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The Best Winter Hiking Pants for 2024

Are you gearing up for winter hiking but struggling to find the perfect pair of pants to combat the cold? We understand the challenge of navigating through various options, and that’s why we’re here to help. Winter hikes demand durability, warmth, and versatility in your clothing.

In this article, we’ve examined the best winter hiking pants for rugged durability, multi-sport functionality, style, and price. If you want to find out what else to wear, see our guide to ski clothing.

Our number one pick is the Gamma Pants for men and women because they’re quality is hard to beat. They are comfortable, durable, light, and stand up to winter weather with no problem.

The right winter hiking pants will feel great, protect you against gnarly weather, and will keep you warm no matter what Mother Nature throws at you. Keep reading to find the perfect winter hiking pants for you.

Quick Summary of the Top Rated Winter Hiking Pants:

Best Winter Hiking Pants: Our Picks

Best Overall: Arc’Teryx Gamma AR Pants Men’s & Women’s Gamma MX Pants

Image by Arc’teryx

Arc’teryx Gamma AR Men’s Pants

The Gamma softshell pants are a great all-rounder when it comes to hiking. These softshell pants are wind-resistant and serve as rain pants. A durable water-repellent finish prevents moisture, whether light rain or snow, from penetrating the fabric to preserve warmth.

They’re a very thin brushed inner lining on the pant legs, so they have the surprising capability of being warm enough for winter but also cool enough for shoulder seasons or spring. They are easy to pair with an underlayer if they aren’t warm enough.

They have amazing and convenient features like a buried belt with super soft micro-fleece so you can wear them with a climbing harness without discomfort if you’re a cross-sport athlete.

There are three pockets, and all the Gamma pants have a “gusseted crotch” which is a technical design to allows you to move around without feeling any kind of restriction from your pants.

Arc’teryx Gamma MX Women’s Pants

These pants are the warmest option in the Gamma line but are still breathable, and stretchy and have all the great features of a Gamma. These wind-resistant pants have a durable water-repellant (DWR) finish to keep you dry in the cold and serve as rain pants.

Many softshell pants are light, but these are a bit warmer if you tend to get cold in winter weather. They’re still light and made for “aerobic activity,” but still manage to be breathable softshell pants.

These are a great pant if you’re a cross-sport athlete and also climb in mixed routes or are an ice climber.

Made for hiking, the fabric is warmer than the simple Gamma LT, which is a great alternative if you are the type of person who runs warm. The Fortius 2.0 fabric is made to be super durable but is still stretchy and feels great as you move around and the waist is soft so it doesn’t rub against you as you hike.

There are multiple pockets, including two zippered ones, an adjustable belt, toggles to secure your pants, and snap closures on the front.

They’re also narrow enough to fit over ski boots if you want to use these pants for multiple sports.

Best for Durability: Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Alpine Pants for Men & Women

Image by Mountain Hardwear

The durable fabric is the prominent feature of these softshell pants. The double-weave fabric is super durable and resistant to wind, though they may compromise a bit of stretch in the process.

These pants are made to be tough for any outdoor adventure, and if you are the type of person who constantly rips knees, these are perfect for you.

They have UPF 50 protection which makes them perfect for sunny winter hiking and have adjustable cuffs to pull the pants over your boot to prevent ice or snow from getting in.

No stranger to storage there are multiple pockets, the hand pockets being especially deep which is great.

They have an integrated belt for extra comfort and they may not be as stretchy as other pants but it’s still possible to fit a base layer underneath if you size them properly. They are a regular to slim fit so fairly tight along the body.

The reason we like these is because they are one of the most durable pairs of pants on the market. Knowing they will survive whatever you get up to is a major comfort and for great pants.

One downside to note is that they are less breathable than other fabrics, so while they are perfect for cold weather hiking, they are less efficient at temperature control than some of the other more regular hiking pants. They do have mesh-lined pockets that you can unzip to release some heat.

They are resistant to water, which means that extended contact with water will lead to wet legs, but one bonus of the fabric is you feel drier for longer in these compared to other winter or rain pants, because of the weave of the fabric.

