Best Softshell Pants for 2017


Outdoor Research Cirque Softshell Pants

Outdoor Research Cirque Softshell Pants

Here we selected and reviewed the best softshell pants for hiking in cold weather. In cold weather regular pants don’t provide good enough insulation for comfortable hiking. Therefore, softshell pants or warm long johns are required. However, long johns are not the best option for hiking (except in super cold weather) as they restrict your movement and rub against your pants. Furthermore, they are also hard to put off (you need to first put off your boots and pants) and don’t provide any protection against the rain and wind. Softshell pants, on the other hand, provide warmth (depending on the thickness and construction of the material – lightweight, midweight or heavyweight softshell) and also protection against wind and light rain; they are water-resistant but not waterproof. In extremely cold winter conditions they can also be worn over a pair of long johns for extra warmth. Therefore, they are the garment of choice for hiking, backpacking and mountaineering in low temperatures and on snow covered trails.

In the following we selected and reviewed the best softshell pants. We only selected high-quality softshell pants which provide good protection against the weather as well as insulation for cold conditions

If you are looking for a pair of pants for hiking in (heavy) rain check out our selection of the best rain pants instead. Rain pants offer much better protection against the rain than softshell pants do, but are also less breathable.

1. Buying Softshell Pants – What is important?

Material:

Softshell pants are typically made of a tightly woven synthetic fabric (such as blend of nylon, polyester, spandex etc.) which blocks wind and light rain as well as provides insulation (warmth). Softshell fabrics come in different densities – the denser (thicker) is the fabric, the more warmth it provides. On the inside the softshell fabric typically features a brushed lining (for insulation) while it is super smooth on the outside to repel rain. Softshell pants are usually very breathable, comfortable (they offer good stretch) and relatively quick-drying. Manufacturers typically also treat them with DWR (Durable Water Repellant) so that they repel water (rain) rather than absorbing it. In this selection we only included softshell pants which are suitable for hiking in cold weather (they are made of midweight or heavyweight softshell). Some manufacturers develop their own softshell fabrics while others use softshell fabrics from well-known manufacturers such as Schoeller. To learn more about softshell fabric, check out the softshell section in our Comparison of Shell Materials.

Pockets:

Pockets allow you to keep your essential gear close by. Therefore, softshell pants should have at least a few easy accessible pockets. The pockets should also be deep enough or zippered to prevent stored items from falling out.

Weight:

The weight of softshell pants depends mainly on the density (thickness) of the material – note that thicker pants are heavier but on the other hand they are also warmer. However, it is not recommended to wear excessively thick pants for aerobic activities such as hiking as this type of pants typically don’t provide sufficient freedom of movement and are so heavy that you get slowed down too much on trails. All the pants in this review weigh less than 25 ounces while providing good warmth and weather protection.

2. The Best Softshell Pants Review

Best Softshell Pants

Best Softshell Pants

  1. Outdoor Research Cirque Pants
  2. Arcteryx Gamma AR Pants
  3. Mountain Hardwear Dragon Pants
  4. Mountain Equipment Ibex Pants
  5. Rab Vapour Rise Guide Pants

Comparison

Feature/Product Outdoor Research Cirque Arcteryx Gamma AR Mountain Hardwear Dragon Mountain Equipment Ibex Rab Vapour Rise Guide
Material50% Nylon, 43% Polyester, 7% Spandex46% Nylon, 46% Polyester, 8% ElastaneChockstone Softshell (91% Nylon, 9% Elastane) Exolite Softshell65% Polyester, 35% Cotton
Weight20 oz17 oz19 oz16 ozVapour-rise Softshell
Weight (metric) 581 g490 g528 g445 g21 oz
Pockets4 zippered3 zippered3 zippered5 zippered3 zippered
Outdoor Research Cirque Softshell Pants

Outdoor Research Cirque Softshell Pants

1. Outdoor Research Cirque Pants

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Snowshoeing

The Outdoor Research Cirque pants are very warm and thus perfect for hiking, mountaineering and other activities in winter. They are made of heavy-weight 90-denier softshell fabric which does not only provide good insulation but also great protection against wind and rain. Even though the material is relatively thick, the pants provide good freedom of movement and stretch due to the Spandex fibers in the fabric. Mobility is additionally increased with articulated knees and a gusseted crotch. The pants feature two zippered hand pockets, zippered back pocket and a zippered thigh pocket. They also have two loops for suspenders but the Outdoor Research suspenders have to be bought separately. In the ankle area they are reinforced with a more resilient fabric so that they don’t get torn if you hook on to them with crampons. At the bottom the pants also have boot lace tabs which allow you to attach the pants directly to your boot laces and thus prevent the dirt and snow from entering into your boots. However, the pants also fit perfectly under the gaiters. The Outdoor Research Cirque pants are a great choice for outdoor enthusiasts who often hike/climb on snow covered trails in winter.

