All these waterproof trousers on test will get the job done, but the expensive stuff will be a little bit more durable and more comfortable to wear
With a few weeks of rain either side of us, don’t worry, there’s no such thing as bad weather… Not if you have the best waterproof trousers anyway.
The best mountain bike waterproof trousers for 2020
- Fox Ranger 3L Water pant, £135.00
- Endura MT500 Waterproof Trousers, £179.99
- Gore Bike Wear C5 GTX Trail Pant, £149.99
- Scott Trail Storm WP, £143.99
- Madison DTE, £109.99
- Altura Nevis III, £49.99
If you want to ride in the winter there’s a bit of clobber you should own – a pair of waterproof trousers. These will ensure you stay warm, dry and relatively clean because you can just peal both things off at the end of the ride ensuring all the mud and filth goes with them.
The cheapest trouser is the £50 Altura Nevis III and it’s a simple lightweight pant made from a none-branded waterproof material. Jump to the top end and with the Endura MT500 you’re looking at a more sophisticated a three-layer fabric and a tone of features.
Upper end clothing doesn’t just cost more, it will be more effective at keeping out water, it’ll breath better and may even be lighter and have more features. All the waterproof trousers on test will get the job done, it’s just the expensive stuff will be a little bit more durable and more comfortable to wear.
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Altura Nevis III Overtrousers
We’ve tried to get some info on Altura new Nevis III trouser, specifically what changes have been made over the previous two incarnations but details have been hard to come by. It hasn’t helped that we have no previous history testing this trouser so we don’t even have a baseline to compare it to. What we do know is it’s made from a simple treated Nylon fabric, which means it has a DWR (durable water repellent) on the outside acting as the first line of defence to promote water pooling and run-off. The main waterproofness comes from the a slightly shinny inner face and fully taped seams. In theory water shouldn’t get past these two barriers but it eventually did, especially in the seat due to the constant grinding, which abraded the DWR decreasing its effectiveness and forcing this moisture through the Nylon fabric.
We’ve tested other jackets and trousers with this type of construction before and, while they look on paper to be great value, we found you really need to renew the DWR on a regular basis if you want to remain dry.
The fit of the Nevis III is basic too and it features a simple elasticated waist – no adjustable straps, no draw string, no belt loops, meaning if it’s too loose it’s going to gradually fall down as you ride. There’s also no fly or storage pockets. In fact, the only feature is an adjustable ankle closure which doesn’t have a particularly wide range of adjustment.
Cheap and cheerful is how we’d describe this pant – it’s light enough to carry in a pack but if you want something you can wear all day there are better options here.
Endura MT500 Waterproof Trousers
To balance breathability and durability, Endura combines two materials on the MT500 trouser – a four-way stretch reinforced material with DWR finish on the seat with a durable three-layer waterproof Exoshell60 fabric everywhere else, which is fully taped for added protection. As a result, this trouser doesn’t feel like typical clammy waterproof – it’s a lot more flexible, fits better and breathability is off the chart at 60,000 gm/m2/24hr. Obviously this trouser is also 100% waterproof and it also dries out really quickly too.
The waist band features a semi-elasticated section but if you need to take up some slack there are also belt loops and a silicone strip on the inner waist to stop the trouser slipping down. The MT500 is slightly taller at the back, so offers a bit more coverage, but we’d still like it to be higher.
The unique feature on the MT500 is the side vents – they have two-way waterproof zips that actually go all the way to the ankles, which means you can put on/take off this trouser without having to remove your footwear or knee pads. This a really versatile feature because it allows you to just carry the trouser easily in a pack for when you need it and also peel the whole thing off at the end of a ride taking all that mud with it.
Twin side pockets get waterproof zips and they’re really generous size – we actually did one ride with a water bottle stashed in one of them.
The MT500 is the most expensive pant on test but it has some great features and is exceptional quality. It also amazingly breathable and waterproof, so no matter what the weather is doing you’re going to stay dry and warm. It doesn’t take top honours because of the cost and more testers preferred the cut of the Fox pant.
