Every year I overlook this key type of outerwear for the Devon climate. And every year I regret it.
Having traipsed home laden with bags through yet another deluge, my trousers and legs are soaked through, with damp fabric that will need to be peeled off my goosebump-ridden skin.
I’ll admit it. I am not yet organized enough to have a pair of women’s waterproof trousers for rainy weather. Worse still I headed out without an umbrella.
But in Devon, where rain is a determined pastime, waterproof trousers are a must and a definite wardrobe inclusion for anyone serious about being outside for any length of time or venturing into the rugged moorlands rather than the more climes of the southern coastal paths.
So in this article, I am going to make sure I find a pair of waterproof ladies trousers that are flattering and smart. Join me as we take a scoot around the web to find the best waterproof trousers for women of 2021.
Buyer’s guide for the best women’s waterproof trousers of 2021
So, just what exactly are waterproof trousers?
Waterproof trousers are trousers that a specifically designed to protect the lower body from rain. Wearing a decent pair of waterproof trousers should mean that your legs or any trousers or shorts worn underneath remain dry. To do this effectively, these waterproof pants or rain trousers are, of course, made from a water-resistant material.
What are the types of waterproof trousers I can buy?
As with most items of outdoor wear, waterproof trousers for women come in a range of types. This can make pinpointing the pair that will work for you difficult as there are so many styles to choose from including:
- Overtrousers: These are trousers that you wear over your regular trousers. They can be put on quickly when a downpour hits and whipped off when the shower ends.
- Wear all-day waterproof trousers: The trousers are worn as regular trousers but are waterproofed and will protect you from rain if it hits.
- Full-length zip waterproof trousers: This technical waterproof trouser design features a zip that runs right up the leg meaning that they can be zipped open to remove them – very convenient.
- Half-zip waterproof trousers: Another convenient design that’ll get your trousers on and off over your boots.
- Ankle zip waterproof trousers: As above.
- Lined waterproof trousers: Lined trousers are the fully weatherproof trouser option that is perfect for those miserable, wet, and brooding British winters by the Atlantic coast.
- Packaway rain trousers: The lockup and leave version of waterproof trousers that you can pull out of your bag if you get caught in the rain.
The thing that has stalled my previous attempts to search for a pair of waterproof trousers is the overwhelming number of styles, colours and cuts. Another tough decision is whether to opt for something lightweight and packable or heavier near winter lined trousers.
What to look for in waterproof trousers.
If you are in the same boat, focusing on the key areas below should help you pinpoint what to look for in waterproof trousers and find one that will be just right for your activity and lifestyle.
- Think about the fabric.
It’s tempting to be all about the cut and look of your trousers, but the type of fabric is the key determinant of the quality, performance and longevity of your waterproof trousers.
Lightweight materials are better suited to packaway trousers that you will call on if you find yourself in a sudden downpour. These kit waterproof trousers arent so durable and depending on the quality can become ripped or leak at the seams.
Heavier fabrics offer better protection from the elements and will last longer. The GORE-TEX range of performance composite fabrics is highly durable. GORE-TEX is a great choice for higher levels of activity like climbing or hiking.
- Look for the waterproofing and breathability rating of the waterproof trousers.
There is a helpful textile rating system that rates how waterproof and breathable trousers are. A numerical rating exists for water resistance of the fabric and a second for breathability. A minimum waterproofing rating of 5000 is necessary for the trousers to be rated as waterproof with higher numbers indicated increasing water resistance. Breathability ratings work in the same way with higher rating meaning that your trouser fabric will be more breathable.
- Are you looking for a packable pair?
If like me, you invariable are out and about toting a minimum 30L backpack you will have room for a packable pair that you can simply throw in your bag so you are ready for anything. As long as it doesn’t require folding, they are all good!
- Are the seams taped?
If you are determined to be outdoors in wet weather for a prolonged period, taped seams are essential. This sealing of the seams on your waterproof garment prevents the ingress of water through stitch holes in the waterproof fabric. When you buy waterproof trousers the seams will tell you all you need to know about the quality of the trousers. Also, look for reinforcing of high wear areas like heel tape which will also keep the trousers in good condition for longer.
