Hillwalking trousers are an unglamorous piece of kit. Compared to down puffers or waterproof jackets, no-one really gets too excited about a pair of pants. If they’re black and cover your legs, that’ll do, right? Wrong.
High quality hillwalking trousers are essential to staying safe and comfortable in the fells, and it’s surprising just how many pairs of £9.99 Umbro joggers or old denim jeans you see being worn in the mountains. A good pair of walking trousers is even more important in autumn and winter to offer maximum functionality, weather protection and total freedom of movement, enabling you to bag those peaks and smash out the miles no matter how wet, wild and cold it gets.
Key features to look for
The latest trend seems to be towards garish, funky colours – the kind of bright orange or yellow you can see from a mile away – but it’s features and fit, rather than contemporary style, that are most important.
Vents help to shed heat, ankle cuffs and lace hooks ensure better integration with your boots, and reinforced panels at the knees, seat and instep improve durability. You’ll also want an elasticated waist for a comfy (and adjustable) fit, four-way stretch for enhanced freedom of movement, and a windproof, warm and water-resistant fabric for inclement weather.
In terms of fit, it’s advisable to try before you buy – but to help you along the way with your shopping experience, here’s six of the best walking trousers for the colder months to narrow down your choices.
The best autumn and winter walking trousers
Verdict: Fully-featured and superbly-engineered, these rugged Scandinavian trousers are undoubtedly winter-ready – but they’re expensive and heavy.
A perennial favourite and multiple award-winner, it’s hard not to love the Keb trousers. Undeniably Scandinavian in their toughness, materials and styling, these technical trekking pants employ a hybrid construction of weatherproof and tough G-1000 Eco – a sustainable polycotton blend that can be waxed for additional water-resistance – with four-way stretch fabric panels. This offers good durability yet top-notch freedom of movement, with the fabric mapping cleverly designed.
They come in various fits and the women’s ‘curved’ cut sits relatively high on the hips, hugs comfortably around the waist and rear while providing a touch of extra room in the legs. They’re neither tight like hiking leggings, nor cumbersome, ill-fitting and unflattering like some walking trousers – instead they strike an excellent middle ground.
Features are superb too, including large thigh and ankle vents, belt loops, distinctive front leg pockets, lace hooks, suspender attachments, and ankle cuff adjustment via press stud buttons.
They’re astronomically expensive, rather heavy and arguably overkill, unless you’re planning on bushwhacking through brambles or getting very close and personal to jagged rocks. Ankle adjustment is a little clunky and the thigh pockets are perhaps superfluous (too small for OS maps).
Sizes women's EU 32-48, men’s EU 42-60 | Leg lengths short, regular, long | Weight 535g (women’s EU 38 long)
Verdict: Warm, weatherproof and comfortable soft shell trousers at a superb price – but more expensive pairs offer better features and performance.
As is the Alpkit modus operandi, the Ardent trousers deliver great practical performance at a pleasantly affordable price. With a different logo on the thigh, they’d probably cost an extra £50, but here they come in under £100. A bona fide bargain.
Made from a double-weave soft shell material (92% nylon, 8% spandex) with a water-repellent coating, the Ardent trousers are protective and tough, with a tight weave that withstands wind and a light shower very well, while maintaining decent breathability.
You get a good warmth boost from these mid-weight trousers, without feeling like you’re constantly at risk of overheating, while a touch of spandex in the fabric means you’re never hindered when striding out quickly or scrambling over rocky obstacles.
Reinforcements at the knee, instep and rear add sturdiness, and overall features are pretty good too: zippers at the gusseted ankle, four pockets, integrated belt, microfleece-lined waist, and toggle ankle adjustment.
Not surprisingly, fit, comfort and features aren’t quite as good as more premium-priced pairs. You don’t get any vents or lace hooks, and the pockets are too small to take an OS map. The fit is slightly closer and more restrictive than some may prefer.
Sizes women's 8-18, men's S-XXL | Leg lengths short, regular, long | Weight 426g (women’s 8, long)
Montane Alpine Edge
Verdict: Lightweight trousers for autumn adventures where weight, breathability and comfort are your priority – but they’re not warm enough for the height of winter.
Not everyone needs a chunky, heavy, bombproof pair of trousers for autumn and winter climbs, especially when the conditions are likely to be mild and the pace is going to be fast. Instead you’ll need lighter, more flexible trousers that suit high-energy movement in the mountains. Step up the Montane Alpine Edge pants. They don’t score highly in terms of warmth or durability, but at just 286g they are wonderfully lightweight – half the weight of other pairs on this list – with an athletic cut, comfy fit and great freedom of movement.
