Arc’teryx Gamma AR
Offering an unbeatable mix of durability and comfort, the Arc’teryx Gamma AR are a no-nonsense pair of pants that is ideal for any climbing expedition.
In addition to being oh-so stretchy and breathable, these hiking pants feature a DWR treatment to keep you warm and dry in the mountains. They also have a harness-compatible pocket system for increased convenience as you climb.
Although these trousers aren’t the most affordable choice out there, they offer everything you need for climbing. As such, they’re a sure bet for all your forays into the alpine.
Bottom line: When you won’t settle for second fiddle, the Arc’teryx Gamma All-Round pants are a top choice.
The Best Mountaineering Pants to Keep You Warm and Dry in the Alpine
Looking for the best mountain climbing pants?
You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:
- What are the different types of mountaineering pants
- Guidance on choosing the perfect alpine trousers for your adventures
- What are the 7 best pants for mountaineering
- Our unbiased review of the top pair of mountain climbing trousers available
Tired of uncomfortable mountaineering pants that hold you back as you climb? We understand.
If you’re trying to send hard in the mountains, you need a set of trousers that are water-resistant, durable, rugged, and stretchy enough to keep up with your adventures. A few handy design features and alpine-specific add-ons go a long way toward elevating an alpine pant over a standard hiking pant, too.
To help you find the perfect trousers for your needs, we put together this guide to the best mountaineering pants on the market.
Up next, we’ll introduce you to our top 7 favorite trousers for alpine pursuits. As an added bonus, we’ve even included a guide to selecting the perfect set of mountaineering pants for all your future climbs.
The Top Alpine Pants: How To Choose
Finding the ideal mountaineering pants starts with knowing what to look for as you shop. So, here are some of the key things to keep in mind when searching for your next alpine climbing pants.
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Soft Shell vs Hard Shell
When shopping for mountaineering pants, you’ll first have to decide if you want a softshell or hardshell model.
The primary difference between softshell and hardshell trousers is whether or not they’re waterproof. While hardshell models are meant to be fully waterproof, softshell trousers are generally just water-resistant.
This means that hardshells are ideal in situations where you can reasonably expect a lot of rain or snow. While this hardshell fabric comes with a decrease in breathability, it is designed to keep you dry at all costs.
Alternatively, softshell trousers are the gold standard when it comes to breathability, stretch, and comfort. They might not be able to block out all water and snow, but they provide some wind-resistance and excellent freedom of motion as you climb.
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Moral of the story? If lots of rain and snow are in the forecast, hardshells might be the better option. Otherwise, most folks find that a softshell model is more than sufficient.
No one likes to invest in a quality pair of mountaineering trousers only to have them fall apart after a few climbs. Therefore, the durability of your potential trousers should be at the forefront of your mind as you shop.
When it comes to alpine trousers, there are 2 key durability-related features to look out for. These include:
- Reinforced Instep Patches: Climbing with crampons is a solid way to put holes in your pant legs. This being so, many gear manufacturers, like Mountain Hardwear, Arc’teryx, and The North Face, place reinforced instep patches on pant legs.
These patches offer an extra layer of protection against sharp crampon points. That way, you can climb without fear of damaging your trousers.
- Thick Fabrics: Because climbing and mountaineering are rough-and-tumble pursuits, all alpine trousers need to be relatively abrasion-resistant.
To accomplish this, many manufacturers opt to use thicker fabrics (usually more than 60D) in their alpine trousers. While these fabrics might result in a decrease in breathability, most folks won’t mind if it means added durability in the mountains.
Fit, Comfort & Range of Motion
As with any piece of outdoor clothing, the fit and comfort of your mountaineering trousers are critical considerations. Comfort is unique to every individual, of course. However, there are some comfort-focused features of alpine trousers that you should know about as you shop.
RELATED: Best Pants for Hot Weather Hiking
In fact, comfort and range of motion in trousers boil down to 3 key features: stretchy fabrics, knee articulation, and crotch gussets. Here’s what you need to know:
If there’s one mountaineering pants feature that has a direct impact on your comfort in the alpine, it’s the stretch of the trouser fabric itself.
Fabrics that don’t stretch simply can’t provide the range of motion you need to climb through tricky terrain. So, looking for trousers with a high percentage of spandex or lycra in their fabric composition is essential.
Many mountaineering trousers have something called “articulated knees.” This might sound complicated, but articulation in trousers simply refers to the shape of the pant leg.
Trousers without articulated patterning will have straight legs, which can reduce your range of motion as you climb. Meanwhile, models with articulated knees are designed to mimic the natural shape of your leg. As a result, they provide unrestricted movement in all types of activity and terrain.
