A good pair of waterproof trousers will add to your comfort in the great outdoors. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

A good pair of waterproof trousers will add to your comfort in the great outdoors. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Heading for the great outdoors in the UK almost always means being prepared for wet weather.

Even in the height of summer, showers or persistent rain can strike and turn a pleasant outing into a miserable one if you haven’t packed your waterproofs.

While a waterproof jacket is probably the most important piece of kit in your pack, a good pair of trousers that will keep the rain out will provide comfort and sometimes even vital protection.

It’s important to keep your upper body and head as dry as possible in cold, wet weather to help keep all those vital organs protected and, though wet legs are not going to cause an immediate danger of hypothermia in the same way as a damp torso, they can help lower overall body temperature and will certainly detract from your enjoyment.

We’ve tested half a dozen pairs of waterproof trousers to see how well they keep your pins dry. All of them kept out the rain during our testing, but we’ve also rated them for how well they shift perspiration and how comfortable they were in use.

In all but one case, the trousers are meant to be worn over a conventional pair of walking trousers.

Didriksons Nimbus Tech USX Pant

Didriksons Nimbus Tech USX Pant

Didriksons Nimbus Tech USX Pant
Price: £45
Colour: black
Weight: 348g
Material: shell, polyamide; lining, polyamide and polyester
Waterproofing: Storm System
Country of manufacture: China
Recommended wash: 40C wash; cool iron to reactivate water-repellency
Sizes: S-XXXL
Women’s version: no

The Nimbus Tech USX trousers are a simple design in robust-feeling fabric.

The Storm System waterproofing, which uses a PFC-free durable water-resistant finish, is rated at 10,000mm hydrostatic head, and the Didriksons trousers kept out the rain on our test outings.

Breathability was quite good, with a rating of 4,000g/m2/24h, and there’s a small mesh section in the lining at the small of the back where sweat build-up is most likely.

The fabric of the trousers is fairly thick and kept out the wind very well and also added a little warmth on cold test days.

The waist is elasticated and it also has a simple drawcord to tighten it. There is also a small hanging loop. The Didriksons trousers allowed reasonable movement though there was some resistance when stepping up on upward sections of walks.

There are no zips at the leg hems. The Nimbus Tech has a fairly wide hems, but there is only a hook and loop flap to cinch in the leg bottoms. This arrangement meant it was very difficult to put on the trousers while wearing boots and even harder to take them off. Because of this, we’ve downgraded the overall comfort rating.

Quality was good and, though the fabric was fairly noisy, mainly due to the lining, it had a soft feel and, overall, the trousers offered good protection in the wet. Fit is standard.

Waterproofness 25/30
Breathability 20/30
Comfort 12/20
Quality 7/10
Value for money 8/10
Total score: 72/100

Keela Lightning Trousers

Keela Lightning Trousers

Keela Lightning Trousers
Price: £54.95
Colour: black
Weight: 266g
Material: nylon with polyurethane coating
Waterproofing: Rainlife 2000
Country of manufacture: not stated
Recommended wash: 40C pure soap
Sizes: (men’s and women’s) 28-42 waist; short, regular long leg
Women’s version: yes

These Keela trousers are designed with fast and light users in mind.

The Rainlife 2000 fabric is the lighter of the two Rainlife waterproof fabrics used by the brand, and the Lightning Trousers weigh the least of any in the test.

But, as we’ve come to expect from Keela, they’re not short on features. The waist is elasticated and has a press-stud fastening. There’s no adjuster but the trousers have belt loops and we used a belt on our test to help keep them in place.

The Lightning Trousers have a zip fly, including the women’s version, and there are twin openings, with press-stud fasteners, at the hips to allow access to pockets on any main trousers you’re wearing.

The legs have zipped expansion panels at their bottoms which allow the trousers to be put on over boots while on the hoof. Taking the trousers off was also aided by these zips, which extend up the knee. Adjustment of the lower part of the legs is by two large hook-and-loop tabs, which have reflective material, at the ankle and top of calf. The edge of the storm flap that covers the leg zips also has reflective piping – all useful for those who undertake road running or walking. The adjustment strips allow the legs to be cinched in quite tight around the calves if required to stop them flapping about.

The fabric of the Keela Lightning Trousers is ripstop nylon, which is quite rustly. The lining isn’t as ‘slidy’ as some, with the result that some resistance to movement was felt at the knee area when walking uphill and stepping up.

The trousers kept out the rain and kept moisture build-up down reasonably well. The material is lightweight so the Lightning Trousers don’t add much in the way of warmth, but they did block the wind well.

Although tailored to runners and fast movers, these Keela trousers are suitable for walkers too. The lack of weight means they’re not going to add too much of a burden to your pack when not in use.

And the Keela Lightning Trousers represent excellent value for money.

