Dec 13, 2021 at 5:37 am #3734634Steve (VT)BPL Member
Time for new pants. Have always used Gore Tex full zip hard shell over base layer for snowshoeing and backcountry skiing into high peaks (Adirondacks — think cold, snowy, windy). Now I read many use soft shells, but not sure where they are. Hard to get my brain around. True? Safe? What about a combo: lightweight softshell (Mtn Equip Kinesis) plus light 3/4 zip hard shell in pack (OR Forray). Or stick to tried and true Gore Tex (Pro) full zip hard shell? Thanks in advance.Dec 13, 2021 at 9:56 am #3734647S LongBPL Member
Unless you’re falling down a lot or in wet, slushy snow I’d recommend softshell pants. They’re more breathable and comfortable IME. I like the Outdoor Research offerings best (the Cirque Lite pants). If you need more warmth or water protection, add thermal baselayers and gaiters.Dec 13, 2021 at 12:23 pm #3734656dirtbagBPL Member
I usually wear Marmot Scree pants with a lightweight Patagonia base layer under them. If its snowing hard enough or raining I will put my Arc’Teryx shell pants over them. I spend my time primarily in the Catskills NY and have plans to be in the Dacks this winter.Dec 13, 2021 at 7:17 pm #3734745Dave @ OwareBPL Member
@bivysack-comLocale: East Washington
Depends on how wet the snow.
Also texture of fabric in relation ability to self arrest if you ski above hazards.Jan 13, 2022 at 8:23 am #3736807
For exposed, open terrain, I think hardshells are the way to go.
I have been a softshell lover for ages, but, especially for the legs, in open terrain, I am reconsidering.
Modern hardshell breathe plenty good enough, augmented by venting zippers, for the needs of legs.
The comfort has also been getting better, with good articulated cuts, lightweight, flexible fabrics, and some stretch waterproof fabrics.
The big advantage in the hard shell is the simplicity: no matter what the weather does, you are prepared. Open zips if it’s warm, close them if it’s colder or windier. Precip? Not an issue. Wind? Not an issue.
Did you read Stephen Seeber’s articles about Breathability, MVTR and air permeability?
If not, definitely do so.
With a softshell (high air permeability), as wind speeds increase, you lose a lot of warmth and increase evaporation (further increasing cooling).
Think of this scenario: you start skiing up a mountain. Lower elevation, in the trees, there is little wind. So, the pants are quite warm. You are working hard. Combined, these two factors lead to some sweat build up. Most softshells are also fairly thick, so they hold a fair bit of moisture. Now, you come above treeline. Wind picks up, so pants lose a fair bit of their insulation value. Temp is lower. You start to cool off.
You reach the summit, rip skins and head downhill. Your heat output drops a lot, and wind speed increases. Now, the moisture in the pants is evaporating rapidly, and you get quite cold.
You get to the bottom of the descent, put skins back on and skin out through the valley to your car. Wind is far less(non existent?) temp is higher (lower altitude and later in the day), and you are waking again. Now you are getting to warm again.
That said, I do still love the comfort of stretch woven softshell pants, like my Mammut BaseJump touring pants. The soft brushed inner feels great against the skin, and the freedom of movement from the 100% stretch fabric, combined with fewer layers, is great too.
And, like Dave says, on firm snow, any slides are far less likely to get out of control.
However, for them to work, weather has to either remain fairly consistent, especially the wind (actual wind or skiing created wind). I love them, for XC ski touring and snowshoeing in the woods here in Minnesota.
You need to be ok with slightly chilly legs on occasion.
The other thing is, venting zippers (big ones, no mesh!) are super useful.
Often they are omitted on softshell pants, because “they breathe so well, they don’t need them”. That may or may not be true, but the bigger reason for venting zippers is to regulate your temperature as conditions chance, as I tried to illustrate above.
With pants especially, it is hard to add or remove layers to adjust your warmth. Especially with skis or snowshoes on.
Goven that your are in Vermont, I would suggest 2 or 3 pairs:
- Softshell pants
- Good, comfortable hardshell pants. Something comfortable enough that you want to wear it all day.
- Either a separate, lightweight pair of full or 3/4 zip shell pants for backup over the softshells, or just use the ones from point 2 (so they’d need side opening zippers)
After all, besides your trips up into the high alpine, there will also be plenty of trips in dry cold weightier, perhaps lower down in the valleys, with less wind.
My 14 year old daughter wears her Mammut Base Jump pants to bike to school here (if it is above 10F), and mostly just because she likes their comfort wearing them around school.Jan 13, 2022 at 8:30 am #3736808
Those Helium pants sound quite warm, because they have a lining.
If that is true, combined with their lack of windproof outer, I would reserve them for outings where conditions remain steady, with no wind. Or, like you said, plan to add something over the top.Jan 13, 2022 at 8:33 am #3736809
If you were wearing hardshell solely over a baselayer, you don’t need full zip, since they will never come off.Jan 13, 2022 at 8:42 am #3736811
Basically my experience is that air temperature tends not to can’t e very quickly, so it is doable to add or remove garments to deal with that.
What tends to change rapidly is exposure to wind, and sun.
So, for active wear, I am heading towards systems that are fairly windproof, yep have relatively low insulation values, even if I am not expecting high winds.
That way, the changes in wind will have minimal affect on my temperature regulation.
If I wear something highly air permeable, then the level of insulation that is sufficient when no wind is present, will be frigid when the wind picks up (or my speed increases).
If instead, I decrease the insulation a bit, but go to (near) windproofness (at least on the front), then when wind picks up, much more of my warmth will be retained,Jan 13, 2022 at 4:08 pm #3736874Steve (VT)BPL Member
Thanks Tjaard. I agree! In fact, I ended up getting a pair of full zip Goretex pro pants. And, yes, for now at least it feels like the right decision. I have some lighter weight softshells (Swix) I use for nordic skiing. I did some tests climbing a 1000 ft hill near my house. I found that the hardshells with the zips open from the waist to the knee breathe every bit as well as the light softshells. Yes, I realize having them that open would not work well in a squall, but the nice thing is I can just zip them up when I need to. I also found that at least for me, they are no less comfortable walking in than the softshell. Yes, the softshells feel more likely daily wear, but I’m used to the Goretex for years of hiking and they feel fine.Jan 13, 2022 at 9:08 pm #3736918Stephen SeeberBPL Member
I am too late to weigh in but +1 for Tjaard’s comments. I think you made the only good choice for winter in the Adirondacks. I miss my winter hikes there. Enjoy.Jan 14, 2022 at 1:10 am #3736929Christopher SBPL Member
Bit late to the party here but I noticed recently Montbell has some new full zip hardshell pants that are 3 layer and have some stretch. No idea if its an electrospun PU membrane like Neoshell / Ascentshell (considering the stretch) or some other thing. They looked pretty appealing though overall and very lightweight. Only downside is that for some reason they decided NOT to put a snap or velcro reinforcement at the top and bottom of the zip which seems like a terrible idea and is pretty much standard on all full zip pants. Couldnt have added much weight at all.
Montbell Japan also has several other models of lightweight full zip pants – one model with Goretex Pro, another with the stretch 3 layer Montbell membrane, one with the older 3 layer non stretch Montbell membrane, and then finally a third with a very thin goretex.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
August 4 @ 5:30 PM US MDT: Member Q&A • Backcountry Photography & Cameras
Our Community Posts are Moderated
Backpacking Light community posts are moderated and here to foster helpful and positive discussions about lightweight backpacking. Please be mindful of our values and boundaries and review our Community Guidelines prior to posting.