If you plan to walk in all weathers, waterproof trousers are an essential bit of kit. Before you buy, here’s what to look out for:
- Seasonality: do you want to buy one pair of waterproof trousers that you can wear all year round? Then bear in mind that some trousers designed for use in harsh winter conditions may be heavy and hot to wear in summer. On the other hand, lightweight trousers may be better suited to summer walking than regular, arduous winter hikes.
- Waterproof fabric is of course vital – more in the box below.
- Breathability – especially useful in summer, breathable fabrics allow air to pass through your fabric, helping to keep your legs cool.
- Ankle zips are essential to allow you to take trousers off without removing your hiking boots. Some budget options omit these zips – you’ll regret it.
- Vents – many waterproof trousers have zipped vents running up the side. These too are very useful in keeping legs cool – allowing you to wear your waterproof trousers all day, even when showers alternate with warm sunshine. When a storm comes in, just zip up your vents to stay dry. The most breathable fabrics sometimes omit long vents (but good pairs always retain ankle zips).
- Light weight – especially valuable in summer, lighter fabrics help you forget you are wearing an extra layer on your legs. That means you can bring them with you just in case – they won’t add much weight to your pack. And of course lightweight options are always a bonus for backpackers, to reduce your burden on the trail.
- Durability – ultra lightweight fabrics sometimes don’t last as long and weaken or tear with repeated use. If you are out frequently in harsh weather, consider a heavier weight fabric.
Best waterproof trousers for walkers in 2021
Berghaus Paclite Overtrousers
With super-light, pocket-sized packability, these are your perfect ‘just in case’ pants. Gore-Tex says its products all score “over 28K” for waterproofing, and these trousers have an impressive RET of under six (highly breathable), so you can trust them to keep you dry. The Gore-Tex membrane is bonded directly to an outer shell material on one side, and covered by a durable protective layer made of an anti-oil substance and carbon on the inner. Two-way, three-quarter-length side zips and an elasticated-drawcord waist give easy on-off, plus allow good venting. The simple, pocketless, unrestrictive pants with poppered hems contain blue sign-approved fabrics and come in lots of sizes and lengths.
- Weight: 238g (men’s large), 233g
- Material: two-layer Gore-Tex Paclite
Best for: being featherlight friends
Nautilus Waterproof Overtrousers
Regular hikers will be glad of these super-comfy packable trousers. They’re pretty tough, due to a 70-denier nylon 6.6 outer fabric, three-layer 20K/20K waterproofing and breathability rating, plus reinforced insteps and hems, but don’t feel at all bulky. Thanks to articulated knees, a gusseted crotch and some stretch, you can do star jumps should you wish. With a soft inner waist and zip and popper fly, plus three-quarter-length, two-way zips (water-resistant with inner storm flaps) up the sides, these pants are easy to get on and off, plus you can unzip the thighs for venting. There are three lengths and the fit is flatteringly streamlined, with a slimmer lower leg (with elasticated-drawcord hem) and no pockets. These work well all-round for a very competitive price.
- Weight: 460g (men’s medium), 420g (women’s 12)
- Material: 3 layer: 47% Nylon 66/53% Nylon Stretch, PU membrane and 20D tricot backer
Best for: durable and good value
Rab Kangri Gore-Tex Pants
Designed for long winter hikes, these robust and roomy trousers should keep you dry due to their 28K waterproofing and RET breathability value of under nine. There’s ease of movement due to the articulated knees, with Velcro adjustment at the waist and an Aquaguard fly zip, which should give you a good fit. The full-length, two-way Aquaguard YKK side zips with internal storm guards make it easy to take them on and off, and the trousers come in three lengths with the outer made from recycled material.
- Weight: 435g (men’s medium), 400g (women’s 10)
- Material: 70 Denier three-layer Gore-Tex construction and recycled polyamide outer
Best for: reliable protection
Helly Hansen Verglas Infinity Shell Pant
Designed for serious mountain-sports addicts, these very light yet highly durable and non-restrictive shell trousers have a lower environmental impact, as half the outer fabric is recycled, plus there’s a PFC-free DWR coating, and a chemical-free, high-performance 20K+/20K+ waterproof/breathable Lifa Infinity membrane. The waist belt, zip and popper fly and soft waist lining help make these super-comfy to wear, and two-way 7/8 storm-flapped zips help with on/off and ventilation. You also get articulated knees, a zipped water-resistant thigh pocket, a Recco reflector to help rescue teams find you if you get lost in the mountains, plus details such as boot hooks. Choose from two colours; one length only.
