Key features to look for
Most 3-season hillwalking trousers are made from tightly-woven nylon or polyester soft shell, often with elastane for stretch. They may have a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment for added water-resistance. Other outdoor trousers are made from polycotton, which can often be waxed for additional weather protection.
Zipped pockets keep items safe. Large pockets that will accommodate a map are particularly practical, but make sure they are sensibly placed so as not to affect leg movement.
An elasticated waist, either with belt loops or an integrated belt, gives all-round adjustability. A soft, lined waistband prevents irritation, especially when wearing a pack.
Thigh vents can help to dump heat, and can also be unzipped for better temperature regulation if you’re forced to put on overtrousers.
High-wear areas like the knees, seat and instep often have thicker, reinforced fabric panels.
Look for double- or even triple-stitched seams in high stress areas for added durability.
Adjustable cuffs with a press stud or Velcro tab give a closer fit and stop your trousers from flapping around. It also helps you to see where you’re putting your feet on technical terrain.
Some trousers have an integrated lace or boot hook at the ankle cuff to help stop debris from getting into your boots.
Adding elastane (also called spandex or Lycra) to a fabric provides stretch, giving better freedom of movement and a closer fit. Two-way stretch fabrics stretch either vertically or horizontally. Four-way stretch fabrics stretch in both directions, crosswise and lengthwise.
Features such as knee darts and a gusseted crotch improve overall fit and articulation, enhancing mobility, especially when scrambling or climbing.
Alpkit Escapade (RRP £60)
Verdict: Offer the flexibility of sports/gym leggings with the technical performance of a soft shell fabric.
Fit 4/5 | Features 3/5 | Construction 4/5 | Value 5/5 | Performance 4/5
Overall score: 80%
Pros: Very lightweight, flexible
Cons: Fit won’t suit everyone, no men’s version yet
Ellie had three words when she first tried the Escapades: “So. Much. Stretch!” That’s down to a high proportion of spandex in the soft shell fabric blend, which in turn creates a form-fitting, contemporary cut.
Ellie is a petite size 8 and thought they were a great fit, though some buyers have found them to be fairly generous in the waist but a little tight in the thigh. This might mean you need to size up, depending on how you’re built. But get the fit right and they are both comfortable and flexible, offering superb freedom of movement, with pre-shaped knees to further aid articulation.
They’re made from wind and water-resistant nylon finished with an eco-friendly PFC-free DWR treatment. The 4-way stretch fabric is breathable and fast wicking, ensuring it also dries quickly, just like most sports leggings – the difference is that these are far more robust, making them ideal for hillwalking. They also have a high rise, protecting the lower back from rucksack abrasion and keeping you well covered even when stretching or bending over.
They fasten securely with a zip fly and button closure, and there are four jeans-style pockets – two small hand pockets and two back pockets – plus a single zipped thigh pocket that will take a phone or compass.
Weight 326g (women’s 10) | Women’s sizes 8-18 | Men’s sizes n/a | Leg lengths Short/Reg/Long | Fabric Nylon soft shell
Keela Nevis (RRP £70)
Verdict: Lightweight, cool and quick-drying, with a great fit, plus reinforced ripstop panels and a keen price tag.
Fit 5/5 | Features 3/5 | Construction 4/5 | Value 5/5 | Performance 4/5
Overall score: 84%
Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, quick-drying
Cons: No thigh pocket, no ankle cinch
Keela’s Nevis are lightweight walking trousers made from a 4-way stretch fabric with reinforced panels. The regular fit is accommodating but not baggy, and pre-shaped knees give a trimmer silhouette.
The fabric is cool, comfortable, quick-drying and has a high spandex content for plenty of stretch. It’s wind and water-resistant too, which ensures these trousers are a versatile option for classic hill days.
They are fitted with belt loops, a simple press-stud closure and a zip fly. There’s no cargo pocket at the thigh, but then a large pocket for a heavy map or guidebook would feel cumbersome. Instead, you get two zipped hand pockets and a zipped back pocket, which seems a fair compromise. The only slight shortcoming is with the lower legs. They are fitted with ankle zips, but since these trousers aren’t the most tapered, we’d prefer to be able to cinch them in at the hems. Still, it’s a minor niggle, and that aside, these are excellent hillwalking trousers that are well-priced too.
The great fabric and forgiving cut ensure they are just as comfortable as other lightweight stretch walking trousers. But the tougher ripstop panels in the knee, seat and instep promise superior durability.
Weight 385g (men’s M) | Women’s sizes 8-20 | Men’s sizes 28-44in | Leg lengths Short/Reg/Long | Fabric 4-way stretch nylon, reinforced ripstop panels
Berghaus Extrem Fast Hike (RRP £95)
Verdict: Lightweight and versatile trousers for fast-moving types. Great features but not the comfiest option.
