Winter Mountain Overtrousers Group Test

We've put seven pairs of winter mountaineering shell trousers through their paces all season. Here's how they compare...


Since there are only so many blue sky days in a season, and they usually happen to someone else, shell trousers are a winter mountain essential. We can spend so much time - and money - choosing a waterproof jacket that the legwear to go with it risks becoming an afterthought. But if you're picky about your winter shell then you ought to be equally discerning about what goes on your legs.

High end mountain overtrousers don't come cheap; before baulking at the price consider the tailoring and material that goes into them. In fair weather a lightweight pair in your pack for just in case may be enough, but in this review we are looking at full-on foul-weather, robust, wear-all-day overtrousers. These may be primarily designed for technical winter and alpine climbing, but winter walkers and ski tourers deserve decent legwear too, and all can benefit from the same technical features. On that basis we'd argue that the trousers on review are relevant across the spectrum of winter users.

Winter overtrousers montage

Here's how we have judged them:

Fit

Fit is the first thing to consider when choosing a pair. Since everyone is shaped differently, nothing we've said about fit in this review beats trying them on for yourself. You want a high waist to give plenty of overlap with your jacket, and no danger of builder's bum or a gangsta style low crotch that will hinder movement. Leg length needs to be sufficient to keep your boots covered when stepping up, but not so long that there's excess to snag your crampons.

The cut should allow good freedom of movement - think high steps and bridging when climbing, and general lack of restriction if you're out walking all day. However overtrousers that are too baggy tend to flap in the wind, while too much fabric in the lower leg can be a trip hazard, so a neat cut is a must. With good tailoring you can have both trimness and mobility. Rather than making do with a men's trouser, most women will prefer a female-specific version. Sadly not every brand offers women's mountain overtrousers; we've noted where these are available.

Fabric

The trousers on test here use a variety of high end waterproof/breathable fabrics. Breathability is important if you're going to be wearing them all day, and we certainly put them through their paces on that score! For winter use thicker, sturdier fabric is preferable, both for standing up to the high wear of climbing and to provide a more effective barrier against wind and weather. In our summary table we have combined durability, weather protection and build quality under the heading "bombproofness" (for want of a better term). We specifically asked for burly trousers in this review - saving weight was not our priority. We have included weights for completeness, but we haven't scored these trousers higher for lightness.

Features

Is there a belt or other waist adjustment? What about braces? Full length side zips allow ease of access when booted, but if you only have 3/4 length zips they still need double zippers for maximum ventilation when you're steaming uphill for hours. Is there size adjustment at the ankle to help bring the fit in close around the boot and reduce the chance of snagging a crampon? The addition of an internal snow gaiter is sensible, especially if it includes a lace hook to stop it riding up over the day. Anti-snag kick patches are essential of course. Then there's the issue of pockets: We tend to think that less is more in that regard, but several of the models on test do offer them.

Overall summary

Make and model

Ratings

Salewa

Ortles 2 GTX

Price: £395

Weight: 501g

(size L)

Ortles 2 prod shot

Fit

60%

Bombproofness

70%

Features

80%

Value

30%

Overall

Rab

Latok Bib

Price: £380

Weight: 900g

(size L)

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Latok bib montage

Fit

90%

Bombproofness

100%

Features

100%

Value

50%

Overall

Mountain Equipment

Tupilak Pant

Price: £350

Weight: 630g

(size L)

Best in Test Large

Tupilak montage

Fit

100%

Bombproofness

100%

Features

100%

Value

60%

Overall

Berghaus

Hagshu Trousers

Price: £240

Weight: 542g

(size M)

Hashu montage

Fit

70%

Bombproofness

60%

Features

40%

Value

90%

Overall

Fjallraven

Bergtagen Eco Shell Trousers

Price: £435

Weight: 725g

(size L)

Bergtagen prod shot

Fit

50%

Bombproofness

90%

Features

40%

Value

10%

Overall

Paramo

Enduro Tour Trousers

Price: £250

Weight: 742g

(size L)

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large

Enduro tour prod shot

Fit

50%

Bombproofness

60%

Features

80%

Value

90%

Overall

Montane

Alpine Pro Pants

Price: £270

Weight: 527g

(size L)

alpine pro montage

Fit

50%

Bombproofness

60%

Features

60%

Value

70%

Overall

Salewa Ortles 2 GTX £395

Testing waterproofing on a very drippy Beinn Udlaidh  © Dan Bailey
Testing waterproofing on a very drippy Beinn Udlaidh
© Dan Bailey

Full mountain overtrousers at the lighter end of the scale  © Dave Saunders
Full mountain overtrousers at the lighter end of the scale
© Dave Saunders

Fit

With some articulation in the knee, and a reasonable sized diamond gusset, the Ortles are cut well for climbing, allowing a good range of movement. On our reviewer the crotch hangs a bit low, which slightly hinders leg lift, but as we all size differently this is unlikely to be an issue for every user. We've found that the addition of a harness helps pull everything up, so when actually climbing the low crotch has not been an issue.

For a pair of trousers with no braces, the waist comes pretty high, helping to protect the midriff. Size adjustment is via velcro tabs, which attach to an elastic strip running around the back of the waistband. This soft and minimally structured waist gives a close and comfy fit, and it's really low profile too, which is what you want under a harness. Our reviewer went for a pair in size EU52, which seems to roughly equate to a size L; this allows plenty of room in the leg for a mountaineer's thighs, and sufficient space for layering over softshell trousers and a base layer - we would not want to go any smaller. The available size range is big enough that there ought to be a pair to suit most users, and this includes a women's version.

Down at the ankle there's loads of room to fit over mountain boots (perhaps less so for bigger ski boots), but for use with crampons of course you don't want spare fabric flapping around, so Salewa have provided elastic drawcords. Tucked up neatly inside, these pull the fit in close around the ankle to allow a clear view of your feet and reduce the danger of snagging a front point.

