Shield your legs from the elements with the best waterproof trousers for hiking, cycling and more
Whether you’re walking around the local park (again), hiking, cycling, or all of the above, the best pair of waterproof trousers will make all the difference. There’s nothing worse than damp jeans at the start of a long walk, or getting to a meeting sopping wet, so an extra waterproof layer is an essential part of your wet weather wardrobe.
The best waterproof trousers will be comfortable, durable and lightweight. At the very least they should provide protection from an unexpected downpour but depending on your needs you’ll also find designs that will keep you dry even when it buckets down all day. They also need to be able to dry quickly and pack down small, especially if they’re overtrousers.
We’ve chosen the very best waterproof trousers available, including all-season mountaineering trousers that laugh in the face of bad weather without making you overheat; inexpensive waterproof overtrousers for first-time dog walkers and ramblers; and even jeans that’ll look good and keep you dry from the pavement to the pub.
Best waterproof trousers: At a glance
- Best budget waterproof trousers: Decathlon NH500 IMPER Overtrousers | £15
- Best packable waterproof trousers: Berghaus Men’s Gore-Tex Paclite Overtrousers | £120
- Best for commuter cycling: Chrome Industries Storm Rain Pant | £137
- Best lightweight waterproof trousers: Montane Minimus Unisex Nano Pants | £90
- Best waterproof trousers for cycling: Proviz REFLECT360 | £46
- Best value waterproof trousers: Patagonia Torrentshell 3L | £84
- Best waterproof trousers for comfort: Keela Rainlife 5000 Trousers | From £30
How to choose the best waterproof trousers for you
How do I get the right fit?
Think about why and where you’ll be wearing your waterproof trousers. If they’re designed purely as overtrousers you need to make sure they are roomy enough to fit over your trousers or jeans without restricting your movement. Good designs come with long zips to make it easy to get them on without taking off your boots. Tapered and slim leg designs are more practical for cycling.
Most waterproof trousers tend to come up a little large to accommodate layering but look for adjustable waists, straps and integrated belts that help you find a comfortable all-day fit. Basic trousers often have drawstrings.
If you’re looking for all-purpose outdoor trousers as opposed to overtrousers, make sure they have plenty of stretch around key areas, especially the knees and seat (bum). Basic trouser shapes can be rather utilitarian, so ladies’ specific cuts take into account higher waist and hips. We can’t promise high fashion, but they will be more comfortable than overtrousers and keep you dry.
What key features should I look out for?
For basic overtrousers, the key to reliable performance is having taped seams to ensure better waterproofing. The ability to unzip the leg is also a must for pulling them over walking boots, but remember, the zips need to be waterproof or very well protected to avoid leaks in prolonged heavy rain.
Like waterproof jackets and hiking boots, all waterproof trousers have a durable waterproof coating (DWR) applied to the outside of the fabric. This coating prevents water soaking into the fabrics – you’ll see the rain simply beading and rolling away. This is the bare minimum level of protection your trousers need, because over time, and in particular after washes in a washing machine, this DWR coating wears out. You can refresh this layer, however, with a specialised cleaning product such as Nikwax’s Tech Wash.
READ NEXT: The best waterproof jackets to buy
How waterproof should they be?
To ensure your waterproof trousers remain impervious to rain for years to come, you’ll need to invest in a pair with a waterproof layer sandwiched between the inner fabric and outer DWR layer. The most recognisable name is Gore-Tex, but there are many great alternatives including Polartec NeoShell, Nikwax Analogy and Columbia OutDry Extreme.
Check the label or description to see the level of waterproofing of a pair of trousers. This is often described as the hydrostatic head and is labelled in millimetres. As a guide, ignore anything up to 1,500mm as it is only water-resistant; 1,500mm-5,000mm is waterproof and good for typical downpours while 10,000mm and above is highly waterproof and found on the best hiking and mountaineering jackets.
Won’t they feel hot and sweaty?
It’s also worth factoring in breathability to prevent feeling like you’re wearing a bin liner. Cheap waterproof trousers can’t breathe, so you will get sweaty after a few miles, especially in the summer months. If you’re walking any distance or hiking up hills, Gore-Tex or the equivalent, will help you stay cooler. One quick way to quickly dump hot air and regulate your temperature is to find a pair with zip vents.
Are there any other features I need to know about?