Made from Montane’s Chameleon Lite soft shell fabric, which is rustle-free, soft, wicking and breathable, the Alpine Edge pants also feature a reinforced fabric known as Granite Extreme over the knees, seat and in-step. All fabrics have a DWR coating for showerproof protection. The waist is pre-elasticated and cinchable via a toggle, while the ankles are gusseted with zippers.
They’re too thin and not warm enough for winter. The pre-elasticated waist isn’t compatible with a belt and the toggle adjustment might not suit all body shapes. They’re only available in one leg length, and there’s no way to tighten the trousers at the ankle or attach them to your boots.
Sizes women's n/a, men's S-XXL | Leg lengths one size | Weight 286g (men's medium)
Mountain Equipment Mission
Verdict: A well-built, fully-featured pair of men’s trousers for snowy winter adventures – but versatility isn’t great.
Mountain Equipment’s Ibex/Chamois trousers have been Trail favourites for a decade, and we were almost tempted to include them in this round-up. But on this occasion, we’ve opted for a burly upgrade to the Mission Pants – a muscular, heavy-duty, and warm pair of trousers designed for the ‘most intimidating mountain missions’, as Mountain Equipment puts it.
If you’re heading up snowy Munros or venturing into the Cairngorms’ tundra in February, these trousers should have the winter-ready credentials to cope. They’re made from an interesting combination of fabrics, with Exolite 250 double-weave soft shell in the body of the trousers and Gore-Tex Infinium across the seat and knees. The cut is slightly on the baggy side, with ample room for thermal base layers, and the all-round workmanship is high quality. Features are plentiful too, including extremely strong reinforced kick strips, thigh vents, integrated belt, lace hooks, ankle zippers and Velcro adjustment at the ankle.
All-day comfort is a little lacking, due to the heaviness and slightly baggy cut, while the Velcro ankle adjustment creates a pleat-like fold in the excess fabric, which we found rather annoying and uncomfortable. Versatility isn’t great, as these are only for the coldest and snowiest of days.
Sizes women's n/a, men's 28-38in | Leg lengths short, regular, long | Weight 576g (men's 32in, regular)
Haglofs Rugged Flex
Verdict: Light, comfortable and flexible trousers with excellent skinny cut – but features are minimalist and not particularly warm.
These trousers are all about the skinny fit: a leg-hugging, streamlined, contemporary cut that not only looks good but performs superbly too, particularly for dynamic, high-energy mountain days.
Such a fit will probably be a little polarising – will you love or hate it? – but we’re certainly big fans. Comfort levels are extremely high, freedom of movement is good, and the skinny cut works perfectly under waterproof overtrousers.
The Rugged Flex trousers feature two fabrics, both treated with a PFC-free, water-repellent DWR treatment. Across the thighs and calves, there’s Haglofs’ hard-wearing Climatic fabric (95% polyamide, 5% elastane), while on the knees, shins, backside and inner thigh there’s a four-way stretch fabric (90% polyamide, 10% elastane). This combo strikes a lovely balance between sturdy durability and lightweight movement: rugged and flexible, as the name implies.
You also get two zippered handwarmer pockets and one thigh pocket, while Velcro ankle cuff adjustment enable a tailored fit around your boots.
They’re not very warm (better for autumn than the depths of winter) and the skinny fit won’t suit everyone. Neither lace hooks nor thigh vents are present, and for waist adjustment you need a separate belt. The lightweight fabrics aren’t the most bombproof here.
Sizes women's EU 34-46, men's XS-XXL | Leg lengths one size | Weight 368g (men's medium)
Helly Hansen Odin Huginn
Verdict: Fully-featured and high-performing soft shell trousers with a comfy fit – but they aren’t the complete package.
At a relatively competitive price, these trousers tick all of the boxes for the 4-season user. They are pretty warm, reassuringly robust, fairly water-resistant and completely windproof, with a regular cut that can be paired easily enough with thermal base layers or waterproof overtrousers for protection fine-tuned to the conditions.
Made from an unlined soft shell material (94% polyamide, 6% elastane), the Huginn trousers proved very comfortable during testing – tough enough to not worry about encountering jagged, rocky ground, yet sufficiently flexible to scramble agilely and nimbly towards a summit.
Features are impressive too. At the waist, you get a soft-lined waistband with side Velcro adjustment, double press stud fastening and belt loops. At the lower leg, three metal snap closures, a 30cm ankle zipper and lace hooks give you everything you need to sync your trousers with even the burliest of mountaineering boots. And in-between, you get articulated knees, a gusseted crotch, and three pockets with YKK zippers
There are no leg vents, so it’s easy to overheat. You also don’t get fabric reinforcements or a back pocket, and overall fit is a tad baggy and bulky underneath waterproof overtrousers. The soft shell fabric isn’t as quick-drying as others. If this colour is a bit garish, others are available!
Sizes women's XS-XL (Odin Muninn), men's S-XXXL | Leg lengths one size | Weight 520g (men's medium)