Updated: Apr 12, 2022
Rain-pants are typically considered by most as the ugly cousin of one of our favourite pieces of hiking gear, the rain jacket. Designed as a solution to walking on rainy days where your pants get soaked and you feel like you are towing a trailer with the waterlogged clothing holding you back, they tend to be talked about more rather than being actually used. Though they aren't used by many, we must pose the question, should they be?
What are rain-pants?
Let’s get the ball rolling by talking about what rain-pants really are! If you think of a rain coat but for your legs then your already 90% of the way there to understand what rain-pants actually are. They provide two main protections which are stopping the rain from making pants wet and shielding your legs from the wind on the colder day. Stopping this wind-chill is an important thing as prolonged exposure can lead to hypothermia which is one of the most dangerous things on the trail.
There are multiple different types of rain pants such as those made for cold weather which include an insulating layer, those that have zips which can convert them into shorts and also those which have zips right along the full length of the legs to allow for you to put them on and take them off with ease. Rain-pants can often double as wind pants so if you need a good pair to keep off that wind-chill then these pants can help your situation.
What do we think about them?
Well though they may pose some good benefits as was stated above, they are not the only solution to keeping the rain off your legs. Two of the solutions on offer are Rain Kilts and Rain Chaps which can offer the same if not better protection from the wet weather. Rain Kilts don't have two separate legs rather they have one kilt which allows rain to flow right off, on top of this they will also fit much easier over anything you are wearing underneath allowing for some fuss free rain protection. The Rain Kilt also has ventilation which is one of the biggest upsides of using it over your rain-pants, though most of the rain may be kept out by your rain-pants it doesn't mean your legs are going to stay dry. With a much cooler exterior and high moisture levels, sweat and condensation are going to build up on the inside of your pants making for a pretty miserable experience which could be worse than just leaving the pants at home.
Finally there is one big downside we need to bring up which will be an important factor in making a decision for most hikers. This downside is weight because a lot of rain-pants are quite heavy and when they get wet, they only get heavier. When making a decision to by rain-pants you want to look at the weight of the product you are buying as this piece of gear which is meant to be used for a select few situations out on the trail can end up weighing you down significantly.
So are they really needed?
Well, when asking the question are rain-pants really needed, we unfortunately need to say no. Though they provide some good benefits out on the trail, the alternatives seem to be much better solutions to the problem of getting wet legs but that doesn't mean they are useless, if you own a pair, they are still great to take out on a hike but just be aware of their flaws before setting off.
So what are your thoughts on rain-pants? We don't think you should throw yours away but make sure you know what you are getting into before you make a purchase thinking this will be the solution to all your wet weather hiking needs!
Written by Josh Welch