Fabric

Gore-Tex Pro and wild winter weather - a good combination  © Dan Bailey
Gore-Tex Pro and wild winter weather - a good combination
© Dan Bailey

The Ortles' three-layer Gore-Tex Pro is a benchmark choice for quality mountain shells. In recent years we have reviewed a number of new generation Pro shells, and after plenty of use we think it's one of the most effective membrane-based waterproof fabrics currently available, particularly for winter and alpine climbing where its balance of robustness and breathable performance is ideal. Gore say that this new fabric delivers 'up to 28% increased breathability compared to previous versions', and while it is impossible to quantify this in a real world review, we can say that we've been very happy with the Ortles' breathability and wet weather protection.

The Ortles feel very well made, with welded and taped seams, and a general impression of quality. However there's a big seam running down the front of the knee - we're not sure why. It's a rare winter climber who never uses their knees; and of course we all bend them x number of times a day. How will this seam fare over prolonged use? It's fair to at least raise the question. The face fabric does not feel quite as thick as some on review, and it is a bit less stiff than some too. While it seems well up to the rough and tumble of winter climbing, and we certainly have no complaints in this regard so far, all things being equal a thicker fabric would still be likely to be more durable over the long term. Stiffness is a consideration in high wind, where a thinner and softer fabric will tend to flap about more - something that can make you feel colder due to air movement inside. In compensation for being a wee bit thinner than some trousers on test (and thus less weather- protective) the Ortles are also, as a consequence, significantly lighter. For serious Alpine use where every gram counts - even the ones you're wearing - that's an obvious plus. In this review we're looking at the toughest and most protective wear-all-day overtrousers, rather than the lightest, but it's still worth pointing out that when you carry them - as you inevitably will - the Ortles will take up less space and weight in your pack.

Features

Having no braces also helps the Ortles save a bit of weight. On balance we'd have preferred the option to add them - it would only have needed a few sewn loops. Side zips are nearly full length, but stop just below the waist band. It's still easy enough to don them over boots, but less convenient if you are already wearing crampons before you stop to put on the trousers; full height zips would have been better for this occasional situation. A double zipper provides for plenty of ventilation, while the zip itself is one of YKK's 'waterproof' variety (none are, 100%, when you blast them with horizontal rain), and backed with an internal storm flap. These zips are a lighter gauge than some in the review, and hence don't inspire quite as much confidence when it comes to offering years of bombproof service.

photo
Double waist popper & velcro

photo
Snow gaiter and ankle drawcord

photo
Big zipped thigh pocket

A single zipped thigh pocket is provided. For us this is redundant, and indeed simply adds a double layer of fabric to compromise breathability across the front of one thigh; however some users are bound to like it. Down at the ankle, the Ortles include internal snow gaiters. These are sewn in, rather than being removable, but that's fine by us since we're more likely to use them than not on most winter days. Their size and elastication fit a boot cuff perfectly (some are too big and baggy), and a little lace hook at the front is a welcome detail too, to prevent things rolling up when you're post-holing in deep snow. When not needed this can be folded out of the way. All winter shell trousers need a crampon protection patch; the Ortles' is on the small side (or are we just clumsy?) - another reason we've slightly marked it down for durability.

Summary

The Ortles are neat and uncluttered overtrousers, and if you were looking to save a couple of hundred grams while still having full mountain shell legwear they would be a great choice. There's always a payoff though, and in this case we feel that other (albeit heavier) models will offer more long term durability and a bit more weather protection. Some of the details are excellent, from the low profile waist fasteners to the adjustable ankle and effective snow gaiter. However the lack of braces, or even anywhere to attach some, is regrettable. But our main concern is the cost, which seems hard to justify. These are nice trousers, but nothing exceptional, and you can get more for significantly less elsewhere.

Salewa say:

The Ortles GTX Pro Pant is our durable shell pant made of tough 3L GORE-TEX® Pro fabric. They feature long, waterproof 2-way zips for ventilation, integrated gaiters and reinforced cuffs for protection from ski edges or crampons. In addition, the cuffs have hem hooks and loops for attachment to mountaineering boots or ski boots.

  • Price: £395
  • Weight: 501g size 52/L (our measure)
  • Sizes: S-XXXL (men) 38/32 - 48/42 (women)
  • Fabric: 3L GORE-TEX® Pro
  • Flat side set adjustable waistband system
  • Waistband with conforming elastic inserts
  • Gusset for freedom of movement
  • Flat zipped pocket on the upper thigh
  • Long, side-set, waterproof, two-way ventilation zippers
  • Side (2-way) zip
  • Ergonomic pre-shaped knees
  • Waterproof YKK zips
  • Pant bottom with two internal loops that can be used to fix a strap under ski boot
  • Stretch inner gaiter
  • Bottom hem hooks to attach to footwear
  • Generous edge and crampon protection
  • Waterproof finish, all seams welded

For more info see salewa.com

Ortles 2 prod shot


Rab Latok Bib £380

Bailing off Central Grooves - but at least his legs are dry  © Rob Lovell
Bailing off Central Grooves - but at least his legs are dry
© Rob Lovell

Fit

The cut on the Latok's legs is what we'd describe as medium for the size - neither so tight that it limits movement, nor too baggy. In colder weather we've used the Latoks with a power stretch suit under soft shell trousers, so it's fair to say that there's plenty of layering space. There is ample room around the thighs with a slight tapering toward the knee, then from the knee to the ankle a slight flare. Around the ankle the Latok can be drawn in using the integral elastic drawcord. However we have never really felt the need to use this, as the robust fabric holds its shape well on its own, giving you a neat trim lower leg with little risk of crampon snags.