- Consider the type of waistband that is most practical.
The waistband of the trouser will really affect how the trouser sits on you. Most will have a bog-standard elastic waistband, designed to be pulled over other trousers that are being worn. If you prefer a more precise fit, you will need trousers with a more flattering zip fly and perhaps braces to hold them up to prevent bulk on your waist.
- Do you need leg or ankle zips?
When you are out on the hills, being able to change out of your trousers without fuss can make all the difference to your walk. Having a leg or ankle zip is perfect for getting waterproof trousers on and off while keeping your walking shoes on (and there is nothing worse than hiking in soggy socks). Though side-zip waterproof trousers are more dramatic, they are very practical as you can zip your trouser right off without getting them messy at all!
- Call me vain, but fit matters
A flattering fit is welcome but fit is also important when you are wearing overtrousers to prevent bulk and discomfort when moving. Sizing can be tricky with a pair of waterproof trousers that you wear over another pair as you do not want them to be too baggy either. I personally want a waterproof pair that I can wear just like my regular trousers so a cut that even adds a touch of stretch (if possible) would be ideal.
[A] Ultra Extreme Women’s 3-Layer Overtrousers by Mountain Warehouse
- Available in sizes 6 to 22
- Colour: an unspecified dark colour
- Two-way zip that can be full or half-length
- Adjustable waistband
- 100% polyester
- 20,000mm waterproof rating
- Internally taped seams
If you are a hiking die-hard who will ramble and roam straight through the year, this solid, technical waterproof trouser should prove to be a wise investment. Mountain Warehouse is a dependable feature of the Great British high street, and they have put some thought into designing these overtrousers.
For me, one of the worst encounters with the elements is cold driving rain, especially against that wet, foggy and windy weather that tends to just sit on the moors for a large part of the year. Mountain Warehouse has you covered – literally with a layered waterproof fabric that has a 20,000 mm rating! This high rating means that these trousers are impervious to rain, though remaining breathable enough to stop you sweating them off.
When the sun decides to put in an appearance, don’t hesitate to whip these off with ease using the full-length zip that runs right up to the waistband.
Pros and cons of the Ultra Extreme Women’s 3-Layer Overtrousers by Mountain Warehouse
- Full-length zip: The full-length zip means that your under layers stay completely dry when you remove these trousers.
- Flattering flat front: The internal belt design keeps these trousers looking smart, without that bunched-up look that you often get with overtrousers.
- Single leg length: If you are a taller lady, those extra inches of length make all the difference in keeping you dry. This is a bit of a miss for such a technical garment.
[B] Kiwi Pro waterproof trousers by Craghoppers
- Available in sizes 8 to 20
- Three leg lengths: short, regular, and long
- Aquadry membrane
- Adjustable waistband
- 96% polyamide, 4% elastane fabric – 100% polyester trim
- 8,000mm waterproof rating
- Part-elasticated waist at sides
If you are looking for wearable waterproof trousers that will see you through a rainy summer, these stylish women’s waterproof trousers by Craghoppers will prove themselves to be a versatile addition to your wardrobe
In all honesty, one of the things I like most about these waterproof trousers is that they don’t look like waterproof trousers! These have an incredibly flattering cut which will look just as great with your favourite shirt or top as your base layers and jackets and backpacks. Though they are lighter weight, they have great performance due to the proprietary SmartDry finish that simply shrugs off the rain before it can soak into your garment.
Craghoppers are really into creating their garments sustainably and you’ll be pleased to know that these trousers have been made with at least 165g of recycled materials. The waterproof rating is decent at 8,000mm and Craghoppers ensure that these trousers are not only breathable but also have stretch too.
Pros and cons of the Kiwi Pro waterproof trousers by Craghoppers
- Contemporary design: If the look of your waterproof trousers matters to you, these smart black trousers have the most flattering fit on the market.
- Stretch aids movement and a better fit: The internal belt design keeps these trousers looking smart, without that bunched-up look that you often get with overtrousers.
- Multiple leg length for every size: Craghoppers have made the effort to provide these stylish trousers in 3 leg lengths. This improves the fit and performance of the trousers as they will hit your boots at the right place and don’t need any last-minute hemming or turning under.
