What are people wearing for winter hiking/snowshoeing pants?

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Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 28 total)
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    Josh B
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western New York

    What are people running for winter hiking/backpacking/snowshoeing pants?

    I’m looking at REI activators. Anyone have a particular favorite softshell or winter hiking pant?

    BPL Member


    Locale: montana

    I use Prana Stretch Zion’s… layer under them whatever long underwear weight that is appropriate for the conditions (or none at all).

    Rob P
    BPL Member


    Arcteryx Gamma MX’s are so comfortable they are like wearing pajama pants (they are a fleece lined softshell pant).  I generally don’t wear a baselayer under them, but if I get cold I’ll put a shell or down pants over them.  They are not cheap though.

    Josh B
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western New York

    Jeez, you ain’t kidding.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Columbus, OH

    I like the Outdoor Research Cirque pants. I have the original version, which they have discontinued. They now make a Cirque II, which is supposed to be an improvement but I haven’t personally tried them. List price is $150 but you can usually find them on sale.

    Kyler B
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kootenays

    The most inexpensive full leg zip goretex bib pants I can find for deep snow. I open the zips on top for ventilation and the suspenders hold the pant in place well. That way I have protection from the snow and my sweat. Also like suspenders because I have basically no hips.

    Really not lightweight but neither is wet clothing.

    for light snow and dense melting spring snow I just use whatever lightweight rain pants I have for cold and wet 3 season trips.

    Jeremy and Angela
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    I have some Gamma LT pants; they don’t have a fleece lining so I just take a stab at an appropriate baselayer for expected conditions.

    For colder temps I’ve heard good things about the Patagonia Northwall pants/jacket, but apparently the material was a bit too costly for even Patagonia and they stopped making them 6+ years back.  But, if you find a pair floating about secondhand…




    Locale: Swiss Alps

    I use soft-shell ski touring pants from Montura for winter hiking/snow-shoeing (and ski touring). Here in the Alps there is a lot of snow this year and on the mountains it has been reasonably cold in Jan with the wind chill (-10 to -20C) , so need something for those cold/dry conditions.

    The pants have a mesh liner so they are warm, breathable, wind proof and very comfortable which is important for me with fairly high exertion.

    Matt Dirksen
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mid Atlantic

    I wear Gore X7 pants for trail running in the winter and they are perfect blend of stretchy comfort, warmth, and protection. I’d use them for showshoeing in a heartbeat.

    Bob Kerner
    BPL Member


    A pair of Marmot quick dry pants…Scree, IIRC, with a base layer. I think the Kuhl Traverse are nice for winter but they have limited availability in the size I need. For really cold, wet snowy conditions, I have a set of North Face mountaineering bibs that I got on sale late last year. Full zip and a touch of insulation but overkill for hiking.

    The REI by me is already putting out spring apparel!

    Paul S
    BPL Member


    Lightweight long underwear bottoms with nylon shorts. It is very windy or raining/snowing I add Marmot precip full zip rain pants (which can be vented since they have full side zips).


    This is for snowshoeing/backpacking in the WA Cascades during winter.

    And actually, early spring and late autumn as well.

    BPL Member


    Locale: montana

    Besides the Prana Stretch Zions I often use, I also have Marmot Scree pants, some forgotten make of Black Diamond soft shell pants (Schoeller fabric), and Filson Whipcord. They’re all good, I just seem to gravitate to the Pranas which are also the cheapest of the bunch.

    Scott F.
    BPL Member


    Locale: West Coast & Sierra Nevada

    Montane Terra Stretch Pants for snowshoeing and winter hiking.  Thigh vents are awesome.

    Josh B
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western New York

    Paul, I like this setup. I’m going to try to work it in more. I’m in the northeast so it’s wet and I forunately hard to stay dry in tights and shorts. I’ve used my 250 merino thighs under a pair of running shorts for winter trail running.

    Josh B
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western New York

    I ended up going with REI Activator 3.0. They seem like a good pant for a decent price. Would love an Arc’teryx ideally but that ain’t in the cards.

    I’ve also been mixing in my Fjallraven Vidda Pro’s. They’re great for flatter stuff and short objectives. Anything with a lot of climbing they can be annoying since mobility isn’t as good as a softshell. REI Co-op Activator 3.0 Pants – Men’s 30″ Inseam #REIapp

    Elliott Wolin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia

    View from the cheap seats for day hiking and X-C skiing:

    Not too cold, then Columbia sort of windproof pants (Omni-Shade) purchased on clearance with STP synthetic long underwear underneath.  Not the lightest combination possible, but total cost under $30 and it works fine.   Often I carry GTX full-zip ski pants purchased used (i.e. real cheap) on eBay and put them on if needed.

    Colder weather, then replace Columbia pants with Chinese softshell pants purchased on AliExpress for around $20.   Carry GTX ski pants just in case.

    My wife doesn’t think anyone can beat me for cheapness, but I have faith in all you BPL members!