- Weight: 400g (men’s), 383g (women’s)
- Material: HELLY TECH Professional fabric three-layer fabric construction with new Lifa Infinity technology
Best for: being made for the mountains
Montane Pac Plus XT Pants
Great for multi-day trips where space is tight, these high-performance pants pack down really small. The combo of 150 denier Gore-Tex Paclite Plus and Schoeller Keprotec Kevlar insteps give them some added durability though. No less waterproof or breathable than other Gore-Tex products, Paclite Plus saves space and weight as it has just two layers: an abrasion-resistant outer that’s laminated onto a Gore-Tex membrane which can sit next to your skin, thanks to an abrasion-resistant treatment that’s tougher and comfier than Paclite. These pocketless trousers have articulated knees and a diamond gusset for freedom of movement plus three-quarter length, two-way YKK Aquaguard side zips for venting and easy on/off. There’s an elasticated-drawcord waist and poppered hems.
- Weight: average 325g
- Material: Two-layer Gore-Tex Paclite Plus
Best for: being small but mighty
Mountain Equipment Orbital Pant
Changeable weather can be a challenge, but these super-comfy trousers are made for wearing next to your skin all day. Extremely light with great four-way stretch, gusseted crotch, articulated knees and impressive waterproofing and breathability ratings (20K and 20K+ respectively with a DWR outer), these will work well for speedy hikers in most conditions. Probably best for three-season use, though – these won’t provide much insulation on chilly days. The integrated belt allows a good fit on your waist and there are two zipped pockets. There are also ankle zips in case you need them. Just remember you’ll trade off lightness against some toughness with these nicely streamlined and flattering pants.
- Weight: 260g (men’s large), 230g (women’s 12)
- Material: three-layer Drilite Stretch 20D fabric (100% polyester with PU membrane)
Best for: hassle-free option
Paramo Velez Adventure Trousers
Another pair that can be worn next to your skin all day in changeable conditions (designed to cope with four hours of steady rain), these comfy, cosy, lightweight trousers use the highly breathable, ‘directional’ Nikwax Analogy Waterproof system, which involves a separate lining that helps wick away liquid sweat as well as moisture vapour, and boosts insulation. There’s also a PFC-free, water-repellent finish on the outside of these roomy pants. Features include: thigh vents, two zipped pockets, ankle adjustment, articulated knees, diamond gusset, plus elasticated waist with belt, zip and popper. Paramo recommend washing these pants regularly with their own Nikwax Tech Wash and reproofing with Nikwax TX.Direct. These are Fair Trade and recyclable through Páramo.
- Weight: 392g (men’s), 388g (women’s)
- Material: Nikwax Analogy Waterproof system and ripstop polyester
Best for: green option
Hilltrek Cabrach DV Trousers
If you’re a nature-spotter or dog-walker who regularly finds yourself in the undergrowth, you could consider investing in these super-tough unisex cotton trousers. How do they work? The ‘DV’ stands for Double Ventile, or two layers of the finest, longest cotton fibres, densely woven. The fibres expand when they come into contact with water, blocking it out. A DWR system on the outer surface adds to the repellency, making these “fully waterproof”. Worn next to your skin, these have four pockets and reinforced areas. Pros? They’ll last many years, and are quiet to wear with excellent breathability and windproofness. Cons? They’re heavy and bulky.
- WEIGHT: 850g
- MATERIAL: L24 Double Ventile
Best for: being mega tough
- Buy Cabrach DV Trousers now from Hilltrek
Quechua Waterproof Mountain Walking Over-trousers
Great value and no-nonsense with a streamlined style, these score a decent 10K for waterproofing and list their breathability as a very good RET 8. The elasticated-drawcord waistband with zip and popper fly give a good fit while knee-length zips allow easy on/off. There are no outer pockets, just an inner pouch that you can also store the very lightweight, non-bulky trousers in. Machine wash these at 30°C; and stick them in the tumble drier (10 mins, low temperature) to reactivate their waterproofing. These don’t have articulated knees or stretch, but are surprisingly easy unrestrictive to wear. If you’re out for shorter hikes in less extreme conditions and terrain, these should do the trick.
- Weight: 354g (men’s large), 309g (women’s medium)
- Material: three-layer. Main fabric and lining: 100% polyester; membrane: 100% polyurethane
Best for: a budget option
Keela Rainlife 5000 Trousers
As the name suggests, these robust trousers are rated a lowly 5K/5K for waterproofing and breathability. Features include: knee-length (non-water-resistant) side zips, with external storm flaps, so you can put them on over boots and two poppered slits so you can you access your trouser pockets. They come in a good choice of lengths and sizes, and are pretty light with decent packability, but seem long and very roomy in the leg, with a strongly elasticated waist. Only the men’s versions have colour options. Although the company says you can wear these solo, they felt a little clammy with the lack of breathability.
- WEIGHT: 416g (men’s), 406g (women’s)
- MATERIAL: 47% Nylon 66/53% nylon stretch PU membrane and 20D tricot backer
Best for: short strolls