Around the crotch the Latok Bib have a fitted feel. There is no excess fabric on the inner thigh but maybe some around the back side (at least on our reviewer). The Latok is also the only overtrouser on this test to feature a full sized bib, which this rises to around half way up the chest. It can be secured using the braces, the front zip, from the crotch all the way up the front, and finally with the waist belt. This again feels snugly fitted, but with plenty of room for a base layer, power stretch suit and fleece under it. The full bib design may not be for everyone - and it clearly has a weight and bulk penalty when you're packing the trousers - but if you want maximum draft and weather protection in the wildest conditions then it's the best solution. For this review we asked for bombproof trousers, so top marks to Rab here! Less good is the lack of a women's version.

photo
Thigh pocket - strictly necessary?

photo
Front bib in more breathable softshell fabric

Fabric

As with many Rab shells the fabric on the Latok is eVent, specifically DVexpedition. This new fabric from eVent is billed as their most durable, and the most protective in bad weather. With a hydrostatic head of 30,000mm it is their most waterproof, but on the flipside it is less breathable than many waterproof fabrics, at only 10,000g/m2. It is also less air permeable than standard eVent, which may be something of a disadvantage on a hot walk-in, but comes into its own in a high wind. Combined with a grid backer, this three-layer fabric is really thick and robust, and it's this that gives the Latok its bombproof feel. It is very resistant to deflecting in the wind, and you're certainly well protected from the elements. However we have found that sweating is a problem while wearing the Latoks, which probably stems both from the high bib and the choice of fabric. On all but the really nasty days, we've opted to carry it in the rucksack on the walk-in and only put it on when gearing up at the bottom of the crag. To help make the upper body a bit more breathable Rab have used Matrix softshell fabric in the front of the bib; a bit more of this above the waist might not have gone amiss.

Features

The Latok Bib defies the current fashion for minimalism. That is certainly reflected in the weight, but more on that later... Pocket wise you get three, which seems a lot for overtrousers. Two of these are located in the bib section of the garment, are quite small, and frankly we have never found much use for them since the bib is generally hidden under other layers. A large thigh pocket is located on the right leg and although we have not used this either, it does at least seem more practical than the chest pockets.

Braces are provided to keep the bib portion of the garment upright and the trousers from slipping down. These are fully adjustable, and can also be removed using a small plastic clip (though the bib would then droop). Having tried these trousers out on three different people, each a slightly different size, we really like the range of adjustment on the braces.

Down the entire length of either side, including the side potion of the bib, are chest to toe zips. This makes it extremely easy to put the Latoks on even while wearing crampons, as there is no bottleneck area around the waist - you simply unzip each side right up to the chest and from the chest down, and step your feet through. These zips also come in handy for venting if you decide to wear them on the walk in. They're a fairly light gauge, which we don't find as reassuring as a really chunky zip, but on the upside they are of the 'water resistant' variety (in inverted commas because no zip is fully waterproof), and backed with a decent storm flap.

On the inside section of the leg, around each ankle, is a large Kevlar patch to protect against crampons going through the trouser as you walk. This thicker patch obviously adds to the overall weight but also protects your rather expensive overtrousers from becoming confetti when using a new pair of crampons. Inside the bottom of the leg you get elasticated snow gaiters, which secure using a simple popper and can be attached to your boot with a lace hook to stop them riding up. Typically when climbing we've tended to just use these with the hook un-hooked, to allow for free leg lifts during high steps; however in deep snow the addition of a lace hook has been very welcome. There is also an attachment point for a band (not provided) if you wish to strap the overtrousers under the boot to keep them from riding up. We have not used this, again because we actually like some give in the trouser while doing high steps, but we guess there are situations in which it would be handy.

Tim with Rab Trousers

John with Rab Trousers

Summary

Being so burly and high-cut, the Latok Bib are not your typical winter walking or even winter climbing overtrousers for UK use, and in better weather they could feel like overkill. That being said, for this review we did ask for reliable weather protection, and these fit the bill better than most! If you're out in a proper storm on the Cairngorm plateau or navigating off Ben Nevis after a long day, then these trousers definitely do give you that extra bit of protection from the elements. The Latok are really designed for the most extreme weather and this could be anything from an early season stormy winter day in Scotland to equally hostile environments like Norway, Alaska or the Alps in winter. These trousers will no doubt be ideal for multi day routes or for use on expedition style outings.

Of course along with this level of protection comes weight. At 774g for our pair of size Small (Rab say 900g for size L), they are far from light - but the weight seems fair for such a heavy duty overtrouser, especially as it includes a bib. Generally the weight isn't as noticeable as you might think, since you are basically carrying it across the length of your body. We were actually slightly surprised when we put them on the scales. Being Rab's top of the range overtrousers, it will not come as much of a shock that these are expensive at £380 a pair. It's worth remembering that you do get a lot of trouser for your money here, and that these are quality strides that should be up to more or less anything you can throw at them.

Rab say:

Our Latok Bib are the ultimate waterproof pants for prolonged action in bad weather or deep snow. When taking on heavily glaciated terrain, extreme weather, and climbing and living at altitude, you rely on your clothing and equipment more than ever. Made using the breathable and exceptionally durable eVent DVexpedition fabric the Latok Bib is one of the toughest pants on the mountains.

With features such as Kevlar crampon patches, full-length YKK AquaGuard zips, internal gaiters and a zippered ankle gusset with secure lace hook you can be sure the Latok Bib is built to endure the worst winter can throw at you.

  • Price: £380
  • Weight: 774g size S (our measure) 900g size L (Rab's figure)
  • Sizes: S - XXL (men's only)
  • Fabric: eVent® Waterproof Technology, DVexpedition™ 3L fabric with grid backer
  • Matrix™ fabric bib with adjustable, removable braces
  • 2-way YKK® AquaGuard® front
  • fly zip, 2 YKK® Vislon zipped mesh lined chest pockets,YKK® AquaGuard® zipped, bellowed thigh pocket, full length 2-way YKK® AquaGuard® side zips with internal storm flap
  • Part-elasticated waist with integrated webbing belt
  • All Mountain Hem™ with YKK® zippered ankle gusset, tethered drawcord hem and articulated, secure lace hook
  • Knee articulation
  • Kevlar®
  • Cordura® crampon patches
  • Snap and velcro close internal ankle gaiters
  • Underboot cord attachment points

For more info see rab.equipment

Latok bib full length

Mountain Equipment Tupilak Pant £350

A neat cut in the leg, but with loads of movement built in  © Dave Saunders
A neat cut in the leg, but with loads of movement built in
© Dave Saunders

On a windy evening it's nice to be wearing the Tupilaks   © Dave Saunders
On a windy evening it's nice to be wearing the Tupilaks
© Dave Saunders

Fit

On our taller, thicker-legged reviewer the cut of the Tupilak is absolutely spot on, so while there's plenty of room for layering the fit still feels trim and neat throughout, with no excess baggy bits to flap in the wind or generally get in the way. Mountain Equipment's tailoring is excellent, allowing leg movement that's as free as you could possibly expect in a pair of overtrousers. High steps and wide bridging moves are no problem in the Tupilaks; the seat, crotch and knees all feel unrestricted. Down at the ankle there's plenty of room to fit over mountain boots, though skiers might have to unzip a bit to accommodate bulkier footwear. No volume adjustment is provided here - we'd guess in the interests of keeping things as clean and simple as possible - but we've found none is needed, since the ankle is exactly wide enough without being too baggy. The stiff drape of the fabric (more on that below) helps in this regard too, holding its shape rather than bunching up and risking a crampon snag.

