Stay Dry With The Best Waterproof Hiking Pants For Women (2019-2020)

Having lived in Las Vegas for the last four years, most of my hiking has been in dry weather. But once I started planning hiking trips in other states, I quickly realized that I needed some pants that would keep me dry in rainy weather.

Have you tried looking for women’s waterproof hiking pants at your local outdoors store? They’re so hard to find that you’d probably never realize that you do have a lot of great options when you shop online.

Determined to find some awesome ladies waterproof pants for hiking, I set out to uncover all the best options on the market right now. Below, the Active Weekender team will share our thoughts on the pants we found.

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Rain Pants vs Waterproof Hiking Pants

If you’re new to outdoor clothing, then you might be wondering if there’s any real difference between rain pants and waterproof hiking pants.

Honestly, I don’t know if there is any official difference between the two but I can tell you what I think the difference between these two styles are and why it matters.

Here’s what I think:

  • Rain pants are meant to be pulled over whatever pants you’re wearing
  • Waterproof hiking pants can be worn with no other pants under them

So, if I was planning a hiking trip in Oregon in the winter, then I’d want to go with the rain pants because they’d keep me warmer with my other pants on underneath them.

I hope that makes sense, and note that I have no idea if I’m right here, but know that this is what I’m thinking when I’m writing about the hiking pants in this guide.

Weekender Picks: Waterproof Women’s Hiking Pants Reviewed

To determine which of these pants are the best choice for hikers like you and me, our gear reviewer Riley helped me out. Riley does wear petite sizes, so if you’re shopping for women’s hiking pants in petites, pay special attention to her thoughts.

1. Arc’teryx Zeta SL Rain Pants

These rain pants are intended to be worn over leggings, shorts, or other pants, but you can wear them with nothing underneath if the weather is cool enough. These pants are waterproof, thanks to the GORE-TEX PACLITE Plus fabric.

Arc'teryx Zeta SL Rain Pants

As you can tell in the image above, these pants have a bit of a straight leg fit to them.

There are a few features of these that I think really makes them stand out against the competition.

First, the legs have WaterTight™ lower leg zippers, which means if you’re out in a lot of rain or snow then you don’t have to worry about getting soggy ankles. That definitely makes me love these pants.

These rain pants are also windproof, which makes me think that they would be great for hiking in the winter – even in the snow.

I also really like how lightweight these pants are at just 9 ounces. If you’re backpacking, then these are a great rain pant option to stuff in your backpack.

We do have one big complaint about these pants though – there are no pockets! And that’s just insane when you consider the higher cost of these pants.

I think it’s also worth noting that these pants have a slimmer fit, so even though they move well, ladies who have larger hips might not be as comfortable in these.

How do they perform in the rain?

  • Easy to move around in
  • Nice long zippers so you can easily pull on over your hiking boots
  • Even in a torrential downpour, they keep your legs dry

Our final thoughts

  • Hate that these pants have no pockets
  • They do have a high price compared to other options
  • The slimmer fit isn’t idea for layering or larger body types

Sizing options: regular, short

2. REI Co-op Screeline Hybrid Pants

While technically a hybrid hiking pant, we wanted to give these pants a try because they are water-resistant. We also like that these are very lightweight, which is perfect for rainy weather that’s not too cold.

REI Co-op Screeline Hybrid Pants

As you can see from the image, these pants have a relaxed fit and the material actually has a bit of stretch to it. Riley really liked that these pants were comfortable in the hip and butt area.

As you may know, a lot of women’s outdoor pants are cut for smaller women who don’t have hips or butts – at least that’s my shopping experience! These pants are comfortable without any gapping in the waist above the butt.

A nice bonus feature of these pants is that the material has built-in UPF 50+ sun protection, which is going to be great for summer hikes.

Riley also likes that these pants have enough room for layering, without making you look frumpy or like you’re wearing baggy pants.

How do they perform in the rain?

  • They keep you dry, but leave your legs feeling a bit cold
  • They dry quickly even though they never really feel wet
  • Despite being moisture-wicking, these made for sweaty legs
  • These were more comfortable with leggings on underneath
  • Easy to move around in
  • They have pockets – hooray!

