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Mountaineering is a rough sport that will take a toll on both you and your gear. Rocks, snow, rain, and plenty of other environmental factors will be working against you, which is why you need a pair of pants that are up for the job.
Below, we’ve laid out what we consider to be some of the best mountaineering pants for both men and women. Tough, convenient, and comfortable, you may even find yourself grabbing these pants for more than just mountaineering.
Mountaineering Pants At A Glance
If you’re in a hurry, check out this quick list of our favorite mountaineering pants – otherwise, keep on scrolling to get to the full reviews!
Best for Ergonomics: Black Diamond Men’s Swift Stretch Pants
Best Bang for Your Buck: Rab Men’s Incline Pants
Most Durable Pants: Fjallraven Men’s Keb Agile Trousers
Best Overall for Men ↟: Arc’teryx Men’s Beta AR Pants
Most Versatile Pants: Arc’teryx Women’s Sentinel AR Pants
Editor’s Choice: Mountain Hardwear Women’s Chockstone Alpine Pants
Best Overall for Women ↟: Fjallraven Women’s Keb Trousers – Curved Fit
Best Rain Pants: REI Co-op Women’s XeroDry GTX Pants Tall Sizes
The mountains are experts at beating up our gear, aren’t they? Between all the jagged rocks, uneven terrain, scree, and other environmental factors, mountaineering gear needs to be tough and durable if you want to get any reasonable amount of lifespan out of it.
That’s especially true for what you put on your body, since your clothing is your first line of defense against the weather and landscape. In particular, your mountaineering pants should be built to last, able to withstand abrasions, moisture, and endless days on the trail.
Snow, rain, and sunshine are just a few types of weather that can make an appearance while mountaineering. In some cases, you may experience all three within an hour!
As you’re planning your wardrobe for your next adventure, make sure all of your clothes are suitable for such dramatic weather changes, including your pants. Find something breathable, water resistant, and fast drying to keep you safe and comfortable. Whatever you do, don’t wear any clothing made from a significant amount of cotton, as this could put you at risk for hypothermia. Cotton absorbs water, and loses its insulating properties in the process, doing more harm than good when you’re trying to stay warm. I’d suggest leaning more towards a synthetic like polyester or nylon instead.
I can’t think of many people who enjoy wearing clothes that are uncomfortable and hard to move around in. For the most part, athletic gear does a good job of being stretchy, soft, and flexible. However, mountaineering isn’t just any sport.
By nature, the best mountaineering pants are going to be more rugged, durable, and weather resistant – all features that tend to reduce the amount of comfort you’ll experience while wearing them. However, they also need to be flexible and articulated, so you have the room to take big steps and stretch without worrying about ripping your pants.
Every ounce counts when you’re climbing a mountain. If you’ve ever gone on a backpacking trip, you know what I’m talking about. You might think that this principle only applies to what goes on your back, but you have to remember that your body is carrying the weight of your clothes as well. Mountaineering boots are usually the worst culprit here, but anything that you wear will have a cumulative effect.
Many of these pants weigh in the neighborhood of a pound, but there are some that drop to roughly 12 ounces. If you’re someone who likes to shave off ounces anywhere possible, we’ve included the individual weight of each of the products in our review so you can make a more informed decision.
What’s the point of getting pants if you can’t store anything in them? Pockets are a must have for me, and I’m sure most of you feel the same way.
However, when you’re mountaineering, there’s a good chance that you’ll be wearing a harness. And harnesses make it extremely difficult to get at objects inside traditional pockets.
Many of the pants that we’ve looked at below have harness-compatible pockets that are protected by zippers, in case you experience inclement weather. There also tend to be quite a few of them as well, so you’ll have plenty of storage opportunities for your phone, a snack, or other piece of gear that you like to have close by.
It just doesn’t feel right to talk about clothing without mentioning how good you’ll look in it. Granted, style is a pretty low priority on the mountain, but what if you want to wear your mountaineering pants into town too?
Many of the options that we’ve reviewed below come in a variety of colors and sizes, so you can tailor them to fit your style. The only pants that look a little bland, in my opinion, are the REI XeroDry, but that’s to be expected in a pair of rain pants. All of the others do a surprisingly good job of looking sleek, despite being designed for use in the wild.