While not quite as salopette-like as the Rab Latok Bib, the Tupilaks do still come very high, riding up well above navel level at the front and just a little less at the back. This gives you loads of overlap with a jacket for maximum weather protection at the midriff. With no waistband at all, and no belt, velcro or other means of adjusting the fit, the upper section of the trousers is incredibly simple, giving you a very low-profile feel under a harness. Unlike a conventional waistband the trousers don't fit closely to the body, but almost stand up by themselves thanks to the robustness of the fabric. To make sure they don't ride down, Mountain Equipment have provided stretchy braces. These are sewn in, so they can't be removed. Cleverly, both ends of each brace strap are attached to the front section of the trousers, leaving you free to drop the seat if nature comes knocking. The overall effect is reminiscent of the sort of things that anglers wear, only not in some horrible sludge-green colour.

Fabric

As with the Montane Alpine Pro and Salewa Ortles, Mountain Equipment have gone with Gore-Tex Pro, one of the leading fabrics for high-end mountain shells. Over the last couple of years we have reviewed several new generation Pro shells, and after extensive use we think it's one of the most effective membrane-based waterproof fabrics currently available, particularly for winter and alpine climbing where its balance of durability and breathable performance is ideal. On the Tupilak the membrane is paired with a really tough 80 denier face fabric. The brief for this review was 'burly' and this stuff really delivers. As the thickest and stiffest fabric on test it is well up to the wear and tear of winter climbing, and in addition stands up extremely well in a high wind. The result is the most fortress-like pair of overtrousers we can remember wearing. Yes you crinkle like a crisp packet with every step, but when the weather's doing its absolute worst these are the ones we'd want.

photo
Brace attachment points

photo
Ice screw protection patches

photo
Snow gaiter with 2 size options

Features

Minimalism is the name of the game here. From the clutter free upper and the trim fit of the leg, to the simple ankle with no size adjustment, the lines are clean all the way, with no pockets to compromise breathability. In our opinion that's a good thing, though given the number of brands that do them someone somewhere must like pockets in overtrousers. The full length side zips with double zipper allow easy access when wearing boots, and because the entire garment can be opened right to the top it's possible to put it on while already wearing crampons. There's also the option of ventilation from the waist down if you're on a hot sweaty walk-in. Very chunky and robust YKK Vislon zips have been used here, and in terms of long term reliability these feel more confidence inspiring than lighter gauge side zips. Behind the zip is a properly substantial storm flap. The fly is a thinner 'water resistant' zip, with a double zipper for easy peeing. You get only one stud fastener at the top, and given the lack of anything else up here we'd have preferred a double popper for reassurance. Down inside the lower leg, Mountain Equipment have added stretchy snow gaiters. These can be zipped out if you want to go light, and include a lace hook to prevent them rolling up in deep snow. On the inside band of the gaiter you'll find some rubberised branding, which seems to help it grip onto the cuff of your boot. That sort of attention to detail really sums up the Tupilak Pants. To guard against crampon points Mountain Equipment have gone for Dyneema patches, and if you're as clumsy as our reviewer then you'll appreciate that these are sensibly large. Another noteworthy addition are the prominent bonded rubber patches on each thigh, which protect against snagging on the teeth of ice screws racked on your harness. Top marks there!

Summary

If you're after a pair of durable mountain overtrousers - and that's exactly what we're about in this review - then you might struggle to do better than the Tupilak Pants. From the superb active cut and uncluttered design to the addition of some key details such as the thigh patches, every feature has clearly been thought through with the demands of winter mountaineering uppermost in mind. Combining Gore-Tex Pro with a really robust face fabric, these trousers have been made to take some knocks and provide maximum foul weather protection. The price is high, but for what you're getting here it seems fair. We have no hesitation in awarding these our Best in Test.

Mountain Equipment say:

The very best fit and fabrics currently available make these the finest hard shell legwear there is for committed alpinists and winter climbers.

These full spec mountaineering pants give total protection and mobility in the worst conditions imaginable. Using GORE-TEX® Pro 80D fabric throughout they easily resist abrasion in ice choked chimneys and further reinforcement protects against cuts from racked screws.

  • Price: £350
  • Weight: 630g size L (our measure)
  • Sizes: S-XXL (men)
  • Fabric: 3-layer GORE-TEX® Pro 80D fabric throughout
  • EXOLITE 275 lower back insert
  • Storm Construction techniques used throughout
  • Alpine fit with articulated knees
  • Bonded ice screw protection overlay
  • Full length 2-way YKK® moulded Aquaguard® side zips
  • Fully adjustable braces with drop seat
  • 2-way YKK® WR fly zip
  • Zip-out internal snow gaiters
  • Dyneema® reinforced kick strips for durability

For more info see mountain-equipment.co.uk

Tupilak prod shot


Berghaus Extrem Hagshu Trousers £240

Berghaus Trousers on Liathach Ice  © Neil Adams
Berghaus Trousers on Liathach Ice
© Neil Adams

Fit

The fit of the Hagshu is on the narrow side all the way down from the waist and thighs to the ankle. On our slimmer reviewer this fit works well, but others with larger thighs might have issues when it comes to layering and possibly even mobility. It would pay to try these on before buying. The Hagshu comes in sizes XS to XL and for this test we opted for a Small. In terms of leg length our reviewer could possibly have used the XS but bearing in mind the close fit this might have been too narrow and restrictive for winter climbing layers.

