Getting the right pair of snowshoes is crucial, but wearing the appropriate pants is equally important. It’s easy to figure out what to wear on your upper body, as wearing some layers under a waterproof shell would suffice. However, the common mistake most new winter outdoor enthusiasts make is wearing improper snowshoeing pants.
Your legs don’t need the kind of insulation your upper body needs when snowshoeing. Wearing thick and heavy trousers affects your mobility and comfort. What you need is something that will keep you warm (but not overheating), dry, and mobile. One good practice is to base layer your bottoms with light and breathable underwear.
In this article, we’ll show you the important factors to consider when choosing what to wear when snowshoeing.
We will share our favorite snowshoeing pants with you, so you can make an easier decision. Read on!
Men’s Freedom Insulated Pants
|Snow pants (Hard Shell)||$$ to $$$|
|Marmot Refuge Pants||Snow pants (Hard Shell)||$$ to $$$|
|Outdoor Research Men's Skyward II Pants||Snow Pants (Hybrid)||$$$ to $$$$|
|Flylow Baker Ski and Snowboard Bibs||Snow Pants (Hard Shell)||$$$$|
|Arc’Teryx Gamma Lt Pant||Softshell||$$$|
|Marmot Scree Pants||Softshell||$$ to $$$|
|Outdoor Research Men’s Trailbreaker II Pants||Softshell||$$$|
|RAB Kinetic Alpine Pants||Softshell||$$|
These are our favorite versatile trousers for snowshoeing.
Hardshell pants provide full weather protection. They are windproof, waterproof, breathable, that is why they are used as the outermost layer.
On the other hand, softshell pants are flexible, light, water-repellant. They are a good choice as an outer layer on fair, dry-weather days.
Snow Pants – Hard Shells
The Men’s Freedom Insulated bottoms are designed for icy weather conditions. Most waterproof insulated pants have breathability as a weak point. But, these North Face hard shell bottoms are designed with strategic venting for excellent airflow.
These have built-in inner thighs vents and a Chimney Venting System that provide a good balance of warmness and coolness inside. Although Freedom pants are designed for winter activities, they are not intended to be used as standalone bottoms in extreme weather conditions. Your best option is to wear long underwear and put on Freedom as a top layer.
The pants are a bit baggy when worn alone, but this feature is designed for comfort. Using these as an outer layer gives more room for leg movement. They also provide enough room for the boots with their gaiter, which keeps snow from accumulating inside your shoes.
The Marmot Refuge pants are non-insulated hard shells, so they are suitable as layers on top. Wearing a thermic base layer will help insulate you, particularly during freezing weather. The pants will keep you dry with its Marmot MemBrain, a highly impermeable and breathable fabric.
Comfort features include an adjustable waist with snap-on closure which is more tailored in the legs compared to North Face’s Freedom pants. The pants have built-in water-resistant ankle zippers to slide in your boots easily. The internal gaiters and gripper elastic help keep the snow off the boots.
The Refuge pants have four water-resistant zippered pockets for your smaller gears. The pockets are relatively deep, which can fit most smartphones. If you’re not a fan of baggy hard shells like the Freedom, these Marmot hardshell pants are an excellent alternative.
Well-rounded snow pants are hard to come by as they usually trade off comfort for weather protection. However, the Outdoor Research Men’s Skyward II Pants are able to balance these. Their hybrid construction combines the protection of a hard shell with the breathability of a softshell.
At their core is the proprietary AscentShell, which is composed of three layers of fabrics. These will protect you from a wide range of weather conditions, especially during freezing cold. Coupled with the included water-resistant zippers and the DWR coating, you will not have to worry about leakage even when it’s wet outside.
The fabric is air-permeable, which significantly improves breathability compared to other hard shells. While the wind-resistance is relatively less than their competitors, the pants still provide great protection even during gusts.
The Skyward II is surprisingly comfortable during activity-heavy ski trips such as snowshoeingl. This is due to the 12 percent spandex in the pants. It allows the garment to be more mobile and flexible, which is great for long hiking trips.
