If you want to go hiking, backpacking or cycling in bad weather, 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?
Unfortunately, finding waterproof hiking pants for women can be tricky. Many brands only make mens pants or “unisex” pants. I’m short and petite and those unisex pants never fit right. And some of the waterproof pants actually for women are impractical, like not having side zips or being obnoxiously loud whe you walk.
I’ve scoured the internet for the best waterproof hiking pants women. All of the pants below are actually waterproof and have cool features which make them awesome for hiking or even everyday use.
*Tip: Chec out REI Outlet for rain pants. You can often find really good gear at massive discounts.
Best Waterproof Women’s Hiking Pants Reviewed
1. REI Talusphere Rain Pants
Best for: All-around great rain pants which don’t cost a fortune
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: $$ – Get it here at REI
2. Berghaus PacLite Rain Pants
Best for: Great ventilation and breathability
The main standout feature of these waterproof pants is the 3/4 zippers. Not only does this make it very easy to get the pants on/off while hiking, but it allows for ventilation. There are even little snaps so you can leave the pants unzipped but still snapped closed. The pants material is Hydroshell, which is 15000mm waterproof rating and a breathability of 10,000.
The material is durable but will make a crinkly sound when you walk. If you want a quieter pair, Berghaus also makes the PacLite women’s rain pants from Gore-Tex. They are pricier though.
- 2.5 layer Hydroshell material
- Great waterproofness and breathability
- 3/4 zips
- Snaps for leg ventilation
- Come in many sizes for good fit
- No pockets
- Knees not articulated
- Sizes run small
- Loud, crinkly material
Price: $$ – Buy Here
3. Mountain Hardware Ozonic Stretch Waterproof Women’s Hiking Pants
Best for: Hiking, climbing and everyday use
If you want a pair of women’s rain pants which look like normal pants, these ones by Mountain Hardware are fantastic. The rain pants also have a lot of nice features which make them easy to use. There are zippered sides so you can get them on/off easily and also Velcro around the legs to keep the pants secure around your boots. Because the zipper is two-way, you can adjust it for ventilation.
These rain pants also offer more range of movement than you’d normal find in rain pants because the material is slightly stretchy. As for the waterproofness, they are rated to 20,000 and have a breathability rating of 15,000. This is a fantastic waterproof to breathability ratio. If they were a bit cheaper, these would get my top pick for women’s waterproof pants.
- Quiet material
- Good ratio of waterproofness to breathability
- Two-way, full-length side zippers
- Knee articulation
- Belt with elastic back
- Nice fit for women and don’t look dorky
- Front pocket is a bit annoying for bulky items
Price: $$ – Buy Here (Amazon)
5. Little Donkey Andy Women’s Rain Pants
Best for: Affordable and stylish 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 side zippers
Price: $ – Get it here (Amazon)
6. Red Ledge Thunderlight Rain Pants
Best for: Rain pants with full zip up side
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. The material is very thin and not abrasion resistant.
Also 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
8. Acme Projects Rain Pants
Best for: Cheap rain pants with high waterproof rating
These rain pants aren’t the best, but the price is very affordable. They aren’t as cheap as the Pakka rain pants but they have a much higher waterproof rating of 10,000mm. The material is fairly durable so will withstand some abrasion. The breathability rating of 3,000 also isn’t bad considering the low price. 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 leg zippers
- Make some noise as you walk
Price: $– Get here at Amazon
Women’s Waterproof Hiking Pants Buying Guide
Not sure which rain pants to get? Here is what you need to look at.
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.
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|
(Source: http://www.paddypallin.com.au/blog/all-about-waterproof-fabrics/ )
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 you need to pull the pants on mid-hike while 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. The best women’s rain pants will also have snaps: you can leave the legs unzipped but just snap them in a few places for good 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.
In theory, the appearance of your rain pants shouldn’t matter. It’s more important to stay dry than look cool. But I also wear my rain pants around town too And, frankly. most rain pants look like parachute pants from the 90s! My daughter used to get really embarrassed when her mom would show up decked out in rain gear.
If you want to wear your rain pants in situations besides hiking, no one will blame you for buying a cool-looking pair. Choose ones with zippered waists and articulated knees as they won’t look so much like parachute pants. 🙂
Want to learn more about hiking in the rain? Read: