Three Questions To Ask When Buying Waterproof Pants

A good pair of waterproof pants will keep your lower body dry and comfortable on days when rain is in the forecast.

Person standing on mossy hill
Keep your legs dry in the outdoors by wearing waterproof pants.Stephen Leonardi via Unsplash

Waterproof pants can keep you dry and comfortable, no matter what weather you are braving to pursue your favorite outdoor activity. In the olden days, staying dry meant wearing rubber rain suits that made you sweat so much you could get wetter inside the garment than outside in the rain. But modern waterproof/breathable fabrics have changed all that, lending more enjoyment to outdoor activities in wet weather. To make a good selection when shopping for waterproof pants, ask yourself three questions—what materials they are made from, what activity will you be doing while wearing them and what the temperature is likely to be.

Construction Materials

Columbia Men's Rebel Roamer Rain Pant
These waterproof pants feature air-permeable protection that is both waterproof and breathable.Amazon

Waterproof breathable fabrics are typically constructed from several layers of material. All look like a single layer of fabric, but most have an outer face fabric, a coated or laminated membrane layer and an internal mesh layer to protect the membrane. Many are sprayed with a durable water repellant (DWR) chemical coating for additional waterproofing. In the end, the waterproof breathable pant you choose must be able to wick moisture away from your skin and offer an escape route for your body heat and sweat. Good waterproof pants also need strong fasteners—whether buttons, clasps or snaps—and good zippers that won't come apart at the seams after only a dozen or so uses.

Intended Activity

FREE SOLDIER Men's Outdoor Cargo Hiking Pants Lightweight Waterproof Quick Dry Tactical Pants
These waterproof, quick-dry tactical pants are designed for hiking and other athletic activities.Amazon

If you're going to be hiking or backpacking in your waterproof pants, you'll want a different pair than someone who will be sitting in a deer stand all day. For hiking, backpacking and camping, look for lightweight pants made of waterproof breathable fabrics. Since storage space is often limited during those activities, lightweight pants that can be folded or rolled to take up minimal space are your best bet. For hardcore hiking in rough country, you'll want to look for pants that are more durable, since they'll likely come in contact with plenty of snags and sharp rocks. For working outside in wet weather, look for waterproof pants with reinforced knees and seams, heavy duty belt loops and plenty of pockets to carry tools and gear.

Temperature Considerations

Arctix Waterproof Snow Pants
These waterproof pants feature 85 grams of ThermaTech insulation to provide warmth in very cold weather.Amazon

The temperature where you are participating in an outdoor activity is a critical factor when choosing waterproof pants. If it's hot, ultra-lightweight pants will serve you best, and zip-off models that convert to shorts might be even better. For cooler days, pants made with heavier fabrics will work better, as they can keep you lower body both warm and dry. For snow skiing, ice fishing, winter camping and other very cold weather outdoor activities, you'll need pants with enough insulation to keep you dry and warm. Choose insulated pants based on how cold it will be when you are outdoors in wintertime. If you are a hardcore, four-season outdoorsman, you're probably going to need several pairs of waterproof pants for different seasonal activities.