Fit 4/5 | Features 5/5 | Construction 3/5 | Value 4/5 | Performance 3/5
Overall score: 76%
Pros: Fully-featured, very lightweight
Cons: Prominent seams, no women’s version
These lightweight trousers have a slim, tapered fit, with a hybrid design that incorporates two different fabrics. The main fabric is a robust and hard-wearing nylon, which has no stretch. Fortunately, secondary stretch panels on the knee panels and seat provide the articulation. They also have a small crotch gusset, which isn’t made from the stretch fabric. Though we can see the logic in this construction, it does mean the high-wear areas are actually slightly less robust, as well as being more prone to snagging and soaking up moisture.
Otherwise, the features are excellent, with a microfleece lined waistband, zip fly and press-stud closure, removable webbing belt, two hand pockets, a zipped thigh pocket, a zipped back pocket and Velcro ankle tabs. You also get two-way thigh vents, backed with an extremely lightweight mesh, for cooling airflow and tick protection.
Overall comfort is reasonable on the hill, although all the panelling results in some prominent seams. These are all double-stitched for durability though. So, although not flawless, these trousers strike a good balance between low weight, freedom of movement and toughness.
Weight 374g (men’s 34) | Women’s sizes n/a | Men’s sizes 28-42in | Leg lengths Short/Reg/Long | Fabric Nylon with stretch panels
Montane Terra Edge (RRP £100)
Verdict: The tough fabric means you can treat these like mountain jeans, though the tech will help you go much further.
Fit 4/5 | Features 3/5 | Construction 5/5 | Value 4/5 | Performance 4/5
Overall score: 80%
Pros: Comfortable, rugged
**Cons:**Fairly warm, no leg vents, no women’s version yet
The latest addition to Montane’s highly-regarded Terra pants range is the Terra Edge – a lighter, more streamlined version of the brand’s ultra-rugged Super Terra trousers.
These are made from the same hard-wearing ‘GRANITE’ nylon, but without the reinforced panels in the knee, seat and instep. There’s some elastane in the fabric blend and they have a water-repellent finish too. Still, they aren’t as stretchy or as close-fitting as most mountain soft shell pants. Instead, the thigh and seat are relatively roomy, ensuring unrestricted comfort and mobility. Knee darts and a gusseted crotch further improve overall articulation.
The part-elasticated waist has a soft microfleece lining and a zip fly, with a button closure and secondary press stud. You also get belt loops and a removable waistbelt, which fastens with a side-release buckle.
There are two jeans-style hand pockets, plus a zipped back pocket and a roomy zipped bellows pocket on the right thigh. The latter can take a guidebook but not an OS map. Double-layer hems guard against fraying and are fitted with press studs to cinch them in at the ankles. All critical seams are double or triple-stitched for strength too, making these superb trousers for demanding days.
Weight 510g (men’s M) | Women’s sizes n/a | Men’s sizes S-XXL | Leg lengths Short/Reg/Long | Fabric GRANITE stretch nylon
Patagonia Point Peak Trail Pants (RRP £130)
Verdict: On-the-trail toughness and stretch comfort makes these very versatile trousers. Brilliant eco credentials too.
Fit 3/5 | Features 5/5 | Construction 4/5 | Value 4/5 | Performance 5/5
Overall score: 84%
**Pros:**Lightweight, comfortable, flexible, fully featured, sustainably made
Cons: No leg vents, limited leg lengths available
Designed for travellers, hikers and backpackers, the Point Peak Trail pants are slim-fitting but stretchy soft shell trousers. Made from a midweight nylon-elastane blend they’re burly enough for life on the trail, and don’t feel too thick or heavy either.
To further increase durability, the seat and front (from mid-thigh down) use ripstop panelling. Commendably, all the material is made from recycled nylon and finished with an eco-friendly, PFC-free water-repellent treatment. They’re also bluesign-approved and Fair Trade certified sewn.
On test, the Point Peak pants were super comfy, with great freedom of movement, aided by pre-shaped knees and a gusseted crotch. Velcro side tabs at the waist enable easy adjustment, though there are also belt loops if you prefer to wear a belt. Similar tabs at the ankles and hidden lace hooks allow a precise fit with boots too. We just wish they came in a long leg as well as short and regular, since the inseam is only 31in.
For storage, these trousers are the best equipped here, with six pockets – four of which are zipped for added security.
Weight 442g (men’s 34) | Women’s sizes 6-16 | Men’s sizes 28-40in | Leg lengths Men’s: Short/R, Women’s: One size | Fabric Double weave nylon soft shell with reinforced panels
Black Diamond Swift (RRP £150)
Verdict: Versatile 3-season pants – supremely well-equipped and with an impressive eco-conscious DWR finish.
