This guide to the best winter hiking pants available provides information on 10 different pairs of snow pants, softshell pants, rain pants and traditional hiking pants for winter trekking. In it, we break down the features of each pair and what conditions they're best for.
More Great Winter Hiking Pants
- Columbia Bugaboo IV Pants ($110)
- Patagonia Stormstride Pants ($399)
- Arc'teryx Gamma AR Pant ($199)
- REI Co-op Rainier Full-Zip Rain Pants ($90)
- Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Gore-Tex Paclite Plus Pant ($200)
- First Lite Obsidian Merino Pants ($175)
- Prana Stretch Zion Pant ($89)
There are three things you need your winter hiking gear to do: keep you warm, dry and moving. Most of us can figure out the top between base layers and waterproof shells, but when it comes to the body part you’re driving most up a trail—your legs—bulk adds up fast. After all, no one wants to commit to another four miles to the summit when your layers have you waddling like the Michelin man.
Patagonia Simul Alpine Pants
The temperature, weather conditions and terrain will dictate your apparel choice more than anything else, but if you're looking for a versatile option that will be suitable, along with appropriate layering, for a broad range of conditions, go for a softshell pant. Patagonia's Simul Alpine are lightweight at 13.6 ounces and come in a water-resistant and durable fabric that's also stretchy. The waist is adjustable, and the cuffs accommodate full-sized hiking boots.
Fjällräven Keb Trouser
This bestseller from the Swedish trekking company lives up to its reputation of quality technical hiking gear. The secret is in Fjäll’s proprietary G-1000 fabric, which is tightly woven and quick-to-dry for wind- and water-resistance and durability. Most of the pant is made from the G-1000 polyester and cotton blend, but the knees, butt and front of legs are all paneled with the softer Eco fabric for more mobility, and the bottom of the legs have a second layer of material to stand up to any chafing from your hiking boots. The rear and knees are pre-shaped and have reinforced seams for optimal durability and mobility as you scramble over sharp rocks or through the brush. There are pockets for storage, fabric panels to minimize chafing where you want help most and, best of all, zippered vents from the knee to hip and along the calves to let heat out on temperamental days.
Outdoor Research Ferrosi
Outdoor Research's Ferrosi rightly nabs spots on many lists of great hiking pants. They're both water- and wind-resistant, they dry quickly, they're stretchy enough to move in, and they breathe well. They also have a comfortable waistband and cuffs that you can cinch up to stop the wind from coming up your legs.
Columbia Bugaboo IV Pants
If you want to buy just one pair of pants for all your winter needs, opt for snow pants with a lot of mobility. This pair from Columbia hits all the key features for hiking, skiing and snowboarding: they're fully waterproof with no-leak seams, they contain some insulation, and they have built-in gaiters. The fleece lining and lack of vents mean these risk being a little too toasty on a bluebird day and they might not hold up over multiple seasons of heavy use, but they're an affordable option for folks who need something basic for a range of outings in the snow.
Patagonia Stormstride Pants
Patagonia makes these snow pants for backcountry skiing and snowboarding, and the features that make that so also make them ideal for hiking with boards. The Stormstride have excellent stretch and breathability, weigh 16.8 ounces and have three-layer waterproofing. You'll want to wear a base or mid-layer underneath, but the lack of stifling insulation makes them wonderfully versatile and suitable for any activity out in the snow.
Arc'teryx Gamma AR Pant
Like Patagonia's Simul Alpine, the Gamma AR is a softshell pant, which means it'll be a versatile option suitable for most conditions. These pants excel at balancing freedom of movement, breathability and protection. That's thanks to a durable four-way stretch fabric that can handle rock and ice — Arc'teryx built these with rock and alpine climbing in mind — as well as precipitation with a DWR finish.
REI Co-op Rainier Full-Zip Rain Pants
Most hikers use rain pants as an emergency layer in case they get caught in a sudden shower. They aren't breathable, so while they'll provide reliable waterproof protection, they can also get clammy in warmer conditions. That said, that same trait means they'll provide warmth without insulation, and full-length side zippers allow you to dump heat when you need to. They also make them easy to throw without taking your shoes off.
Mountain Hardwear Exposure/2 Gore-Tex Paclite Plus Pant
Mountain Hardwear built these lightweight rain pants with Gore-Tex Paclite Plus, a durable and waterproof material that's also slightly stretchy, which most rain pants aren't. The pants have an elastic waistband that'll accommodate layering, and the cuffs zip open up to the calf so you can put them on without taking your boots or shoes off if you have them stashed in your pack as an emergency layer. They're expensive, but they're much lighter than most rain pants, and that extra bit of stretch makes them great to walk in.
First Lite Obsidian Merino Pants
If you’re hard on your gear but feel restricted by most thick, dependable fabrics, you need heavy duty pants explicitly made for mobility. The Obsidian Pants were crafted for hunting, but inspired by rock climbing and mountaineering. The result is a killer hybrid of serious durability, uninhibited movement and three-season warmth. They’re made from 90 percent stretch merino, delivering great temperature regulation (and odor control) and, along with strategic stretch nylon panels, let you crouch, jump and climb with ease. Their DWR finish will keep you dry while the merino helps wick sweat away as your heart rate shoots up and the temperatures drop. Throw a pair of gaiters over the bottom and rain pants in your pack and these trousers will buffer against anything a winter hike throws at you.
Prana Stretch Zion Pant
Similar to Outdoor Research's Ferrosi, Prana's Stretch Zion is a traditional hiking pant. They have weather-resistance with a DWR finish and enough stretch for dynamic movement, but they aren't fully waterproof like snow or rain pants. That said, if you layer correctly — they have an adjustable waist to allow for it — and are hiking in dry conditions, they'll serve you well in winter (and summer). Better yet, because they aren't so technical, you can get away with wearing them around town too.