A crotch gusset is a little-known trouser feature that has a major impact on your climbing experience.
Essentially, a crotch gusset is a small, diamond-shaped piece of fabric that connects each pant leg. This diamond-shaped fabric eliminates the need to have a single point in the middle of the trouser crotch where four seams connect.
By doing so, the crotch gusset allows for unparalleled range of motion, durability, and comfort as you climb.
When you’re in the mountains, having a quality set of pockets on your trousers can have a major impact on your climbing experience. While a small, inconveniently placed pocket won’t get you very far, having a quality thigh or hand pocket can make a difference.
So, as you shop for trousers, pay close attention to the number, size, and layout of each model’s pockets.
In particular, you’ll look for a model that has zippered hand pockets and the occasional thigh pouch for gear security as you limb.
Furthermore, if you expect to wear a harness during your adventures, trousers with harness-compatible pockets can be a major asset. Otherwise, your gear will be uncomfortably trapped between your leg and your harness if you take a fall—ouch!
The Top 7 Mountaineering Pants
Arc’teryx Gamma AR Pants
Snagging gold in our head-to-head match-up, the Arc’teryx Gamma AR is a superb set of softshell pants for any alpine pursuit.
Made using Arc’teryx’s signature Burly double-weave fabric, the Gamma boasts impeccable durability without compromising comfort. It has a gusseted crotch for freedom of movement as well as articulated knees to ensure full and unrestricted functionality.
At the same time, this pair of pants features a DWR treatment for weather protection without sacrificing its breathability. It also comes with a selection of zippered hand and thigh pockets for added versatility.
Like all things Arc’teryx, these trousers don’t come cheap. But, if you want the best softshell pants for mountaineering and other outdoor activities, it’s hard to argue with these trousers.
- Burly double-weave fabric for durability
- DWR treatment for wind- and water-resistance
- Zippered thigh and hand pockets for gear storage
- Excellent range of motion
Bottom-Line: If you want the best softshell pants for mountaineering, the Arc’teryx Gamma All-Around pants might be just what you’re looking for.
Patagonia Simul Alpine
When it comes to budget-friendliness and mountaineering gear, the Patagonia Simul Alpine trousers are a sure bet.
Decidedly durable, the Simul Alpine are made with 100% polyester stretch double weave fabric with four-way stretch. As an added bonus, these trousers are made with materials that are both bluesign-approved and Fair Trade Certified sewn.
Plus, the Simul Alpine features a DWR finish to make them water-resistant, and articulated patterning for comfort. These trousers are even designed to fit under a harness for alpine or ice climbing, thanks to their OppoSet adjustable integrated belt.
It is worth noting, however, that the Simul Alpine don’t come with reinforced insteps, which makes them prone to damage when used with crampons. However, when affordability is a concern, they’re a great choice.
- Fair Trade Certified and bluesign-approved
- DWR finish for use in all weather conditions
- Integrated waist belt for an improved fit
- Harness-compatible design
- Lack of reinforced insteps is a durability concern
Bottom-Line: These pants offer a nice mix of affordability and functionality, whilst also maintaining the ruggedness and reliability needed for ascents in alpine terrain.
Outdoor Research Cirque II
Best for Cold Weather Climbing
For cold-weather adventures in the alpine, the Outdoor Research Cirque II is your go-to pair of mountain hiking pants.
Engineered out of a highly breathable 90D nylon/polyester stretch fabric, the Cirque II is perfect for use in truly frigid temps. It’s also treated with DWR to help shed light rain and snow as you climb.
Where the Cirque II really shine, however, is in terms of their durability and functionality. In addition to the trousers’ harness-compatible waist-belt and pockets, it also features a set of rugged scuff guards on each pant leg. As a result, these comfortable pants are designed to last and perform, even after years of use in the mountains.
The downside to the Cirque II, though, is that their thicker weight makes them less-than-ideal for warmer temperatures. However, if your goal is to have a reliable set of winter climbing pants, the Cirque II deserve a place very near the top of your shortlist.
- Warm enough for wintery conditions
- Highly weather-resistant
- Reinforced insteps for added durability
- Harness-compatible waist
- Too thick and heavy for summer use
Bottom-Line: The Outdoor Research Cirque II are an amazing set of softshell trousers that offer great performance in cold temperatures.
Black Diamond Dawn Patrol
Best for Ski Mountaineering
Whether you like to hike, climb, or ski, the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol is a fully-featured pair of mountaineering pants that’s ready to provide the performance you need on any expedition.