Mountaineering Pants Comparison Table
|Black Diamond Men’s Swift Stretch Pants
|Rab Men’s Incline Pants
|Fjallraven Men’s Keb Agile Trousers
|Arc’teryx Men’s Beta AR Pants
|Arc’teryx Women’s Sentinel AR Pants
|Mountain Hardwear Women’s Chockstone Alpine Pants
|Fjallraven Women’s Keb Trousers – Curved Fit
|REI Co-op Women’s XeroDry GTX Pants Tall Sizes
The Best Mountaineering Pants – Reviewed
Weight: 14.25 Ounces
Inseam: 32 Inches
When you’re looking at the Black Diamond Swift Stretch pants, it’s hard to find an area where they don’t exceed expectations. They’re essentially waterproof, shedding both rain and snow without becoming saturated in the process. This is exactly what you want when you’re on the mountain, since inclement weather can come at any time. And even if it’s sunny, there’s a chance you’ll have to plow through some snow during your ascent. These pants will make sure anything cold and wet stays far away from your skin.
Decent pockets can be hard to come by in mountaineering pants as well, especially if you’re wearing a harness. Most harness straps will seal off normal pant pockets, making it impossible to get anything in or out of them. The Swift Stretch pants don’t have this problem, since they come with two harness compatible pockets, in addition to a zippered back pocket and thigh pocket.
But pockets often fall into the “nice to have” category. When it comes to actual performance, how do they hold up? Well, I think it’s safe to say that they’re as tough as nails, and breathable to boot. The ergonomics are second to none, and the reinforced knees and seat give you extra protection where it counts the most.
On top of that, the breathability is really important in both summer and winter. Without it, you’d get steamed to a crisp in warm weather, and you’d get soaked and freeze in your own sweat during cold weather.
Harness compatible pockets
The pants seem to run a little small
Weight: 12 Ounces
Inseam: 30, 32, 34 Inches
Designed for movement, the Rab Incline pants are stretchy and ergonomic, allowing you to move freely across any terrain. The fabric itself isn’t lightweight, but it’s not heavy either, giving you a good balance between mobility and durability.
Made primarily out of nylon, these pants have received a DWR finish that does a great job of repelling moisture. I’d say they still fall a bit short in this department compared to the Black Diamond pants we just mentioned, but they’re still good enough for demanding treks through the mountains.
In addition to being water repellant, the material also shields against UV rays. The zippered hand pockets can be a little hard to get at when you’re wearing a harness, but you’ve still got a thigh pocket that’s easily accessible.
If the pants sit loosely on your hips, there are beltloops that would allow you to cinch things up. But it’s worth noting that the waistband itself doesn’t have much stretch to it, so you’ll want to be careful about getting the right size.
Shields against UV rays
Weight: 14.6 Ounces
Inseam: 33.5 Inches
Fjallraven (mountain fox, when translated) is a Swedish brand that’s been around for several decades. In my opinion, they make some of the best outdoor apparel on the market, especially when it comes to mountaineering.
These pants, in particular, are built to last. Partially made from recycled materials, there’s some reinforcement in the knees and lower legs for extra durability. When you’re scrambling over rocky terrain, these are the areas that are most likely to receive tears and abrasions.
The material is water resistant, breathable, and fast drying – all features that you want to see in a pair of mountaineering pants. I like how the legs are tapered by the ankle, to help keep the material out of your way and prevent snow from getting onto your skin. At the same time, there’s a snap adjustment at the bottom that allows you to fit the hem over your mountaineering boots.
They are one of the heavier pairs of pants in this review, but that’s not always a bad thing. Heavier usually means more durable and warmer, which is exactly what we see here. If anything, it just means that they aren’t a great option for warmer environments.
Reinforced knees and lower legs
A little heavy
Weight: 16.5 Ounces
Inseam: 32 Inches
Material: GORE-TEX Pro
One of the few pairs of truly water and windproof pants in our lineup, the Arc’teryx Beta AR pants are what you want to wear in bad weather. Which is to say, if you know you’re going to be hiking in a location known for wind, rain, and snow, these pants should be at the top of your checklist.
It isn’t too hard to find decent rain pants nowadays, but they usually look like an ugly pair of parachute pants. The Beta AR style is just as effective at blocking out moisture, but it has a tapered design that’s more pleasing to look at. This turns them into a pair of waterproof pants that could easily be worn into town as well, purely from a style perspective.
But enough about aesthetics. How do these pants actually perform in the wild?
Well, from a mountaineering perspective, the pockets are going to be harness compatible. They sit lower on the leg, so you’ll still have access to whatever you put inside, and the zipper handle won’t cause irritation after being pinned down by the harness strap.
The pant cuffs are also adjustable, allowing you to pull them over your boots and cinch them tight to prevent snow from entering. And with articulated knees and a gusseted crotch, you shouldn’t have any trouble moving around. My only minor complaint is that they run a bit small, and the waterproof fabric doesn’t stretch. I’d suggest going up a size from what you usually get, if you decide to go with these pants.
