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Best Winter Hiking Pants

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Best Winter Hiking Pants

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This is a gear review about the Best Winter Hiking Pants on the market in 2021.

There cannot be a better way to spend your free time than going for a hike. Winter weather does, however, threaten to ruin this wonderful pastime.

The best way to avoid winter putting the breaks on your favorite hobby is to make sure you’re set to go with the best equipment – including a pair of Winter Hiking Pants for your hiking or backpacking adventures. 

But with so many options to choose from, how do you pick the best ones for you?

I’ve put together this gear review to make sure you can get the insulated winter pants that are best for you so you can enjoy hiking throughout the cold winter months.

Best Winter Hiking Pants 2021

The Best Winter Hiking Pants in 2021 are:


Best Winter Hike Pants for Backpacking 2021

Patagonia Stormstride Pants

Pros:
> Made of recycled materials and are sewn in Fair Trade certified conditions.
> Waterproof and Breathable
> The waistband is a lower-rise than other winter hiking pants and easily adjustable and made with belt loops.
> Side Zips to vent heat if needed
> Built in Gaiters
Cons:
> The two cargo style front-thigh pockets are designed with zippers which does keep your essentials secure, but can make immediate access more challenging.

The Patagonia Stormstride Pants do just what you would expect from their name – they are designed to combat unpredictable weather conditions during high-output pursuits, letting you walk in confidence that these are going to cope with your winter hike. 

The Patagonia Stormstride Winter Pants are both waterproof and insulated. The fabric is also made with Patagonia’s patented H2No formula, giving maximum protection from the wet.

Stretchy three layer fabric is durable enough to provide warmth but remains lightweight and comfortable enough for all-day wear.

The Stormstride’s insulation is such that the pants are made with outer-thigh vents to quickly release excess heat, ensuring that you are always at your most comfortable.

Built-in gaiters at the bottom of the hem mean that snow is sealed out, getting rid of irritating cold drafts that would otherwise distract you from your hike.

Overall, this are well designed and one of the best winter hike pants for backpacking or ski touring in winter.

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Arc’teryx Gamma AR Pants

Pros:
> Bottom of the pants are seamless to stop irritating snagging while you hike.
> Comfortable
> Adjustable webbing belt means that these pants will fit no matter how many layers you wear.
> The hooks and adjustable cord at the ankle allow for a complete seal around the boot to stop your feet getting wet.
Cons:
> Made with a slim leg design makes these pants not ideal for those that like a loose fit.

The Gamma AR Pants are a particularly good choice for novices as they are a great all-rounder.

The pants are insulated but not excessively, making them perfect for cooler days hiking up mountains or for more exposed routes as they are easily compatible with mid-layers for additional warmth.

The fabric itself has a four way stretch for excellent freedom of movement, and as it is Burly Double Weave it is durable and resistant to abrasions. The anti-hole fabric and DWR (durable water repellant) finish guarantee long lasting waterproofing.

Overall, these are the best insulated Winter Pants on the Market.

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Patagonia PowSlayer Pants

Pros:
> Made of recycled materials and are sewn in Fair Trade certified conditions.
> Built-in gaiters seal out snow and rain
> Waterproof and Breathable Gore-tex
Cons:
> Three pockets are all zippered which will make quick and easy access difficult.

The PowSlayer Pants are lightweight minimalist winter pants in design which means these pants can be easily packed away for optimal winter hiking or ski touring. The lightweight design also means that these are ideal for those who favour mobility and flexibility in winter hiking pants. 

While they are lightweight, the pants do not sacrifice any waterproof protection thanks to the GORE-TEX Pro outer layer. Even the zippers have been made watertight and feature slim-zip installation to avoid awkward or uncomfortable bulks during a hike.

Overall, these are solid pair of winter pants for backpacking, hiking and ski touring.

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Columbia Peak Pursuit Pants

Pros:
> Waterproof and Breathable
> 4 way stretch material
> Legs zips to assist with adjusting the fit
Cons:
> Sizing seems to run a little large

The Peak Pursuit Pants are undeniably mountain ready, featuring waterproof but breathable Omni-Tech fabric with four-way stretch to allow unencumbered mobility. They are also seam sealed to ensure the best possible protection from the cold and damp weather.