Buy Men’s

Buy Women’s

Best for Most Hikers: REI Activator 3.0 Softshell Pants for Men & Women

Image by REI Co-Op

The REI Activator 3.0 is going to be that pair of pants that you have had for 10 years. We’re not kidding, these pants last forever.

These affordable favorites are great with wind resistance (up to 35 mph), have built-in stretch, and play double duty for just about any other outdoor sports you like to do.

For a fairly technical softshell pant with key features like a gusseted crotch, articulated knees, moderate stretchiness, and zippered pockets, the decent price makes these pants a great choice for cold-weather hikes.

They’re great rain pants and have a DWR coating to prevent your pants from getting wet, and cuffs a drawstring closure so you cinch the pants over your boots to protect against snow, or roll up if you get warm.

These have an athletic fit and they feature external belt loops so you will need to provide your belt.

Buy Men’s

Buy Women’s

Best Bang for Your Buck: Patagonia Quandary Pants for Men & Women

Image by Patagonia

These are top-rated for comfort and are versatile across seasons. These pants can be easily layerd, or worn for your most extreme winter hiking days where you know you’re going to break a sweat.

They’re very stretchy, with 6% spandex, which means they have more give than some of the other pants on this list.

A bonus of the Quandary Pant is they are quite stylish and don’t have the technical look like the Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Alpine Pants.

They’re lightweight and resistant to wrinkles, so you don’t have to worry about extra care to keep them looking nice. These pants are made from breathable fabrics, so you won’t get super sweaty if you wear them in mild weather.

They have a DWR coating to protect against any weather chances and make great rain pants they also dry quickly. They seem to be more protective against the weather than the average DWR-coated pants and work as decent rain pants.

They don’t have as many pockets as some of the other pants, but considering the comfort level and price, they are a great choice.

They are also a slim fit so be aware of that if you have more robust muscular legs and may compromise your ability to wear a base layer on your legs for winter hiking.

They offer UPF 50+ for protection in the winter sun.

Highly ranked alternatives include the prAna Brion Pant II or the women’s Halle II pant which are also less than $100.

Buy Men’s

Buy Women’s

Best for Versatility: Outdoor Research Cirque II Pants for Men & Women

Image by Outdoor Research

These pants have a do-it-all capability and are great for not only hiking in colder weather, but ice climbing, mountaineering, cross-country skiing, ski touring, deep snow, and wet weather.

They’re made with a 90d, double-weave fabric that is highly durable and warm with a gusseted crotch, articulated knee, and plenty of stretch for big moves.

It has an adjustable waistband with a fleece lining with hook and loop tabs to that allow you get the fit just right.

There’s a thigh pocket, two handwarmer pockets, and an avalanche beacon pocket. Ankle scuff guards, zippers, drawcord cuff adjustment, and lace hooks are all included.

The softshell fabric provides weather and wind protection as well as being breathable, abrasion-resistant, and weather-resistant.

One of the cool features of these pants is their movement-mirroring stretch. For such a technical pant, they have a ton of natural bend without excess bulk.

The men’s ActiveTemp™ thermoregulating technology in the waistband adjusts to your body temperature to ensure you don’t overheat while doing high-exertion activities.

They’re great for any weather forecast and are going to certainly last over a year with reinforced scuff guards.

Buy Men’s

Buy Women’s

What to Look for When Buying Winter Hiking Pants

When hiking in winter, getting your clothing strategy is essential. Layering is the key to staying warm in winter. Start with a wicking base layer of synthetic or merino wool beneath your pants if they are not a thicker model like the Gamma MX Pants.

Softshell pants are generally your best bet for a mid-layer. Softshell pants are made from a stretchy, wind-resistant material that works to sustain warmth and keep you cool at the same time.

Some hiking pants are fleece lined with a soft, synthetic material to provide warmth and comfort.

If you often get hot, you can wear cross-season pants like the Patagonia Quandry. If you are standing up to some extreme winds, use something thicker like the Chockstone Alpine as a mid layer.