Waterproofness 24/30
Breathability 20/30
Comfort 13/20
Quality 7/10
Value for money 85/10
Total score: 72/100

Outdoor Research Foray Pants

Outdoor Research Foray Pants

Outdoor Research Foray Pants
Price: £155
Colour: black
Weight: 330g
Material: polyester
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex with Paclite
Country of manufacture: China
Recommended wash: 40C
Sizes: men’s S-XXL; women’s XS-XL Women’s version: yes – Aspire Pants

The Outdoor Research trousers have lots of little touches that add to your comfort.

The fabric is 50 denier polyester and uses Gore-Tex with Paclite for waterproofing. The material is a little softer in feel than some and there’s a subsequent reduction in rustle when walking.

The elasticated waist has a drawcord for adjustment and there are rubbery strips around it to provide extra grip and stop the trousers slipping down. The Foray Pants also have three attachment loops on the waist to attach braces if needed.

There’s a rear zipped pocket with mesh liner. This can also be used as a stuffsack for the trousers when turned inside out. It has a hanging or attachment loop too.

The Outdoor Research trousers have articulated knees and the legs have water-resistant zips running from the hem right to the hip, which makes them very easy to put on and take off, even when wearing winter boots and crampons.

There are double pullers on the zips, the top ones having a plastic tag which made them easy to pull down to provide some ventilation while working hard.

The hems of the legs are elasticated at the rear, and this section also has rubberised strips to help keep the bottom of the legs in place. A small flap with press-stud fastening covers the bottom of the zip. There are small loops at the hems to attach an instep lace if required.

Comfort was very good while using the Foray Pants. The trousers are cut well and didn’t impede movement. The two-layer Gore-Tex with Paclite fabric didn’t feel as crinkly and rustly as some and the waterproofing worked well, with breathability good too.

The Outdoor Research trousers aren’t cheap, but quality was very good and design excellent, with all the features you need from a pair of overtrousers. We encountered some pretty dire weather during testing but the Foray Pants kept our legs dry and comfortable and didn’t impede us when stepping up on scrambly routes.
Waterproofness 27/30
Breathability 26/30
Comfort 15/20
Quality 8/10
Value for money 6/10
Total score: 82/100

Páramo Cascada II Trousers

Páramo Cascada II Trousers

Páramo Cascada II Trousers
Price: £145
Colour: grey
Weight: 486g
Material: polyester
Waterproofing: Nikwax Analogy
Country of manufacture: Colombia
Recommended wash: 30C Nikwax Tech Wash
Sizes: men’s S-XXL; women’s XS-XL (different leg lengths available)
Women’s version: yes

Unlike most of the waterproof trousers in the test, the Cascada IIs are not overtrousers, but are meant to be worn as your main leg coverings.

Páramo’s system for keeping you dry works differently from most too. There’s no waterproof membrane, the Analogy system instead working by a ‘pump system’ that moves liquid water outwards from the user’s body by capillary action, so lessening the cooling effect of excess sweat. The water repellency of the fabric is largely down to treatment with Nikwax chemicals.

Páramo says this makes for better comfort due to less build-up of perspiration. Technically, Nikwax Directional fabric isn’t waterproof as it can’t pass the hydrostatic head test, but Páramo puts its garments in rain chambers and has found they resist water for at least four hours. The idea is that your body heat and the nature of the liner fabrics push out water faster than it can ingress.

But if you sit on a wet surface, the water will start to penetrate, and it is possible in heavy rain driven by high winds that the water will be pushed through, particularly where rucksack straps compress the material. The two-layer construction of the Analogy fabric means Páramo waterproof garments tend to be both heavier and warmer than more conventional shells.

But, remember that you don’t need an ordinary pair of walking trousers if you’re using the Cascada II trousers, so the 486g weight is not that bad compared to an overtrousers choice.

The Analogy material feels much softer and less rustly than most waterproof fabrics making the Cascada II trousers feel instantly comfortable.

The waistband is partly elasticated and there are belt loops. There are two zipped hip pockets.

The Cascada II legs have zips from the hem to hip, allowing them to be easily put on and taken off, though this is less of an issue with these Páramo trousers as they’re not overtrousers. The zips do allow extra ventilation, however, and there are two press-studs beside the zips which allow venting without the zips gaping open too wide. There’s a baffle behind the zips which helps keep out the rain a little, though the zips are not water resistant so, with heavy wind-blown rain, they can let a little wetness though.

The ankle cuffs have press-studs, which allow them to be adjusted around the boot. Another press-stud keeps the storm baffle in position. The cuffs have an extra layer of lining fabric for reinforcement.

Walking in the Cascada II trousers is a comfortable experience. The soft fabric makes them feel like an ordinary pair of walking trousers, but the Nikwax treatment beads up the rain and kept the water out on all our test trips. The knees are articulated, which also aided comfort.

The Páramo trousers really come into their own on showery days when, with conventional overtrousers, you would repeatedly have to make the decision when to put them on and take them off. With these, you can continue in confidence knowing the rain’s not going to get in yet you’re not going to get too clammy either.

