Rab Kinetic Waterproof pants (now superseded by Rab Fuse Pants, $140)

“I’m not going to bother carrying waterproof pants,” my friend said. “It’s just more to carry and you still end up getting wet anyway.” A week later, as we prepared to head out in bucketing rain, I reminded him of this as I pulled on my Rab Kinetic Pants. I knew I wouldn’t be getting wet but he suddenly looked a lot less enthusiastic about heading out without protection.

Laura Waters in New Zealand

Enjoying brief respite on the track, well protected from the sodden ground.

Staying dry can be a tricky thing to achieve when you’re hiking. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether the gear you’re wearing is allowing water in, retaining sweat or perhaps the material is just failing over time. Rab has managed to overcome all obstacles to develop a lightweight and durable pair of overpants that truly do keep you comfortable and dry regardless of what the elements throw at you.

I’ve worn these pants for three years now through some pretty intense periods of hiking, including one 3000 kilometre jaunt down the length of New Zealand, and they’re still performing well. The key points for me are that they do what they promise and they are light enough to barely notice in your pack – a tidy 180g for the women’s model I wore.

They’re made from Pertex Shield, which has a breathable microporous waterproof coating giving protection from wind and water while still maintaining excellent breathability and durability. A Hydrostatic Head (HH) rating of 20,000mm means they are beefy enough to stand up to driving torrential rain, while a breathability rating of 20,000g/m²/day makes them excellent for when you’re working up a sweat.

Enhancing the technical specs of the fabric is the design of the pants themselves. The Kinetic pants have a ¾-length, reverse coil zip on the outside leg that runs both ways – zip down for major venting or zip up for easy removal of the pants over boots. When you zip down you can enjoy excellent ventilation while still getting protection from the rain, plus you avoid any annoying flapping around the ankles as the material is secured by the lower end of the zip and an extra press stud. The new Fuse Pants provide a ½ length zip and both models have an internal and external storm flap.

An elasticated waist makes it easy to pull these pants on and off, plus a drawstring enables you to cinch it tighter if required. The knee area is articulated too for a better fit.

The Kinetic pants pack small and light. When I first felt them I was a little concerned they perhaps seemed too light and flimsy to cope with the rigours ahead of me but I have put them through some pretty serious and extended use including rock scrambling and pushing through overgrown trails yet still they hold up well. I’ve had are no rips or tears and the worst I’ve suffered – in recent times only – is a mild dampness inside after seriously persistent and heavy rain. After three years of service I am pretty happy this is the worst I’ve had to deal with.

Often you have to strike a balance between function and weight when choosing outdoor gear, perhaps sacrificing a little performance for something you’re happy enough to carry long distances, but not in this case. These pants are so light and effective there is no reason not to pack a pair on every trip.