Articulated knees guarantee all the freedom of movement you need from your hiking pants. Zips and snaps along the legs allows for adjustment so you can find the fit you need to support you during your hike.

The pants are made with RECCO Technology, meaning they are made with a passive reflector that makes you immediately visible to any searching rescuers.

Sizing can run a little large which allows for the use of baselayers or mid layers underneath.

Overall, these are a good choice for a pair of budget hiking pants for winter.

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Macpac Fitzroy Pants

Pros:
> The slightly flared design of the pants make them boot-compatible and come with hooks and loops to fully attach your boots and trousers, perfect for snowy hikes.
> The pants are designed with an adjustable webbing belt to guarantee the perfect fit with every wear.
Cons:
> Waterproof material but not seam sealed
> Only available in Australia and New Zealand

Their work with the New Zealand Alpine Team makes them the perfect choice for those looking for the perfect hiking pants for winter months.

The Macpac Fitzroy Pants are the ideal choice for those looking for a softshell option for hiking in cold conditions and offers unparalleled protection from the harshest of environments. These are best suited to winter hiking, ski touring or trips into the mountains.

The pants are made with a waterproof and wind resistant fabric, but remain breathable for all-day comfort. A DWR coating has been added to assist with waterproofing and breathability when it is wet.

The stretchy polyester outer shell contains enough elastane for flexibility and a full range of motion, but the inner fleece lining is enough to keep you warm in harsher conditions.

The internal grip band above the ankle traps warm air and prevents any cold drafts for the perfect level of temperature control.

Overall, the Macpac Fitzroy Pants are the best winter hiking pants in Australia and New Zealand. If you live in these countries then look no further, these are the best and reasonably priced.

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Best of the Rest

Here are some great Hiking Pants for Winter Backpacking that have just missed the list or are yet to be reviewed and added.

  • Columbia Bugaboo Pants – Awesome pair of Winter Pants for Backpacking and Ski Touring. These are in the process of being reviewed and will be added to the list soon.
  • Outdoor Research Skyward Pants – Lightweight, waterproof and breathable winter pants for backpacking, ski touring and any kind of alpine trip.
  • Outdoor Research Cirque 2 Pants – Reasonably Priced Backcountry Winter Pants made from a weather resistant soft shell that is stretchy abrasion resistant and breathable.

Buyers Guide

Everyone’s preferences and budget is different, and there are so many pants to choose from that everyone is bound to find their ideal pair.

There are some common things that a buyer needs to look out for when buying a pair of hiking pants to make sure they’re able to deal with everything mother nature has to offer. 

Insulation

Firstly, buying hiking pants for winter means that attention must be paid to insulation as this is what will protect you from icy temperatures.

The insulation of your pants dictates all aspects of your hiking outfit, particularly how many layers you need to wear. 

If your pants are less insulated, you will need to wear more layers in order to stay warm. Pants with less insulation are favored by those who like to keep a good range of motion and don’t like too much weight to their clothes.

If this is your preference, go for lots of base layers to make sure that you stay at a good temperature for the duration of your hike. 

For those opting for thicker insulation, keep the base layers lighter so that you do not trap too much warm air and overheat. Fleece or flannel are good options for insulation for hiking pants as they both trap warm air to keep your temperature constant.

Fleece close to the skin can also be beneficial at wicking away sweat and moisture and keeping it warm, meaning your body temperature does not drop dramatically with perspiration.

Waterproofing

Waterproofing is an extremely important thing to consider when looking for hiking pants. The pants’ ability to keep out water is what separates a bad pair of pants from a brilliant pair.

A pair of pants labelled ‘water resistant’ are sometimes not going to cut it and you will find yourself slogging along your hike with wet clothes. But be aware that some water resistant pants are only that way because they lack seam sealing and the material itself is waterproof. A great example of the top quality water resistant winter pants are the Macpac Fitzroy Pants which are a personal favorite of mine.

Poor waterproofing can be a disastrous mix that could lead to frostbite and hypothermia in the worst cases, but is also a very effective way to guarantee that you will not have an enjoyable hike. 

DWR Coating

DWR coatings, a ‘durable water repellent’ coating which is applied as a liquid to waterproof garments, are good features to look out for in hiking pants. You should also keep an eye out for pants that are made with a GORE-TEX, PERTEX or other Waterproof membrane.

