Rab Spire Pants
Recommended Price: £110
Weight: 495g (Men’s 34″ waist)
Described by Rab as ‘mid-weight softshell’ trousers, the Rab Spire are made from a double-weave Matrix fabric – 92% polyamide and 8% elastane. There’s a very tough-feeling reinforced fabric on the knees and the inside of the lower leg, great for me as this is where I find my walking trousers usually get badly abraded. Despite feeling robust, the main fabric is also stretchy, with a very soft inner face, and the design includes a diamond gusset and articulated knees – I’ve found them very comfortable to wear. On the hill, I’ve found them warm enough on their own in most winter conditions (though there’s room for thermals under them in extreme cold), and they offer great protection from the biting winds. They have a DWR treatment to repel showers, though they perform best when it’s too cold for rain.
The Spire are supplied with a removable belt, and have two hand-pockets as well as an additional pocket on one leg, all with YKK zips. There are also ankle zips to aid getting them down over the tops of bulky boots.
Whilst they’d be too warm for the rest of the year, on the winter hills these are reassuringly sturdy, well-made and comfortable trousers that should give years of reliable use.
Fjallraven Vidda Pro Trousers
Recommended Price: £145
Weight: 535g, men’s size 48 (32″)
Whilst I’d heard good things about the Vidda Pro trousers, when I first read the spec they didn’t sound ideally suited for hillwalking. Made with very stiff feeling fabric, and with no less than six(!) pockets and even an axe loop (they don’t mean an ice-axe!), I thought they looked to be more suitable for lumberjacks or backwoodsmen rather than regular Scottish hill-goers. I’ve now worn them for several months – and although I don’t really need all those features, I’ve come to love the Viddas.
They are made from Fjallraven’s G-1000 fabric, an extremely thick and tough mix of 65% polyester and 35% cotton. There’s double layers on the seat, and on the knees. This leads to stiff-feeling trousers to handle, but there’s a much stretchier fabric used for the diamond gusset, and together with the great cut the Vidda’s are actually extremely comfortable to wear, allowing unrestricted movement. The ankles have an internal elastic strap which can be fastened with a stud to give three different widths. There’s no belt supplied – which seems a shame at the price. They are very wind-proof, and the robustness is very comforting when you are out in fierce conditions. The thickness helps the G-1000 fabric to resist light rain well; if you want increased water resistance, it can be treated with wax. For wear in warmer conditions, there are zipped ventilation openings down the upper half of each leg.
Whilst the price and weight may both seem high, the Vidda Pro are exceptionally well-made trousers. They really are made to last; there aren’t many pairs of my trousers I’m expecting to be able to pass on an heirloom!
Patagonia Wind Shield Pants
Recommended Price: £96
Weight: 310g, men’s medium
Made of recycled polyester, the Patagonia Wind Shield are much lighter weight and simpler in design than the two pairs of trousers described above. They still have a diamond gusset, but with a super-stretchy fabric the cut is designed to be much tighter – with more of the feeling of tracksuit bottoms rather than traditional walking trousers. As the name suggests, they offer good protection against the wind, and the inside face of the panels feels furry; they are great when moving fast, but in colder Scottish conditions I’d want to wear thermals underneath. The fit is more snug than the trousers above – so bear that in mind.
The Wind Shield pants have an elasticated waist, adjustable with a draw cord, whilst the ankles are zipped and fastened with a press stud. As you’d expect from Patagonia, their ethical credentials are strong – that recycled fabric is blue-sign approved and they are fair trade-certified sewn.