Crafted specifically with ski mountaineers in mind, the Dawn Patrol is made from a burly woven fabric with four-way stretch for enhanced comfort in the backcountry. It also features a DWR treatment for water and wind-resistance, and it boasts snow gaiters to keep your boots dry at all times.
The Dawn Patrol softshell pants use built-in vents on each pant leg for increased breathability. What’s more, they also have reinforced instep patches and plenty of zippered pockets to help you stay organized on the go.
The primary downside to this model, though, is that they’re a bit pricey and they’re fairly heavy for summertime use. But, for a cold-weather softshell pant for men like this, the Dawn Patrol is a fantastic choice.
- Built-in snow gaiters for skiing and ice climbing
- Water-resistant fabric
- Integrated vents on each pant leg for airflow
- Reinforced pant legs provide durability
- Too heavy for summer outings
- Fairly pricey
Bottom-Line: If backcountry snowsports are your jam, it’s hard to go wrong with the Black Diamond Dawn Patrol.
Rab Kinetic Alpine
Best for Light & Fast Climbing
For light and fast missions into the mountains, look no further than the ultra-lightweight and highly breathable Rab Kinetic Alpine.
This pair of pants is made with a high-end Proflex outer fabric with a durable water repellent treatment for top-end performance. It also boasts a quick-drying inner liner that’s amazing at wicking away sweat as you climb.
At the same time, the Kinetic alpine features articulated knees to help make sure that you have full range of motion at all times. It even offers zippered pockets for gear storage and webbing loops at the hem for a more secure attachment to your boots.
It’s worth mentioning that the Kinetic Alpine’s weight savings come at the cost of some durability and functionality. In particular, these mountaineering pants don’t have a thigh pocket, nor do they have reinforced insteps. Despite this, they’re still well suited for alpine climbs in rugged terrain.
- Quick-drying inner liner
- High-end Proflex outfer fabric
- Articulated knees for added freedom of movement
- Lightweight and highly breathable
- No thigh pocket for gear storage
- Doesn’t have reinforced pant legs
Bottom-Line: The Rab Kinetic Alpine are a spectacular set of trousers for alpine ascents in tricky terrain and for fast-moving mountaineers.
Arc’teryx Beta SV Bib Pants
Best for Waterproof Protection
With the Arc’teryx Beta SV Bib Pants, foul weather is no reason to stay home and put off your day in the mountains.
These fully waterproof trousers are made with high-quality N80d Most Rugged 3L Gore-Tex Pro to block out wind and water at all costs. They also offer Keprotec instep guards on each pant leg for increased durability in all terrain.
As far as comfort goes, the Beta SV are engineered with a gusseted crotch and articulated patterning to make sure you don’t feel restricted as you climb. They also have a drop seat design for when you have to answer nature’s call and a set of suspenders to help you find the perfect fit.
The downside? The Beta SV aren’t exactly budget-friendly. Plus, they don’t have many pockets, which might be a bummer for some climbers who like to keep a few bits and bobs easily accessible. If you need fully waterproof mountaineering pants, though, the Beta SV are worthy of your consideration.
- Fully waterproof design
- Comfort-focused construction for range of motion
- Drop seat functionality
- Very expensive
- Could do with an added pocket or two
Bottom-Line: If you’re planning climbing trips in foul weather conditions, the Arc’teryx Beta SV Bib Pants should be your go-to gear.
Mountain Equipment Ibex
Best for Shoulder Season Adventures
If shoulder-season climbing trips are your kind of expedition, the Mountaineer Equipment Ibex is one pair of mountaineering pants that you won’t want to leave home without.
These water- and wind-resistant trousers are made from EXOLITE 210 stretch softshell fabric, which is breathable enough for more aerobic, all-mountain use. They also feature an alpine-inspired fit with a regular ankle, making them versatile enough for a wide range of outdoor activities.
Plus, the Ibex comes with ankle zips and an internal gusset panel so they fit well with all mountaineering boots. They also have a zippered hand and thigh pocket on each leg for improved functionality.
While the Mountain Equipment Ibex is a great pair of pants, we should mention that they don’t have reinforced ankles. They also don’t have a DWR treatment, so they may soak through in light rain. Nevertheless, their overall functionality and comfort mean they’re still a super selection for shoulder-season adventures in relatively nice weather.
- Designed to work well with all boot styles
- Durable EXOLITE 210 stretch softshell fabric
- Great zippered pocket selection
- Ankle zips for easy on/off with boots
- No DWR treatment
- Don’t have reinforced pant legs
Bottom-Line: Not a bombproof pair of pants, but one that excels in comfort and packs the added performance needed for three-season adventures.