One of the big advantage of Analogy fabric over membranes is its ability to shift perspiration, and the Cascada IIs performed very well for breathability.

On winter days, the extra warmth of the two-layer fabric was welcome and provided good windblocking too. On warm and wet summer days this might be a distinct disadvantage, though the ability to open the leg zips for ventilation does help.

Quality of the Páramo trousers was good, though they’re not cheap. The Cascada IIs are fluorocarbon free too.

Regular retreatment with Nikwax is recommended to maintain the water repellency of the fabric.

Páramo has a large band of followers who love its breathability and an equally committed group of people who just can’t get on with the Analogy system.

We really liked using the Cascada II trousers in cold, showery conditions and the comfort provided by the breathability when working hard uphill is very welcome. The Páramo trousers performed well in varying conditions from snowfall to persistent rain and kept our legs warm and dry. In summer, they’re likely to be on the warm side.

Waterproofness 23/30
Breathability 28/30
Comfort 15/20
Quality 8/10
Value for money 6/10
Total score: 80/100

Rab Firewall Pants

Rab Firewall Pants

Rab Firewall Pants
Price: £135
Colour: black
Weight: 354g
Material: polyamide
Waterproofing: Pertex Shield + Three-layer
Country of manufacture: China
Recommended wash: non-biological detergent of pure soap
Sizes: men’s S-XXL; women’s 8-16
Women’s version: yes

The Firewall Pants use three-layer Pertex Shield + for waterproofing and the fabric feels robust. It also has a slight stretchiness which made for ease of movement when stepping up on scramble routes.

The waist is elasticated and also has a drawcord adjuster. There are four gripper strips within the waistband to help stop the trousers slipping down.

The knees are articulated and there was little restriction of movement when stepping up. The legs have a water-resistant zip running from the ankle to the hip, making it very easy when putting on the Firewalls over boots and taking them off. There’s a storm baffle behind the zips to keep out the wind and rain.

Unusually there are three zip pullers, which means you can choose to vent the trousers at any position on the legs and to any extent.

The ankles have a shockcord to cinch in the hem, and there’s also a press-stud on a small flap to secure the hems. There are also small loops to attach an instep lace.

The Rab trousers are well designed and feel comfortable in use.

Waterproofness 28/30
Breathability 26/30
Comfort 15/20
Quality 7/10
Value for money 7/10
Total score: 83/100

Sprayway Nakuru Pant

Sprayway Nakuru Pant

Sprayway Nakuru Pant
Price: £120
Colour: black
Weight: 358g
Material: face, polyester; lining polyamide
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex
Country of manufacture: Vietnam
Recommended wash: 30C Granger’s 2 in 1
Sizes: men’s S-XXL; short or regular leg
Women’s version: yes, Berbak

These Sprayway trousers use two-layer Gore-Tex with a mesh lining above the knee and solid lining at the bottom section.

The Nakuru Rainpant has half-length zips on the legs, which allow them to be put on easily when a shower comes. Removing them was simple too. The zips are backed by a storm flap to help keep out any rain that might penetrate them.

The ankles have hook and loop fastening tabs which enable the bottoms of the trousers to be adjusted snug round your boot.

The waistband is fairly broad and is elasticated, with a soft fabric lining. There’s a drawcord with spring toggle to adjust it.

The knees are articulated and there wasn’t too much restriction when stepping up on scrambly routes. The Sprayway trousers are a no-frills piece of kit. They kept the rain out well, were comfortable and had good breathability.

Although the two-layer construction and its mesh liner aren’t quite as comfortable as a three-layer set-up, you do get the benefit of Gore-Tex at a reasonable price.

Waterproofness 27/30
Breathability 25/30
Comfort 14/20
Quality 7/10
Value for money 7/10
Total score: 80/100

Waterproof trousers will keep the rain out. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Waterproof trousers will keep the rain out. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Overall winner in the test was the Rab Firewall Pants, with the Outdoor Research Foray Pants a very close runner-up. Both of these brands give the impression they understand what walkers and other outdoor enthusiasts need from their gear, and incorporate lots of little touches that help them perform better.

The Páramo Cascada II Trousers were great in changeable conditions when using conventional overtrousers would have necessitated frequent stops to put on and take off our protection. They’re also warm, which was welcome on cooler days, but will probably need more frequent retreatment to retain their water repellency than some of the membrane-based systems. Environmental credentials were good.

If you’re looking for a pair of Gore-Tex overtrousers at a reasonable price, the Sprayway Nakuru Pant offers straightforward protection from a trusted waterproof name.

The Didriksons and Keela trousers both offer very good value for money and for anyone on a tight budget are a good bet, with the caveats about the Nimbus Tech’s lack of leg zips and the Keela Lightning’s lesser ability to shift perspiration.

The Didriksons trousers score well in the green department with its PFC-free waterproofing treatment, and the Keela pants will weigh the least in your pack.

  • All the waterproof trousers in the test were supplied to grough by the brands.

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