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:
- 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?
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.
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 not a big fan 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 waist band.
The size range is great with 6 sizes in men’s (XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL) and 6 sizes in the 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 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 while 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…that 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.
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.
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