Pair your wicking base layer with a waterproof or water-resistant outer layer to make sure you don’t get soaked in sudden rain or snow. If your pants don’t have them, consider getting gaiters to protect your legs and feet further against chilly wetness.

All in all, you have to choose what is most comfortable and a good match for the weather you’re up against.

All of the best pants we’ve included in our list work great as mid-layer bottoms, providing extra warmth. You can always shed your base layer if you get too warm.

Top it off with an outer layer, jacket, and always waterproof or water-resistant pants like those on our list.

Weather Resistance

Look for pants that are windproof or wind-resistant. Wind can cut through your clothing like a knife. Water-resistant fabrics with a DWR coating are not optional. You do not want any unexpected weather ruining your day.

Mobility and Comfort

Make sure they are made for movability. Some are more still and others extremely stretchy. Your best option is to try them on and make a few movements to see how they move before buying.

Any hiking pant that you will be wearing all day also needs to be comfortable. Consider user reviews on the comfort and softness of the fabric, if you can’t try them on before purchasing.

Style and Versatility

While some hiking pants are stylish and easy to wear in other places like the Patagonia Quandary Pants, some are more technical and serve for specific activities like winter hiking and skiing, like the Outdoor Research Cirque II.

If you’re a multi-sport athlete or if you’re looking for something you can use for more than sports, that’s something you’ll want to consider.

Breathability and Venting

Some hiking pants offer features for venting like zips, mesh areas, or light fabrics that are wind-resistant but also less warm. Make sure any hiking pant you buy is designed to be breathable so you don’t end up sweaty.

Thickness and Durability

Durability is paramount. Choose pants crafted from robust materials with reinforced stitching in high-stress areas to withstand abrasion. Look for durable closures, like strong zippers and secure buttons, that can endure repeated use. Assess the overall construction for resilience.

Hiking pants are an investment, so prioritizing durability ensures that your pants can withstand the demands of whatever you get up, providing protection as well as extra warmth.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are people wearing for winter hiking/snowshoeing pants?

For winter hiking and snowshoeing, people commonly wear insulated and water-resistant pants, such as softshell or hardshell options, to stay warm and dry in cold and snowy conditions. Some prefer insulated pants, like fleece-lined pants that repel water for added warmth.

Others opt for convertible pants or bibs. Snow pants with gaiters are practical for preventing snow entry into boots during deep snow activities, but they may not be as comfortable for hiking.

It’s advisable to layer thermal tights or wear a base layer underneath your pants for additional warmth, especially if you opt for thin a waterproof top layer.

Pick out what to wear based on specific weather conditions, temperature, and comfort, with considerations for features like whether your pants have ventilation, and are durable and will last.

Are hiking pants good for winter?

Hiking pants are great for winter, especially if they are designed with features such as insulation, water resistance, and breathability. Many outdoor brands offer hiking pants specifically tailored for colder conditions.

Look for options with softshell or hardshell materials that provide warmth and protection against the cold, wind, snow, or rain.

Insulated hiking pants are designed for winter and provide both insulation and weather protection but some people may find these too warm and prefer to wear all-season hiking pants.

If you are looking for hiking pants to wear during the rest of the year, check out these suggestions for the best hiking pants.

What do people wear hiking in winter?

In winter, people generally wear insulated and water-resistant layers for hiking. This often includes thermal base layers for warmth, insulated pants or softshell pants for protection against the cold, and a waterproof and windproof jacket.

Accessories like gloves, a hat, and a scarf help retain body heat, and insulated or waterproof boots provide warmth and traction in snowy or icy conditions. Layering is key as it allows you to adjust to changing temperatures. Layering also provides more warmth than just a single jacket or pair of pants.

The pants you should wear when hiking in cold weather are typically insulated and moisture-wicking pants.

Softshell or hardshell options provide warmth and protection against wind and rain. Get pants with water-resistant and breathable materials so you don’t get wet or hot. We’ve outlined choices of pants to suit many different needs above.

Read More: Our top picks for winter gloves

What are the best winter hiking pants?

