Gear review: Waterproof trousers for women

Waterproof trousers have come a long way from the “boil in the bag”, flapping, oversized, essential but unloved items of gear I remember from the past. Whilst innovation has come with higher prices, there are now options that can be worn all day, as alternatives to regular hiking trousers and do more than just keep the rain out.

Alpkit Nautilus

Recommended Price: £124.99
Weight: 420g (10 Short)

Nautilus is Alpkit’s heavier overtrouser, made from 3-layer fabric with waterproof and breathable membrane with a nylon outer with a bit of stretch in it. This allows a slimmer fit so there’s less fabric used in the construction and no annoying flapping. The Scottish autumn has been mainly been wet and miserable and these over-trousers have kept me try and comfortable even for prolonged wears.

The waist is designed like regular trousers with a partially elasticated waistband, integral belt, short zip fly secured by two snap fasteners. This provides a good fit, although at first I found the stiff taped seams below the fly rubbed at first and might be an issue if the sizing is tight. The zip and fastener means extra faff compared to a fully elasticated waist when taking a pee but on balance I’d probably still opt for the benefits of a better fit. These are robust enough to wear with just thermals, or even on their own for a very wet but not cold forecast, and then the waist design which has a lovely soft interfacing would be appreciated. The downside is these are the heaviest trousers in this test, and I’d rather something lighter if the forecast meant they were likely to stay in my pack.

An almost full length waterproof zip with storm baffle up each leg mean they are easy to get on over the biggest boot and the two way zip allows venting from the top. A generous and robust reinforced panel at the inside ankle is an excellent feature well worth the weight if you’re likely to use these with crampons or just to prevent walking wear. The ankle is secured with a snap fastener and can be tightened with a drawcord. Despite the slim fit, movement is excellent with the fabric cut to allow articulation at the knee and a diamond gusset. There are no pockets.

One of the best features for me is that they come in three lengths; short (29″), regular (31″) and long (33″) in sizes 8 – 18 and appear true to size. Overall I’ve found these to be very comfortable after the first wear, with excellent breathability and a good choice for tough, wet mountain days.

Patagonia Torrentshell

Recommened Price: £110
Weight: 300g (S Regular)

A simple design keeps the weight down on these 3-layer waterproof and breathable overtrousers made from recycled fabric. Three quarter length leg water repellent zips with external storm baffles allows them to be put on over boots and keeps the legs fairly slim. The zips are 2 way so can be used for venting and two metal snap fasteners and partial elastic hem keep the ankles drawn in. The generous elasticated waist can be tightened with drawcords and they are quick to pull down but the basic design means they have a bulky feel around the bum.

Two zipped mesh pockets can be used for added venting but can be hard to access if wearing a rucksack hip belt – I also found the water repellent zips let water in after prolonged use. There is some articulation in the knee and movement was okay. As well as being made from 100% recycled materials the Torrenshell manufacturing is certified as Fair Trade sewn. I found the sizing on the generous side. Available in two lengths, regular (32″) and short (30″) and five sizes XS-XL.

These have kept me comfortable on wet days and as they pack up fairly small and aren’t too heavy I’d be happy to have them in my pack for showers, but would hope not to have to wear them all day or with crampons.

Berghaus Paclite

Recommended Price: £120
Weight: 210g (12 Regular)

These lightweight Gore-tex waterproof trousers have been a regular in my pack for the last few years. A fairly basic design combined with thin Paclite shell fabric keeps the weight right down. The elasticated waist can be tightened with a draw cord. Useful, almost full length, waterproof 2-way zips with tiny storm baffle on the legs allow them to put on over boots and can be vented from the top and there’s a handy fastener at the knee to pull in the fabric. The ankles can be adjusted by two snap fasteners but without elastic or a drawcord do still gape a bit.

The fit is generous and they are fairly easy to pull up over trousers. Good waterproofing and reasonably breathable they have proved excellent for occasional use but eventually the fabric has worn thin between the legs and it did not stand up to repeated scrambling using my bum on the tough gabbro of the Skye Cuillin. Available in three lengths, long (33″), regular (31″) and short (29″) and sizes 8 – 18. These are a reliable option if low weight and small pack size is a priority.

Rab Kinetic Alpine Pant

Recommended Price: £165
Weight: 300g (10 Regular)

The first thing you notice about these waterproofs is the fabric, Rab’s own 3-layer Proflex, a combination of PU membrane between a nylon outer and wicking inner. The feel is very soft compared to rivals, and Rab suggests these can be comfortably worn as a single alternative to trousers. Movement is excellent as the fabric is very stretchy at the knee and inner upper legs, less so where it is reinforced at the bum and inner ankles to provide protection for wear and tear when scrambling or using crampons. Short ankle zips allow them to be put on over trail shoes and smaller boots. There is no additional tightening at the ankle but as the fit is slim there is no spare fabric to flap and there are loops to allow straps to be fitted under boots if anyone can be bothered with the faff.

The waist is partially elasticated and secured with two snap fasteners and an integral belt-like tightener. This is extremely comfortable for longer wear and the fit is good. Two zipped hand warmer pockets have not let in water on very wet days but the zips are a bit short to allow easy access especially if using a pack hip belt. Despite the fairly thin feel of the fabric they have proved robust with no wear and tear and are highly breathable and there’s none of the usual noise from the material as you walk. I’ve tried them over regular walking trousers and worn them on their own and they performed well and kept me warm and comfortable both ways. I expect to use them regularly with just thermals on cold days or on their own. Available in three lengths (28″ – 32″) and sizes 8 – 16. There is also a cheaper version (Kinetic rather than Kinetic Alpine) which is lighter, cheaper and more flexible, but less robust and durable.

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