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So what is the deal with rain pants?
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Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
So what is the deal with rain pants? on 06/06/2013 00:28:55 MDT Print View

I suspect there is a real difference in people's definition of REALLY wet weather.

I consider rain pants mandatory gear for me as it might rain non-stop for the entire trip. In non-stop (heavy) rain you don't get a chance to dry anything out, so staying dry is important especially if you are like me and don't carry extra cloths (that said, I consider my rain pants my extra clothes).

I really don't like hiding away in my tiny shelter when it's raining, I just sit out in the rain and am fine as long as I have my rain gear and can keep warm (and sitting on wet logs really sucks without rain pants!). If I'm hiking all day in wet brush I will also put on the rain pants but only if it's too cold and wet outside to expect my pants to dry out.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Re: So what is the deal with rain pants? on 06/06/2013 02:20:46 MDT Print View

I hike in shorts and I always carry wind pants that are highly water resistant. They work well in the rain and keep me warm and dry in even cold, sustained down pours. They double as a pair of long pants and I can wear them at night or to sleep as well because I don't bring long underwear bottoms. To me the rain/wind pants are more versatile.

My recent experience is the CT, JMT and PCT sections. If I routinely hiked in much colder climates i would probably also carry long underwear bottoms. But in any event, unless I'm in very dry climates in very dry months, I carry my wind pants to supplement the shorts I hike in.

Martin RJ Carpenter
(MartinCarpenter) - F
Wind on 06/06/2013 03:38:05 MDT Print View

I always carry, and moderately often use, overtrousers in the UK. It isn't the rain so much as when you get the combination of persistent rain and high winds. That needs protecting against and overtrousers are essentially the only way to do it. They're very light nowadays.

I do normally let my trousers get wet first mind. They dry underneath the overtrousers.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
I usually carry rain pants and sometimes they are vital on 06/06/2013 06:46:23 MDT Print View

I can think of many days where it was raining and windy and cold where rain pants were essential. There have been days where it was so cold and wet that I had to keep walking to stay warm if I didn't want to just camp for the day. Those are the kind of days where, for me anyway, rain pants are one of the most important items of gear I carry. Like most of you, I pack light, and I also often wear them on dry days hiking in a cold wind, or for warmth sitting around camp, or even to wear while doing laundry on days off trail in town.

Mid-summer at low elevations I might not carry them. Most other situations I carry rain gear top and bottoms as standard items. Here's a photo of a day in Glacier where I really needed rain pants. Rain, sleet and snow all day long (and all night.) Not a good situation to get behind the curve on body heat.Rain gear on a cold, wet day in Glacier National Park

Nathan Watts
(7sport) - MLife
DWR on 06/06/2013 06:46:27 MDT Print View

Interested to know what DWR treatments people are applying to their wind gear to get good water resistance as described by a few.

In my experience the factory applied DWR on wind jackets from montbell, arcteryx, westcomb, MH, salomon and some others have not been sufficient to keep me dry for more than a couple of minutes in a good rain and the following contact with wet brush and branches.

I've also used wash in and spray on DWR from Nikwax to rejuvenate the coating.

Usually I don't mind getting wet, but would love to get some additional water resistance from my clothing.

I haven't used a Houdini that everyone here seems to own, so maybe that's the secret. But in a test I just saw, the Squamish faired better in water resistance than the Houdini, and I was just out for a run in the rain in that jacket and was soaked pretty quickly.

Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Rain skirt on 06/06/2013 07:10:06 MDT Print View

Don't neglect the humble rain skirt as a compromise if you don't need the full protection. Mine weighs 1.4 oz and packs to the size of a small pair of socks. I made it out of a scrap of silnylon and some stretchy cord in about 15 minutes. If you are thrashing through brush your lower legs will get soaked regardless.

Nathan Watts
(7sport) - MLife
Re: Rain skirt on 06/06/2013 07:19:59 MDT Print View

And rain shorts. Bought some last year, but admittedly haven't tried them yet.

Perhaps they're better in theory than in practice for me, since like I mentioned earlier, I tend to put on rain pants when the temps are pretty low - and at those temps I don't think rain shorts would be what I'm looking for. I haven't been tempted to put on the WPB shorts in warmer rainy conditions yet - opting instead to just keep my running shorts on and get wet. But I also haven't encountered any prolonged warm rainy days (since acquiring the wpb shorts) where I might want to keep my upper legs dry.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: So what is the deal with rain pants? on 06/06/2013 08:11:17 MDT Print View

What is the deal with rain pants?

You wear them on your lower body to stay warm and dry. It seams there is a lot of resistance to packing them. I would love to leave the weight behind, but miles of walking in cold rain with wet pants stuck to my legs isn't on my fun list.

It is much the same vein as trying to use a windshirt as a rain shell, or going without basic shelter. There are some items that can keep you comfortable, if not alive. Do definitely work at finding the lightest version with the highest performance, but don't leave them out all together. UL doesn't have to be a misery tour!