Pockets are handy to have on any pair of trousers, but many waterproof designs lack them as they create weak points and they’re hard to guarantee the contents won’t get wet. More expensive mountaineering designs have sealed pockets, even warm pocket liners, but on cheaper designs you may be disappointed. Look for conveniently positioned slash pockets that give quick access to the pockets in your regular trousers.
Packability is another important feature of a good pair of waterproof trousers, so we recommend looking for designs that come with a small stuff sack. Many can stuff down to a size not much bigger than a tennis ball, which is great for storing them at the bottom of your bag.
How much should I spend?
If all you need is a pair of plastic trousers to keep your legs dry when walking the dog or going out for a stroll, you can find great options for under £20. But remember, at the budget end of the market the fit won’t be as stylish – think crinkly bin bag – and the level or waterproofing and breathability will be significantly lower.
With £50-£100, you’ll be treated to good quality materials including performance fabrics like Gore-Tex. Fit should also be true to size. You’ll also start to find adjustable belts and waistbands and some stretch fabrics that make hiking longer distances more comfortable.
Spend over £100 and you’ll be buying a pair of overtrousers that will survive a deluge, dry quickly and pack down small. Walking trousers are also available with good waterproofing, meaning you’re protected whatever the weather, without the need to stop and layer up when the heavens open. You also won’t rustle on your walk, which can be vital if you’re out wildlife spotting.
How we test waterproof trousers
Having an energetic dog and a busy schedule means walking twice a day, regardless of the weather. As a result, finding an opportunity to test how waterproof the trousers were was relatively easy and, with so much Gore-tex being used, staying dry wasn’t an issue. However, there’s such a huge variation in design that pulling waterproof trousers on and getting them off again, especially while wearing muddy boots, becomes much more of a challenge. If zips stuck, or didn’t open far enough, we made sure to make a note of it.
We also took multiple pairs to the Lake District in the autumn, where we were really able to assess comfort and breathability over the course of many soggy all-day hikes. (And, yes, carrying multiple pairs of trousers does add considerably to backpack weight.
Not all of the waterproof trousers were designed for walking though, so instead the cycling options were thoroughly tested on our daily commute and over a two-day bikepacking trip – during which the weather was not kind. With cycling-specific designs, fit is key and we were careful to note if any fabric caught in our chainset.
READ NEXT: The best walking shoes for men and women
The best waterproof trousers you can buy in 2023
1. Berghaus Men’s Gore-Tex Paclite Shell Overtrousers: Best waterproof trousers for all-weather hiking
Price: £120 | Buy now from Wiggle
These brilliantly versatile overtrousers offer light, breathable and packable performance no matter how damp the conditions get. The secret is the use of Gore-Tex Paclite, a 100% waterproof membrane that is bonded directly to the hard wearing rip-stop outer nylon shell. Having two rather than three layers might make them a little less durable for mountaineering or climbing, but it means they are very light and pack down to a tiny ball.
Unlike many overtrousers, they have a slim-cut profile so don’t feel baggy. There are thigh-high zips on each leg to allow even the largest walking boots swift passage through. In wet stomps through Epping Forest, the Berghaus Men’s GORE-TEX Paclite Shell overtrousers never failed.
They come with a small mesh bag, meaning they can live in the bottom of a rucksack ready for when you need them.
Key features -Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Paclite; Main material: Nylon; Weight: 228g
2. Rab Kangri GTX: Best waterproof trousers for total protection
Price: £200 | Buy now from Cotswold Outdoor
They’re not the lightest or most breathable waterproof trousers available, but if we find ourselves stuck on a hillside and the weather turns nasty, there’s no pair we’d rather be wearing. The Kangri GTX pants are made from three layers of 70D – code for seriously tough – Gore-Tex, and the waterproof rating of 28,000mm HH means that they will keep out torrential rain almost indefinitely.
We love the fact that the outer face fabric is constructed from 100% recycled material but this in no way compromises the performance. The fit is generous without being baggy and, similar to a quality pair of ski-touring trousers, the waist can be adjusted using a couple of velcro fasteners. The full length waterproof AquaGuard zips make pulling them on over boots easier, and you can also unzip from the top for added ventilation and easier access to your trouser pockets.
If you’re climbing mountains in the summer they will get a bit too warm – and you will appreciate the ventilation – but given the changeable nature of the English weather we’ll take clammy over absolutely soaked. Wherever you are and whatever time of year you’re there, these trousers will keep you dry.
And if you like your kit to match, we highly recommend the equally impressive Rab Kangri GTX jacket.
