re looking at some serious performance here. Once you enter this territory, you’ll be able to ride out some really bad weather without getting wet.
25,000+: Once you break this threshold, don’t expect to get wet…ever. For reference, Gore-Tex comes in around 28,000mm, and they have a dryness guarantee.
Aside from the waterproofing itself, breathability is one of the most important factors to look out for. Without it, you’ll feel trapped inside a poncho, gross and sticky because your sweat has nowhere to go.
A breathable pair of pants makes sure water doesn’t come in, while still allowing your sweat vapor to escape. And since you probably plan on wearing these pants on hikes, it’s really important to let that moisture escape so that you don’t steam inside your own outfit.
By nature, the more waterproof something is, the less breathable it will be. However, technology has come a long way in recent years, so it’s still possible to get an adequate amount of gas exchange while ensuring water has no way of getting in.
Naturally, comfort is a must have when it comes to outdoor clothing. While waterproof hiking pants aren’t the softest, most flexible style of pant out there, they don’t have to be uncomfortable either. Many have a gusseted crotch and articulated knees that give you a wider range of motion as you hike. If you do any climbing, these features are invaluable for making sure you can bend and stretch without ripping anything in the process.
Some waterproof hiking pants also come with an integrated belt, giving you a little extra security. The belt also makes them look more like everyday pants, elevating the style ever so slightly.
And finally, most waterproof pants make use of several layers in their design. The outer layer is waterproof, and there’s usually an inner layer made from a fabric lining. Occasionally, there will be a third, breathable layer in between them which can add to the durability of the pants. However, added layers will restrict your movement more, so you’ll have to make some sacrifices depending on what you value most.
Zippered legs are a handy feature that you’ll find in the best waterproof hiking pants for women. They’re useful for a number of reasons, especially if you’re wearing a pair of rain boots with the pants. The zippered legs allow you to pull your pants over the top of your boots, creating a seamless, waterproof barrier.
If you start to get hot, full-length zippers also allow you to ventilate your legs. Certain pants have snaps that let you keep the bottom of your pants partially secured, while giving you enough of an opening to create sufficient airflow.
Unfortunately, most waterproof hiking pants for women are pretty…drab. If you’re a lover of style, I’m sorry to say that you’ll have to make a sacrifice if you want to get a decent pair of pants. Most of them look like parachute pants that you would find in the 90s!
A zippered waist and articulated knees can help with this image, but they’re still not going to be the sexiest pair of pants you own. Just remember that functionality and waterproofing is more important than looking good when it comes to waterproof hiking pants.
Waterproof Hiking Pants Comparison Table
|Artilect Women’s Kinetic Fusion Pants
|Outdoor Research Skytour AscentShell Bib Pants
|Craft Adv Hydro Cycling Pants
|Helly Hansen Verglas Infinity Shell Pants
|REI Co-op Women’s Essential Rain Pants
|REI Co-op Women’s Talusphere 2.0 Rain Pants
|Arc’teryx Beta AR Rain Pants
Best Waterproof Hiking Pants for Women – Reviewed
I thought I’d start off this list with a beast – one of the most impressive pair of women’s hiking pants in this review. The only reason I couldn’t bring myself to recommend it as the best overall is because of the very high price tag. However, if that’s something you can manage, I’d definitely suggest you consider the Artilect Kinetic Fusion pants. Whether you want to use them for cycling, hiking, or some other outdoor activity, these pants are capable of performing well in any sport, any time of the year.
Unlike the vast majority of waterproof pants, the Kinetic Fusion are actually flattering to wear. They have a nice shape, and sport a style that could be worn in a variety of settings. The material is both waterproof and windproof, and the bottom section of pant legs are gaiters. They can be zipped or unzipped depending on the environment and how steamed you’re starting to feel after working up a sweat. Needless to say, you’re not going to find a more durable pair of pants than these.
The zippers also allow you to pull the pants over your boots or shoes, before securing them in place. There are also a couple of thigh pockets with an internal device pocket and tether loop to give you options when storing your belongings.
Good number of pockets
Gaiters on the legs
More form fitting
Weight: 1.5 Pounds
Inseam: 32.5 Inches
If you like overalls, you’ll love Outdoor Research’s Skytour bib pants. The “bib” portion is made from a soft, flexible material that will comfortably hug your waist. It’s especially handy in colder environments where you want to trap as much of your core heat as possible.
The suspender design is comfortable and adjustable, so you can get the right fit for your body type. And I know what you’re thinking… Suspenders are too big of a hassle to deal with when you have to use the bathroom. While that might be true for normal suspenders, these pants are anything but normal. Built into the crotch is something called a “drop hatch,” which opens up when you need to use the bathroom. It’s convenient, well-designed, and works better that you might expect.
Zippered outer thigh vents let you release hot air that will accumulate inside your pants as you exercise. The gusseted crotch and articulated knees give you plenty of range of motion as well, allowing you to climb steep slopes without worrying about tearing a hole in your pants.
Warm and comfortable
Soft and flexible bib
Drop hatch makes using the bathroom easy
Great range of motion
The drop hatch might make it easier to use the bathroom, but real pants are still the best
Weight: 9 Ounces
Inseam: 30 Inches
With an 8,000mm rating, the Craft Adv Hydro pants offer a respectable amount of rain protection. While they might have been designed with cycling in mind, there’s no reason why you couldn’t wear these on the trail too.
The style is more form fitting than what we’ve seen in waterproof hiking pants so far. Since the legs are tapered, and the pants are a solid black color, you could easily dress them up if you wanted to go into town with them on.
There are also hook and loop adjusters on both the waist and the ankles so you can get the perfect fit. The material is breathable and comfortable to move around in, giving you the perfect balance of rain protection and vapor transfer. I also like the generously sized zippered pockets that come with these pants as well. Unfortunately, they don’t have a way to unzip the legs to help the pants stay ventilated, but that’s more of a minor point to consider anyway.
