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.

DSC_0813.jpg

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 

Rab_Cutout.jpg
  • 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%

Best-value.gif
 

Montane Super Terra Pants £140

Montane_Cutout.jpg
  • 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 

Helly Hansen_Cutout.jpg
  • 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

Mammut_Cutout.jpg
  • 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

Fjallraven_Cutout.jpg
  • 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%


For the latest reviews - including extra photos and products that won't appear online - 
pick up a copy of the current issue of Trail magazine!


Best for budget: Hillwalking Shorts review (2018)

best kit across the price bands

Up to £50

Shorts in this price band are perfectly good for hillwalking and backpacking. Pockets will allow easy access to maps or guidebooks while wearing a rucksack, and zipped pockets will provide security. Fabrics in this price range include durable nylon options that are also fast drying. Belt loops will generally be present on the waist and in some cases a belt may be provided. There may be some elastication in the waistband for more comfort. You may also be able to find stretch fabrics. However, in general at this price these more practical features may be more difficult to find compared to higher-priced options.

From £51 to £70

In this price band it is relatively easy to find very good shorts that boast all the main features you need. Expect to find tough nylon fabrics that are fast-drying and durable. Stretch materials are also more common in this price band. You can often get a plethora of pockets and these will include OS map-sized pockets as well as zipped security pockets. The waist may benefit from elastication, a belt and a brushed lining for more comfort. You may also get additional durability from double layers of material on the seat to make these shorts even more hardwearing when resting on the trail, which is great for more regular users.

How-to-buy.jpg

From £71

Shorts at this price can have everything you can want for more regular, harder backpacking and hillwalking. They may be constructed with far more stretchy as well as more durable material. The waistband may have extra tailoring so it sits higher at the back and will have a more comfortable lining too. It will likely also come with some stretch so this area is more comfortable, while a belt may or may not be provided. The pockets may be more elaborately designed and there may be more pockets so you have easier access to OS maps or other items on the move. Hidden zipped security pockets
are often provided.


Best for budget up to £50


Royal Robbins Backcountry £45

Royal-Robbins-1.jpg
  • Men’s S-XXL
  • Women’s 6-22
  • Weight 293g (size L)
  • Material Supplex nylon (100% nylon)

It's good

These have the most accessible map-sized pockets of any shorts I have tried. Four massive pockets swallow maps with ease. You get an additional pair of front leg pockets that are smaller and one has zipped access. The waist is elasticated and has a fitted belt. You get a gusseted crotch and these are quite spacious shorts so freedom of movement is great. The material is a tough nylon (Bluesign approved for environmental benefits) and there’s a double layer on the seat for more durability. These are superb for the price.

However

The sizing is slightly bigger than others I found, so it would be worth trying a size down from normal. The waist does not get the softer lining of higher-priced shorts and there is no stretch in the main fabric. The front pockets are mesh, so could be less durable than others. The only zipped pocket is on the right lower leg pocket, but for keys having a zipped pocket nearer the waist would be better so heavy items don’t bang around. The women’s version does not get the in-situ belt in the waist. 

Verdict

Extremely well-priced, with superb pockets for maps and a great waist design, but check the sizing carefully.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 5/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 92%
Trail-approved.jpg
 

Rohan Bags Shorts £49

Rohan-Bags-2.jpg
  • Men’s 30-42
  • Women’s none
  • Weight 228g (size 34)
  • Material 100% nylon

It's good

These are the short version of the iconic Rohan Bags trousers. I was wearing both back in the ’80s and they are still superb. They have a fantastic set of pockets – four on the front all taking maps with two of these being zipped, and on the rear two more zipped and map-sized. A neat touch is a press-stud bellows panel on the sides so you can have more spacious pockets. The waist has belt loops and the seat has a double layer of material for more durability when resting.

However

These shorts are slightly shorter than others – which you may value as a minus or a plus! There is no women’s version though, which is a drawback. The material has no stretch, while the waist has neither stretch sections nor a soft lining, so others are slightly better in this area. Although you get belt loops, there is no belt provided. Overall the comfort and fit is not quite as good as others. Some may feel they look a little too practical with their rather square patch pocket design, so more stylish walkers may prefer others. But for performance there’s not a lot wrong here.

