Shopping for the Best Rain Pants? Look for These Features

Wondering how to stay dry when camping in wet weather or taking that rain-soaked hike? Rain pants are considered by many to be specialized gear, suitable for extreme environments, from weekend Niagara Falls camping trips to Alaskan fishing boats. Most people who use rain pants, however, become lifelong converts and anyone who spends time hiking, bicycling or camping quickly comes to appreciate how useful this clothing item can be. 

The Best Rain Pants: Features 

A hiker in full rain gear steps through a dense forest.

One of the best rain pants features is their protection against cold and hypothermia even when a hiker (or biker, or hunter) decides against packing cold weather gear.

Because rain pants have become more mainstream, and their features are much improved, the best rain pants are also becoming more affordable. We list a few features that make rain pants both user-friendly and a must-have item for daypacks or car.

Rain pants should slip on and off easily. The best rain pants will include an elasticized waist band, but not sag when you need coverage, just like the Free Rein Full Zip pants from Red Ledge, which offer total coverage and are easy to adjust. Another feature are snapping or zippered outer legs, so the pants can be donned and doffed with ease. These side zippers usually run three-quarter to full length and allow for easy use and ventilation.

The best rain pants allow for mobility, and some will come in a stretchy fabrics. The very stretchy models offer fantastic comfort, but may cost a bit more. However, when looking at features, you’ll want to consider some degree of stretchiness for basic comfort and optimal mobility.

On the topic of comfort, the best rain pants are breathable. While this feature seems counter-intuitive—after all, how can they keep water out and let air in?—the brilliant minds behind fabric and outdoor gear design have figured out how to make clothing breathable, and in rain pants this feature is even more important than ventilation. The fabric, in other words, should have a solid breathability rating. Red Ledge's Thunderlight pants offer optimal flexibility combined with quality of material that allows for optimal breathability. 

Clearly, water resistance is the primary and most important feature of good rain pants, and the stand-outs will include a snug and entirely dry interior while maintaining breathability. The best rain pants are impervious to not only snow and mist but keep water out in serious, drenching rain storms.

The Best Rain Pants: Durability & Usability 

A hiker in full rain gear, including rain pants and a rain jacket stands in front of a fog-filled forest.

If you spend full days (or weeks) in wet conditions, you’ll need to consider overall usability. Example of high user-friendly attributes include: ability to get pants on and off over boots or shoes; ability to zip pants on or off fully (for conditions such as skiing); and, added convenience features such as multiple pockets and belts. These types of features are often a matter of taste and preference, though some design innovations (such as side zippers) can add extra weight.

Last, the best rain pants should be tough and durable to withstand rock faces, falling or any encounter in which the fabric could tear. The trade-off here is usually either weight or cost, as more durable and warmer fabrics are typically somewhat heavier. Similarly, special qualities in the fabric (such as breathability or stretchiness) may be ideal, but durability could suffer. 

The best rain pants combine comfort (stretchiness, ventilation), water resistance, ease of use (zippers, effortless on-off), and durability. Rain pants that manage to include all, or most, of these features are naturally a bit pricier, but for certain climates and for expeditions the right pair is well worth the investment. Looking for the perfect rain pants for your next outdoor adventure? Check out Red Ledge's wide array of high-quality, cost-effective rain pants