Fox Ranger 3L Water Pant
You might not be able to tell from the pictures but the Fox Ranger 3L Water Pant doesn’t have that typical nylon trouser construction, it’s more of a soft shell. The face fabric contains a high percentage of Spandex, which means it has a four-way stretch ability, is less noisy and, in our opinion, way more comfortable. But don’t let that imply this trouser is less effective at keeping you dry because it’s actually really good. It’s uses Truseal, a three-layer fabric that features a membrane middle layer to boost wicking and waterproofness. We don’t have any figures but during tests we’ve found it breathes as good as the Endura MT500 pant and is close in terms of waterproofness.
To stop water ingress, all the seams a fully taped, there’s a high quality DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish on the surface layer to sheds moisture and dirt and the fly has a sort of internal baffle to stop water getting in. There’s not a wide range of adjustment with the moto-inspired Race Ratchet Closure System but this pant is tighter fitting at the waist than the Flexair pants we tested previously.
One of the best features of the Ranger is the tapered leg. This is featured on all Fox pants and not only does it keep any flapping material out of the chain it also stops it sagging down at the bottom, which is not a good look.
Compared to the Endura and Gore pants, the Ranger 3L is not quite as waterproof but it was the preferred choice with testers. Some of this was definitely due to the styling but on-the-bike comfort was way higher and we didn’t feel like we were riding around in a pair of hiking trousers. Combine performance, comfort, fit and the price and you have the best on test – totally recommended.
Gore Bke Wear C5 GTX Trail Pant
The Gore Bike Wear C5 GTX Trail pant is the matching bottom to the C5 jacket tested elsewhere and uses the same Gore-Tex fabric. Gore doesn’t published figures for the GTX Trail pant but during testing the breathability felt very similar to the jacket and it kept out most of the wet.
One of the feature Gore is keen to promote with the Gore-Tex Active fabric, is it’s softer, more comfortable and quieter. The GTX Trail pant doesn’t has the plush feel of the Fox Ranger 3L but it’s not as heavy as the Madison trouser and is way more packable and dries quicker. It also didn’t feel too clammy and uncomfortable against bare legs, which is often one of the downsides with waterproof trousers. There’s not as much shape in the front of this trouser compared to the Endura Mt500 but it is articulated at the knee, so works well with pads. It’s also reinforced in the seat, which is a really high-wear area especially when grinding dirt into your saddle.
There’s a slight taper in the leg with a fold over flap at the bottom, held in place via a press stud. The waist is elasticated and features Silicone gripper and simple draw string to fine-tune the fit. Inside the waist there’s a tiny pocket for a key, it’s only mesh construction and doesn’t have a permanent closure, so we didn’t trust it.
Compare to the Altura Nevis III, the GTX Trail has a bit more shape and the fit is slightly better but it’s essential it’s very similar in design. The difference though is the Gore trouser is way more breathable, it’s fully waterproof and the overall fit and shape is way more refined. It’s also three times the price but if you really want to stay dry and clean it’s worth paying.
Madison DTE Waterproof Trousers
Madison offers several waterproof bottoms starting at the basic Protec, which is similar to the Altura pants tested here and topping out with the DTE (Defy the Elements) a heavy-hitting waterproof trouser. Madison uses a 2.5layer fabric (basically an outer Nylon skin over a membrane with a printed inner surface) for the bulk of this pant but at the seat, where most of the water can get through, it gets a thicker three-layer fabric. This reinforces this area but it adds weight, making it heaviest trouser on test, and we found the DTE can hang down a bit at the back, especially when it’s covered in mud. There’s Silicone gripper on the waist to stop slipping bit it’s not particularly deep here and we’d actually like this, and most other trousers for that matter, to extend slightly upwards to stop any underlayers being exposed.
The waist band also features two Velcro straps and press-stud fly but the Velcro isn’t particularly long so we couldn’t get it tight enough. Fully tape seams are featured throughout and, if you do overheat there are some big side vents, secured with waterproof zips. We used them constantly during this test to vent condensation because the DTE does run quite warm when you’re pedalling hard.
Down below there are a couple of adjuster straps on the ankles to fine tune the fit but the shape isn’t as tapered as the Gore and Endura trews. The knees are articulated and roomy, so you can easily where pads underneath and this area is also reinforced with the three-layer material.
