5 OF THE BEST... Autumn & Winter hillwalking trousers REVIEWED (2018)

As we head into the cooler months its time to ditch the shorts and light summer trousers for something warmer and more weather-resistant. Here’s our top picks for autumn and winter hillwalking trousers.


Weather resistance

Soft shell type fabrics that are more wind- and water-resistant and slightly thicker are often used in winter trousers. Some may even have waterproof panels in them. However the more waterproof or wind-resistant the fabric, the less breathable it will be and this can result in a clammy feeling against the skin. So maximum water and wind resistance is not always ideal. You can always throw on a pair of waterproof overtrousers in more extreme weather.

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Durability

For increased durability when scrambling, climbing or mountaineering, look for trousers with knees, seat or ankle abrasion panels. Thicker materials are also often more durable than thinner options.

Waist Design

A stretchy waist, either with a belt or the option of adding one, gives all-round adjustability. Some trousers also have a soft lining for extra comfort. A high waist will protect the lower back better, particularly when scrambling or wearing a rucksack with a hipbelt.

Pockets

It’s good if some pockets have zippers to keep items safe. Pockets that will accommodate a map are particularly practical, but make sure you can access them even while wearing a rucksack hipbelt.

Stretch

The best fabrics will have stretch in both the horizontal and vertical direction. However, if the cut of the trousers is good, stretch in one direction is fine, or just a small panel of stretch material may be needed.

Ventilation

Ventilation allows you to cool down. It will also make more insulated trousers versatile enough to wear in a wider range of conditions. Look for vents on the legs or mesh-lined pockets.

Ankle Cuff

Ankle cuffs that can be adjusted are best, as this allows them to be used with different pairs of boots and to be cinched in when scrambling. Drawcords, Velcro and press studs are ideal for preventing material from flapping around the ankle cuff. Zipped ankle cuffs allow trousers to be fitted more closely over the wide and taller ankle cuff of a ski boot or mountaineering boot, and also allow a more relaxed style when a neater fit is not needed.


Rab Vector Pants £90 

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  • Material 67% polyamide, 21% polyester, 12% elastane

  • Men’s 30-34, plus three leg lengths

  • Women’s 8-16, plus three leg lengths

  • Weight 496g (size 34) 

It’s good

There are lots of trousers around this price point but these have a slight edge. Firstly they use a mid-weight fabric while many use thinner materials, so they are better for weather resistance and warmth. The fabric is quite tough and feels hardwearing too, and it has good stretch. Get them on and the waistband is very comfy, thanks to it being quite wide and stretchy, and it comes with belt loops and a fitted belt. The ankle cuff is not too wide and can be cinched in with press studs. The zipped thigh pocket is OS map width, and while not OS map deep is still more useful than similar pockets on other trousers. 

However

This price comes with drawbacks. First off, some similarly-priced trousers get a zipped and gusseted ankle cuff, which you might prefer. Also while the pockets are better than some, it would be great if that thigh pocket was deep enough to take the full length of an OS map, but at least you can still use the pocket for a map on the move. There is no added venting or extra reinforcement, or a waterproof knee or seat, as higher-priced trousers offer. But for many users these trousers make a good compromise between features and price.

Verdict

One of the better options at this price and very good for general hillwalking, backpacking and scrambling. But pay more and you get extra features.

  • Features 3/5

  • Weather resistance 3/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 3/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 72%

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Montane Super Terra Pants £140

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  • Material Granite (97% nylon, 3% spandex), plus Cordura reinforcement (93% nylon, 7% polyurethane)

  • Men’s S-XXL, plus three leg lengths

  • Women’s 8-16 (Skyline)

  • Weight 676g (size L)

It’s good

The main fabric is a tough nylon, and the reinforced knees and seat use a waterproof material, so you can sit or kneel on wet ground and stay dry. The fit is not too restrictive, thanks to a good cut. The waistband is lined, elasticated and comes with belt loops and a belt, while the ankle cuff can be adjusted with press studs. In warm weather you can open zipped knee vents or vent the calf, while a lace hook keeps the ankle cuff in place. The four front pockets and one rear pocket are all zipped, and the thigh pockets are large enough for a map. Great for general hillwalking and backpacking.

However

The women’s version doesn’t come in a choice of leg lengths or offer thigh pockets. This version also has a gusseted ankle cuff zip, while the men’s has a non-gusseted calf zip. Perhaps the main drawback, though, is there is not the stretch of other trousers, so even though the cut is great, these feel slightly restrictive, hence when scrambling or mountaineering I’d prefer something more stretchy with a closer fit on the leg. They are slightly rougher on the skin than others too, and are also heavy, which could make carrying them a burden. 

