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Need Winter Shell Pant Suggestions

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  • Need Winter Shell Pant Suggestions

    Hi all, I've decided to retire my winter pants (too much duct tape, can't close the waist, lost a boot hook) and I've been both disappointed and confused by the options I've seen in the stores. Online descriptions never seem to cover the item details very well. So I'm open to suggestions.

    I haven't used insulated pant's since I was a kid and once I switched to shell pants I really liked being able to tailor the level of warmth to the activity and weather. So unless I heard a really compelling argument, I'd like to stay with shells.

    Second, I have always had a bootlace hook on the internal cuff and thought of this a pretty necessary. However, it seems this feature is pretty rare these days. I saw some with 2 rings on the cuff that look like they were meant for a string that would go under your arch. If that is what they are for, then it seems like it would be a pain to manage with gloves on.

    Other features I would prefer are crotch vents, abrasion guard on the outer cuff, outer zippers that allow access to pockets on under garments, adjustable waistband that sits nice under a pack waistbelt, and belt loops.

    I saw a lot of pants with button waist instead of snaps. Always had snaps and buttons seem like they would be a pain with gloves. Also saw many pants that seemed to be leaning toward the current fashion trends of slimmer fit and lower riding on the hips.

    As for uses, these would be mainly for skiing (touring and resort), winter summits and the occasional winter overnight.

    True waterproof would be a requirement, but in the stores it is really hard to tell what's meant by "weather resistant", "water resistant", "water repellant" etc.

    Thoughts, suggestions, recommendations?

  • #2
    I have not bought any pants in a while. But here goes:

    >Try to get full side zips (unfortunately hard to find and pricey). This allows for venting, pocket access, and on-and-off over any footwear.

    >There are really only two fabric categories, despite the marketing hype:

    >>Waterproof breathable (Gore Tex, or other membrane based fabric);
    >>Soft Shell (Scholler, or other treated nylon / spandex fabric).
    (All other terminology is marketing BS.)
    For both fabric types, performance varies by brand and cost. You have to look at reviews.

    >The string under the boot is actually pretty easy to use. I have that on both my current winter pants. Helps keep them down flat to the boot, and keeps out some snow. Even under a gaiter, these help to keep a flat, tight assembly.

    Good luck!


    • #3
      Shell pants can get very pricey. But, I just bought a simple pair of Rab shell pants (at a brick and mortar store) for only $200 CDN. No fly, but 3-way full length side zips. During the cold snap I wore long underwear, OR Cirque soft shell pants and put the Rabs over top. I had great success with that.
      The best, the most successful adventurer, is the one having the most fun.


      • #4
        Thanks for the tips guys. The biggest frustration has to be the lack of detailed info on the web coupled with the lack of availability in local stores. I can understand when an online retailer like REI or Backcountry puts up limited info for a product. But it blows my mind that the manufacturer themselves falls short in this area. Just browsing Burton's site (for example) few of the product pages list outside-to-inside pocket access, button vs snaps, boot hook vs all elastic gaitors, etc.
        However, I know that these features are there because I checked them out at an REI while I was traveling. Other manufacturers have similarly lacking websites.
        Oh well, end rant.

        Question about vents: I've always had pants with crotch vents and typically keep them open when hiking, but only find them marginally better. Do outside vents work better than crotch vents? Anyone tried pants with both? Crossflow?


        • #5
          Just updating this thread to 2021. I need new winter snowshoeing/backcountry ski pants. Have always used hard shell Goretex with full zips. Now, many are suggesting softshell instead (either somewhat beefy softshell like OR Skyward II or lightweight softshell like ME Kinesis coupled with a lightweight full zip shell like Precip.). Tempted to stay with hardshell. Many say softshell are lighter - they are not (except real lightweight ones that would require me to carry shell anyway). Full zip on Goretex pro I believe will be just as breathable as a pant like Skyward II. Am I missing something? What do you folks wear trekking up a high peak in winter? Folks still using hard shells? Thanks in advance.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Steve_VT View Post
            What do you folks wear trekking up a high peak in winter? Folks still using hard shells? Thanks in advance.
            I wear both hard shells and softshells, depending on what I am doing.

            I wear softshells for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. I like the Rab Vector pants, but I don't think they make them anymore (of course). I also have a pair of EMS softshells that I have been wearing in the late fall at lower elevations, but probably won't use when going to higher elevations because they are a little lighter/thinner.

            I wear hard shells for lift served skiing and skinning. I have a pair of EMS hard shell pants that are probably more than 10 years old. They use the EMS system 3k waterproofing, and they have held up very well. As you mentioned, they are lighter than any of my softshells.
            ADKHP Wiki


            • #7
              Updates on gear are tough because by the time you can really report back, the gear you are reporting on probably isn't being sold anymore.

              Despite that, I'll let you know how I made out. I bit the bullet and bought a pair of Flylow compound pants. They are great, they did run a bit small and I had to return the mediums for large. I'm 5'8" and about 170. More of the 170 is in the middle than I would like. I usually wear a 32 waist.

              Here's where the update gets interesting. My brother in law passed away a couple of years ago and he was a snow boarder. He had a pair of the Button AK Swash pants and my sister gave them to me. I had considered these as an option before going with the Flylow and fortunately, despite being mediums, his old pants fit me perfectly.

              As of right now, I can say I almost always reach for the Burton pants when heading out.

              I can't really say why though. But I should clarify that over the last several years winter backcountry excursions are almost non-existent. Almost all the usage has been day hike snow shoe, a little ski touring locally, in bound skiing, or screwing around with the kids in the yard.

              Both of these pants still lack certain features I would like but, having spent the money, they will now be what I use possibly until I can't ski or hike anymore.


              • #8

                I just tries out a pair of these and really like them, it has elastic bungie drawstring and belt loops. I got an elastic Belt at REI and they hold them up well.