If you love going on adventures in extreme weather, then the Flylow Baker Ski and Snowboard Bibs is a great fit for you. They come with a classic design that ensures total protection, especially when you are skiing. For those looking for excellent weather protection, this product cannot be missed.
The pants are designed to protect you from extreme weather conditions. These have breathable and waterproof membranes that will keep you dry even after hours in the snow. The classic bib design is also a great way to repel leaks and drafts, especially during chairlift rides.
One downside of high performing hard shells is the comfort and fit. The fabric is stiff, which is due to its weatherproof qualities. But, it feels rough, which might not be suitable for everyone.
Furthermore, the cut and size are relatively baggy. However, this can be an advantage as well as you need a decent layer of clothes underneath if you are planning on snowshoeing or skiing.
Soft Shell Pants
The Gamma Lt pants are a softshells built for a range of outdoor activities. They are designed for comfort as these have stretchable fabric and gusseted crotch for ease of movement. The interior waist liner is soft and prevents abrasion, which is great when doing hard climbs while carrying a heavy backpack.
The fabric is breathable, but a rigorous expedition may require a quick venting of heat, which the Gamma Lt lacks. The handwarmer pockets are made of medium gauge mesh that hardly helps in releasing heat. Fortunately, one venting capability of the trousers is to roll it up and secure it with the elastic cord found on the cuffs.
The Gamma Lt pants are versatile as these can protect you from cold wind and light rains. Although they are not waterproof, they can provide some protection, and they dry up so quickly. The pants are also lightweight, so They are favorable travel gear.
Marmot Scree Pants are softshells that provide many of the functionalities you need. The pants have excellent breathability, durability, water-resistance, and flexibility. They can be used comfortably as a top or inner layer, depending on weather conditions. They are made of stretchable fabric that is ideal for climbing or hiking expeditions. And if you need to use them on a snowfield, it can shed off snowflakes and ice.
Although the softshell pants cannot replace rain pants, they have good water resistance that can get you through a downpour until you get to a dry spot. If you get soaked, they dry reasonably quickly. These pants may not be the best at breaking wind, but wearing a base layer helps to keep you warm.
Other features include ankle zippers to get the cuffs quickly over your ankles and a cinch cord to lock it in place on your boots. They have three pockets on top with a zipper and one leg Velcro pocket, which securely stores small stuff. The waist is made of elastic material and has built-in loops just in case you might need to wear a belt.
It is often difficult to find the perfect pants for snowshoeing that also works for backcountry activities as you need to be mobile while in a snowy location. Fortunately, the Outdoor Research Men’s Trailbreaker II Pants takes a few cues from hard shells resulting in a product that suits these kinds of winter activities.
Adventurers who love snowshoeing usually need protection from drier snow and a bit of liquid, which the pants perform well. The company also added waterproof panels on the lower legs. These effectively repel snow while hiking or skiing.
The Trailbreaker II is quite comfortable and well-fitting, especially when compared to other ski resort pants. The fabric is stretchy, soft, and flexible, which is great if you are moving most of the time.
While they do not provide much warmth as these pants are targeted towards mid-winter conditions, they feature great ventilation and breathability. Combined with the fabric’s flexible quality, these make for a perfect pair when you are active in the snow.
The RAB Kinetic Alpine Pants combine comfort and waterproof qualities to provide you with gear that is perfect for your adventures. These are surprisingly breathable compared to other similar products. They are also lightweight, which makes them excellent go-to pants for alpine trips and activities like snowshoeing.
The pants use Proflex™, which is breathable and stretchy. That means these will not hinder your mobility while making sure that your body temperature is regulated. Additionally, the fabric includes a tough nylon layer, which adds to its overall durability.
These pants are designed to last long trips with mixed conditions. These are suitable for gentle hikes through snowy areas. Furthermore, they can withstand rough surfaces when you are up in the mountains.
