Damian Hall Reviews Walking Trousers

By Damian Hall

Stay protected and comfortable in all weathers with 2017's best walking trousers.

Trousers are one of the simplest bits of outdoor clobber you can buy, except if you buy them online and the website calls them “pants”, which can cause confusion and potential mirth. But essentially, the key components to good hiking trousers are that A, they’re not jeans and B, they’re comfortable – and remain comfortable when worn all day out in the hills.

There are some other features to look for too. Waterproof trousers are a separate category and aren’t usually super-comfy to wear all day because of the likely build-up of heat, as well as that pesky rustling fabric. But most good outdoor trousers nowadays are made of quick-drying, breathable and light materials, which means they don’t stay wet for long after a quick burst of rain, they don’t let you get too sweaty and are usually very comfy – more so if they’re made from a stretchy material. Pockets are usually very useful, and zip-off trousers which turn into shorts can be a good idea too, but are far from essential. Other than that it’s really all about how well they fit and subsequent comfort when you’re clambering up Skiddaw.

Jeans, incidentally, are terrible for walking (though according to Hollywood films, are excellent for cowboying about in) because, as well as being restrictive, they become very heavy when wet and take ages to dry, making you cold and more likely to experience the joys of chafing. Don’t do it, kids!

What to look for

So really it’s all about a good fit and feeling unrestricted while being active. When trying on a prospective pair, bring the knee up high to the chest, as you might do on rugged, scrambly terrain. Is that comfortable?

Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Hadrian's WayBerghaus VapourLight Fast Hike Pant

Price: £100
Weight: 360g
Women’s version? Yes

Designed for fast and light, active use, I know these are impressively quick drying, because I cleverly split a cup of tea on myself as I was driving once. The water-repellent finish, too, worked well and meant getting out the car 20 minutes later my trousers were dry and it no longer looked like I’d wet myself. They’re a slightly thicker material than some options, but side-leg zips open to utilise ventilation panels for increased breathability – neat touch. Four pockets is a decent offering, though the hand pockets aren’t zipped and they’re all fairly shallow. Stretchy sections over the knees add to flexibility and comfort.

Pros: Super-comfy, unrestrictive, water-repellent, quick-drying material.
Cons: Pockets could be better.
Verdict: An excellent, stylish year-round option.
Rating: 9/10

Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Hadrian's WayFjӓllrӓven Vidda Pro Trousers

Price: £130
Weight: 590g
Women’s version? Yes

Though these are a rusty red, the colour wasn’t the first thing that struck me when these arrived to test. Rather it was the fact they came with a little bar of natural wax, to keep the water resistance topped up. Made from durable wind- and water-resistant fabric, with a double layer over the rear and knees, these are a rugged material anyway. The wax means they offer excellent, best-in-test protection. Six pockets include one for a map and another for an axe (eh?), while the bottom of the leg can be adjusted with press studs. They’re heavy compared to the Berghaus option, so not necessarily suitable for peak-bagging, or indeed mid-summer use. But I wore these all autumn and winter and they’re definitely a pair I’ll continue to wear long after this test. Love ‘em.

Pros: Excellent protection, stylish, great features.
Cons: Comparatively heavy material.
Verdict: An excellent, stylish option for cooler months.
Rating: 9/10

Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Hadrian's WayColumbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pant

Price: £60
Weight: N/A
www.columbiasportswear.co.uk (best stockist www.cotswoldoutdoor.com)
Women’s version? Yes

The most impressive feature about Columbia’s “pants” is their quick-wicking capabilities, while they also boast built-in sun protection – so they’re clearly aimed more at summer use. They’re light and comfy, too, with six pockets (some are ventilated, helping give the trousers good breathability) and zip-off lower legs. So functionality and features are excellent, and the price makes them good value for money, too. They’re perhaps not as stylish as some options here, but who’s really thinking about that when you’re halfway along Crib Gogh?

Pros: Price, functionality and features.
Cons: Lack the stylishness of some options here.
Verdict: A good, versatile and value for money option.
Rating: 8/10

Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Hadrian's WayHi Gear Nebraska Zip Off Walking Trousers

Price: £30
Weight: N/A
Women’s version? Yes

The Hi Gear Nebraskas are made from a lightweight, quick-drying fabric. They’re zip-offs too, and have six pockets – though they’re a little shallow and you’ll feel your keys, for example, in them. These can also be a little more restrictive than some options here, if the fit isn’t perfect. But then you look at the price: £100 cheaper than the Fjӓllrӓven trousers. For that price you can’t really complain.

Pros: The price. An excellent budget option.
Cons: More basic than other trousers.
Verdict: A great value for money option.
Rating: 7/10

Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Hadrian's WayTrangoWorld Plus UU Shoeller Windstopper TRX Pants

Price: £105.45
Weight: 602g
Women’s version? Yes

These are designed primarily for mountaineering, but offer the hiker excellent protection for winter walking. They’re warm and comfy, with superb leg cover. They boast detachable inner gaiters, detachable braces, super-tough fabric all round, especially on the knees, while remaining breathable and windproof. Other features include four pockets (two are zipped) and velcro hem adjuster. I’ve been wearing these for three years and in them, above all, you simply feel ready for anything.

Pros: Extraordinary protection, good comfort.
Cons: Heavy and too warm for summer.
Verdict: Best-available protection for unfriendly weather.
Rating: 8/10

*** Damian Hall is an outdoor journalist, long-distance walker and GB ultra-runner, who’s completed many of the world’s famous and not-so-famous long-distance trails. The tea-loving hillbilly is author of the official Pennine Way guide and his newest book, Long Distance Walking in Britain, is out now. There’s plenty more self-aggrandising hogwash on Twitter (@damo_hall) and at www.damianhall.info. ***

Originally published 22/05/17

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