- Zipped pockets: The trouser pockets zip flat leaving the rain with nowhere to go!
- Less insulation: Technical trousers these are not! I think these are a great pair of trousers for gadding about town through winter or hitting the coastal path or hills and keeping going even if rain hits. This is what I am looking for. However, if you are planning a three peaks weekend, you need to switch lanes and get a better insulated, more technical pair of pants. Craghoppers do a winter lined trouser that is worth looking at too.
[C] Patagonia Women’s Calcite Pants
- Available in sizes XXS to XL (a size 16)
- Regular length
- Adjustable waistband
- 100% recycled polyester
- Fair Trade sewn
- Cuff to hip side zip
all-American outdoor brand Patagonia is well-known for its performance outerwear that balances excellent fabrication and engineering with its signature Cali style. The Calcite women’s waterproof pants will have you craving your next walking weekend with their smart presentation, reliable performance and exceptional detailing.
These full-length are made from a 2.5 layer 100% polyester GORE-TEX fabric that is waterproof, breathable and has a proprietary backing to keep the trousers comfortable next to your skin as you move.
These trousers are packable and designed to separate at the waist making them easy to put on and remove when required. There’s also no bulk up top at the waist with the trousers being secured by a snap buckle belt.
For an overtrousers design, Patagonia ensures that you can move. Flexible fabric, articulated knees and cuffs mean you won’t feel restricted or uncomfortable, especially if you wear them as a single layer.
Pros and cons of the Patagonia Women’s Calcite Pants
- Packable trouser: If the look of your waterproof trousers matters to you, these smart black trousers have the most flattering fit on the market.
- Fully separating waist: These trousers get on and off easily while retaining the shape and clean lines.
- All-weather fabrication: If you are familiar with Patagonia clothing you will know that they are always adventure-ready. These trousers have been designed to be able to take on year-round weather conditions, making them a great investment that you’ll get lots of use out of.
- Single leg length: These are very expensive trousers and for the price point, varied leg lengths would be useful for petite or tall ladies.
[D] Women’s Highton Waterproof Overtrousers by Regatta
- Available in sizes S to XXXL (a size 22)
- Short, regular and long lengths available
- 10,000mm waterproof rating
- Zipped pockets
- Ankle zip
- Part elasticated waistband
- 100% polyester
If you are looking for a cost-effective and handy pair of waterproof trousers, Regatta is probably the first company that springs to mind. These Highton women’s overtrousers are a reliable pair for general use in wet weather. You can be confident you will remain dry and comfortable as the ISOTEX fabric has a good waterproof rating. The seams of these trousers are taped and the pockets zipped, meaning that even driving rain has nowhere to go.
For once, you have the choice of either black or navy and the part-elasticated waist means that though these trousers are basic you still don’t look bulky.
Pros and cons of the Women’s Highton Waterproof Overtrousers by Regatta
- Ankle zips: These help get the trousers over your boots when you are out and about.
- Stretch makes all the difference: Some waterproof overtrousers can be very stiff and even split if you lunge. The stretch and elasticated at the waist improves movement.
- Multiple leg lengths mean that everyone can have a great fit.
- Zip fly: This is a stretch for being a con, but If you are looking for something you can just pull on – the zip and press stud fly may be a bit of a hassle.
[D] Decathlon Quechua Women’s Country Walking Waterproof Overtrousers
- Available in sizes 2XS to 2XL (a size 22)
- Multiple leg lengths available
- 2,000mm waterproof rating
- Closing pockets
- Ankle zip
- Drawstring waistband
- 100% polyester with a polyurethane coating
Decathlon has done it again with a cheap as cheaps yet highly functional pair of packable waterproof overtrousers. I like Decathlons package outdoor weather, which folds or rather, scrunches down into tiny pods you can throw in a bag and forget about. These women’s waterproof trousers are admittedly basic but for the price, you get a lot of value. You can pull them on and tighten them with the drawstring waist. Rip-tabs at the ankle can also be used to adjust the fit. The sizing with Decathlon can come up a fit small so it may be worth going up a size to ensure that you can move freely.