Key features – Waterproofing: Gore-Tex 3L, 28,000mm HH; Main material: Recycled Nylon; Weight: 435g
3. Chrome Industries Storm Rain Pant: Best waterproof trousers for cycle commuting
Price: £126 | Buy now from Chrome Industries
Cycling in the rain isn’t fun, especially if you’re going to work, but these superb overtrousers will make the commute more bearable. The three-ply, 100% waterproof fabric has enough stretch to give you a full range of movements on and off the bike. The seams are fully taped, and the seat is reinforced to improve durability.
Tested on the sodden streets of East London, they kept me dry and warm during a three-hour cycle, and thanks to the water-resistant pockets I was able to keep my phone close at hand for directions. The Storm Rain Pant has a relaxed fit and feel with tapered legs that won’t billow. This style, and the fact they’re matte black – aside from some subtle reflective strips – means they can just about pass for a pair of chinos if you’re running late.
Those with big feet might struggle to get them on without removing shoes, but the added comfort means it’s a compromise you may be happy to make.
Key features – Waterproofing: 3-layer 10,000mm; Main material: Polyamide; Weight: 370g
4. Decathlon NH500 IMPER Overtrousers: Best budget waterproof trousers
Price: £15 | Buy now from Decathlon
For the cost of a very cheap t-shirt, Decathlon has produced an impressively versatile overtrouser that does nothing wrong, especially when you consider the price. Ideal for occasional hikes and dog walks, festivals when the weather looks dodgy, or when you’re stuck watching the kid’s play sports in the pouring rain.
There’s nothing fancy here, but with taped seams and 5,000mm HH waterproofing they will keep you perfectly dry for a good few hours. The drawstring will keep them from falling down – they’re cut generously – and the handy zip with elasticated cuffs makes them easy to get on in a hurry.
One thing to note however, as a buying consideration, the trousers are not designed for high output activities as they’re not especially breathable. They will keep you dry but for higher performance, you’ll need a bigger budget.
Key features – Waterproofing: H20 Schmerbers 5,000mm HH; Main material: polyester; Weight: 200g
5. Fjallraven Kaipak Curved: Best waterproof hiking trousers for women
Price: £121 | Buy now from AlpineTrek
A welcome change for those used to unflattering womens’ walking trousers, the Fjallraven Kaipak blend high performance, durability and freedom of movement, with a contoured fit for hips and waists.
Available in five colourways, with the smaller cut out patches being stretchy for improved movement, something that will be especially appreciated when climbing over stiles and messing about in the forest. These patches are also more breathable than the main fabric, helping to regulate temperature.
The main fabric is G-1000 Eco, a traditional hardwearing eco-friendly organic cotton and recycled polyester blend (made from old plastic bottles) that has been waxed for enhanced weather protection. They’ll not be troubled with a heavy shower and stay warm even in strong winds, but they will saturate eventually (which is where a pair of overtrousers come in).
They’re expensive, but take care of these and they will last for years – you can also re-wax if the waterproofing starts to fade. This does make them a bit heavier than the Gore-Tex equivalent, but they’re so comfy you won’t notice
Key features – Waterproofing: G-1000; Main material: organic cotton, recycled polyester; Weight: 400g
6. Proviz REFLECT360: Best waterproof trousers for cycling
As well as keeping dry, visibility is crucial when it comes to cycling in a downpour. From bold strips on both the upper and lower legs, to reflective logos and piping, these waterproof cycling overtrousers from Proviz have plenty of reflective detailing to ensure that you’ll be seen on the roads.
Not only that but the REFLECT360 overtrousers are also 100% waterproof and breathable, with a 30cm lower leg zipper for ease of dressing and ankle straps to avoid any snagging on your bike.
Key features – Waterproofing: 5,000mm WX Plus; Main material: Unspecified (WX Plus fabric); Weight: 300g
7. Montane Minimus Unisex Nano Pants: Best lightweight waterproof trousers
Price: £90 | Buy now from Wiggle
Designed for trail and extreme mountain runners, these pull-over waterproof trousers are phenomenally light – just 100g – and pack down into a pouch that’s not much bigger than a satsuma.
They are incredibly thin, and almost translucent as a result, but if you want to travel light and stay dry, regardless of whether you’re off running ultras, they’re a brilliant choice. Be warned though, they will tear more easily than a burly pair of three-layered Gore-Tex Pro trousers.
