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REI Essential Waterproof/Breathable Rain Pants Review

REI-Essential Rain Pants Review
REI’s Waterproof/Breathable Rain Pants are a surprisingly good value compared to name brand rain pants which cost two to four times as much.

REI Essential Rain Pants

Water Resistance
Comfort & Mobility
Packed Size

Excellent Value

REI's Essential Rain Pants are inexpensive waterproof/breathable rain pants and a good deal if you want a pant for occasional use that won't break the bank.

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I’m a big fan of REI’s clothing because it’s affordable, good quality, and virtually indistinguishable from the other name brand products they sell. This includes their Waterproof/Breathable Rain Pants (the latest update has been renamed “Essential Rain Pants”) which are a steal at $60/pair (often available for less), and are available for both men and women. A comparable pair of Arc’teryx Rain Pants costs $199 or four times as much and provides very little added value, other than the fact that they use branded “Gore-Tex” and not REI’s knock-off waterproof/breathable membrane.

Some people don’t like rain pants or don’t need them and I get that. Personally, I wear them as much for wind protection as rain protection and view them as an important thermal layer, even if I sweat under them in warmer weather. I’d rather be warm and damp, than shivering on the brink of hyperthermia and soaking wet. I also frequently wear my rain pants for winter hiking and prefer having a pair that I can use year-round.

When choosing rain pants, there are a few things I always look for:

  • Price
  • Features
    • Does the draw string wrap around the entire waist or is it sewn in?
    • Can I pull on the rain pants and take them off without removing my shoes?
    • Are the ankle cuff openings adjustable?
    • Are they available in shorter and longer lengths?
    • Are the legs reasonably slim and not overly baggy?
    • Are they quiet when worn?
    • Do they have any external pockets?
    • How good is the breathable membrane/factory DWR?
  • Weight


REI’s Rain Pants are almost half the price of other value-oriented rain pants like Marmot’s Precip Rain Pants ($100), Patagonia’s Torrentshell Rain Pants ($99), or Outdoor Research’s Helium Rain Pants ($119). I destroy 2-3 pairs of rain pants per year, so I always look for less expensive ones that won’t break the bank if I happen to rip them up.

Large zippered ankle openings let you put on and take off the rain pants without taking off boots or shoes
Large zippered ankle openings let you put on and take off the rain pants without taking off boots or shoes


REI’s Rain Pants have a draw string waist band that wraps around your entire waist, so it won’t pull out like draw cords that are sewn in and impossible to replace without sewing when they come out. God I hate when that happens!

They have ankle zippers with a large enough opening that you can pull them over your hiking boots or hiking shoes without having to take them off. The pants have an adjustable velcro cuff so you can snug them around your ankles, with a protective flap to prevent the zippers from leaking, and a heavy-duty YKK snag-resistant zipper. I am not a big fan of rain pants with full zippers down the sides, because they tend to be very baggy, and the zipper takes a lot of fiddling to stay closed if it runs all the way up through the waistband.

The size range is great with 6 sizes in men’s (XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL) and 6 sizes in women’s pants (XXS, XS, S, M, L, and XL). Equally important is length, since I prefer shorter rain pants over longer ones, so I don’t trip over them In addition to the regular 31-32″ length, REI’s Rain Pants are available in SHORT (2.5 inches shorter) and TALL lengths (2.5 inches longer), so you can dial in the type of fit your prefer.

The pant legs of REI’s Rain Pants are reasonably slim, but flair a bit below the knees and ankles for better range of motion. I think they run a bit long and that you’d be better off getting them in a shorter length.  They also have one zippered side pocket lined with mesh that’s super convenient for carrying car keys and can serve as a stuff pocket for the pants. The exterior fabric is surprisingly quiet when worn, while the interior is lined with a white-colored nylon backer. The interior seams are all taped for waterproofness, while the factory DWR and breathability is perfectly adequate for occasional use.


At 12.4 oz in a men’s size large, REI’s Rain Pains are on the heavy side, weighing about twice as much as ultralight waterproof/breathable rain pants… which cost 2-3 times as much. That’s often the tradeoff, with opting for a less expensive pair of rain pants. If your intended use is for day hiking or wearing these on a commute on rainy days, the weight of the pants is far less important than if you plan to backpack 2000 miles with them. Even then, the durability of a heavier pant can trump a lighter-weight one. It just depends on what your priorities are.

Waist drawstring runs all the way around the pants for better durability
Waist drawstring runs all the way around the pants for better durability

Wrap Up

REI makes a few pairs of pants that I think are excellent values if you’re looking for less expensive technical wear. In addition to these Rain Pants, I’d recommend checking out their Soft Shell Cycling Pants for cold weather riding and their Activator Soft-Shell winter hiking pants. They’re often on sale during the off-season and you can pick up great bargains on them.

See Also

REI provided rain pants for this review.

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  1. I think these would work well with the Frogg Toggs Xtreme Lite rain jacket I just bought for my planned 10 day Dingle Peninsula Ireland walking trip. I’ll start looking for them on sale as I live about 7 miles from 3 different REI stores, in the middle of a Bermuda Triangle of expensive hiking gear trying to sink my financial boat. Thanks Philip.

  2. I own an older version of these pants, and wear them more for snow than for rain, with different insulation depending on conditions. I find your point about REI-brand clothing being “affordable, good quality, and virtually indistinguishable from” name brand products extends to most REI-brand products. One of my bicycles is REI-brand (Novara), as are three of my backpacks, much of my clothing (including a rain jacket), and one tent. REI-brand gear may not be the absolute lightest or most technical, but it is usually excellent value for the cost. Plus, their salespeople are knowledgeable and don’t try to up-sell. I just wish REI would stick to selling outdoor equipment (including technical clothing) and quit sliding into mass market shopping mall mode. My local REI now sells scented candles — which supposedly smell like Yosemite. Come on, guys.

  3. Phillip – are you liking these better than the Montane Minimus these days?

    • I destroyed my last pair of Minimus pants about a year ago and never replaced them. They’re great but I’m feeling frugal and don’t feel like springing for a new pair that costs 3 times as much as these, when I wear them as infrequently as I do. These are just a very good deal when they’re $40/pair.

  4. Philip what do you wear under rain pants? Shorts or long pants? I don’t mean to be rude….I have not hiked enough that I needed waterproof pants. Thanks for your excellent reviews.

  5. I know this is about REI rainpants but I want to contribute my choice which is not on your list, That is the White Sierra brand my pair L is 6.75 oz. has no zippers but does have adjustable ankle snap closures and has a zippered front pocket and a back pocket. I believe they are waterproof, not breathable, but with the light weight it’s handy to take them when there is a chance of rain. They do slip on over light hiking shoes.

  6. Phillip, great review! In my mind, it is better to spring for a more expensive, more durable rain jacket for the upper body. But, while we’re on the subject of rain protection…and I haven’t tried this…but as I was looking at buying a one person tent footprint, I couldn’t help but wonder whether the item couldn’t double as a wrap around rain skirt? I believe flatbrokeoutside got me thinking with his rain fly tarp turned into a working body poncho!

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