The Hagshu has a braces system that crosses at the back, passes over the shoulders and attaches at the front. These straps are adjustable via velcro straps at the front and rear. We find these a bit annoying though, as the range of adjustment just isn't that great, and actually we have had them at their limit in terms of tightness and it's still not quite enough. As a result our reviewer has found that they often fall off the shoulder during the day and need occasional readjustment. A bit more play in the sizing of the braces would have helped here.

Fabric

Hagshu Trousers are made with Berghaus' own Hydroshell Elite Pro fabric. On paper this performs well in terms of waterproofness and breathability, with a hydrostatic head of 20,000mm and a MVTR of 20,000g/m2/24hrs; in use out on the hill we have no complaints on either count. So far we've found these have kept us dry all day, including one very wet day in Stob Coire nan Lochain where belay jackets were completely saturated. These overtrousers are noticeably more breathable than some others on test, which makes them more viable for wearing on the walk-in as well as the climb.

At 50 denier (153g/m2) the fabric is towards the lighter and thinner end of the scale in this review, so while it offers a decent level of durability and weather protection for its weight, you will certainly find tougher out there. In a high wind the fabric tends to flap more than a stiffer material would, which does mean you feel less well-armoured against the weather. The exception here is the kicker patches, which are made from a very tough Schoeller Keprotec. The plus side to its thinner fabric is that the Hagshu is a little lighter and more packable than some, at just 514g in size S (Berghaus say 542g size M). While this review prioritises toughness and weather protection over lightness - in other words we're judging these trousers for the times you need to wear them in wild weather and not for when you are carrying them in your pack - this lighter weight will still be an advantage in some situations.

Martin McKenna wearing Berghaus Hagshu pants on Sioux Wall  © Tim Miller
Martin McKenna wearing Berghaus Hagshu pants on Sioux Wall
© Tim Miller

The Berghaus Hagshu shortly before the weather turned  © Iain Small
The Berghaus Hagshu shortly before the weather turned
© Iain Small

Features

By the standards of this review the Hagshu is a stripped-down design, which does contribute to its relatively low weight. As such it's not brimming with features to mention, but there are still a few things to note:

Full length size zips run right up to the top of the waist. These are ideal for putting the overtrousers on while wearing big boots and we even managed to get them on while wearing crampons (rookie mistake!). With two zippers apiece these can also be unzipped if walking in wearing the trousers, for venting purposes. While the fabric on the Hagshu is not the toughest, Berghaus have opted for very chunky zips, which we feel are likely to be more robust in the long term, and have backed them with a fairly stiff and effective storm flap.

Around the ankle is a good sized anti-snag panel to prevent crampons going through the overtrouser. There is no draw cord around the ankle, something that is a bit of a disappointment as we'd have liked to keep the fabric closer to the boot to prevent snow going up and crampons catching. That said, the ankle area is relatively trim so there isn't too much fabric to catch on. One notable omission is the lack of a snow gaiter; we'd always rather have the option than not, so that's a big drawback for us.

Berghaus

Berghaus

Summary

For their relatively modest price (and we do say relatively) the Hagshu are decent overtrousers with a light and simple feel that would make them ideal for hillwalking, mountaineering and climbing - particularly in less challenging winter conditions. Since they are light and packable, for those days when you're torn on whether or not to pack a hard shell the decision is made a good deal easier. If they stay in the bag all day, it's not the end of the world. However durability and weather protection are not as fortress-like as the heavyweights on test, while the lack of a snow gaiter is a major fail. In terms of fit, think narrow, and make sure to try them on because the size adjustment options are limited.

Berghaus say:

A robust waterproof mountain pant, the Hagshu Trousers are a tough piece of equipment that can be trusted for protection in the harshest of conditions. Named after Mick Fowler's first ascent on the North East face of the impressive Hagshu mountain, the trousers are constructed using Berghaus Hydroshell Elite Pro for durable waterproof protection. The robust technical feature set includes adjustable braces to maintain a secure fit, full side zips for a versatile layering solution and SCHOELLER kicker patches on the inside leg for crampon protection.

  • Price: £240
  • Weight: 514g size S (our measure) 542g size M (Berghaus' figure)
  • Sizes: XS - XL (men's only)
  • Fabric: Hydroshell Elite Pro
  • Fully Adjustable Braces with attachment points, designed to enhance comfort
  • Crampon Compatible - Tough Scheller fabric panels inside the ankle protect against crampons snagging or footwear abrasion

For more info see berghaus.com

Hagshu full length


Fjallraven Bergtagen Eco Shell Trousers £435

Bergtagen Eco Shell Trousers - best suited to winter walking or snowsports rather than climbing  © Dan Bailey
Bergtagen Eco Shell Trousers - best suited to winter walking or snowsports rather than climbing
© Dan Bailey

Fit

Bergtagen Trousers are described as 'regular fit' but we'd call them very roomy. Not understanding the sizing system, our reviewer opted for a 52, which in this case turns out to be equivalent to 36" waist (he's a 34). In hindsight he might have been better going down a size rather than up. Even making allowances for the generous sizing we'd say these trousers seem baggy for their length, and there's certainly plenty of room for layering. The Bergtagen have been cut with a large diamond gusset and pre-shaped knees, and boast a stretch fabric; nonetheless the fact we can move freely in them seems as much to do with their overall looseness as any tailoring. A female version is also available.

It's not particularly high, but the waist band is soft and comfy, with a low bulk feel that works well with a harness or rucksack hipbelt. Belt loops are provided, but the integral size adjustment works well on its own. Two velcro tabs mounted on elastic, this gives a really nice snug fit around the lower back. No braces are provided, but you might feasibly jerry-rig some from the belt loops.