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
rain akirt on 06/06/2013 08:44:25 MDT Print View

Yeah, I think I am just going to use my trash bag rain skirt mainly and pack that because they are more versatile and just keep the Golite ones as an aside.

Joel Benford
(Morte66) - M

Locale: Surrey flatlands, England
Re: DWR on 06/06/2013 10:07:07 MDT Print View

For DWR, I wash the gear regularly to stop my sweat dissolving the DWR, and reproof periodically with NikWax TX Wash In. Note that any DWR you apply bonds to the original factory treatment, so if the original is gone (scraped off by branches or whatever) it's over.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Re: DWR on 06/06/2013 12:43:24 MDT Print View

In the desert I don't get much chance to test extended rainy weather techniques...except when I canyoneer.

My very first backpacking trip I spent 95% of my time in 40F water that was consistently between ankle and waist deep. Shoes froze solid over night. I would simply change into long johns to sleep and was perfectly fine pulling on icy cold clothes in the morning (okay, maybe not "fine" but it got me moving on the trail proper quick). I just need neoprene socks to keep feet warm and was fine in light nylon supplex pants.

As long as my torso and pelvic region stays relatively dry and warm, soaked legs don't seem to cause me much problem when I'm on the move. When I stop, any plastic/waterproof sheeting does a decent job of preventing evaporative heat loss, or changing into dry sleep clothes.

The only time I've ever been dangerously cold is when I was caught in the dreaded 30-40F wet weather without any waterproof gear. Then the issue was my soaked torso...but non stop hiking kept me alive and warm enough to finish my hike (last day). I was exposed to every form of precipitation from snow to fog for 12 hours straight at elevation. It was miserable but if I had shelter or a rain jacket (again I was inexperienced at the time) I would have waited out the storm or been safely warm. I did promptly by a waterproof jacket when I got home. Everything since has taught me a jacket is critical, but haven't found a need for pants yet.

I'm sure Kat's comments apply to her style of hiking but they are not universal statements. If your style of hiking involves non-stop movement with a bare minimum of short breaks, then wet legs are not a major concern as long as you pay attention to proper thermoregulation (don't get lazy and not wrap up in plastic if you stop more than 30 seconds).

Rain pants do however provide an extra layer of security for minimal weight if you use them as a replacement for wind pants. But I still think supplex pants are good enough in rain weather because they don't stick to your leg as much as a thinner and lighter pant, This keeps the water off you and traps warm air (and they often dry to "damp" over night. I'd much rather have the extra weight of dry long johns to sleep in then the same weight of rain pants.

It just depends on your style of hike. If you move a lot and generate heat all day and have the gear to keep you warm and dry in camp, then rain pants aren't necessary. If you are more stop and go and use the same clothes you hike in for camp as well as the trail because of a slower pace needing more warmth, then rain pants are a better (maybe necessary) option.

EDIT: I should probably put in the caveat that I'm talking about just lightweight backpacking in typical 2-3 season weather. For colder temps with lots of snow or mountaineering the issue becomes a bit murkier. I'm still a strong believer though that bailing on a trip or hunkering down is still safer than "trusting" some gear to see you through conditions that would normally give you pause.

Edited by upalachango on 06/06/2013 12:48:49 MDT.

Nathan Watts
(7sport) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: DWR on 06/06/2013 12:52:55 MDT Print View

"My very first backpacking trip I spent 95% of my time in 40F water that was consistently between ankle and waist deep."

Do you mean air temperature? Or was the water really that cold? That's brutal. I don't think I could tolerate that for an extended period. But my experience with water at those temps has not been while wearing neoprene socks. It was actually painfully cold. Maybe you get used to it after a little while though.

And rain pants aren't going to help much with that type of hiking anyway.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: DWR on 06/06/2013 13:25:37 MDT Print View

"Interested to know what DWR treatments people are applying to their wind gear to get good water resistance as described by a few"

Yeah, the factory stuff and Nikwax. DWR does well with drizzle and light sporadic rain, leaving you enough protection that you aren't in and out of rain gear all the time.

My last downpour experience in light softshell pants with the DWR intact was poor. I had worn them in light rain with good results, but this time it really started to pour as I was getting back to the trailhead, and I didn't want to stop and change as I was just 15 minutes from the car. The water slid off my rain jacket and when the DWR failed, the pants were soaked through in a couple minutes. No crisis, but cold, wet, and the fabric was stuck to my legs. Not the way I would want to do real miles on a trail and then camping.

A simple 7-10oz pair of rain pants would have taken care of the whole issue. Everyone winces at the weight and the temptation to go without is strong, but it just doesn't pay for me and goes in the "stupid light" column.

Edited by dwambaugh on 06/06/2013 18:35:09 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Thanks Buck! on 06/06/2013 17:46:44 MDT Print View

Thanks for that photo of you in a rain suit in cold rain and sleet. That photo is proof positive that rain pants can be lifesavers. As a ski patroller I have seen enough foul weather hypothermia to know how dangerous it is.

