Why $20 Frogg Toggs Are the Ideal Rain Gear for a Thru-Hike

Outside of your tent, backpack, and sleep system, rain gear can be one of the most expensive items to purchase for a thru-hike. Prices range from $100 to over $400 for a jacket alone, with most ultralight options finding a sweet spot in the $150 to $200 range. Jackets are available in a bewildering variety of fabrics, from Gore-Tex to Pertex to eVent, and I have yet to find an option that will not delaminate, wet out, or otherwise fail over the course of a thru-hike.

So, can a $20 rain jacket really measure up to pricier options?

Overview

Frogg Toggs are cheap, lightweight rain gear that are available in a variety of styles and prices, including rain suits and ponchos. The Ultra-Lite Rain Suit is a thru-hiker favorite and can be found online and in many Walmarts and grocery stores. At a featherweight 12.8 ounces for both pants and jacket, weight is comparable with many ultralight options available at a tenth of the price.

Frogg Toggs and trash bag rain skirt vs winter weather on the AT in March.

The Good

Price

Frogg Toggs are insanely cheap. Listed at $30 on the manufacturer’s website for both jacket and pants, you can frequently find them on Amazon for less than $20. At that price, you can replace them more than once over the course of a thru-hike and still have loads of cash left over to spend on a cheeseburger in town.

Replaceable

Frogg Toggs are easy to order online and are also commonly found in grocery stores and Walmart. This makes them easy to replace if you rip them. If you are lucky, you may even find one in a hiker box.

Breathable

Well, as much as any rain jacket is breathable. The inside is made of a “blend of exclusive nonwoven fabrics designed to promote breathability.” What this means in reality is that the jacket breathes as poorly as most other jackets on the market, but the soft fabric interior doesn’t leave you feeling clammy.

Light

At a stated 12.8 oonces for both a jacket and rain pants, Frogg Toggs are much lighter than most rain gear on the market. My men’s small Ultra-Light jacket comes in at a respectable 5.8 ounces on my kitchen scale. For reference, the Outdoor Research Helium II, a thru-hiker favorite for years, weighs 6.4 ounces.

Keeps you dry

Perhaps the most important feature of any rain jacket, Frogg Toggs manage to be extremely waterproof despite not featuring any of the high-tech fabrics used by more expensive gear companies. I have used Frogg Toggs over two separate thru-hikes (including a mostly winter AT thru-hike) and have found that they only leak when you rip them. They do not wet out or delaminate the way that fancy fabrics inevitably do.

The Bad

Durability

Most rain jackets can stand up to some light bushwhacking without ripping. Frogg Toggs do not. Sharp branches, thorns, and barbed wire fences will all tear your delicate rain jacket. If you are planning a trip involving any substantial off-trail travel, you should consider a different jacket. Luckily, for accidents on well-maintained trails, duct tape makes repairs easy. Abrasion from packs will also create micro-tears that will eventually leak. If you are thru-hiking a trail with minimal precipitation such as the PCT, this won’t be a problem. If you are on the AT, however, where wearing a rain jacket is a weekly, if not daily, occurrence, you will have to replace your jacket at least once over the course of a thru.

Features

Frogg Toggs are lacking in almost all features common on more expensive rain jackets. There are no pockets or pit zips, or any of the other design elements that make most jackets comfortable. This slimmed down design does, however, help to keep the overall weight of the jacket low.

Patagonia is beautiful: shame Frogg Toggs aren’t quite as pretty.

The Ugly

There is no way to make Frogg Toggs look good. They are baggy, untapered, and make you look like you are wearing a potato sack. If owning a rain jacket that you can wear around town without being embarrassed if you bump into someone you know is important to you, then Frogg Toggs are not the right choice for you.

Other Cheap Options

Frogg Toggs are just one of several ways to save money on your rain gear.

A dollar store umbrella that was picked up for crossing Wyoming’s Great Divide Basin on the CDT, and then left in a hiker box on the other side.

Umbrellas

Umbrellas are becoming more and more popular among the thru-hiking community. They are the ultimate breathable rain gear, and have many functions, from sun shade to blocking the entrance to a tarp shelter from rain and wind. But with a $50 price tag for most ultralight options, it can be hard to justify a purchase until you are sure that they will work for you. Luckily, dollar store umbrellas range from $5-$10 in price and, while not as light or well designed as a designated hiking umbrella, will let you test out if an umbrella is right for you. The cheaper price tag also makes it easy to pick up an umbrella for a wet or exposed section, and then leave it in a hiker box once it is no longer necessary.

Compactor bags

Most thru-hikers are familiar with compactor bags as a pack liner. The beefier, more durable cousin of a trash bag, compactor bags can keep your pack contents dry for an entire thru-hike if you are careful not to poke a hole in them. But did you also know that they make a great rain skirt? Simply cut along the closed edge of the bag so it forms a tube. Step into it and tuck it into your backpack hip belt. If you are hiking with an umbrella, often rain will fall on your legs or run down the outside of your pack, soaking your lower body. A cheap and easy rain skirt is a quick fix to this problem. You can also use a regular trash bag if you do not have an extra compactor bag, although it will rip much quicker.

In summary, cheaper rain gear options such as Frogg Toggs are a valid alternative to pricey options. They lack many of the features and all of the durability of rain gear ten times the price. But at such a low price for both rain pants and jacket, it’s not a big deal if you have to replace them once or twice over the course of a thru-hike.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 16

  • Kathy Anderson : Aug 19th

    Fun Size, thanks for the article. Timely. Can’t find size chart, yet. What size would you recommend for 5ft 5 in female 140 lbs. Giving me a little room.