The Bergtagen's generous sizing extends to the ankle. These are absolutely huge, easily big enough to accommodate mountain footwear. The downside is that there's no volume adjustment, so you're left with flappy fabric around the ankles if you're wearing anything less bulky than ski boots. For this reason alone we would rule out the Bergtagen for winter climbing - there's just too much fabric to see what your feet are doing, and a very obvious crampon snagging hazard. We have worn them on easy mountaineering ground during this review, but in future we'd save them for less technical winter hillwalking and skiing.

photo
Big thigh pockets - a bit redundant for technical climbing, but walkers might benefit
© Dan Bailey

photo
The loose cut is especially noticeable at the ankle, where there is no volume adjustment
© Dan Bailey

Fabric

Made from Fjallraven's own Eco-Shell, the Bergtagens are unusual in this review in not using a third party proprietary fabric. Not having used Fjallraven shells before, we have been favourably impressed with the fabric's performance. There's a lot to like about Eco-Shell. On paper the breathability of 26,000g/m2/24h and the 30,000mm water column are very respectable, comparing well to other winter weight waterproof/breathable fabrics. Our experience would tend to confirm this. We've yet to get unduly sweaty in the Bergtagen Trousers, and have always felt well protected from the elements. Soft to the touch, quiet (surprisingly noticeable in a pair of trousers) and slightly stretchy to aid freedom of movement, Eco-Shell also feels durable enough for the demands of winter. It's not the thickest or stiffest fabric in the review, but still doesn't deflect too much in the wind. The eco bit is commendable too - it's fluorocarbon-free, and made from partially recycled materials. For this review we said we weren't concerned with weight, but it has to be pointed out that the Bergtagen are a lot heavier than the other low-waisted shell trousers on test. It's not clear why.

Features

Two huge zipped thigh pockets, each with an additional stretch mesh inner pocket, give you loads of stuff storage potential. Some users may feel the benefit but we've never needed to carry knicknacks in our overtrousers. Having a big full pocket on each thigh would be a hindrance if wearing a harness, while even for hillwalking the drawback of adding an extra layer of fabric over a hot part of the leg is obvious. A pocket-free leg would have been our preference.

Running full length for ease of entry even when wearing crampons, and for maximum ventilation options, the chunky YKK Vislon side zips are confidence-inspiringly durable. To keep out the most determined rain, the zip is backed with a storm flap; ideally this might have been slightly wider. The zip pulls both here and on the pockets have big glove-friendly pull tabs. Down at the ankle, an internal snow gaiter is provided. As sceptics of separate gaiters we'd say the smaller inbuilt variety are pretty much essential in a pair of winter overtrousers. Unfortunately Fjallraven have made theirs so large that they won't fit closely around anything smaller than a ski boot. With no adjustment for size, and no lace hook to help hold them in place, they instantly ride up and let snow into your boots when walking. These snow gaiters are removable, and unless you're skiing then you may as well do that.

Chunky full leg zips and velcro waist adjustment  © UKC Gear
Chunky full leg zips and velcro waist adjustment
© UKC Gear

No drawcord at the ankle; no boot clip on the snow gaiter  © UKC Gear
No drawcord at the ankle; no boot clip on the snow gaiter
© UKC Gear

Summary

For reasonably casual outdoor wear we like them a lot; but as technical overtrousers they are flawed. The Bergtagen are billed for trekking and ski touring, and we'd suggest the latter use is their real forte. Compared to the other trousers on test these are not particularly mountain-oriented, and climbers probably ought to look elsewhere. Sizing is cavernous, so be prepared to try going down a size on your usual. Being tough, stretchy, luxuriously soft and quiet, the Bergtagen's Eco-Shell fabric is lovely stuff, and general build quality is very high. However the price is extreme, and for the money you'd expect something practically perfect. Unfortunately there are a few big niggles. Most obvious is the baggy ankle, where the lack of size adjustment is a big disadvantage for climbers, and indeed for any winter walking where a trip could have consequences. The snow gaiter is useless for anything less than ski boots, too. Lastly, no braces are provided.

Fjallraven say:

Waterproof shell trousers in Eco-Shell for challenging alpine ascents when trekking or ski touring. The technical cut and pliant, quiet material give maximum freedom of movement without any unnecessary weight to slow you down. The perfect choice in rain, sleet and hard winds.

  • Price: £435
  • Weight: 725g size 52 (our measure)
  • Sizes: 44-58 (men) 34-48 (women)
  • Fabric: Waterproof, breathable Eco-Shell
  • 100% polyester (partially recycled)
  • Fluorocarbon-free impregnation
  • Technical, articulated cut
  • Reinforcements in aramid-based Corylon
  • Full-length water-resistant zippers in the sides
  • Elasticated Velcro adjustments and press buttons at the waist
  • Two zippered leg pockets
  • Mesh pockets inside leg pockets
  • Reinforced suspender zones
  • Wide belt loops
  • Detachable snow locks in leg endings
  • RECCO reflector

For more info see fjallraven.co.uk

Bergtagen prod shot


Páramo Enduro Tour Trousers £250

photo
If you like their unique feel, the Enduro Tours are a top choice for winter climbing
© Stewart B

Fit

The cut is less roomy than some, with space for longjohns but nothing more. That's intentional. With their multi-layered fabric (more on that below) they are warmer by far than a conventional shell, so while you might normally wear longjohns, softshell trousers and then overtrousers on top, you get roughly equivalent insulation wearing Enduro Tour Trousers directly on top of baselayer leggings. Combined with its slightly stretchy fabric, a diamond gusset and articulated knee make for pretty good freedom of movement, but our chunky-legged reviewer does still experience a little restriction in the very highest steps, and finds the fit a bit tight at the crotch. A fraction more room in the gusset, knees and seat would have been welcome. Our experience of the tailoring is reasonable, rather than great - but they're bound to fit some slimmer users better. The women's equivalent is called the Ventura.

A broad ankle accommodates the bulkiest mountaineering boots, but there's no volume control, so if your footwear is less big you can end up with a fair bit of spare fabric at the ankle. Leg length is slightly shorter than we're used to, relative to the volume; but our reviewer has found that this centimetre or two less length actually helps keep the trousers out of the way when climbing, going some way to compensating for the lack of volume control.

