The best waterproof walking trousers reviewed (2022)

We might not particularly like wearing them, but a pair of reliably waterproof overtrousers is an essential addition to your rucksack all year round.

Hiker in Loch Enoch _Galloway Forest Park Southern Uplands Scotland

by Trail magazine |

Loved and loathed by hikers in equal measure, waterproof overtrousers are an essential piece of clothing for UK winter hikes in particular.

We've put together our recommendations for the best waterproof hiking trousers. In addition, to help you when looking around for waterproof hiking trousers, we have included a buying guide with a list of important features to consider.

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Key features to look for in waterproof trousers:

Waterproofing: Not all waterproof trousers are created equally. Some will keep you dry in a light shower, some in a torrential downpour, and others will keep the water out even if kneeling in a puddle or the snow. The hydrostatic head (HH) figures tell you how waterproof a fabric is, but not all brands quote them which can make comparisons difficult.

Fit: Overtrousers can often be baggy, but if the knees are articulated they can be designed to fit a little closer. Look for a seam around the knee area and a slightly angled shape in the leg, if you want a closer fit. While regular waist-height trousers are suitable for most uses, those mountaineering in full winter conditions may like the extra protection bib-type salopettes provide for the upper body.

Packability: The hope is that a pair of waterproof trousers will spend most of their time in your pack – particularly in summer. The lighter and more packable they are, the better for carrying.

Waistband: This area is commonly elasticated for extra comfort. A drawcord allows extra control of fit, while Velcro tabs, press studs or belt loops allow further enhancement of fit. The ability to attach braces is ideal for scrambling or mountaineering.

Zips: Leg zips make it easier to pull on overtrousers over chunky hiking boots and also offer a means of venting heat. Full-length zips from ankle to hip are the most convenient, while shorter zips that only go from ankle to knee can still require some wrestling to get them on.

Breathability: Legs work hard in the mountains. Waterproof trousers need to be breathable enough to let hot air and moisture escape, or you could still end up uncomfortably damp.

Height: Regular waist-height trousers are suitable for general hillwalking in all seasons, but more technical winter mountaineering salopettes offer beneficial upper body protection.

Ventilation: Even the best waterproof and breathable fabrics allow condensation to form, so it is important that you can increase ventilation between showers. A trouser with long side zips and two or three zip pulls will allow extra ventilation at the calf, knee or hip.

Scruff patch: The area on the inside of the ankle takes a hammering and rapidly wears out from being scuffed with boots, crampons, rocks and undergrowth. Look for an extra panel of material here if you are going to be really hammering this area on mountain walks.

Fabrics: In general, higher-priced overtrousers use more breathable 3-layer laminated fabrics, which will reduce the likelihood of condensation forming on the inside of the fabric. Mesh linings improve comfort, as any condensation is held away from the body, but such linings make a trouser heavy and can snag when you are putting the trousers on over boots. A lightweight trouser may use 2-layer or 2.5-layer fabrics that tend to show condensation a little more.

Toughness: If the material tears the first time you scramble over abrasive rock, they’re no longer waterproof. Trousers should be tough enough to cope with mountain terrain, and reinforced areas at the ankle are preferable for crampon use in winter.

The best waterproof trousers

Editor's pick

Features 5/5 | Weatherproofing 5/5 | Breathability 4/5 | In use 4/5 | Value 3/5

Rab Kangri GORE-TEX Pants

Overall score: 84%

Pros: Very high waterproof rating, easy to put on and take off, sustainable

Cons: Expensive

3-layer Gore-Tex fabric with a robust recycled face material gives these trousers a HH rating of 28,000mm, making them waterproof enough for the worst of the weather. Full length two-way zips aid venting, and make getting them on and off simple.

Women's version here.