To keep gear as light as possible most superfluous extras are stripped out, but with the Minimums, the cut is slim, with articulated knees for a great range of motion, the waist has elastic and drawcord and the zips run 1/4 -length up the leg. You may need to take your trousers off to pull them on without snagging, but this will prevent them getting filthy on the inside.
Key features – Waterproofing: Aqua Pro Lite; Main material: polyester; Weight: 100g
8. Fjällräven HC Hydratic Trail Trousers: Best waterproof trousers made from recycled materials
Price: £215 | Buy now from Alpinetrek
It’s a premium brand better known for its fashionable backpacks, but Fjällräven makes some of the most hard wearing outdoor gear we’ve tested. They’re also one of the greenest brands around, and these high performance waterproof trousers are made with 100% recycled polyester.
Going green is rarely a budget option, but these super trousers have 10,000mm HH waterproofing, and the benefit of two velcro fasteners on each leg (both with reflectors) that allow you to gather in any extra material at the ankle and calf. It’s simple but super effective and makes them ideal for riding your bike in filthy weather without the risk of getting caught in your drivetrain.
The trousers have a loose cut and two-way zips making them easy to pull over trousers. They’re also available in 30”, 32” and 34” lengths for taller people. This reviewer wears a 32” length leg in standard trousers and found the regular High Coast Hydratic trousers to be on the long side, especially when worn with larger walking boots.
The face fabric is 100% recycled polyester with a PFC-free waterproofing impregnation. It’s a great quality 2.5-layer fabric with a better-that-average level of breathability too.
Key features – Waterproofing: 2.5L, 10,000mm HH; Main material: 100% recycled polyester; Weight: 298g
9. Patagonia Torrentshell 3L: Best value waterproof trousers
Price: £83 | Buy now from Alpinetrek
We’re not suggesting that £80 is peanuts to pay for waterproof trousers, but in our experience, if you need a pair that will remain impervious to a downpour, and last for years, spending a bit more makes all the difference.
The Torrentshell pants – and matching, equally good value jacket – are a 2.5 layer design with taped seams and feature the brand’s own brilliantly reviewed H2No fabric with PFC-free DWR finish. They’re seriously waterproof and made from 100% recycled nylon. What’s more, they have full Bluesign approval, which is an industry benchmark for ethical production methods.
Available in XS-XXL, these unisex waterproof pants are comfortable, durable and have an elasticated waistband with drawcord. They also come with two zipped hand warmer pockets in which the trousers themselves are able to stuff neatly down into for easy carrying!
Key features – Waterproofing: 2.5-layer H2No; Main material: Recycled nylon; Weight: 284g
10. The North Face Women’s Venture II: Best value women’s waterproof trousers
Price: £47 | Buy now from The North Face
There’s no escaping the fact most waterproof trousers are unisex in cut, unflattering and generally billowy affairs. But look hard enough and you will find women’s specific rain trousers that avoid the shiny bin bag aesthetic.
And for us, The North Face Venture II ticks all the boxes, especially as they’re currently on sale with 50% off. They have a trim, but practical cut, are comfortable, made from recycled materials and most importantly, are really good at keeping out the rain.
The fabric used is The North Face’s excellent 2.5 layer DryVent (like GoreTex), with taped seams and in a super durable 40D ripstop nylon. They will not give in when the heavens open, and unlike many designs, remain quite breathable, which also makes them ideal for hard climbs and more vigorous outdoor activities. Grab a bargain while you can.
Key features – Waterproofing: HyVent, Non-PFC DWR; Main material: Polyester; Weight: 230g
11. Keela Rainlife 5000 Trousers: Best waterproof trousers for comfort
Price: From £30 | Buy now from Amazon
Keela was founded on the East Coast of Scotland, where they understand a thing or two about bad weather, and with the Rainlife 5000 trousers, they’ve made a practical, comfortable and protective pant for an excellent price.
The unisex design – available in 2XS to 3XL, short, regular and long – has a softer feel than most shell trousers, and are more comfortable for it, and unlike the majority they also have access pockets that allow you to get to your walking trouser pockets underneath. It’s a welcome touch, although be warned, if the rain is really coming down, the popper fastening isn’t 100% weatherproof.
They’re not as light as many, and don’t pack down as small, but we imagine many casual walkers will love the fact they don’t rustle like a plastic bag when walking in them, the taped seams work well against persistent rain, and they’re extremely well priced.
Key features – Waterproofing: Taped seams, polyurethane coating; Main material: Nylon; Weight: 340g