The first thing you have to ask yourself is this; what do you want from your trousers? As odd as that might sound when you say it out loud it’s something you have to think about when looking at outdoor trousers. You can go from simple, just something to keep your legs covered to something technical with as many features and attachments as backpacking rucksack and in the review I’ve gone to both ends of that spectrum.
Whatever the style you like there are still important constants to look for, the first of which is as always the fit, are they comfy, can you bend and stretch, does the waist slip down when you lift your leg up, does the hem shoot half way up your calf?
Next is fabric, softshell is great with extra stretch and weather resistance, thicker fabrics can see you into colder weather and into winter with thermals underneath. Some fabrics give you outdoor performance and look casual too, so you don’t have to look like a mountaineer on your day off the hill on your week away hillwalking.
Features are a personal thing, you might not any pockets or you might need lots, you might love those leg vents or think they’re just added faff. A good feature is one that works without getting in the way, so it’s worth trying trousers on, stuffing things in the pockets wandering around the shop, seeing how they feel. As much as I like lightweight and simple gear, I do like my trouser pockets too.
The last point to look at is the waist band. Some trousers have belt loops, some have size adjusters, some have integral belts and they all will feel differently when worn, especially with a heavier pack. It’s always worth thinking about that, in the past I’ve had trouble with trouser seams digging into my hips so it’s something I watch for now.
I took all the weights and the sizes are as stated, there was some swapping a round as sizing isn’t consistent across the brands, some go for S, M, L and some use 34,36 etc. and I ended up testing a variety of sizes. That’s another reason to get into the shops and try stuff on.
416g Size 36″
Women’s version available
The Allalinhorn’s are a lightweight softshell pant cut from a fabric that has a good bit of stretch with decent wind resistance and water repellency. The stretch gives good freedom of movement but the cut is very good as well, with shaped knees and ankles stay covered however high you lift your leg. The cut is quite slim from the waist to the knee then stays a little loose down to the ankle, something which a lot of outdoor trousers do these days. Extra fabric at the ankle just gathers more mud and a style that tapers at the ankle seems to work well. But the Allalinhorns aren’t too wide and there are adjusters to pull in the cuffs as well.
The fit at the waist is excellent with a wide microfleece lined waistband with a little scoop up at the back. The integral belt has a single popper closure. There are a two hip and one rear zipped mesh pockets and a zipped thigh pocket. This one is a little odd as you can only really use it for stashing soft items like gloves and hats as it’s not the best shape or position for much else. There are also two zipped leg vents which is a feature I always like a lot.
These are good trousers and they work across a wide range of conditions, light and breathable enough for warm weather, stick a pair of thermals under them and you can wear them into winter.
346g size 36″
The Kiwi Treks have an understated look that lets you get away with wearing them anywhere. The fabric is a soft feel nylon and cotton mix which feels great to wear, is tough and has good wind and water resistance.
The cut is relaxed which along with a diamond-style crotch construction gives excellent freedom of movement despite using a non-stretch fabric. Knee shaping is minimal though, so bare ankles were in evidence when stepping up on steep ground which made them less likely for me to take on bigger hill days, especially going off the path.
The waist has belt loops and elastic inserts that let the waist go in and out, a handy feature when hunched over in a small tent.
There are pockets everywhere, two hip with zipped security pockets behind them, two zipped rear and a zipped thigh pocket with an inner phone pouch.
For general use in the outdoors the Kiwi Treks are fine, the pocket and security features are excellent for holidays or travelling as is that soft fabric which still looks great after extended use.
696g Size 52
Women’s version available
The Kebs are the heaviest trousers here, but there are a lot of useful features pushing the weight up. The Kebs are a hybrid construction, tough polycotton in high wear areas and a lighter stretchy softshell elsewhere. At first this felt a little odd as the fabrics are very different but after a few miles I stopped noticing. It works well too, freedom of movement is excellent with an articulated double knee construction that adds durability and keeps the ankle cuff where it’s supposed to be when you make a high step up.
The cut is a slightly relaxed but the ankles can be cinched in with a poppered adjuster. There’s also a lace hook in the ankle cuff to attach the cuffs to your boots to keep fabric flapping at a minimum. The legs have zipped vents at the thigh and the lower leg, these work well on long summer walk-in to the hill. The zip positions put the leg pockets on the front which works fine, the pockets are also huge with poppered flaps, the left one also having a zip. There are also two big hip pockets.
The waist has belt loops and is fastened by a popper and a button keeping the closure flat against your stomach, it’s a little thing but you can notice it with a heavy pack.
Comfortable, hard wearing with a host of useful features the Kebs have been excellent for hills days as well as multi-day backpacks.
368g Size L
Women’s version available
The Lizards are a cleanly designed lightweight pant in a slim fit. The softshell fabric is light and stretchy with enough weather resistance to take these into the hills and the same qualities allow them to be worn for mountain biking and trail running as well. Movement is excellent, the fabric is unrestrictive, the crotch has a diamond gusset and the knees have some shaping, the ankles stay put.
The waistband has a soft fleecy lining and there is an integral belt and double popper closure. There are two zipped hip pockets and one zipped thigh pocket which is laminated onto the leg and despite me pulling at it vigorously is showing no signs of peeling off. The only other feature are long lower leg zips which I suppose are for pulling off over big feet or big boots but are actually very useful for unzipping inside full length gaiter to keep your legs a bit less sweaty.
The Lizards are harder wearing than the weight suggested and very useful for different activities, the tapered lower leg doesn’t pick up dirt or snag on heather or my bike chain. The slim fit won’t suit every size and shape, but personally that didn’t worry me, if I’m wearing them I don’t have to see what I look like in them.