Verdict

Superb pockets for easy access to maps or guidebooks, but others are slightly better in terms of fit and comfort.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 5/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 88%

Berghaus Navigators 2.0 £50

Berghaus-Navigator-3.jpg
  • Men’s 28-42
  • Women’s 8-18
  • Weight 232g (size 34)
  • Material 100% nylon

It's good

The styling here is more relaxed than other shorts in this price band, but you still get good features. The material is a tough nylon, while the waistband has belt loops and a soft-brushed fleece lining for more comfort. The two main front pockets take an OS map with ease, and the zipped leg pocket takes a map to half length. There is a very useful hidden zipped security pocket inside the hip pocket, which is great for keys. There is also a rear zipped pocket. 

However

The waistband isn’t elasticated, so these shorts aren’t quite as comfortable in this area, and no belt is provided. The main fabric has no stretch, so you are reliant on the cut of the shorts to provide the freedom of movement, and the lack of crotch gusset means these do feel slightly more restrictive than some others. Some shorts have even more pockets and the mesh lining in the pockets means they are not as durable as, say, nylon panels. Also other shorts offer double layers of material in the seat for more durability when sitting.

Verdict

Good general hillwalking shorts with a softly-lined waistband and nice pockets, but some small details are better on other shorts. 

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

Best for budget up to £51 to £70


Paramo Maui £55

Paramo-Maui-2.jpg
  • Men’s S-XL
  • Women’s none
  • Weight 301g (size L)
  • Material Supplex Parameta A (73% cotton, 27% nylon)

It's good

The Parameta A fabric used in these shorts is designed to wick and spread moisture across the surface for faster drying, while the nylon adds more durability. The waist is elasticated, with belt loops and a belt. The pockets are particularly good, as the left leg patch pocket swallows an OS map with ease and has an internal zipped pocket, while the right pocket is shorter so ideal for guidebooks. The other two waist pockets also take an OS map easily, and two rear zipped pockets are great for security. I found the fit to be quite spacious.

However

I found these shorts to be slightly oversized compared to other size L options I received, so I’d suggest trying a size down from normal. The material offers no stretch, so this may in part be why the fit is rather loose. Also, the waist is good but higher-priced shorts have a more comfortable brushed lining in the waistband. The cotton in the fabric means they don’t dry as fast as purely synthetic fabrics either. And there’s no women’s option. 

Verdict

Excellent shorts for backpacking, trekking and hillwalking at a superb price, but there is no women’s option and small details are better on others.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 5/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

Montane Syno Stretch Maui £60

MontaneDyno-Stretch-2.jpg
  • Men’s S-XXL
  • Women’s 8-16
  • Weight 256g (size L)
  • Material Granite Stretch Lite (90.5% nylon, 9.5% Spandex)

It's good

The nylon-based fabric is durable, water-resistant and fast-drying, but there is also some stretch which adds to the comfort. The wide waistband has some stretch and a brushed microfleece lining for comfort. Belt loops and a belt (men’s only) mean you can adjust the fit. The rear and leg zipped pockets are fine for small items, and you can slot a map into the two hip pockets very easily. Fit, comfort and freedom of movement are all good, thanks to the stretch and a wide panel between the legs.

However

Some shorts have even more stretch than offered here, particularly in the waistband. Others also use a heavier fabric that is more durable in the roughest terrain. The pockets are good but some shorts offer even better access to maps on the move while wearing a pack, as the map-sized pockets are slightly better placed. The pocket bags are mesh, which means small items could start to break through them, so again shorts with different fabrics in the pocket may be more durable.

Verdict

Stretchy shorts with good pockets for hillwalking and backpacking, with only small details that may niggle.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%
 

Rohan Consignment £65

Rohan-Consignment-2.jpg
  • Men’s 230-42
  • Women’s none
  • Weight 349g (size 34)
  • Material 100% nylon with Dynamic Moisture Control

    It's good

This fabric is very, very hard-wearing. It feels like a cotton canvas, but is made from nylon which is more durable and faster drying. There’s also a very good selection of pockets, including a zipped and semi-hidden pocket in the rear as well as another fully hidden zipped pocket on the right hip. Six other pockets are wide enough for maps, with two taking a map fully, while the other four take a map quite well but not to full depth. The waist has belt loops. These are good workhorse shorts, and the price is pretty good for what you get too.