The best pants strike a balance between warmth, protection, and comfort. Wind resistance is not optional! Water repellency is key. Thoughtful design elements such as articulated knees and gusseted crotches for ease of movement are a major necessity if you’re hiking for long hours in the cold.

A Softshell pant is preferable for their stretchiness, breathability, and usefulness across many different sports as well as hiking. Consider your specific climate, whether it’s insulation for colder climates or adaptability for multi-sport use, like for cross-country skiing.

Top-rated brands like Arc’Teryx, Outdoor Research, and REI often incorporate technical advancements, ensuring that your winter hiking experience is both comfortable and protected against the elements.

Why do softshell pants have articulated knees?

Softshell pants have articulated knees to enhance when you bend your knees as you hike. Each time you step up onto a boulder to move upwards, your knees will stretch the fabric. Before this design technology, knees would often rip or cause pulling in a different part of the pants.

The articulated knee design involves a pre-shaped or curved construction at the knee area, allowing for a more natural and comfortable bend.

This feature is particularly beneficial during activities like hiking or climbing, where a wide range of motion is required. Articulated knees reduce fabric bunching, enhance overall comfort, and contribute to a better fit.

Why do softshell pants have a buried or integrated belt?

Softshell pants frequently feature a buried or integrated belt for comfort while wearing a backpack or harness.

The integrated belt also serves to keep the pants in place during dynamic activities like hiking or climbing. It allows wearers to adjust according to their which can change over time, ensuring a consistent fit without the need for an external belt.

Why do softshell pants have zippered pockets?

Softshell pants often include zippered pockets to securely store valuables while hiking. With all the bending and movement, without a zip, items can fall out. The zippered closures prevent items from getting lost during dynamic activities such as hiking, climbing, or skiing.

Additionally, zippered pockets provide a level of water or snow resistance, and can help protect belongings like your phone in wet weather.

Should you wear a base layer under softshell pants?

Wearing a base layer under softshell pants is advisable, especially in cold weather. A base layer provides additional insulation, is moisture-wicking, and helps regulate body temperature by effectively managing sweat during physical activity.

The combination of softshell pants and a base layer creates a more versatile warming system that is adaptable, allowing you to adjust your clothing layers based on the temperature and changing weather, ensuring you can stay warm or get cooler fast by removing a layer.

How are softshell hiking pants different from ski pants?

Softshell hiking pants and ski pants differ primarily in their design and fabric. They are designed for a range of outdoor activities, providing breathability, flexibility, and water resistance.

While they may be used for skiing, they are often more suited for whole-body movement. They typically feature articulated knees and a more streamlined design for activities like hiking, climbing, or backpacking.

On the other hand, ski pants are specialized for winter sports, with a focus on insulation, waterproofing, and additional features like reinforced knees and snow gaiters.

While both may share some characteristics and some pants a few softshell pants may even be designed for both, like the Outdoor Research Cirque II Pants for Men & Women, they prioritize comfort and stretch, while ski pants emphasize warmth and weather protection in snowy and alpine conditions.

Check out our list of the best women’s ski pants.

Ski bib vs pants: what’s the difference?

While there’s some overlap, a pair of ski pants fit like regular pants while a ski bib goes up to your chest and you secure it with suspenders. Find out more in our article about Ski Bib vs Pants.

The Best Winter Hiking Pants

As you navigate buying your first pair of winter hiking pants, the seemingly daunting task can become an exhilarating journey toward finding the perfect pair when you get them just right.

The Gamma Pants for men and women emerge as a beacon of excellence, seamlessly blending durability, warmth, and versatility we don’t find in any other brand.

Similarly, the Chockstone Alpine Pants for men and women are a sturdy companion, settling you up to tackle any outdoor adventure.

From the long-lasting REI Activator 3.0 Softshell Pants for Men & Women to the budget-friendly yet high-performing Patagonia Quandary Pants, each pick in our guide is going to offer a perfect blend of features for whatever you get up to.

It’s time to say goodbye to being cold and uncomfortable and confidently stride into winter armed with the assurance that the right pair of pants can transform your cold-weather hikes into unforgettable adventures.

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