Rain pants are an essential piece of outdoor gear, especially but not only for hiking trips. But do you always need them? The following two emails and responses might prove useful. As always, the answer is - it depends!
"Hi --I'm so excited that we have less than a month until our trip to Switzerland begins! I've been gathering the items on the packing list. The one item that I am having difficulty justifying the expense is waterproof pants. Do we really need them? Of course, my phone tells me that it's currently raining in Zermatt!"
Sorry but yes, unless you plan to not hike if there is more than a 10% chance of rain (which is always an option!) rain pants do need to be available. Most of our hiking is above tree line which means that if we hike in the rain or get caught in the rain we aren't protected by trees overhead at all. When you're under trees you can quite often get away without rain pants and just use your rain jacket but not when you're exposed above tree line. Plus, the jacket, coupled with the rain pants, provide the warmth needed when the temperatures drop during a rain storm.
I do have a couple of solutions for the expense part though!
- My current (and favorite) rain pants are a pair I bought at Gander Mountain for 39.99. They are lightweight and keep me dry and warm. They have an elastic waist and wide leg/foot openings so they go on over my boots. (Also, I bought them a bit larger than needed so they'll easily go over my boots) They are the Guide Series and are available at stores or online. This year they put a mesh liner in them (which I don't like -- adds nothing but weight) so you can just cut that part out and you'll have a great pair of rain pants for all occasions!
- The second suggestion is to purchase a pair of Frogg Toggs or Ducks rain pants. These are lightweight pants that are also elastic waist and slip over the boot style. You can find these at places like Super Targets, Walmarts, Gander Mountain and Dicks. They are made out of a fabric that feels a bit like paper but are strong, waterproof, lightweight and inexpensive. The last pair I checked on were at a store here in Michigan, Meijers. They were a cream color and were the lightweight version at 19.99. Actually, one of our guides who hiked the entire Appalachian Trail used the Frogg Togg jacket and pants for the trail and is still using her Frogg Togg jacket so they are quite durable (and work well!) If you go with the Frogg Toggs or Ducks --- wash/dry them several times before you use them to soften them up a bit.
Here are a couple of websites so you can see what each of these suggestions look like:
- Gander Mountain Guide Series Rain Pant: http://www.gandermountain.com/modperl/product/details.cgi?pdesc=Guide-Series-Womens-Thundercloud-II-Rain-Pant&i=695758
- Frog Toggs Pant:
"Hello ladies -Could you please tell me how critical rain pants are for the Salmon River Rafting trip trip? I really don't want to have to purchase if the chances are we won't be wearing them."
"Whether or not you will need the rain pants is always the big question, and ultimately the decision is yours. They would not be on the packing list if we didn’t think there was a chance you needed them, but it’s also true that this is a hot and dry summer. So let’s say this - on some trips (e.g. hiking in the Alps), if you didn’t show up with rain pants, we would take you shopping the first afternoon. We won’t do that on this trip. I would, however, bring a couple of extra garbage bags and you could make pantaloons if it rained."
Want more tips?