 

Pros:

  • Warmth
  • Freedom of movement
  • Pockets
  • Ankle guard
  • Boot lace tabs

Cons:

  • /

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Arcteryx Gamma AR Softshell Pants

Arcteryx Gamma AR Softshell Pants

2. Arcteryx Gamma AR Pants

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Snowshoeing

The Arcteryx Gamma AR pants are slightly lighter than the Outdoor Research Cirque pants mentioned above but also less warm. The pants are made of Burly double weave softshell with a density of 275 g/m2. The fabric is also treated with DWR so that the pants repel water and thus provide good rain resistance. The pants offer good freedom of movement as they have articulated knees, articulated seat and gusseted crotch. Furthermore, the fabric has four-way stretch which additionally increases the mobility. The pants have three zippered pockets; one thigh pocket and two conveniently placed hand pockets which don’t interfere with a climbing harness or the hip belt of your backpack.  The cuffs are adjustable and have boot lace tabs so that you can secure them directly to your boots in order to prevent dirt and snow from entering. The pants come with a low profile adjustable webbing belt which fits perfectly under a climbing harness or the hip belt of your backpack.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Boot lace tabs
  • Freedom of movement
  • Easy accessible pockets
  • Integrated belt

Cons:

  • /

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Mountain Hardwear Dragon Softshell Pants

Mountain Hardwear Dragon Softshell Pants

3. Mountain Hardwear Dragon Pants

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Snowshoeing

The Mountain Hardwear Dragon pants are best for ice climbers and mountaineers who need an extremely durable pair of pants for their demanding adventures. The pants are made of Chockstone double weave midweight softshell which provides great breathability and weather protection. In the exposed areas (ankles, knees and back), they are reinforced with Kevlar – a very strong material which is widely used in top-tier equipment. The fit is slightly tighter so that the pants lay close to the body and are protected against tears and abrasion. The pants have two zippered hand pockets and a zippered thigh pocket. The cuffs can be widened (by zipper) for better fit. The pants come with an integrated belt which fits perfectly under a climbing harness. The Mountain Hardwear Dragon pants might be overkill for recreational hikers but they do offer great performance for mountaineers and alpine climbers.

 

Pros:

  • Fit
  • Extandable cuffs
  • Durability
  • Integrated belt

Cons:

  • /

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Mountain Equipment Ibex Softshell Pants

Mountain Equipment Ibex Softshell Pants

4. Mountain Equipment Ibex Pants

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Snowshoeing

The Mountain Equipment Ibex pants are with the weight of merely 16 ounces the lightest softshell pants in this review, but also slightly less insulated than the other pants. They are made of Mountain Equipment’s Exolite softshell fabric with a density of 210 g/m2 which provides good weather protection, breathability and stretch. The fabric is also very smooth on the outside and therefore repels the water. This also helps the pants to not getting caught in obstacles such as branches. The pants are equipped with 5 zippered pockets; two hand pockets, two thigh pockets and one rear pocket. The Mountain Equipment Ibex pants also come with a minimalistic integrated belt and have extendable cuffs (zipper) so that they fit well with any kind of footwear.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Pockets
  • Extandable cuffs
  • Integrated belt

Cons:

  • /

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Rab Vapour Rise Guide Softshell Pants

Rab Vapour Rise Guide Softshell Pants

5. Rab Vapour Rise Guide Pants

Suitable for:

  • Hiking
  • Mountaineering
  • Trekking
  • Backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Snowshoeing

The Rab Vapour Rise Guide pants are designed for use in harsh winter conditions. They use a sophisticated Vapour-rise fabric which was developed by Rab in cooperation with Pertex. On the inside the fabric has a brushed lining which is very warm while also wicking moisture (perspiration) away from the skin. On the outside the pants feature a breathable Pertex Equilibrium layer which provides wind resistance and water resistance. The Equilibrium layer also provides great durability and abrasion protection, but the pants are nevertheless additionally reinforced in the areas prone to abrasion. For great freedom of movement, the pants feature articulated knees and a gusseted crotch. They also have three zippered pockets, two thigh vents, and half-length side zips so that they fit with any kind of footwear. The Rab Vapour Rise Guide pants are best for hiking and mountaineering in very cold conditions.

 

Pros:

  • Freedom of movement
  • Insulation
  • Weather protection
  • Fit

Cons:

  • /

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3. The most attractive product in the review

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