One of the more stylish options
Adjustable waist and ankles
Breathable and comfortable
Not great for mobility
Weight: 11.2 Ounces
Inseam: 32.3 Inches
A flashy pair of rain pants, the Helly Hansen Verglas Infinity shell pants are sure to catch your eye. But if lime green isn’t really your cup of tea, don’t worry, there are other color options to choose from.
The material is very waterproof, and at the same time, it’s lightweight and easy to pack down. When they’re not in use, these pants could easily roll away into a tiny bag for easy storage. While pockets are a little hard to come by, the one that you do get is more than enough to store your phone or other valuables.
Zippers on the side of the pants let you open up your bottoms to let air pass through. The pants might be breathable, but that extra ventilation created by the side zippers really helps when you’re working hard on a tough hike. With articulated knees, mobility won’t be a problem either. And when you factor in the belt loop and boot hooks at the front of the leg hem, you can secure the pants as tightly as needed.
Pack away small
Not many storage options
Inseam: 31.5 Inches
A relatively cheap option, these rain pants by REI will do a pretty good job of keeping you dry. They’re quite baggy and not the most stylish option out there, but that’s part of what makes them great. All the extra room inside them makes it easy to wear a layer underneath. Considering how lightweight they are, you could easily shove these in your backpack and whip them out when it starts to rain.
The zippered ankle makes it easy to fit the pant legs over your hiking boots to prevent water from entering your footwear. Since they’re so roomy, you won’t have to worry about ripping anything as you show off your flexibility. The elastic waistband isn’t adjustable, but it fits securely enough on most body types to prevent the pants from sliding off or hugging your hips too tightly.
My biggest complaint with these pants is the breathability…or lack thereof. Expect them to get sticky and sweaty after you’ve been moving around a lot. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, but that’s why I maintain that these are the sort of pants that are meant to be worn over a base layer. If you have a pair of leggings on underneath them, you won’t feel the stickiness quite as much, and you can remove the rain pants when they’re no longer needed.
Pack down small
Not very breathable
Not as waterproof as other pants on this list
Weight: 11.6 Ounces
Inseam: 32 Inches
Another one by REI, the Talusphere is definitely a keeper in my books. A bit more stylish, these pants also go above and beyond when it comes to wind and rain protection. No matter what nature throws at you, I feel pretty confident in saying that you won’t get wet or uncomfortable while wearing these.
The material is surprisingly cozy, and it doesn’t make any obnoxious swishing noises while you walk. They also run big enough where you could put on a pair of leggings underneath for added warmth without feeling too cramped.
Compared to most women’s pants, the legs are quite long, which I know would be a welcome change for some of you. At the bottom of each leg is a zipper that you can use to slip the hem over your boots, as well. On top of that, you have the ability to cinch them tight, as another layer of protection against water coming in. A longer zipper would be nice to make it easier to take the pants on and off, especially when you have clothes on underneath. Other than that, though, it’s hard to find anything to complain about with these pants.
Noise free while walking
Zippers at ankle hem
Can go over leggings or other thin pants
Would be nice if the pant zippers were longer
Weight: 11 Ounces
Inseam: 31 Inches
The final product in our review is the Arc’teryx Beta AR rain pants. Similar to the Outdoor Research Skytours, these pants come with a suspender design to keep the pants securely in place. And also, like the Skytours, it’s possible to open up the crotch to make it easier to use the bathroom. I also like how the Beta ARs come in a wide variety of sizes, including tall and short. However, it’s worth noting that these have a slimmer fit than most, so if you’re wider than average, you’ll have a hard time squeezing into them.
There’s a zippered pocket for you to store your belongings, and a couple of gear loops inside the thigh area. The pant material itself is comfortable and stretchy, without compromising on the waterproofing and breathability that you need in a pair of rain pants. It is GORE-TEX after all, which means you’re not going to find something better for rainy weather and snow sports.
Each side sports a full-length zipper, allowing you to open up the legs as needed. I also like that the Beta AR was intentional about being compatible with boots as well, featuring an adjustable fit and drawcord to keep things secure. When you’re done with them, they pack down small and are pretty lightweight, so you could easily shove them inside your pack or hang them on the outside. The material is a little noisy while you walk, but the swishing isn’t obnoxious enough for me to dissuade you from the product.
Made from GORE-TEX
Full length side zippers
Stretchy and breathable
Comes in a variety of sizes
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What are the Best Waterproof Pants?
When Should I Put On Rain Pants?
By themselves, rain pants aren’t ideal to hike in. While they often have some measure of breathability, it’s not enough to keep you from getting sticky and sweaty while you’re on the trail. At the same time, putting them on after it starts to rain partially defeats the purpose of bringing them in the first place.
At the end of the day, it’s a judgement call based on how well you can track the weather. Ideally, you’ll put them on right before it starts to rain.
Some of us are determined to get outside, in spite of the rain or snow. Others of us don’t have much of a choice, especially if it starts to precipitate while we’re on a multiday backpacking trip. We can’t control the weather, but we can control how we respond to it. Looking at the article in particular, that means getting a pair of the best waterproof hiking pants for women.
For a performance standpoint, I would honestly go with something like The North Face Summit L5 or the Outdoor Research Skytour pants. These two are at the top of the pack, but at the same time, they’re quite expensive. That’s why we felt it was more appropriate to label the REI Co-op Talusphere 2.0 rain pants as the best bang for your buck. They don’t have all the fancy features that the Summit or Skytour have, but they’re comfortable, waterproof, windproof, and noise free. And when you’re looking for a pair of rain pants that won’t break the bank, you can’t really ask for more than that.