The DTE is heavy and it’ll get heavier as it gets wet and dirty so it runs hot than most. This is okay for e-bikes but for unassisted riding there are lighter and breathable options available.
Scott Trail Storm WP Pant
We’re not big fans of the orange leg but Scott’s Trail Storm waterproof pant is impressive. It’s made from a branded DRYOsphere three-layer material, which has high-wicking and waterproof properties. It’s also coated with a DWR (Durable water repellent) to promote beading and run off and this is also PFC free, which Scott claims it’s better for you and the environment.
The overall shape if this trouser is good too. It has a nice taper in the leg and plenty of articulation at the knees and extra material in this area, so you can wear knee pads without the trouser snagging or feeling tight. Scott even adds two mess panels at the back of the knee to take some of the heat away when you’ve got pads in place. Two hips vents let you vent more heat and these are a good size and feature waterproof zips.
The Trail Storm is one of two pants on test with a zipped fly but it’s backed up with an inner storm flap and Velcro button. Two Velcro waist adjusters let you fine-tune the fit but like the Madison DTE pant, this trouser a little bit low at the back and water thrown up from the back wheel did work its way in quite quickly. We definitely like to see the back of the trouser extended a little bit to protect this area.
The Scott Trail Storm is a mid-weight trousers and as such the material offers a high-level of protection – equal to the Gore and Endura trousers. The leg shape and detailing are also up there but where the Scott Trail Storm is lacking is in the low waist band and not overly generous sizing, which means we’d definitely recommend trying for before buying.
The best mountain bike waterproof trousers in 2020: verdict
Every single rider should own a pair of waterproof trousers because a wet lower half is not nice. You also have the added benefit of being able to peel off bottoms put them in a bag at the end of a ride without getting covered in filth. And when you get home they can be hosed down an put in the washing machine without destroying it; you Mum, Dad, partner will thank you.
If you just want to try a trouser for the first time then the Altura Nevis III will give you a taste for £50. It’s not 100% waterproof or breathable and the cut isn’t that far removed from a pant you’d buy in an outdoor shop but it’ll work for a while.
At the opposite end of the scale is the heavy-duty Madison DTE. It has a ton of front on protection but it’s bit low and exposed at the back, which is also a problem with the Scott Storm WP. We just think if these trousers had some form of rear panel that extended right up underneath your jacket they’ve be a lot more effective.
The top three duds in this test are all very good and while we’ve rated them you can pick and choose depending on whether you prioritise ultimate weather protection (Endura MT500), packability (Gore Bike Wear C5 GTX Trail) or fit (Fox Ranger 3L).
We scored the Fox Ranger 3L trouser better than the other because we felt it was better value and nicer to ride in.
Know your waterproof trousers
Most quality waterproof trousers are built from a laminate fabric, which consists of a waterproof/breathable membrane which is either sandwiched between two nylon layers or stuck to the inside of one. The membrane is the bit that keeps you dry and Gore-Tex is the most common brand.
All waterproof fabrics are rated for waterproofness and anything over 10,000mm is pretty watertight in normal conditions. Breathability is also rated – look for the MVTR (Moisture Vapour Transmission Rate) figure. Above 20,000g/m²/24hr means good breathability.
Manufacturers describe their garmetns as having three two or layers but what does this mean? A two-layer fabric is made up of an outer face fabric bonded to the waterproof membrane, usually with a mesh liner hanging inside. On a 2.5 layer, the mesh liner is replaced with a micro (or half) layer, which is either bonded or printed onto the membrane. A three-layer garment has the membrane sandwiched between two Nylon layers.
To be honest, on legs, vents are generally unnecessary but some of the pants here do have them.
Adjustable cuffs and hems stop water getting in but also help regulate airflow the inside of the garment. To reduce weight, Velcro cuffs and ankles are often replaced with simple elasticated band.
Pockets are handy on the trousers but a waterproof zip is a must if you intend stashing a phone down low.
On waterproof trousers look for a baffle gutter behind the fly to stop water ingress.