Pros and cons of Decathlon Quechua Women’s Country Walking Waterproof Overtrousers
- Cheap: These are some of the cheapest ladies’ waterproofs on the market. If you are investing in a different type of waterproof trouser or technical walking trouser, you can always pack this trouser in your kit and forget about them until needed as an additional layer.
- Packable: The lightweight and compact design packs small and will fit in the palm of your hand!
- Multiple leg lengths: This adds to the value of these simple rain trousers.
- Low waterproof rating: For a price like this you can’t have everything. These trousers are not designed for heavy-duty use or intense physical activity.
Frequently asked questions for the best waterproof trousers
- How do waterproof trousers differ from outdoor trousers?
I have learnt to my detriment on many a rainy afternoon that outdoor trousers are not waterproof trousers. Yes, outdoor trousers provide exceptional stretch, comfort, and protection from the elements that are vital for adventure activities, but they are not waterproof unless specified by the manufacturer.
When I first started investing in quality outerwear I thought that a pricey pair of outdoor pants would keep me warm and dry all day on my favourite SW coastal path treks. However, I am learning more and more that outdoor clothing and accessories need to be selected for specific function and performance. If your trousers are not labelled as being waterproof, assume that they aren’t.
- Are Gore-tex trousers the best waterproof trousers?
GORE-TEX fabric technology is excellent for waterproof trousers as it keeps you warm and dry while remaining breathable so you won’t end up dripping with sweat as you walk.
- Who makes the best waterproof trousers?
For me, the Craghoppers women’s waterproof trousers are the current market leaders the Waterproof Kiwi Pro trouser has an excellent, flattering cut as well as flexibility along with robust waterproofing, making it a smart all-weather choice.
If you are looking for a more technical purchase, I would also recommend taking a look at US brand Patagonia’s women’s Torrentshell or Calcite waterproof pants. These pants are super-smart with GORE-TEX fabric, leg-zips and a separating waist and a very smart streamlined appearance – did I mention that it’s packable?
- Are waterproof trousers waterproof?
As mentioned above, to determine if a waterproof trouser is actually waterproof, the trousers will carry a waterproof rating which enables you to determine the degree of waterproofing you will get from a particular pair of trousers. A waterproof rating of 5000mm and above is necessary for protection from moderate rain, classing the garment as waterproof.
- Can you wear waterproof trousers on their own?
If the trousers you choose are not overtrousers they should be suitable for wearing without another trouser layer. If you are wearing waterproof trousers with bare legs, tights or leggings, the breathability of the trouser fabric will be key so you do not become a sweatbox.
- Do waterproof trousers keep you warm?
If you need insulation from the cold you need to ensure that the waterproof trouser you buy specifically provides this. Many of these trousers are shell trousers so you will not have the benefit of insulation unless you wear extra leg layers. A lined pair of trousers will keep you warm. If money was no object I would also pick up the Kiwi Pro II winter lined trouser that has performance in rain, sleet and snow.
- Do you know how to wear waterproof trousers with wellies?
For me, it is a little counter-intuitive but your waterproof trousers need to go OVER your wellies. It’s a bit annoying if you are walking through mud, but tucking in your waterproof trousers will track rainwater into your wellies, getting your feet soaked in no time.
- How long do waterproof trousers last?
If you are intending to put your new waterproof trousers through their paces and do a lot of outdoor time you will notice the effects of wear and tear on the trousers sooner than if they are used intermittently. Cycles of heat and cold, UV exposure and washing will take their toll on even the best waterproof trouser which may begin to lose their durable water-repellent (DWR) finish.
- How do I wash my waterproof trousers?
After spending money on good quality waterproof trousers you need to know how to keep them at their best. Cleaning your trousers is important as it rids them of dirt and environmental pollutants that can impair their waterproofing, breathability, and overall performance. When you are ready to wash them, make sure that you clean any surface dirt on the trouser. It can then be washed following its care label using a non-detergent cleaning agent like Nikwax that will help maintain the waterproof finish of the garment.
Thanks for taking the time to work through some of my options for a new pair of women’s waterproof trousers. I hope you have found it as helpful as I have, as thinking through and evaluating what is really available makes all the difference in finding the right pair. I think I have my favourite pegged and ready to see me through the Devonian seasons!