Fit 4/5 | Features 5/5 | Construction 4/5 | Value 4/5 | Performance 5/5
Overall score: 88%
Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, flexible, fully featured
Cons: No leg vents, only one leg length
The ideal 3-season trousers are all about versatility and comfort, and Black Diamond’s Swift soft shell pants offer both.
Made from two weights of double-weave nylon, both with elastane for 4-way stretch, they are lightweight and flexible. The heavier fabric is sensibly placed at the knee, seat and instep for added durability. The cut is roomy in the thigh, with tapered lower legs for a neat fit. Hems are part-elasticated, with adjustable snaps and lace hooks, so they work well with trail shoes or boots.
Other features are similarly well thought-out. There’s a soft lined waistband with a zip fly, double press studs and an integrated webbing belt, which can be removed if you prefer to wear a different belt. You get two angled hip pockets, plus a back and thigh pocket. All are fitted with reverse-coil zips.
On test, the Swift pants were great: pliable, breathable and rustle-free, but impressively weatherproof too. Though not fully waterproof, they’re finished with a new water-repellent treatment from Green Theme Technology called EMPEL; an eco-friendly, PFC-free finish. Water beads and rolls off the fabric beautifully, and we found that performance didn’t drop off nearly as quickly as most DWRs, even after many soakings.
Weight 404g (men's M) | Women’s sizes XS-XL | Men’s sizes S-XL | Leg lengths One size | Fabric Double weave nylon soft shell with reinforced panels
Páramo Velez Adventure (RRP £155)
Verdict: A great choice for variable weather, though the lack of stretch and swishy fabric might be drawbacks.
Fit 3/5 | Features 5/5 | Construction 4/5 | Value 4/5 | Performance 5/5
Overall score: 84%
Pros: Lightweight, fully waterproof, comfortable, good ventilation
Cons: No back or thigh pockets, no stretch, swishy fabric
At this time of year, the risk of spring showers means you’re hardly ever guaranteed a dry day in the hills. Which means packing a full set of waterproofs ‘just in case’. But Páramo’s Velez Adventure trousers are an intriguing alternative that allow you to ditch the overtrousers, since they are completely waterproof, thanks to the Nikwax Analogy directional system.
This 2-layer design consists of a polyester shell with an inner ‘pump liner’ that draws moisture away from the skin. This might sound hot and heavy, but thanks to lightweight fabrics and a streamlined design they’re actually reasonably lightweight. The lined construction does still make them fairly warm, though zipped leg vents provide plenty of airflow if needed.
Comfort levels are high – the polyester fabric is super soft. Two fabric weights are used, with more robust panels at the knees and seat. The shiny, lightweight polyester feels a bit swishy and has no stretch, so freedom of movement isn’t as good as some rivals, but the regular cut and high waist offer plenty of coverage and an accommodating fit. Twin zipped pockets and Velcro ankle tabs add further practicality.
Weight 388g (women’s 10) | Women’s sizes 8-18 | Men’s sizes 30-40in | Leg lengths Short/Reg/Long | Fabric Nikwax Analogy fabric
Helly Hansen Odin Huginn (RRP £160)
Verdict: Comfortable soft shell trousers with a good fit, robust fabric and great details that work well in demanding conditions.
Fit 4/5 | Features 5/5 | Construction 4/5 | Value 3/5 | Performance 4/5
Overall score: 80%
Pros: Comfortable, flexible
Cons: Fairly warm, no leg vents, no back pocket, expensive
We’ve reviewed these trousers a couple of times already here at Trail. But we make no apology for that, because the Odin Huginn are one of the best all-round, all-season soft shell pants out there. They’re even warm and robust enough to work for winter, particularly if paired with base layer tights, but are also perfect for ‘shoulder season’ use in spring and autumn. Admittedly, the thicker fabric and lack of leg vents is a slight drawback for high summer. But they score extremely well for fit, features and comfort, thanks to a stretch soft shell fabric, with pre-shaped knees and a gusseted crotch for even better articulation.
There’s a soft lined waistband with belt loops and side Velcro adjustment. You also get two hand pockets and a single thigh pocket, all now fitted with upgraded chunkier zip pulls. The lower legs feature ankle zips, lace hooks, adjustable leg cinches and – also new – a RECCO avalanche reflector, reflecting their winter-ready build.
These trousers are now available in two leg lengths for both men and women. The water-repellent finish is also free from harmful PFCs, a plus for sustainability.
Weight 570g (men’s M) | Women’s sizes XS-XL (Odin Muninn) | Men’s sizes S-XXXL | Leg lengths Men’s: Short/Reg, Women’s: Reg/Long | Fabric Soft shell