Best Softshell Pants of 2019


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.

We regularly update our reviews and selections to always recommend you the best products on the market.

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 easily 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.

Expert Selections
We only list top-tier products. Read how our selections of best hiking products differ from others here.
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2. The Best Softshell Pants Review

Best Softshell Pants

Best Softshell Pants

The Best Softshell Pants – List

  1. Outdoor Research Cirque Pants
  2. Arcteryx Gamma AR Pants
  3. Mountain Hardwear Touren
  4. Mountain Equipment Ibex Pants
  5. Outdoor Research Iceline

Comparison

Feature/Product Outdoor Research Cirque Arcteryx Gamma AR Mountain Hardwear Touren Mountain Equipment Ibex Outdoor Research Iceline
Material50% Nylon, 43% Polyester, 7% Spandex46% Nylon, 46% Polyester, 8% Elastane90% Nylon, 10% ElastaneExolite Softshell85% Polyester, 15% Spandex
Weight20 oz17 oz15 oz16 oz21 oz
Weight (metric) 581 g490 g425 g445 g606 g
Pockets4 zippered3 zippered3 zippered5 zippered4 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.

Women's Version: Available - Outdoor Research Women's Cirque

Note: Women's version might slightly differ from the men's version.

 

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • /

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

Where to buy?

Also available at:

REI | Campsaver

Video

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.

Women's Version: Available - Arcteryx Women's Gamma AR

Note: Women's version might slightly differ from the men's version.

 

Pros:

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

Cons:

  • /

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

Where to buy?

Also available at:

Campsaver

 

Mountain Hardwear Touren

Mountain Hardwear Touren

3. Mountain Hardwear Touren

Suitable for:

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

The Mountain Hardwear Touren pants are best for ice climbers and mountaineers who need an extremely durable pair of pants for their demanding adventures. The Mountain Hardwear pants are made of a midweight softshell fabric which provides great breathability and weather protection. In the exposed areas (ankles and knees), they are reinforced with Kevlar – a very robust 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 thus more protected against tears and abrasion. The Mountain Hardwear soft shell 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 a recreational hiker, but they do offer great performance for mountaineers and alpine climbers.

Women's Version: Not available

 

Pros:

  • Fit
  • Extandable cuffs
  • Durability
  • Integrated belt

Cons:

  • /

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

 

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.

Women's Version: Not available

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Pockets
  • Extandable cuffs
  • Integrated belt

Cons:

  • /

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

Outdoor Research Iceline

Outdoor Research Iceline

5. Outdoor Research Iceline

Suitable for:

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

The Outdoor Research Iceline pants are designed for use in harsh winter conditions. They utilize the sophisticated Ventia fabric. On the inside the fabric has a brushed lining which is very warm while also wicking moisture (perspiration) away from the skin. The Ventia fabric is very stretchy as it has a high content of Spandex fibers. In the areas prone to abrasion the soft shell pants are additionally reinforced with 420-denier nylon. They also feature articulated knees and a gusseted crotch for better freedom of movement. The pants have four zippered pockets and an instep lace to secure pants over boots and crampons. The Outdoor Research Iceline pants are best for hiking and mountaineering in very cold conditions.

Women's Version: Available - Outdoor Research Women's Iceline

Note: Women's version might slightly differ from the men's version.

 

Pros:

  • Freedom of movement
  • Insulation
  • Weather protection
  • Fit

Cons:

  • /

Share your opinion and help others!

Do you have this product? Tell us what you think about it and help others decide what to buy!

 

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4. Questions and Answers

What are softshell pants?

Softshell pants are made of tightly woven synthetic fabric which is water-resistant and windproof. On the inside they often have brushed lining for extra warmth. They are typically used for outdoor activities in winter.

Are softshell pants waterproof?

Softshell pants are water-resistant but not waterproof.

What is the difference between softshell pants and rain pants?

Rain pants provide better protection against the rain and are lighter. Softshell pants are more breathable and comfortable to wear than rain pants. The fabric is more stretchy and thus allows better freedom of movement.

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Post Author

Post Author

Blaz

Outdoor enthusiast with experience in all types of hiking and mountaineering. Hiked in the Alps, Iceland and other countries. In love with via ferrata trails and snow-covered slopes. Check out my hikes.

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