The inbuilt webbing belt does not extend all the way around the waist, but only covers the front. There's no waist band in the conventional sense; instead the rear half of the waist is completely unstructured, and rises to a triangular peak at the back. Designed to be used with braces, this high rear helps keep draughts and moisture out, and sits really neatly under a harness. However if you're not wearing braces then the peak flops, and there's no way to hold the rear of the trousers up. We'd say Enduro Tour Trousers absolutely require braces - the sort with a single central fastener at the back. These have to be ordered separately at £20 - a bit galling given the price of the trousers. The high rear is a good idea, but if you're used to a more substantial waist band then the feel takes some getting used to; because it doesn't sit flush to your body you think the trousers are slipping down even though they really aren't.

photo
Three quarter length zips offer lots of ventilation; you'll need it in warmer weather
© Dan Bailey

photo
Large anti-crampon patches add winter durability; shame there's no ankle adjustment
© Martin McKenna

Fabric

Uniquely in this review - possibly in the entire overtrouser market - Páramo do not use a conventional waterproof membrane. Instead you get Nikwax Analogy, a two-layer 'directional' system that consists of a proofed outer shell layer, which is highly wind-and-weather resistant, combined with a wicking inner layer that effectively pumps moisture outwards. A breathable membrane can only transport water in vapour form, but Nikwax Analogy is designed to transport liquid water, which, say Páramo, is more efficient. It is explained in greater length here. So does it work? In our experience, absolutely. These are trousers that you wear all day, without thinking about it. On a long hot walk-in our reviewer has never felt unduly sweaty, and venting using the side zips has always been sufficient. Hanging around for ages on cold belays, he's never suffered chilly damp legs. Then up on the summits, even in a winter hoolie, the Enduro Tour trousers still feel warm and protective. It's a brilliant system for winter walking and climbing, eliminating the need to carry separate overtrousers, and the faff of stopping to change legwear on the go. The case may be less clear cut with the upper body, where wearing a heavy Páramo jacket all day may not be ideal, but for legwear in iffy weather we're convinced by the Nikwax Analogy system.

Are there any downsides to the material? Well the face fabric is very soft and thin, and while we have so far failed to put a mark on our pair a previous reviewer of last year's version of the Enduro Tour Trousers managed to tear his on first outing. Panels of slightly thicker, tougher-feeling fabric are used at the knees and seat. Given that you're always going to be wearing the Enduro Tour rather than carrying them in a pack, Páramo could have bitten the weight increase bullet and used this fabric throughout.

Features

The Enduro Tour Trousers feature roomy hand warmer pockets, and while this would seem a strange addition to a conventional overtrouser it somehow seems appropriate on these. That said, we've never used them. There's only a single popper at the waist, which feels ever so slightly flimsy (perhaps we should eat fewer pies), while the old fashioned plastic belt buckle feels a bit bulky under a harness (a shame given the low-profile feel of the rest of the waist area). For men, Páramo have added a double zipper at the fly, for easy peeing even if you're wearing a harness.

Hip pocket and integral webbing belt  © UKC Gear
Hip pocket and integral webbing belt
© UKC Gear

Anti-crampon patch and snow gaiter  © UKC Gear
Anti-crampon patch and snow gaiter
© UKC Gear

While the side zips are only 3/4 length, it is still just about possible to put these trousers on over a pair of boots; however if the crampons were already on then you'd have to take them off before donning the trousers (not that you'd be likely to find yourself in this situation, since you'd probably have worn them from the car). These leg zips feature a double zipper for easy ventilation, though since the zips stop about 30cm below the waist band you don't get quite as much air at the top as in trousers with a full length zip. For added wet weather protection there's an inside storm strip; this is soft and flexible, so needs to be held in place with the poppers provided.

The ankle is roomy enough to fit over any climbing boot, though would possibly be a squeeze with some ski boots. However the lack of a drawcord here does make for a slightly flappy fit, particularly in a high wind - something that might be exacerbated by the soft and flexible hang of the fabric versus a stiffer material. Paramo have provided internal snow gaiters, which can be zipped out if not required. However they fit quite loosely, and with no lace hook they can tend to roll up if you're post-holing in deep snow. The anti-crampon patch is large, and extends a good way up the leg for maximum anti-snag protection.

Summary

The last word in wear-all-day legwear? Ideally suited to damp, changeable British winter mountain weather, Paramo's Enduro Tour Trousers will certainly - and deservedly - have their devotees. For comfort and breathability on the go their directional Nikwax Analogy fabric arguably has the edge over a conventional membrane-based waterproof shell. Unlike a shell, though, you don't get the option to remove these trousers if it's hot, while in more extreme conditions this soft multi-layered fabric does feel less fortress-like than a more rigid shell. The tailoring seems a little crude, but if you can get on with their cut then these are superbly practical trousers. However there are some niggles, notably the snow gaiter.

Paramo say:

Enduro Trousers are for high mountain enthusiasts and professionals, who are outdoors for long periods in varying conditions. High mountain activities such as climbing, alpinism and snow sports involve moving with exertion across a range of environments for long periods. To remain comfortable, you need efficient moisture and temperature control to minimise changes on the mountain, freedom of movement and good functionality. The directional Nikwax Analogy® Waterproof fabric gives dry comfort, while the articulated fit and stretch fabric allow unrestricted movement. The Enduro Tour Trousers offer excellent temperature control and functional features for high mountain use.

  • Price: £250
  • Weight: 742g size L (our measure)
  • Sizes: XS-XXXL (men - women's equiv is Ventura Trousers)
  • Fabric: Nikwax Analogy
  • Tough and durable design using strong, stretch fabric for seat, articulated knee panels and Dyneema crampon patches
  • Unrestricted movement from diamond gusset and knee articulation
  • Minimal bulk under harness from secure fit at waist and hips with high back panel for protection and 'double pull' half-belt
  • Easy and rapid temperature adjustment provided by ¾ length side zips with internal poppered storm flaps
  • Handwarming and secure storage from two zipped hip pockets
  • Two-way zip fly with popper – functional when wearing a harness
  • Loops for braces, compatible with Páramo Braces
  • Zip-off snow gaiter, elasticated at the base for secure fit over boots

For more info see: paramo-clothing.com

Enduro tour prod shot


Montane Alpine Pro Pants £270

photo
Keeping the legs warm in a chill wind on The Buachaille
© Dave Saunders

photo
Climbing Crowberry Gully in the Alpine Pro Pants
© Dave Saunders

Fit

A waistline that rises as high as the navel gives you plenty of weather protection at the midriff, and no danger of builder's bum. Size adjustment at the waist is achieved with a part-elastic rear waistband, along with velcro pull tabs that also have a bit of stretch; this combination makes for a snug fit around the waist and a soft low-profile feel under a harness. Alpine Pro Pants are cut with enough room for winter layering, and reasonable length in the leg for high steps without the ankle riding up. A gusseted crotch and articulated knee help build some movement into the tailoring, while the leg offers quite a lot of space at the thigh before tapering towards the ankle. This is the way round you'd want it, since excess fabric at the trouser bottoms is a big no-no. However on our reviewer the cut is only partially successful, being quite baggy in places but simultaneously a bit restrictive elsewhere. More room in the crotch and seat would have been good. Of course we are all built differently, so don't take our word on the cut as gospel. No women's fit is available, which is a shame but possibly reflects the smaller market for female-specific mountain clothing.