To the OP, definitely keep the REI Kimtah eVent pants. eVent breathes so well that they can be used,like the kimtah parka, as wind protection.
**Just be sure to use Gore's REVIVEX spray for DWR renewal. It is the best DWR I've found. Great on sleeping bags too.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Wet pants on 06/06/2013 19:50:40 MDT Print View

I normally will hike in shorts in the rain combined with a cuben rain jacket. Where rain pants are nice is near freezing temperatures. In those conditions in moderate to heavy rain I will wear rain pants along with cap 1 bottoms. Not as comfortable as shorts but it beats total wet pants. On the last day of the Bob Open trip I had waist deep stream crossings combined with wet overgrown trail combined with rain. My pants were soaked, shorts soaked no I was starting to chafe bad. In this scenario there was no way of staying dry, short of stripping down for stream crossings. But if it were just rain and wet overgrown trail I would have worn the rain pants.

But I did wear the rain pants and jacket as a VBL while spending the night in a tree well. This double use potential is the main reason I carry the pants vs. other options. If it were summering the east I may not even take them.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
rain pants on 06/06/2013 21:07:46 MDT Print View

I guess the posts form Dale W and Buck confirm that weather in NW US and Canada merits rain pants, even though I haven't needed them in Colorado and New England when backpacking.

In mid-May, I was on the Cohos Trail in northern NH for a week, with three days of extended rain. But here the extended rain fluctuates back and forth between light drizzle and heavy deluges, and there is usually some cover below tree line. The Marmot Rockstar soft shell pants I used never got anywhere near wetted out, let along sopped, and dried out completely in the tent each night. Usually, they were dry enough by bedtime, that I just wore them in the bag. Had the same experience with them last year. Hope the DWR holds up.

In response to Kat P's question about bringing a change of clothes, absolutely. In addition to the Patagonia baggies - extra briefs, a fleece top and cap, Cocoon PG Delta puffy top and bottom, 2 pair extra heavy coolmax sox and thinsulate booties stay dry in the clothes bag. These have saved my bacon often enough when the temperature plummeted at night after extended rain that I'm willing to carry that much weight. There have been some nights when it took all of it to sleep comfortably and warm in the sleeping bag. Not sure that this combination would work more than a week of extended rain without a break, but that would be pretty unusual for the NE or CO.

The ReviveX line is made by McNett, the same company that makes Seam-Grip sealer.

What I'm getting from this thread is that what you can leave behind to save weight depends on the region you are going to and the season. The recent increases in fluctuations in climate do make it more difficult to plan, however.

Edited by scfhome on 06/06/2013 21:09:41 MDT.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
skirt on 06/06/2013 21:34:21 MDT Print View

Yeah but I really don't see how rain pants are a whole lot better than a trash bag rain skirt which is more breathable.

(KalebC) - F

Locale: South West
Haha on 06/06/2013 21:51:24 MDT Print View

Try bushwhacking in Alaska in a trash bag, hahahaha

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
hmmm on 06/06/2013 21:56:13 MDT Print View

I don't and never will, really not a sustainable place to be/thing to do. You go around bushes and thickets, not through them. And rain pants would not last much longer or at least the DWR won't.

And this is not to be rude towards the poster but why do people take an example of what 97% of the community will probably never experience to justify a gear piece?

But at the same time I know I really never want to hike above the tree line and there is not much elevation around where I live. But I do get that they are good to have around freezing temps where it might be windy and/or rainy. I would not take them as wind protection because they are about 12oz for the REI eVent ones and that is a bit heavy for wind and they don't easily fit over my size 15EEs. I will probably use a pant/shorts with the trash bag and then rain pants if it gets below 60F at which point I will the keep the Golite ones as they are more versatile and can vent while the REI eVents ones are going back unused.

Edited by bpeugh on 06/07/2013 08:05:11 MDT.

Sam Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
rain pants on 06/07/2013 21:06:32 MDT Print View

"...what 97% of the community will probably never experience ..."

Brett, trekking on the higher, and therefore more exposed areas in the Rockies, the Pacific and Appalachian crests, is pretty popular, and that's just in the continental USA. These are areas where inadequate protection from weather can be fatal.

Trash bag skirts and such are fine for places we are familiar with and know will not be overly threatening. But cannot agree that is apropos to 97%.

I guess what concerns me is the continual discussion on this site of weight-saving measures with gear that are likely to lull folks into dangerous situations. I don't just enjoy packing light, I have to pack light due to my age and physical condition.
That is the only way I can still enjoy backpacking, a lifelong passion. But I'm going to make darn sure I have the gear that will protect me "when things go wrong," to borrow form the title of Roger Caffin's super article on this site. With some careful foresight, there is no reason why we cannot be both 'gear smart' and 'gear light' at the same time.