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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Vaude Yaras Rain Zip Pant (2015)

Features

The main feature here is the low weight combined with a full-length side zip that benefits from an external stormflap. But Vaude Yaras Rain Zip Pant overtrousers also use Bluesign-approved fabric, meaning they meets certain environmental criteria. There is reinforcement in the seat, a zipped fly, and an elasticated waist too. There are no belt loops and no waist drawcord, however. 4/5

Fit

The size range is S to XXXL but there is no specific women’s; however Vaude does make various other women’s waterproof overtrousers with different prices and features. The long side zip makes these easy to get on. The waist is elasticated but there are no belt loops and no drawcord, so check the fit carefully. 4/5

Comfort

Like a lot of very lightweight products, the Vaude Yaras Rain Zip Pant is made of a 2.5-layer fabric, in this case Vaude’s Ceplex Active. Like all 2.5-layer materials condensation is more noticeable than in mesh-lined trousers or 3-layer laminates, but on overtrousers I don’t find this a big problem. The weight benefit further improves comfort. 4/5

In use

What I like about the Yaras is that the ankle cuff is not too tight and elasticated, so the cuff sits over the top of boots well, which is not the case with some other lightweight trousers in this price range. Also you get very long side zips that also have external stormflaps and you can ‘Velcro in’ the calf area for a closer fit if needed. There’s also a zip fly. 5/5

Value

The low weight plus long side zips adds to the price, but Vaude Yaras Rain Zip Pants are comparable to other lightweight overtrousers. A short-zip version costs £80. 4/5

Verdict

Vaude Yaras Rain Zip Pants are superb if you want a few more features than lightweight, running-orientated designs, but heavier trousers have benefits. They win Trail’s ‘approved’ accolade. 4.2/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine April 2015

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Montane Minimus (2015)

Features

Montane Minimus overtrousers are very lightweight, and established favourites thanks to their combination of features. You get Pertex Shield fabric, which has excellent waterproofness and breathability, low weight and some essential features such as a waist with elastication and drawcord plus adjustment down the legs for a good fit. They lack the features of higher-priced options though. 4/5

Fit

Available in XS to XXL for men and 6 to 16 for women, Montane Minimus overtrousers are close-fitting – and you can make the fit even closer by adjusting the calf and ankle Velcro tabs. The ankle cuff is elasticated so you need to wear these over gaiters to prevent water creeping into your boots. The elasticated and drawcorded waist helps keep them in place. 4/5

Comfort

As Montane Minimus overtrousers are so light you can forget they are on, and as there is no loose mesh lining they tend to feel unobtrusive and don’t easily snag on undergarment zips. The Pertex Shield fabric offers superb waterproofness and breathability although condensation is slightly better managed by 3-layer laminates. 4/5

In use

The weight makes Montane Minimus overtrousers superb for summer use when they live in your rucksack. In the depths of winter or in driving rain, heavier trousers offer a little more wind and insulating protection and have better ankle areas. Also, heavier trousers are more durable. But these are ideal for fast and light trips and backpacking outside of the worst conditions. 4/5

Value

You are paying for the low weight here, plus a good level of waterproofness and breathability from the fabric. 4/5

Verdict

Montane Minimus overtrousers are superb for travelling fast and light through the hills, but when the weather is really wild then others have benefits. 4.0/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine April 2015

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Páramo Cascada II (2015)

Features

Páramo Cascada II overtrousers are an extremely popular and well-established favourite with British hillwalkers, thanks to unique fabric that is more breathable than most other options while also keeping the user dry in typical British mountain weather. You get nice long side zips with press studs so you can vent the leg. The knees are articulated and there is cuff adjustment. 5/5

Fit

For men these are available in sizes S to XXL and for women they are available in sizes XS to XL with three leg lengths on offer. Páramo Cascada II overtrousers has a slimmer fit than in the past, making them a better fit for most people in theory – and for me they do fit better. The waist is elasticated and has belt loops so you can tweak the fit as needed. 5/5

Comfort

The new fit is closer but still not restrictive and I also like the softness of the fabric as this allows ease of movement. In cold, wet conditions Páramo Cascada II overtrousers do feel far cosier than conventional overtrousers but I find that in warmer, wet weather they can be too warm. So not always ideal as trousers to wear all year, unlike some options. 4/5

In use

At 523g (size L) Páramo Cascada II overtrousers are quite heavy so you’ll notice them in your pack, but in cold weather they are comfy enough to wear all day so this is less of a drawback, except for sunny winter days. They are easily reproofed and tend to maintain their performance longer than conventional trousers thanks to their reproofing ability, which is more effective than others’. 4/5

Value

Páramo Cascada II overtrousers are a good price as from my experience this system lasts far longer than other trousers and hence they are worth the outlay. 4/5