However

Annoyingly there is no women’s version of these shorts, and the material has no stretch. The waistband has no belt, no stretch and doesn’t get the soft, brushed lining that others offer. The pockets are very good but they’d provide even better stowage of an OS map if they were slightly deeper in the case of the rear two pockets and the patch thigh pockets. The fabric is a bit heavier than others and slightly slower drying due to its thickness, so these aren’t the lightest to carry.

Verdict

Excellent tough walking/backpacking shorts with better pockets than others. Slightly heavy to carry.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 5/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

Best for budget up to £71 and over


Regatta Xert Stretch II £80

Regatta-Xert-2.jpg
  • Men’s 30-44
  • Women’s 8-20
  • Weight 271g (size 34)
  • Material Isoflex Active stretch (90% nylon, 10% elastane)

It's good

The nylon Isotex fabric has lots of stretch, which makes these very comfy, but also it’s light, reasonably water-resistant, fast-drying and quite durable. There are belt loops and a belt, plus elastication at the waist, so on trips if you lose weight they will still fit. The three front pockets are all zipped, with two of them taking an OS map fully and the third fitting a map halfway down. There is a rear zipped pocket for keeping a small item secure. A good combination of features if you rank pocket design as a priority and want a stretchy fabric.

However

There is no diamond crotch panel here, so others have a little more space between the legs, but the stretch fabric does at least allow more freedom of movement. Also while the waist is very adjustable it does not get the smooth brushed lining that others in this price band offer. You can get even more durability in some other designs, but those options may lack the stretch offered here. Slightly pricey considering some of the drawbacks of the design.

Verdict

Very stretchy nylon, lots of adjustment in the waist and good zipped pockets,  but the price tag is relatively high.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%

Vaude Skarvan Bermuda £90

Vaude-Skarvan-2.jpg
  • Men’s 46-56
  • Women’s 34-46
  • Weight 231g (size 52)
  • Material 95% recycled nylon, 5% elastane

It's good

Recycled nylon from products such as fishing nets forms the main fabric here, with some elastane to improve stretch. The result is a thin, lightweight fabric with lots of stretch that feels hard-wearing, resists water well, and is fast-drying. An extra panel in the crotch provides comfort, and the wide waistband has a fitted belt. The two main pockets on the front easily take a map, and are placed below a rucksack hipbelt for easier access. There is also is a third zipped leg pocket that takes three quarters of a map’s length at least.  

However

It is a pity the zipped leg pocket is not deeper so it could fully take an OS map or guidebook of similar size. The rear pocket is not zipped and again not deep enough to fully take a map, so it’s neither deep enough for a map nor secure enough for valuables. Some shorts have a heavier fabric that is more abrasion-resistant and also even more pockets. The waistband is good but others have elastication or a softer lining. The price seems a little high compared to others.

Verdict

 Recycled stretch materials and good map-sized pockets make these great but the price is high

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%

Fjallraven Abisko £95

Fjallraven-Abisko-1.jpg
  • Men’s 29-44
  • Women’s 26-37 (Nikka)
  • Weight 313g (size 33-34)
  • Material G-1000 (65% polyester, 35% cotton) and 63% nylon, 26% polyester, 11% elastane

It's good

Like other products in the Abisko range, these shorts use G-1000 fabric that can be treated with wax for better durability, water and wind resistance. This material is placed in the darker areas such as the seat. The rest is a stretchy nylon mix that also feels very robust. The waistband is lined, and is higher at the back for more comfort under rucksack belts. Two of the four front pockets have zips, and an OS map fits in three of these, while a small pocket will take a phone or GPS receiver. A big diamond crotch panel improves the freedom of movement, and the women’s Nikka also comes in Curve Fit option.

However

Belt loops allow the fit to be adjusted but you don’t get a belt, and an elasticated waist could make this area even more comfortable. Some shorts at this price point have a softer lining in the waistband too. It’s a shame more of the G-1000 fabric isn’t used across the shorts for more durability, and if the right leg patch pocket was 2cm deeper you could secure the press-stud flap to hold a map securely. 

Verdict

A good set of pockets and high durability, but that price tag is challenging.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 5/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%
Trail-approved.jpg
 

For the latest reviews - including extra photos and bonus products that won't appear online - pick up a copy of the current issue of Trail magazine!