Our final thoughts

  • Loved that these have nice, deep pockets
  • Hated how sweaty they made my legs when not wearing leggings under them

Sizing options: regular, tall, petite, plus

Note: Riley tested these in a petite size

3.  prAna Halle Pants

If you’re looking for a pair of hiking pants that you can wear on the trail and around town, then these prAna pants are a great option for you. They are water-resistant, so they’re pretty good out in the rain.

prAna Halle Pants

These pants have a relaxed fit with a bit of stretch in the materials. And we like that the knees are reinforced, which is perfect for those hikes where you end up scrambling over a few boulders in the path.

Compared to the REI pants above, these do seem to breath a bit better without the sweaty legs problem.

And we love that they are available in sizes for most body types.

How do they perform in the rain?

  • Keeps you dry if caught out in a rain shower on the trail
  • Comfortable and easy to move around in

Our final thoughts

  • Love how comfortable these are – almost feels like you’re wearing yoga pants
  • The pockets are short “girl” pockets and could stand to be deeper

Sizing options: regular, tall, short, plus

4. REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants

Wind, rain, sleet, snow – none of these things are a match for the REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants. Seriously, these are some badass waterproof women’s hiking pants.

REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants

Here is another great option from REI for bigger women who want comfortable rain pants with enough room for those hips, thighs, and butts. In fact, I’d say that the sizing for these even runs a bit on the large side.

I was worried at first cause they look a little baggy and no one wants to look frumpy, even out on the trail. In the end though, I think you end up with an acceptable amount of bagginess.

Plus, that means that you’ve got room to pull these pants on over your leggings or other pants. So, that’s a good thing.

But if you’re pulling these on over a pair of shorts, then you should expect to get some sweaty legs.

How do they perform in the rain?

  • If it’s warm out, you will get sweaty legs cause these pants don’t breathe well.
  • You will stay 100% dry with these in even the strongest downpour of rain
  • Easy to move around in, comfortable, and easy to fit on over hiking boots.
  • Fabric drys fast after getting wet

Our final thoughts

  • These are a good cheaper alternative to the Arc’teryx pants above
  • I love that these pants have a boot hook that keeps pants in place when the trail turns brushy

Sizing options: regular, plus (they are planning to offer these in petite in the future)

As you may have guessed, the REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants are our editor’s pick for overall best waterproof hiking pants for women. We also love that REI has such a great return policy on anything that you buy from them.

Our Evaluation Criteria

When our team set out to test these pants, we already had a few things in mind that we knew would be important to us. Those things include:

  • comfort
  • materials
  • weight
  • features

Since we’re avid hikers, we were concerned with comfort on the trail. As a hiker, you need to be able to move around freely in your hiking pants and a comfortable fit is a must-have in our opinion.

And since women have more curves than men, it is important to us that the trail pants we wear are designed to fit a woman’s body without gapping around the waistband in the back, etc.

Because comfort and range of motion are important to us, we also paid attention to the fabric used in the pants that we tested out. Something with stretchiness, like spandex, is always a nice choice as long as the pants aren’t too form fitting.

We also prefer materials that offer some breathability because no one wants to be a one-person walking sauna. Yet, not so breathable that they don’t block the wind on those blustery days.

And we prefer fabric that is not noisy when you walk cause no one wants to make that swish-swish sound when on the trail.

Though we were not shopping for pants to take on a backpacking trip, we still want to make sure that we’re getting waterproof hiking pants that don’t weigh a ton and take up too much space in the daypack. Cause you don’t always want to be wearing the pants if you don’t need them, right?

We have a few features that are important to us in a pair of hiking pants. While these are purely personal preferences, we want you to know what we were looking for in a good pair of waterproof hiking pants for women like us.

Those features are:

  • good pockets
  • reinforced knees

We know that not all female hikers need pockets in their waterproof pants, but this is something that is important to us. Sure, if it’s raining we’re also wearing a rain jacket with pockets that can be used, but for smaller things those pant pockets are a must-have for us.

Since we end up trails where we end up scrambling over boulders and downed trees, we prefer our hiking pants to have some extra reinforcement in the knee area. That way we don’t have to worry about ripping a hole in our favorite hiking pants.