GORE-TEX is one of the most popular materials for waterproofing clothing as it has billions of pores per square inch which makes it breathable for the wearer’s comfort, but these pores are so small that water and wind cannot penetrate.

The result is a garment that is breathable but is completely waterproof and windproof, but is also incredibly light so the level of insulation is not compromised.

Comfort

Comfort will come with good waterproofing and the correct level of insulation, but a pair of pants that does not fit right will always not fit right and will have a negative impact on your adventures.

While they will never be as comfortable as your favorite pair of sweatpants, sacrificing your comfort for insulation and waterproofing is not a good idea. 

Sizing

It is important to buy the correct size by checking the size chart if buying online. Sizing charts for hiking gear and other outdoor pursuits are reliable for this very reason.

It is probably a good idea to take your measurements with your base layers on when trying to find your size – the base and mid-layers may mean your outer layer is a size bigger than you normally wear. Most winter hiking pants have a larger fit than normal to allow for the addition of baselayers or mid layers if backpacking in the extreme cold of winter.

Pockets and Gaiters

Other common features of hiking pants like pockets, attached gaiters to stop the top of your feet getting wet, and boot gussets can turn a good pair of winter hiking pants into a great pair but insulation, waterproofing and comfort should remain your top three priorities. 


Frequently Asked Questions

When do I need winter hiking pants?

It is a good idea to get winter hiking pants when the temperature is cold enough to warrant lined or insulated pants. This is usually when the temperature is below 32°F (0°C).
It is important that you dress to your comfort level though so if it’s 40°F (5°C) and you are sensitive to the cold or it’s raining or you will be hiking in an exposed area opt for the winter hiking pants.

How should my winter hiking pants fit?

The majority of hiking pants are designed to be tighter at the top of the leg then flare out at the bottom to make room for the top of your boot or hiking shoe. Almost every brand includes a good amount of elastane or spandex to their fabric so they will stretch slightly.
With this stretch in mind, your pants should fit snugly against your abdomen and be comfortable enough that you can happily wear them around the house for a few hours.
If the pants are not restricting your breathing, not falling down, and you don’t feel swamped in them then it is a safe bet that they fit.

What length should my winter hiking pants be?

The ideal length will depend on the style of the pants. If they are designed to fit tightly around the ankle and are cuffed then they should reach the ankle and cover it. If they are too short the pants will get increasingly uncomfortable and put you off hiking altogether.
For most pants that are designed to flare out at the bottom to cover the boot, the pants are at their ideal length if they cover the top of the boot but are not so long that they get caught under the heel when you walk.
If you feel the need to hem your pants to get that ideal fit, opt for a ‘long hem’ so that they fall around an inch off the ground.
Hemming them this way allows for the inevitable stretch of the fabric as you hike in your pants but also means you can adjust the hem size if the pants do not stretch as much as you predict.

Do I need different pants for hiking in winter and cross-country skiing?

This is a common question amongst those who enjoy outdoor pursuits in the winter but is perhaps not surprising given the similarities between the two types of pants. 
Both are generally insulated and waterproof, hiking pants for keeping out the rain and cross-country skiing pants for keeping out the snow, so if you’re going snowshoe hiking you could mix it up without noticing a big difference. 
Skiing pants are generally tighter to allow greater flexibility to make moving easier whilst navigating the slopes so if freedom of movement is important to you, skiing pants would be a good option.
Hiking pants meanwhile are more loose but are designed not to restrict movement and facilitate walking more than skiing pants. To that end, if you are planning on mostly snowshoe hiking, opt for snowshoe hiking pants. 

Conclusion

With so many options available, you are bound to find a pair of pants that are perfect for your winter hikes, no matter the difficulty.

To find your ideal pair, use this guide to narrow down the search and narrow the scope further by thinking about suitability and your preferences.

For example, if you know you feel the cold more than others, opt for pants that are insulated or will allow you to wear multiple base layers underneath.

On the other hand, if you cannot bear to feel constricted, look for a pair of lightweight pants so you will feel completely unencumbered while hiking.

There is no better way to spend free time than out, surrounded by nature. This guide provides enough information to let you find the perfect pair of pants so you can get out there and experience all the winter has to offer.

The Best Winter Hike Pants for Backpacking in 2021 are:

Happy hiking!


Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

Best Winter Hiking Pants for Backpacking

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Sydney, Australia.

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