Verdict

Hardwearing backpacking trousers with nice OS map-sized pockets and a great waist, but they are not the best for scrambling or mountaineering and they’re heavy.

  • Features 4/5

  • Weather resistance 4/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 80%


Helly Hansen Odin Huginn Pants £160 

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  • Material Stretch soft shell (94% polymide, 6% elastane)

  • Men’s S-XXL

  • Women’s XS-XL (Muninn)

  • Weight 532g (size L)

It’s good

This is a tough, weather-resistant soft shell fabric, but it is not a laminate so you still get good breathability for when overtrousers are worn over the top. The waist is wide and higher than some, so offers great protection. In addition the waist has an in-situ stretch Velcro adjuster, as well as belt loops, so you can add a conventional belt if needed. The fit is relaxed but not too baggy, and press stud adjustment at the ankle cuff is useful. A nice touch is you get lace hooks to keep the ankle cuff down. There are two zipped hip pockets and a zipped thigh pocket. For autumn and winter hillwalkers these are very good.

However

Unlike others in this price range there are no leg length options. Also those pockets are slightly annoying, as the hip ones won’t take an OS map and the leg one is even smaller and very low, meaning small items tend to fall right above the knee, which is not very comfortable. The leg is slightly wider than some others, so while fine for most use you may want something slightly narrower, particularly for scrambling or mountaineering. These are all small drawbacks though, as if these fit they are great for hillwalking in most situations, but at this price you may expect a little more.

Verdict

Weather resistant and comfort are good, but the choice of fit is not ideal and the pockets aren’t perfect, so at this price that may not be good enough?

  • Features 3/5

  • Weather resistance 4/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 72%


Mammut Courmayeur Pants £169

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  • Material Schoeller Dryskin stretch with Coldblack treatment (93% polyamide, 7% spandex), reinforced areas (70% polymade, 20% polyester, 10% spandex)

  • Men’s 28-42, plus three leg lengths

  • Women’s 6-20, plus three leg lengths

  • Weight 403g (size 34) 

It’s good

The Schoeller fabric is very stretchy, with a Coldblack treatment that helps it reflect 80% of sunlight rather than absorb it like normal black fabrics. The result is you don’t overheat in these as badly as in some black trousers. The waist is nicely lined for comfort, with belt loops and a belt. The ankle cuff has press stud adjustment and the fit in general is a little closer than some others, making these ideal for scrambling but still great for walking. The four pockets are zipped and the hip pockets fit an OS map, but the thigh pocket is a little short for a map. The small rear zipped pocket is useful.

However

The main fabric is a little thin, so these aren’t the warmest option for autumn and winter. They’re not the best for resisting wind and moisture either, so you’ll need your overtrousers sooner than with other trousers. There is reinforcement at the knees and down the inside of the legs, but the rest of the fabric isn’t as durable as some options. It’s a pity the thigh pocket is a little short for an OS map. I like these for autumn but for some winter days in Scotland something with a little more weather protection is good. Hefty price tag too.

Verdict

Great general hillwalking, scrambling and mountaineering trousers, but others offer more weather resistance and better pockets for maps.

  • Features 4/5

  • Weather resistance 3/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 72%


Fjallraven Keb Trousers £190

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  • Material G-1000 Eco (65% recycled polyester, 35% cotton), stretch fabric (63% polyamide, 26% polyester, 11% elastane)

  • Men’s 28-42, plus two leg lengths

  • Women’s 26-37, plus two leg lengths, standard and curved fit

  • Weight 648g (size 33/34)

It’s good

These are bursting with unique features, such as an extensive size range that includes a curved fit option
for women. Then you get the robust material, which is very tough G-1000 Eco on the dark blue sections and a tough, stretchy material in the lighter blue sections. You can also treat the G-1000 Eco areas with Greenland wax for more water resistance. The waist is high and wide with belt loops, and the overall fit is relaxed without being too baggy. The large thigh pockets are zipped, while the map-sized hip pockets are deep. If you overheat easily then you’ll welcome the thigh and calf-zipped vents. For general hillwalking, occasional scrambles and backpacking these are great.

However

The waist is not elasticated, so if you lose a few pounds on a trip, you’ll need to add a belt. The calf area is slightly wider than others, and for lots of scrambling a slightly neater and narrower fit here would be good. The front thigh pockets are great, but just too short for an OS map. A small zipped pocket would perhaps be a good option somewhere, rather than just the four large pockets. The price is the big drawback though, as lower-priced trousers are also pretty good but for less cash.

Verdict

Great weather-resistant trousers for backpacking and walking over rough terrain, but others are slightly better for scrambling. Pricey too.

  • Features 4/5

  • Weather resistance 4/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 80%


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