328g Size 52
The Runbolds are a simple relaxed fit lightweight softshell pant. The fabric is very soft and stretchy with just a little wind resistance making these pants a good choice for warm weather. To further point them in the direction of sunny days the legs have tabs to let you roll them up to below the knee. I like that idea better than zip off legs to be honest.
The waist has belt loops, the front closure is a single popper and there are four zipped pockets, one rear, two hip and one thigh. Movement is excellent but the looser style, especially on the lower leg where it would be a mud magnet, has kept these restricted to easy routes and days out where the casual looks and great fabric are a winner.
348g Size L
Oldlo have put together an unusual pair of trousers with Aeolus. They’re largely made of a light and stretchy version of Gore’s Windstopper fabric which is wind proof and very water resistant. The fit is slim and leg movement is excellent with cleverly articulated knees and inserts at the waist and crotch made from a softer fabric. The slim legs fit inside gaiters very well, the weather resistance and consequent warmth from the fabric make this a cool weather choice, maybe even a lightweight winter trouser. They also suit cold weather running and mountain biking. The lower legs have zipped gussets, there are two zipped hip pockets and a zipped leg pocket.
The waist has no belt loops or means of adjustment, there’s just a single popper for fastening and a big, wide elastic section running around the back from hip to hip to keep the pants up. I doubted this at first but the trousers do stay up and the low profile waist is great with a pack hipbelt. However, this design will work better with a more athletic shape than mine as the elastic waist could do with something firm and flat to grip.
These are a bit different, they feel great on and work well, I just think a fell runner or adventure racer would do them justice.
502g Waist 36″
Women’s version available
The Vectors are a beefy feeling pair of softshells but the fabric still has a good bit of stretch to it for wearer comfort. The cut is relaxed with a wide lower leg which has no adjustment, so I’ve kept these on paths and away from open hillsides which is a maybe shame as the fabric has good weather resistance for bigger days out. Movement is good with the looser cut and some articulation at the knee. Comfort at the waist is also good with an integral belt and soft fleecy inner face to the waistband which has a single popper closure. The pockets are great – nice and big zipped hip pockets, zipped leg pocket and a single rear pocket.
Great fabric and features but the loose cut has kept them away from bigger hill days, however if you’ve got rugby players legs the Vectors might be just what you’ve been looking for.
298g Size 34″
Women’s version available
The Wayfarers are lightweight softshell trousers cut from a very light and soft fabric which has a good amount of stretch to it. The cut is neat except the lower leg which almost has a boot-cut style widening to the ankle which as I’ve mentioned a few times already is great for looking stylish and walking on paths but out in the wilds just gets in the way.
Elsewhere the features are good with nice articulation to the knees, a waist with belt loops and two elastic and Velcro adjusters which work well if you don’t want to wear a belt and the closure is a single popper. There are two zipped mesh hip pockets, one zipped rear pocket and a small zipped leg pocket.
The Wayfarers are comfortable and light, the features are fine, but those wide hems keep them away from rougher terrain.
Women’s version available
The Jannus are a midweight softshell pant with a neat cut and a lower leg that tapers very slightly. There are zipped gussets on the lower leg to appease the style conscious, or those who want to pull their trousers off over their boots in the tent, something I actually do from time to time. The fabric has a sturdy feel but enough stretch along with the slight knee articulation and crotch gusseting to allow free movement and good comfort.
The waistband has belt loops with a fleecy inner face and the closure is a single popper. There are two zipped hip pockets lined with microfleece which is an absolute joy for chilled finger on the hill as the pockets are preheated by your body. The zip on the single leg pocket is a bit small which left me fishing with my fingertips to get anything out.
The fabric has great weather resistance and a set of thermals under the Jannus will see them into winter, the lower legs fit under gaiters okay as well. Good all round hill trousers.
384g Size L
There’s a lot of technology built into the Triliths, although they are basically a lightweight softshell pant, there are of different zones of fabric which are meant give you freedom of movement and allow warming and cooling. The best of these is the area below the waist line at the back, the spot where a pack wearer always gathers sweat. The Triliths have an extra-stretchy knitted patch which helps give excellent freedom of movement while working to keep you drier under the bottom end of your rucksack – it seems to work. The inner waistband has another section of ribbed fabric, again meant to keep sweat moving which also seems to help.
The waist is semi-elasticated, it has belt loops and the closure is a popper and a metal hook.
Elsewhere there is articulation built in at the knees, two zipped hip pockets a flapped bellows cargo pocket unusually on the left leg and a rear zipped pocket which is set very low making it much easier to access when wearing a pack.
The fit is neat and the comfort is very good, the Triliths feel very light to wear and move extremely well with the body. The fabric has good weather resistance and the reasonably neat ankle width help make these an all-round good hill trouser although they feel a little light to be a very bad weather or winter pant and the high price has to be a negative factor.
The Last Word
A lot to think about doing this review, it almost had me running back to my Ronhill Tracksters for peace of mind. Whilst the features were very similar in a lot of the review samples, such as stretch fabrics and a similar pocket layout, they all had a very different feel in use.
One thing didn’t mention individually in the reviews was the drying time of the fabrics which was consistently good across the review , whether from rain shower or hanging on the line back at home.
The Craghoppers Kiwis are a great general pair of outdoor trousers – useful features and a great feeling fabric with understated looks that you could wear every day. Berghaus and Sherpa both came close to being the stand outs, but those minor pocket niggles gave them a half mark off. X Bionic have an excellent and extremely comfortable pair of outdoor trousers in the Triliths, but that price will have a lot of folk skipping straight past them.
For me the Fjallraven Kebs come the closest to getting it right, the features are excellent as are the fabrics and it’s the Kebs that I keep coming back to when I’m heading outdoors.