    Were they also effective as wind resistance/warmth?

    Reply
    • Eloise Robbins : Aug 19th

      Hi Kathy!

      I’m 5’2″ and 120lbs and as you can see in the photos, the men’s small is pretty big on me! I couldn’t find the women’s ultralight suit for cheap before my hikes, so I just stuck with the men’s. It’s definitely roomy enough to layer under (it also fits my 6’2″ husband if that gives you an idea of how roomy it is…) In the Patagonia picture above, I’m wearing a hiking dress, base layer, and a puffy underneath.

      I found that it was good for blocking wind, but maybe slightly less so than other rain jackets, partially because it is so baggy on me.

      Reply
  • Sunny : Aug 19th

    Great job on explaining the options for saving money and helping hikers know that it’s OK to purchase non-brand items that work. Congratulations on all your hikes and blessings for many more.

    Reply
  • James Scott : Aug 19th

    My Frogg Togg jacket was awesome! I got it a motorcycle supply store for about thirty bucks for a full suit and it lasted me for over a year AFTER I finished hiking! (And that one had zippered pockets!) I was so happy with it. Great write up, Eloise!

    Reply
  • Travellvr : Aug 19th

    Great tips, Fun Size! And even better photos and memories for you! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • Britta : Aug 19th

    Hey Fun Size! How do you store it? My current one stuffs into its own pocket. Does it compact down pretty small?

    Reply
    • Eloise Robbins : Aug 20th

      Hey Britta!

      It doesn’t compact as small as my old OR Helium did and since it doesn’t have any pockets, you can’t stuff it into itself. If you have as many old stuff sacks lying around as I do, you could almost certainly find a small one that it would fit in though! I mostly leave mine loose in my pack’s mesh pocket if it’s wet or if I know it’s going to rain. If the forecast is good, I stuff it into my fleece lined stuff sack that serves as my pillow.

      Reply
  • La Copa : Aug 20th

    Hey Fun Size,

    That Frogg Toggs you have in your photos looks REALLY familiar. I concur with everything you said regarding it’s pros and cons (and those pros outweigh the cons, no doubt). Great article!!! Also, thanks for leaving that jacket in a hikers box in VA back in 2018 🙂

    You’re the best!

    – La Copa

    Reply
  • Turtle Man : Aug 21st

    Nice overview, but i feel like most reviews of these FT Ultra Light jackets and pants understate their susceptibility to snag, rip, and tear.

    I work outside (landcare services) and — for most of the “pro” reasons given — have used these on and off over the years when i need to keep the stuff i spray on fruit trees off of me. It’s no exaggeration to say that every day i’ve worn them, at least one new snag or tear happens. Most any contact with a branch will do it. After a few weeks, the pant legs scuff up on the bottom. It’s hard to imagine a less durable fabric, and i’d never rely on these on trail. And i’m not particularly hard on my clothing. I’ve finally switched over to slightly more expensive — but still cheap and still light — sturdier rain gear you can find on places like Sierra Trading Post. YMMV.

    Maybe folks who are reporting getting a season’s use out of FT stuff have different models? They make a whole bunch of different styles and types of rain gear.

    Reply
  • Marcel : Aug 22nd

    I’d like to add another downside: seeing how often they have to be replaced, ‘waste’ is a definite con, as in: they generate waste, and needing are a waste of precious resources. Yes they’re cheap, but if you are going to need ten of them for ten trips, you might as well buy one that lasts 10 trips (and will most likely last longer). Hikers, of all people, should appreciate the need to take of our planet; creating more waste to save some money shouldn’t be an option, imho.

    Reply
    • Eloise Robbins : Aug 22nd

      Totally agree Marcel! If you’re careful, you can get a lot of use out of them though. I used a single pair for my entire CDT thru hike, and two pairs for an AT thru hike. I got my second pair out of a hiking box, left my old ones behind, and a friend who was a few days behind picked them up and wore them all the way to Katahdin! For reference, I had to use two OR heliums on my PCT hike because they fell apart on me. Frogg Toggs aren’t going to last for years and years the way the heavy goretex jacket in my closet has, but you can get a thru hike out of them if you are careful. I’m sure they aren’t as sustainably produced as a lot of other outdoor companies though.

      Reply
    • t h a t c h : Sep 3rd

      I’ve used similar O2 jackets for years and find that, while delicate, they end up lasting very well. My second jacket from my ’17 CDT thru (miss you, Fun Size!) is still in serving in semi-retirement in my bike bag. The amount of spun material we’re talking about here is similar to the quantity of packaging accompanying you latest online purchase that you don’t even remember putting in the recycling bin. I’ll add that a baggy cut keeps you warmer and dryer. Save your money for beer.

      Reply
      • Eloise Robbins : Sep 3rd

        Hey Thatch!! Hope you’re doing well. I saw you’re doing the Harriet Tubman route on insta- that looks so cool and so important to highlight!

        I am currently sitting on my couch with a pair of scissors and some thread turning an old jacket into Dogg Toggs (patent pending :p) for Chester. I wish I could add a photo to this comment. MYOG is definitely helping me keep some stuff out of the landfill, plus it’s really fun. I’ve technically only ever thrown out two Frogg Toggs despite having the most miles on them out of any rain jacket, but I think I’m now up to five e-vent, pertex or goretex jackets failing on me in the past decade.

        Reply
  • Varun Sharma : Aug 22nd

    Nice article. Keep it up.

    Reply
  • Gionna : Aug 23rd

    Thank you for sharing this. I can’t wrap my mind around spending hundreds on any single piece of gear.

    Reply

What Do You Think?