High-waisted cut and braces help protect your waist/lower torso  © Stewart Bauchop
High-waisted cut and braces help protect your waist/lower torso
© Stewart Bauchop

The ankle is sized well to fit neatly over winter boots without creating a trip hazard. For snow sports, meanwhile, the Alpine Pro are unique in this review in offering a zipped gusset at the lower leg, which gives you the option to create loads of room for ski boots. Additionally, the hem can be cinched in tight with an elastic drawcord, hidden neatly inside. The result is the biggest size range of any lower leg in the review, a big mark in the Alpine Pro's favour for the winter all-rounder who walks, skis and climbs.

Fabric

Gore-Tex Pro is a benchmark fabric for quality mountain shells. In recent years we have reviewed a number of new generation Pro shells, and after plenty of use we think it's one of the most effective membrane-based waterproof fabrics currently available, particularly for winter and alpine climbing where its balance of robustness and breathable performance is ideal. Gore say that this new fabric delivers 'up to 28% increased breathability compared to previous versions', and while it is impossible to quantify this in a real world review, we certainly have no complaints about the Alpine Pro's breathability and wet weather protection. The membrane is here paired with two different weights of fabric - mostly 40 denier, with 70 denier panels in the knees, seat and lower leg, the places that get the most wear. The lighter fabric really is quite thin for use on a winter mountain shell layer, and although we have yet to cause any damage it is clearly less suited to prolonged abuse than more fortress-like trousers. It also flaps in the wind more noticeably than a stiffer fabric, which does mean you feel a bit less protected in stormy weather. Build quality is high though.

Features

photo
Extra zip at the ankle to fit bulky boots
© Dan Bailey

photo
Full leg zips for maximum venting
© Dan Bailey

One of YKK's 'water resistant' models (no zip is entirely waterproof in the real world), the full-length side zips make for easy access and max ventilation, and are backed with a storm flap to gutter away any rain that does find a way through. This flap is a little on the soft side though, and a slightly stiffer, marginally wider strip would be more reassuring. In an otherwise excellent lower leg, Montane have failed to provide a snow gaiter. To us this is quite an omission since on deep snow days it means wearing a separate gaiter - something we are reluctant to do if at all possible. Providing a removable gaiter would have been the best of both worlds. Another oddity is the kick patch, which is both very small and manifestly much less tough than the others on review. To finish on a positive, the elastic braces with a non-slip coating work well, helping keep that high waist where it belongs.

Double waist popper and double zipper on the fly  © UKC Gear
Double waist popper and double zipper on the fly
© UKC Gear

No snow gaiter, but it's an uncluttered ankle with size adjustment   © UKC Gear
No snow gaiter, but it's an uncluttered ankle with size adjustment
© UKC Gear

Summary

From the high waistline and braces to the adjustable ankle and industry-leading Gore-Tex Pro fabric, you get quite a lot of trouser for your money with the Alpine Pro Pants. These are one of the lightest trousers on review, which of course has pros and cons. While a low weight and small pack size have their attractions, the weather protection and long term durability are both notably less than some of the more substantial models on test. In this particular review we'd consider that a disadvantage. We love the huge size range at the ankle, but it's regrettable that Montane did not provide a snow gaiter or a really decent sized kick patch. Fundamentally the Alpine Pro Pants fit a slightly different niche to the heavyweights, so if you intend to carry them as often as wearing them then they would be worth considering.

Montane say:

GORE-TEX® Pro 40 Denier mountain shell pants, with tough GORE-TEX® Pro 70 Denier panels in high wear areas. Developed with all the technical features needed for extended use in alpine conditions.

  • Price: £270
  • Weight: 527g size L (our measure)
  • Sizes: S-XXL (men)
  • Fabric: 40 Denier GORE-TEX® Pro with 70 Denier GORE-TEX® Pro fabric in high wear areas
  • Durable rip-stop nylon on the instep
  • 12 – 13 stitch count on all seams versus a typical industry average of 8
  • 3mm seam allowance throughout
  • Tailoring allows layering on top of insulating legwear
  • Articulated knees and gusseted crotch
  • Adjustable gusseted lower legs which can accommodate ski mountaineering boots
  • Durable metal hem eyelets for attaching boot straps
  • Full length YKK matte AquaGuard® side zips with internal storm flap
  • Shaped and laminated front fly with two way YKK AquaGuard® zipper with double concealed snap closure
  • Rear elasticated waistband with adjustable hook and loop side tabs
  • Removable and adjustable stretch braces with silicone shoulder grips
  • Ergonomic zip pullers

For more info see montane.co.uk

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16 Mar, 2018

Surprised Jottnar didn't get a mention - Good comparison though. 

I had been looking at ME's Tupilak's and Jottnar's Vanir LT's for ages - decided to go cheap and pick up some Simond hardshell pants from Decathlon - they do the job but they just don't feel as bombproof as I'd like them too when it's full Scottish. 

Perhaps I'll upgrade when ME get rid of that awful "visable from 30km away red" - I miss the old blue Tupilaks and Vanir LT's.

 

16 Mar, 2018

It's a lot more pleasant to stick your crampons through a pair of Decathlon overtrousers knowing they only cost forty quid though.

16 Mar, 2018

Can't say I've ever found putting crampons through any of my trousers "pleasant" - £40 or £300! 

I try to avoid it in the first place - sometimes easier said than done I'll admit. 

16 Mar, 2018

You get a Klaxon for the first "I'm surprised you didn't review brand X" comment on a group test.

16 Mar, 2018

Do I win a pair of over trousers? :P 

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