The best winter hiking pants

From bestreviews.com
By
Suzannah Kolbeck
BestReviews

The best winter hiking pants offer a level of comfort, protection and performance that you just can't find in any other kind of pants.

When the call of the wild comes in the middle of winter, you're going to need some good hiking pants. The best winter hiking pants will keep you warm and dry when the temperature drops and the wind blows cold. They will also be remarkably comfortable and allow for ease of movement over tough terrain.

The Free Soldier Fleece-Lined Hiking Pants sets the standard for affordable winter hiking pants that are also durable and highly functional. 

What to know before you buy winter hiking pants

Hiking conditions

Winter hiking pants are one of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll take with you when the weather turns cold. The best winter hiking pants will fit the hiking conditions. You'll need to know if you'll be hiking in wet weather, or if the conditions will be just cold and windy. Wet conditions call for more waterproof pants, while cold and windy days require pants that are insulated to block that piercing chill. 

One season use vs. adaptable design

Not everyone can customize their hiking pants to the season. If you need an affordable option to hit the great outdoors year-round, look for winter hiking pants with an adaptable design that can be worn in at least three of the four seasons. These might include things like zip vents to allow air to flow through or removable lining. Of course, if your finances allow, specialized winter hiking pants will be great at their job. 

Fit

The fit of your winter hiking pants matters. Some people prefer more room to move and like baggy winter hiking pants, while others prefer fitted pants that function like leggings. The happy medium of these two types of fit is a straight-leg pant, which hugs the hips and upper thighs, but allows more room for gaiters or the tops of your boots at the bottom of the pants. 

The best option for fit is the one that will keep you comfortable on the trail. 

Winter hiking pants features

 

Plenty of pockets

You can never have enough pockets in your winter hiking pants. These pockets should vary in size and placement, with at least one pocket large enough for a map and a cell phone.

Stretch fabric

Don't let a stiff pair of winter hiking pants prevent you from bouldering successfully. Look for winter hiking pants that feature a blend of materials that includes spandex or some other type of stretch fabric. This gives you more mobility where you need it, specifically in the knees and hips.

Ability to layer

If you choose winter hiking pants to block the wind, you'll want to layer underneath with a moisture-wicking base layer and some added insulation. Make sure your winter pants are roomy enough to accommodate extra layers when you need them.  

Winter hiking pants cost 

Hiking pants can take a bite out of your wallet, but a good pair is worth its weight in gold.  You'll spend $45 to well over $200 per pair of this crucial piece of gear.

Winter hiking pants FAQ

What is the best material for layering with winter hiking pants?

A. If you plan to add layers to your winter hiking pants, start with natural fibers like merino wool or silk. These two materials are soft next to your skin and will wick moisture away to keep you dry and warm.  Polyester or polypropylene are synthetic options that also protect moisture from building up. Avoid cotton, as it takes a long time to dry and can actually make you colder.

Depending on the temperature, you can choose base layers in light, medium or heavy weights.  You can also start with base layers that are closer to the skin, topped with a looser layer for added warmth (and the ability to lose a layer if you get warm).

Once you have your base layers sorted, top with wind- and water-repellent winter hiking pants.

Can you hike in jeans with thermal underwear?

A. While it is technically possible to hike in jeans with thermal underwear underneath, this is not advised. Thermal underwear is generally made of cotton, and, as discussed above, cotton actually holds sweat close to your body. It will not dry as you hike and can contribute to making you dangerously cold.

On top of those thermal underwear, jeans are restrictive and do not allow for free movement.  Jeans also hold onto moisture and take a long time to dry. If you get caught in a sudden squall, wet jeans can actually become a life-threatening situation. 

You can find some high-quality winter hiking pants for about the same price as a new pair of jeans. Save your denim for dry fall weather and short, out-and-back hikes. 

Which winter hiking pants should I get?

Best of the best winter hiking pants

Free Soldier Fleece-Lined Hiking Pants: available at Amazon

Our take: These durable hiking pants will keep you warm regardless of the conditions. 

What we like: The fleece lining is anti-static to avoid accidental shock. The inside fleece also wicks moisture away from your body to keep you dry and comfortable. Pants material includes 6% spandex to increase flexibility and range of motion. The exterior is treated with water repellent, and it also works as a wind block. They are available in ten colors.

What we dislike: Some hikers report difficulty with fit in these pants. 

Best bang for your buck winter hiking pants

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pant: available at Backcountry and Amazon 

Our take: Made with quick-drying fabric, this is an affordable, quality pant perfect for layering in cold weather. 

What we like: The cuffs feature a closure for especially cold days. Ripstop outer layer prevents snags and tears on tricky branches. A large cargo pocket holds all of your valuables. 

What we dislike: These pants do not add additional warmth but should be used as a layering option in cold weather. 

Honorable mention winter hiking pants

FjallravenKeb Trouser: available at Backcountry and Amazon 

Our take: These pants are designed for bushwhacking over rough terrain in all kinds of weather. 

What we like: Durable G-1000 panels are strategically placed at hard-wearing intervals on the pants for increased strength and added warmth. They feature articulated knees for more mobility and large cargo pockets for storage. Perfectly placed elastane panels also make movement easier.

What we dislike: These are long-lasting but expensive. 

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Suzannah Kolbeck is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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