    Alexander L
    BPL Member


    I use the Norrona Lyngen softshell Jacket + Pants. Mine are about 10yrs old now so not the latest tech but I’ve had no reason to change. Originally designed for ski touring. Lightweight, very breathable and super durable. They still look like new.

    Timothy D B
    BPL Member


    Locale: Idaho

    My favorite are the no longer offered Patagonia Northwall pants(actually a bib).


    Ethan A.
    BPL Member


    Locale: SF Bay Area & New England

    Depends on the conditions. On a very sunny day around freezing with little wind, when active I could be fine with my stretch hiking pants (which have a bit of wind resistance and around 12 oz) over a thin pair of polyester long johns (Patagonia Capilene 2 Lightweight), and if the wind picked up or if stopping for a bit, I have a light 3.5 oz windshell pant I can throw over them).

    My and my wife’s usual go-to are Arcteryx Gamma MX pants. Got ours years ago on a deep end-of-season discount, so the current version if they still have them may not be the same fabric. With integrated belt, reinforced patches on the inner ankles (to protect against abrasion from snowshoes and skis), dual hip pockets and dual deep thigh pockets, my large weighs 19.8 oz. I think the fabric is Polartec Power Shield (49% poly, 36% nylon, 15% spandex). It’s a stretchy, very breathable but highly wind-resistant fabric with a very thin fleece backing on the inside. The pants are bomber and they keep a comfy microclimate around your legs. And love the pocket setup.

    You don’t need a brand, just a good fabric that lets moisture out, but is quite wind resistant. And if your conditions warrant, overboot gaiters add a lot of warmth for your feet.

    Here we are wearing them in very different conditions. Top photo is on Mt. Mansfield, Vermont, on a windy 5F day with windchill down to -25/30F. The bottom photo is near Donner Lake, North Lake Tahoe area, in milder, sunnier conditions. On Mt. Mansfield, under the pants we were wearing a thin base layer (Patagonia Lightweight Capilene 2) + a slightly thicker base layer; and overboots over 200g insulated winter boots (we’ve since replaced those overboots with Forty Below Light Energy TR overboots).

    tom lakner
    BPL Member


    Locale: midwest

    I’ve been wearing Pat. Talus pants for just about ever. Long johns change with the temperature.


    Dan B
    BPL Member


    Helly hansen verglas 3l shell pants with 7/8 side zips

    Ross Bleakney
    BPL Member


    Locale: Cascades

    I wear full zip, double fleece pants. I don’t know the brand, and bought them used. Eventually I’ll have to buy another pair (they are starting to develop small holes). In really cold weather I’ll wear long underwear underneath, but most of the time I don’t. The fleece is thick, and keeps me warm in most conditions. At the same time they breathe really well, which is great when going uphill. If it gets warm, I unzip a bit, usually from the top.

    Going down I sometimes where a nylon skirt, which has a simply Velcro connector (my wife made it — she said it was easy). I think Montbell makes something similar. This is for cross country skiing, and so sometimes I’m going fast downhill. If it is windy, I wear the skirt on the uphill (of flats).

    Jenny A
    BPL Member


    Locale: Front Range

    JoshB., the REI Activators are a nice choice.  I have used them for several years now and just vary the base layer depending on expected conditions.  They block wind nicely and are water resistant enough for light dry snow.  Almost every outdoor clothing manufacturer makes something similar, as comments attest to, but I do think the Activators are a great product at a very fair price.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Duluth Trading Co. Dry on the Fly fleece lined nylon cargo pants. Warm, wind-resistant and built like a tank. These are THE best winter pants I’ve ever used.

    As for soft-shell clothing,I never liked “soft-shell” pants for the lack of warmth for their weight and strange feel. Call me a dinosaur.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Paul S nailed it (imho).

    The key to staying warm is to dress appropriately to your activity…less insulating while active, more insulating while static. Secondary to that is moisture/wind management. No need to go too far out on a limb getting dedicated apparel.

    I use the typical setup that I would use in the shoulder seasons (wicking base layer, mid layer and water/wind outer layer) with a little more attention to a more robust outer layer. I use whatever base layer is best for the temperature I will be hiking in (thin if it is around freezing or a bit thicker if it is =/<10* below freezing), regular hiking pants and a decent pair of rain pants. This provides wicking/some insulation next to skin, traps air between the base/outer layers (key to developing heat as generated/needed – but still easy to dump if necessary), and blocks exterior moisture/wind (the most important part of the system).

    With this setup, I can hike as much as I am able without worrying about moisture management at my skin (which is a key component). I can sit/kneel in the snow, walk through snow covered brush, handle the occasional above freezing precipitation, etc. without worry of getting my clothing wet (did I mention how important that was?). The additional bulk is minimal and I find that it works out to be a bit less weight than a dedicated insulating pant.

    Once I am in camp, I switch out my base layer to a thicker version, put on down pants, put on my rain pants and I am dry/toasty warm until I am back on the trail the next day.

    Hope that is helpful.

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