Verdict

Páramo Cascada II overtrousers are some of the best walking trousers available for cold and wet conditions; but in warmer wet weather others have advantages. 4.4/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine April 2015

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Páramo Cascada (2014)

These are extremely well-established trousers that are very popular for hillwalking in cold and wet conditions. The Páramo Cascada uses a unique Nikwax Analogy fabric that’s extremely breathable and effective at keeping wind-driven rain out. The fabric also provides more insulation than other overtrousers, making it particularly useful for colder wet weather. Thigh-length zips allow the trousers to be easily fitted over boots, and a press stud closure allows the zip to remain open for ventilation while keeping the worst of the weather at bay. The waist is elasticated with belt loops, plus there are zipped pockets and a zip fly. The knees are articulated for more freedom of movement, and the trousers come in three leg lengths for a closer fit.

Specifications:
Material Nikwax Analogy treated with Nikwax Direct
Sizes S-XXL plus 3 leg lengths (men’s); XS-XL plus 3 leg lengths (women’s)
Weight 537g (size men’s L)
www.paramo.co.uk

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine November 2014

 


Montane Minimus (2014)

When good performance and low price are called for, the Montane Minimus has been a popular option for many years. These trousers are made from Pertex Shield, which is a 2.5-layer fabric with good breathability and waterproofness, but it does feel a little clammier than 3-layer fabrics or mesh-lined trousers. The waist is elasticated with a drawcord and there are 33cm zips from the ankle to knee area to allow them to easily fit over boots. There’s also some useful Velcro tab adjustment around the calf so you can cinch in any flappy material. The ankle cuff is elasticated, so you may need gaiters on underneath to prevent water coming over the top of your boots if the trousers ride up. There are no pockets and no opening to undergarments, nor a zip fly, but the Montane Minimus trousers are great if low weight is your priority.

Specifications:
Material Pertex Shield
Sizes S-XXL
Weight 153g (size M)
www.montane.co.uk

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine November 2014

 


Berghaus Helvellyn Pant (2014)

The Berghaus Helvellyn Pant is made from Gore-Tex with a mesh lining. This fabric is generally more comfortable in the long term than some lower-priced materials, due to Gore-Tex having higher waterproofness and breathability performance. As there’s a mesh lining, any condensation that does appear is held away from your clothing, so overall they’re more comfortable than most lower-priced options. In terms of features you get a plain elasticated waist with an elasticated drawcord for adjustment, but nothing else to entice you. The legs are articulated at the knees for a closer fit, while the side zips extend to the top of the thigh. These zips are the more water-resistant variety with a double stormflap on the inside, so they should perform better than some lower-priced options. There are double zip pulls so you can vent the thigh as well as getting these over boots very easily. A press stud at the ankle cuff allows some fine tuning of fit, but some lower-priced trousers have tabs that allow far more control; however you do also get reinforcement at the ankle cuff for long-term durability of this area. So what you win on the fabric you lose to some extent on the features. But overall the Berghaus Helvellyn Pant is are a good option for long-term general performance when hillwalking.

Material 2-layer Gore-Tex

Lining mesh

Men’s sizes S-XXL plus 3 leg lengths

Women’s sizes 8-18 plus 2 leg lengths

Weight 417g (size L, 84cm)

Website www.berghaus.com

Verdict

The Berghaus Helvellyn Pant’s Gore-Tex fabric offers top performance but the features are more basic than on some lower-priced options. But still good, durable trousers that will be ideal for many walkers. They won Trail’s ‘Best in Test’ accolade.

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine April 2014

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Rab Xiom Pant (2014)

Rab Xiom Pants are very lightweight overtrousers at just 267g (size L), making them ideal for those who want to travel light. They’re made from 3-layer Pertex Shield – an excellent fabric for trousers as it has no mesh ling to snag, yet it controls condensation better than a 2-layer or 2.5-layer fabric. The fabric boasts top-end waterproofness and breathability too. In terms of features the trousers are somewhat less inspiring though. The waist is a basic elasticated design with elasticated drawcord, so you don’t get a zipped fly, braces, or belt loops. The legs are slightly articulated for a closer fit and have thigh-length zips to allow the trousers to easily fit over boots. There are double zip pulls so you can vent the thigh if needed, and the zips are the more water-resistant variety, but you only get a small internal flap to keep any leaks at bay. There’s a drawcord at the ankle cuff, but no additional tabs to shape this area and also no reinforcement. The Rab Xiom Pant is a great option for lightweight hillwalking and backpacking if you rate weight and fabric above the additional features that some other trousers boast.

Material 3-layer Pertex Shield

Lining none

Men’s sizes S-XXL

Women’s sizes 8-16

Weight 267g (size L)

Website www.rab.uk.com

Verdict

You’re getting a great fabric and a great weight here, but the Rab Xiom Pant’s features are less impressive, although they’re still more than adequate for most hillwalkers and backpackers.

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine April 2014

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