Ah, one of my favorite items of gear. These are the pants that started my descent into ounce counting madness, what pushed me out of my comfort zone of conventional hiking clothing. They freed me from the shackles of hiking pants. They freed me from the sweaty prison that is rain pants.
I saw someone mention that they would be bringing these on their thru-hike a while ago in lieu of rain pants, to which my thought was “You can’t do that! Those aren’t rated for rain!”. But my rain pants weighed 12 ounces, and I absolutely hated them. They are seriously the worst. These weigh in at a pretty 3 ounces, and I really couldn’t ignore that. So I thought “what the hell, I’ll give them a shot”. $100 was a hefty price to pay, but I was desperate to figure something else out.
When they arrived, it happened to be a rainy day here in Washington. I threw them on and went out for a stroll in the rain wearing nothing but these and my old running shorts (RIP those running shorts). I was absolutely floored at what I found (that sounds like clickbait… “Hiker tried out THESE new pants, YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HE DISCOVERED”).
Let’s address the concern I had with these first: Do they protect you from the elements? What I found was that, surprisingly, yes they do. They do an incredible job at it as well. I was out for hours while nature released its damp fury upon me, brushing up against soggy ferns and bushes, and my legs were completely dry by the end of the hike. Not a single drop had soaked through, and the areas where my legs contacted the pants stayed dry as well. No seepage at all. Color me impressed considering they aren’t really marketed as rain gear.
Cleaning these things off is as easy as you’d expect. I just run them under a tap and hang them up to dry. I haven’t actually sat down and watched them dry, so I can’t say how fast it happens, but considering the material I imagine it’s pretty quick. As long as they dry overnight, I’m happy. And that’s exactly what happened.
My main gripe with rain pants aside from weight and bulk is how awful they are at ventilation. In the Houdinis, my legs were allowed to breathe as much as my lungs are, but I didn’t lose out on having a warm pair of pants either. I stayed very comfortable in the winter rain wearing nothing but shorts underneath.
We’ll talk about two kinds of storage here.
Pant storage: They come with one single pocket in the back. That’s it, and that’s all I need really. I feel like the only reason this pocket exists is because of storage type 2 described below.
Pack storage: These things fold into themselves into a nice neat little package. I almost cried when I saw this. After battling my old rain gear trying to get it to store nicely in my pack, this was a beautiful sight. We’ll measure it by chapstick tubes because that’s what I used for visual scale: 1 chapstick tube high x 2 chapstick tubes wide. Very small, very awesome. There’s even a loop on the end if you want to hook it onto a carabiner somewhere.
These pants secure around your waist via scrunch-power. Or we can be boring and just say elastic.. whatever. The elastic band that secures it to you isn’t intrusive, I never felt like it was eating away at my skin, and fits nicely.
The bottoms have three snap-buttons you can undo to slide the pants on over your shoes. I have had no problems throwing these on over my trail runners, but I feel like it might not work that well with boots. I don’t want to put on my boots to test them out (I would make a terrible journalist: “I could go out and investigate our next story, but… Yeah I don’t want to). Of course this has a lot to do with shoe size, I wear 11 1/2 size shoes.
Since these things are so light, wearing them is a breeze. If they didn’t hit my legs every so often while I walked, I wouldn’t even know I had them on. But when I do feel them, it’s very nice. The material isn’t annoying or harsh against the skin. It’s a step above hiking naked, albeit barely.
I don’t have much to say here actually. There’s only two bad things I have to say are really just a given, but I’ll say them anyways.
These things work well against the elements, but for how long? I really don’t know, and that ever-so-slightly concerns me. I don’t know if there’s some kind of crazy coating on these to shed water and how long that stuff lasts. Patagonia has this to say on the matter:
DWR (durable water repellent) fabric finish repels light rain and snow and decreases dry times. When DWR is used in conjunction with a waterproof/breathable barrier, the DWR finish keeps the outer fabric from becoming saturated so that the breathable barrier can do its job.
I’m worried that it will degrade at some point during my thru-hike, but if it does then so be it I suppose. You never stay completely dry anyways.
When you fold these things into themselves, you zip it shut to keep it contained. This can be a pain in the ass sometimes as it sometimes catches on the pants inside the pocket. A little compression solves this. It’s such a small complaint that I feel ridiculous for even bringing it up, but my reviews need to be somewhat thoughtful of these things.. right?
I’m only adding this as a note to people thinking about buying these. While they are expensive, most weather-resistant pants are. I certainly didn’t have the budget for them, but I took a risk and it paid off in the best way possible. Patagonia is a legit company with great gear. I promise I’m not sponsored by them. Put your ‘shill’ pitchforks away please.
Take a Look for Yourself
I mean.. there’s really only one way to take a picture of pants.
Before I dreamed of Houdinis, I had a rain skirt (or ‘rain kilt’ if you’re a man and don’t want to outwardly admit that what you’re wearing is in fact a skirt) on my mind. I was going to go with the ladder option until I dumped my hiking pants. Since I’m using running shorts and I don’t want to wear my base layers while I hike unless I absolutely will die without them, the Houdinis are also going to help keep my legs warm on particularly colder days. A rain skirt isn’t as conducive to this. I digress.
A rain skirt is a great option if you want to stay dry without sweating up a storm, this particular skirt only weighs in at 1.9oz. It’s a fantastic option by a fantastic company. It is the ZPacks Rain Kilt.
Image borrowed from their website, please don’t sue me.
Does it look a little ridiculous? Yes. Do we go out hiking/backpacking/thru-hiking to look good? I certainly hope not, but it happens. These are much more functional than your typical rain pant, and like the Houdinis, they pack down super small.
I want to thank everyone who’s been stopping by to read me ramble on about gear and my thru-hike. This blog is helping maintain my sanity until it’s go-time, and I’ve absolutely loved reading all your guy’s entries as well. You’re all awesome, the world is awesome.