Bad weather can really put a damper on an outdoor adventure, regardless of whether you run into a seemingly never-ending drizzle or extremely heavy bursts of rain. But, you know what? It doesn’t have to! Just slip on your waterproof trousers and keep on moving! Wait, you don’t have any? If you’re one of those folks who have managed to get by without a pair of waterproof trousers but are interested in getting some, we’re here to help! In the following, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about waterproof trousers in this short guide.
True to the adage about bad weather and bad clothing, we’re here to tell you that a reliable outer layer is an absolutely indispensable part of your gear in adverse weather conditions. This goes for both your upper and lower body. These non-insulated overtrousers fall under the category of hardshell trousers. They come equipped with a flexible band at the waist and long zips on the legs that allow them to fit over all other trousers and even thick boots.
But, remember: One pair of waterproof trousers is not like the next! They have much more to offer than waterproof protection! Like a protective shield, waterproof trousers have to be capable to withstand all weather conditions and provide you with reliable protection in windy and cold conditions as well, preventing you getting cold. Plus, they should be breathable, easy to slip on and off and their pack size and weight should coincide with their performance.
How to find the right trousers
In the face of the abundance of waterproof trousers available on the market today, even the most knowledgeable of us can get overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. The first (two-fold) question you should be able to answer before purchasing a pair is the following: What am I going to use them for and what should they be able to withstand? After all, there is no single pair of waterproof trousers that can do it all, so do make sure that they are tailored to your intended area of use. Things to consider could include: short distances vs. multi-days, scattered showers vs. pouring rain, walking vs. cycling, muddy flatlands vs. rocky ridges. As with other functional clothing, the thicker and heavier the trousers, the tougher they are.
Solid mid-range trousers for walking and cycling
Lighter overtrousers like the Fluid Pants II from Vaude or the Resolve Pant from The North Face are great for day trips in unpredictable weather conditions, a walk in the forest on a rainy day or a middle-distance cycling. A commute to work is a good example of the latter, because the distance is manageable, and if the sun does happen to come out, you can stuff the trousers in your pack at any time.
If you’re looking for a pair of waterproof trousers for a day-long trip out in the open or in rugged terrain, you should definitely opt for something more robust like 2.5 or 3-layer hardshell trousers. Both are windproof and will prevent your body getting cold. Thus, such waterproof trousers are the perfect addition to your outdoor gear, especially in stormy weather.
Waterproof trousers for the mountains
Since even the most experienced mountaineer is bound to work up a sweat some point or another, it is absolutely crucial from them to have a pair of waterproof trousers that not only keeps them protected from water on the outside but also allows moisture to escape from the inside. To meet this demand, manufacturers use fabric that is breathable and equip the trousers with side vents to help keep the temperature on the interior balanced. And, if they don’t have extra zip vents, you can open the ¾-length or full-length zips on the legs for extra ventilation.
Waterproof hardshell trousers are also a perfect addition for trips at high altitude. Basically, if you’re travelling in a region where temperatures can drop in the blink of an eye or you could run into a snowstorm, hardshell trousers are a great option to have as an extra layer over a softshell. Plus, you can wear them as an outer insulating layer over your long underwear when ski touring as well.
Hardshell trousers with braces are suitable for activities that require a lot of movement, like climbing. These models may not be as easy to slip on and off, but they do provide reliable protection in wet conditions.
Waterproof trousers for all-weather cyclists
Braces aren’t just important for mountaineers – they’re of interest to cyclists as well. Why? Well, since cyclists lean forward toward their handlebars when cycling, both their buttocks and lower back are exposed and often forced to bear the brunt of the bad weather. The braces on hardshell trousers are there to remedy this and keep these areas nice and protected. Plus, special waterproof cycling trousers also come complete with reinforced panels at the seat and crotch. For improved visibility and overall safety on the roads, they also have reflective elements.
A standard feature on most waterproof trousers, but particularly important for cyclists, is tight cuffs or adjustable hook-and-loop fasteners on the bottom trouser leg, which serve to prevent the fabric getting caught in the chain.
Waterproof trousers – you can’t live without them
Waterproofs can be a nuisance, I know. I mean, who hasn’t tried to justify not wearing their waterproof trousers with excuses like, “Oh, it’s just sprinkling a bit” or “It’ll be over soon, anyway.” We’re all guilty of this, but as soon as our walking trousers get wet, we realise our mistake. After all, once they get wet, it’s too late to put on your waterproof pair. And, if the rain somehow gets inside, you’re in for a really bad day. Add to that the water dripping down from your jacket and your trousers will soon be soaked in no time. What a nightmare. In other words, don’t let laziness get the better of you! Put on your waterproof trousers before it’s too late!
Here’s another little tip: When purchasing waterproof trousers, make sure they’re somewhat longer than the trousers you’d wear underneath. Alternatively, you can protect them from water by way of a tighter cuff. If the trousers underneath are peaking out, cold air and water will start creeping up the inside leg. Another option is to fold up the trouser leg so that it will stay dry.
If you stay indoors, you’re missing out
Regardless of whether up in the mountains, cycling or in the flatlands, a quality pair of waterproof trousers should be an integral part of your gear, especially on multi-day trips and at high altitudes. So, yes, the old adage is true. There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. Besides, there’s something about hill walking in the rain, don’t you think? It’s quite nice! Plus, you won’t run into as many people!