Note that the pants do not have any insulation in them. However, they can serve as excellent over trousers. Pair these with a decent weatherproof pair, and these will protect you during cold, windy days.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Snowshoeing Pants
Comfort and Mobility
Snowshoeing involves a lot of leg work, and wearing the wrong trousers can contribute to fatigue. Wearing a stretchable fabric eases up leg movement compared to non-stretchable ones. A gusseted crotch design provides unrestricted movement resulting in a more comfortable wearing experience.
A soft interior lining is also a factor for comfort, especially within the waist area, as it is where abrasion often happens when carrying a backpack. The extra fabric gives more room for movement. Another essential factor to consider is weight, so try to find something that is lightweight.
Breathability and Venting
Trekking can quickly build up body heat, and that includes the legs that do most of the hard work. Wearing something breathable like softshell ski pants helps in dissipating heat and prevents your legs from getting drenched in sweat. It can be dangerous as the subzero temperature can freeze your legs.
Breathable fabric helps to vent body heat but not always enough, especially on exhausting hikes. You might want to consider wearing bottoms with side vents. Unzipping these vents helps release an ample amount of body heat quickly.
A drenched bottom gear can accumulate weight and cause discomfort when moving, so having waterproof trousers is always a plus, especially on the days with higher temperatures, or in lower elevations.
Breathability is often a trade-off for waterproofing. But technology made it possible to enjoy both features at the same time. There are fabrics like Gore-Tex that are both breathable and waterproof. Waterproofing can slow down heat venting, so most water-resistant gear has zip vents.
Outdoor enthusiasts frequently experience heat, strong winds, extreme cold, and rain all at the same time. Trekking the snowfield will require reliable gear against the elements.
Weatherproof trousers are the best in deflecting cold wind during snow expeditions. Usually, a windproof gear is insulated to keep the cold air from penetrating the fabric. Likewise, water-resistant hiking pants can repel water from light rains but not a downpour.
When it comes to winter outdoor activities, you are not just tackling harsh weather conditions but also rugged terrain. Hiking pants must stand up against rough rocks, dense woods, and abrasive hard-packed snow.
Durability is not only about being made of sturdy materials but also about being designed for flexibility. By creating a design for freedom of movement, the trousers’ fabric will not be stretched to its limits that may cause tearing. Using an abrasive resistant material highly contributes to durability as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of pants do you wear snowshoeing?
New snowshoeing enthusiasts must know the kind of pants to wear. It mainly depends on the climate as there will be times when you will snowshoe on warm days. The best pants to wear in extremely icy weather is an insulated hardshell to keep you warm and dry.
On warmer days, a softshell will be enough but wear something breathable. In mildly cool weather, a thin underlayer topped with a breathable softshell is enough to keep you warm. It’s always best to bring lightweight and impermeable trousers just in case a downpour occurs.
Do I need thermal underwear?
Thermal underwear traps body heat and keeps cold air out to maintain a comfortable temperature. It is best to wear thermal underwear during the winter when the climate is freezing. Using it as a base layer will help keep the chills away, and it’s a good habit to leave a set in the car just in case the weather gets colder than expected.
How to take care of your pants?
Your new hardshell and softshell trousers need extra care when laundering. You need to close all zippers, fasten straps and flaps before washing. Using a small amount of liquid detergent without bleach and spinning them lightly in the machine is recommended. Rinse them twice before drying.
You can line dry, or machine dry them on a warm and gentle cycle. Do not try to wash your shells If you’re not sure how to do it properly, or you might end up damaging them. It is always best to follow the manufacturer’s washing instructions.
Wearing either softshell and hardshell pants depends on weather conditions. Softshell bottoms are the primary choice for snowshoeing because they’re lightweight and provide freedom of movement. On the other hand, layering it with long thin underwear keeps your legs warm.
Hardshell bottoms are necessary for extremely cold weather as they give more insulation for your lower extremities. They can be fitting as a top layer to your softshells for better protection against freezing temperatures. To sum it up, both hardshell and softshell pants are necessary snowshoeing pants.