We’re also fans of pants with articulated knees for optimal mobility while out on the trail.

Other Things To Consider

While we’ve just covered our core criteria for testing out these waterproof hiking pants, there are other things that you may want to consider before you buy your own pair of these pants.

Do You Need Leg Zippers?

Some of the rain pants that we looked at had zippers on the lower legs, while others did not. And we have kind of a love-hate relationship with rain paints with leg zippers.

The purpose of those zippers is to make it easier for you to slip on those pants over your hiking boots. But we worry that zippers are just a way for rain water to leak onto your socks (though we have no proof that this is the case).

We find that the quality pairs of waterproof hiking pants without zippers easily fit over your hiking boots – even those clunky Salomon hiking boots that I love in the colder months.

So, if you think that leg zippers will the make the process easier, then make sure you get a pair of pants that have the zippers. You may also prefer zippers if you’ll be wearing these in warmer weather and want to be able to get your legs some air.

Convertible vs Roll-Up Hiking Pants

Another feature that you’ll notice is that some of these pants have roll-up legs while others are considered convertible pants.

Convertible pants are the ones where you can zip off the lower leg and turn them into shorts or capri pants. And because of these zippers, this type of hiking pant is usually heavier and bulkier.

Personally, I don’t find convertible pants to be all that comfortable, so I prefer to go with roll-ups.

I also like that you can more easily adjust the amount your pants are up with a roll-up pant compared to the convertible pants.

Waterproof vs Water-Resistant vs Water-Repellant

As you compare different hiking pants, you’ll notice that some are listed as waterproof while others are listed as water resistant or water repellant.

These aren’t just different ways of saying the same thing – they actually do have different meanings.

  • Waterproof means that no water is getting through to your skin. Great for keeping you dry in the rain and snow.
  • Water resistant means that no water will get through…until a point. I wouldn’t wear these in a torrential downpour. This lowest level of keeping water out.
  • Water repellant is a step above water resistant. Hiking pants with this designation have a special surface coating to keep water out…up to a point. You usually see a reference to water beading on pants with this coating.

Obviously, only you know what type of water situation that you’re going to be out there hiking in. So, be sure to get your hiking pants that best meet that scenario.

FAQs About Waterproof Hiking Pants

Now that you know which pants we recommend and what things to consider if you’re out shopping for your own pair, there may be a few other questions that spring to mind. Let us try to help you out with those questions now.

How do I wash waterproof hiking pants?

As you might have guessed, the waterproof feature of these hiking pants means that laundering them isn’t like your normal pair of hiking pants.

First things first, check the label on the pants to see what the manufacturer recommends. Their instructions should take precedence on what you read here or anywhere else.

Tip:  Regular laundry detergent and fabric softener breakdown the fibers of waterproof clothing and should not be used.

Here are our instructions for washing your waterproof hiking pants:

  1. If there is any mud or other debris on the pants, then try to brush that off before you launder them.
  2. Close up all zippers and Velcro straps before putting into the washing machine. Never wash more than two waterproof clothing items together at a time – and do not wash them with other clothing.
  3. Instead of laundry detergent, use something made specifically for waterproof clothing, like Nikwax Tech Wash.
  4. Air dry or tumble dry low (check your clothing label to make sure you can tumble dry the pants).

Over time, you may notice that your pants are starting to absorb water instead of keeping it out. This just means that you need to reproof the pants with a waterproofing spray.

Keep in mind that if you can avoid washing your waterproof garments, then it will extend the life of their waterproofing.

Final thoughts on women’s hiking pants for rain

I know that’s a lot of information to digest, so I hope that you don’t give up on finding a pair of hiking pants for the rain. Based on my experience out on the trail in the rain, you’re definitely better off with a pair of waterproof hiking pants (even if you hate them) than without them because nothing sucks quite like being soaked on the trail and being miles from your vehicle.

At A Glance: We reviewed and recommend

Any of the pants above should help improve your experience when hiking in the rain (or snow).

Shawna Newman

Shawna currently lives in Las Vegas where she gets in lots of great hiking at Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire State Park. When she has time, she visits National Parks in a quest to visit each one in the U.S. Shawna’s favorite outdoors activity is hiking and her favorite National Park (so far) is Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

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