Weight 435g | Men’s sizes S-XXL (short, regular, long) | Women’s sizes 8-16 (short, regular long) | HH rating 28,000mm

Sustainability: Contains recycled fabric; Rab a Fair Wear and Climate Neutral certified company

Best for durability

Features 5/5 | Weatherproofing 5/5 | Breathability 4/5 | In use 4/5 | Value 3/5

Montane Pac Plus XT Pant

Overall score: 84%

Pros: Very durable, relatively good looking to wear, very high waterproof rating

Cons: Sustainability could be better, pricey

These tough but light trousers use Gore-Tex’s Paclite Plus waterproof membrane, which is waterproof, breathable, and packable. Schoeller Keprotec Kevlar panels provide extra toughness at the instep, while two-way ¾ length zips allow venting when hot.

Women's version here.

Weight 325g | Men’s sizes S-XXL | Women’s sizes 8-16 | HH rating 28,000mm

Sustainability: Montane a Fair Wear Foundation member

Best value

Features 4/5 | Weatherproofing 4/5 | Breathability 4/5 | In use 4/5 | Value 5/5

Marmot PreCip Eco Full Zip Pant

Overall score: 84%

Pros: Sustainable, affordable, lightweight, suitable for most circumstances

Cons: Not suitable for extreme weather

Made from PFC-free recycled nylon (which is tougher and softer than polyester), these have side zips from ankle to hip, making them easy to put on over the chunkiest footwear, plus taped seams and zipped side and rear pockets.

These trousers are very light, using a 2.5-layer durable and breathable fabric. They have a baggy fit, which allows for fast and easy fitting over clothing, helped further by the full-length side zips.

Women's version here.

Weight 300g | Men’s sizes S-XXL (short, regular, long) | Women’s sizes XS- XL (short, regular, long) | HH rating 10,000mm

Sustainability: PFC-free DWR; made from recycled nylon, bluesign approved

Best budget waterproof overtrousers

Features 3/5 | Weatherproofing 4/5 | Breathability 4/5 | In use 3/5 | Value 5/5

Regatta Highton Waterproof Overtrousers

Overall score: 76%

Pros: Affordable, recycled, stretchy

Cons: Not the most durable, could be easier to put on

Regatta’s Isotex 10,000 recycled fabric, made from six plastic bottles, makes these highly waterproof, breathable, and stretchy. They feature two zipped side pockets and ankle to knee zips.

Women's version here.

Weight 221g | Men’s sizes S-XXXL (short, regular, long) | Women’s sizes S- XXXL (short, regular, long) | HH rating 10,000mm

Sustainability: Made from recycled bottles

Best pack-n-go overtrousers

Features 3/5 | Weatherproofing 3/5 | Breathability 3/5 | In use 3/5 | Value 5/5

Highlander Stow & Go Waterproof Trousers

Overall score: 68%

Pros: Very affordable, good for occasional use, very lightweight

Cons: Not sustainable, not suitable for extended periods of use or very wet conditions

Light and packable, squeezed into their stuffsack the Stow & Go trousers take up just 20x10cm in your pack. They’re not the most robust overtrousers available, but their reasonable waterproofing and great portability makes them an ideal pair of ‘just-in-case’ waterproofs.

Weight 205g | Unisex sizes XS-XXL (short, regular, long) | HH rating 6,000mm

Sustainability: None

Waterproof garment care and maintenance

The Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish added to waterproof outdoor clothing needs to be maintained. Over time, the finish that was added during the manufacturing process wears off. If you don't maintain it, water will not bead on the surface of the material as it should, and instead, begin to seep through.

When you notice this starting to occur, it's time to restore the DWR on your gear. The products we recommend come from Granger's. In addition to being good value, easy to apply, and effective, Granger's products are Bluesign approved and fluorocarbon-free.

Granger's Performance Repel Plus is a fantastic spray for all waterproof fabrics. Apply it after a wash, using Granger's Performance Wash instead of regular washing liquid. Nikwax also has similar and equally effective versions that are PFC-free, too.

Read our guide to caring for waterproof clothing to find out all you need to know.

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