Water and windproof
Ergonomic with plenty of flexibility for movement
Harness compatible pockets
Adjustable ankle cuffs
Run a little small
Weight: 17.4 Ounces
Inseam: 31 Inches
Moving onto the women’s mountaineering pants, we’ll start off with another one by Arc’teryx. The Sentinels are one of the few pairs of shell pants that come in a long, which is already a pretty big bonus for taller women. Though technically designed for skiing, you can use them for any sport that takes place in a wintery environment.
Because they’re made with Gore-Tex, the Sentinels are both waterproof and breathable. It’s the ideal combination for any outdoor clothing, as it allows water (your sweat) to escape without letting any rain or snow pass through. If you need your legs to breathe even more, there’s a vent on each leg that you can open up.
While there is a flannel liner on the inside, there’s basically no insulation to speak of. I find that to be a good thing, because sometimes you might want to wear an outer shell in temperatures that are too warm for insulation. Other times, you might want to remove the waterproof layer when it isn’t necessary, and just move around in your base layer. These pants open up a lot of possibilities for use, making them perfect for the mountains, where you have to stay flexible.
Made with Gore-Tex
Comes in a “Long” size
Pretty much no insulation
Somewhat tricky sizing
Weight: 14.8 Ounces
Inseam: 32 Inches
One of the most form fitting pants in our review, you’d think that the Mountain Hardware Chockstone would be hard to size properly. However, even if you’re between sizes, you’ll be surprised by how well these pants fit. Perhaps it’s because of the spandex, but the waist has an easy time hugging curves without digging in or leaving gaps. The stretchiness in the material also makes them ideal for strenuous hikes where you’ll be lifting your legs into high and awkward positions.
A belt is included with the pants, which can be kept or removed, depending on your preference. Likewise, the ankle cuffs can be cinched around your boots, or just as a way to prevent unwanted materials from entering up your pant legs.
Two zippered front pockets, and a zippered thigh pocket, give you plenty of options for secure storage space while you’re hiking. While the front pockets aren’t harness compatible, you’ll still have easy access to the thigh pocket after you’re all geared up.
Unfortunately, the material does like to pill after a minimal amount of use. It’s more of an annoyance that doesn’t directly reflect on the pants’ ability to perform well in alpine environments, but it’s an annoyance nonetheless.
Cinching ankle cuffs
Material likes to pill
Weight: 19 Ounces
Inseam: 32 Inches
The Keb trousers by Fjallraven are very similar to the men’s pants that we reviewed earlier by the same brand. They’re water resistant (not waterproof), fast drying, and breathable, making them suitable for hot and damp environments. And when you start to heat up during your hike, there are two vents on each leg – one at the thigh, and one at the calf. They provide more than enough ventilation to release any excess heat buildup, allowing you to regulate your temperature more easily.
The curvy shape is perfect for most women, though the sizing itself does seem to run a little small. On the front of the legs and the seat of the pants, the material is reinforced to provide more durability for those areas that receive the most abrasion. There are even openings for knee pads, if you expect to be climbing steep slopes or crawling under various objects.
Around the ankle cuffs, the boot hooks are sturdy enough to survive some serious bushwacking. And the pant material itself is a good combination of durable and flexible, able to withstand quite the beating without sacrificing any amount of comfort in the process.
You’ll also appreciate the oversized pockets on each thigh, which are easy to access, whether you’re wearing a backpack, a harness, or both. Easily keep all of your snacks and belongings close by, so you can grab them at a moment’s notice.
Designed for curves
Reinforcement on high wear and tear areas
Sizing can run a little small
Weight: 9.1 Ounces
Inseam: 35 Inches
They may not be the most attractive pants in our lineup, but the REI Co-op XeroDry pants sure are effective. Making use of Gore-Tex, they’re both waterproof and breathable, allowing you to stay protected and comfortable through any weather changes that come your way.
The pants are made out of combination of ripstop nylon and polyester. With the nylon put in places where abrasion is likely, and polyester everywhere else, you get a comfortable pair of pants that are more durable in the places where it matters. Articulated knees and a gusseted crotch will also give you all the flexibility you need to maneuver around the obstacles in your path.
These pants have a pretty accurate fit, but if you need to adjust them, there’s a drawcord on the waistband to help you cinch things up. There’s a bit of tailoring you can do with the ankle cuffs as well, so you can trim or widen the opening to fit around boots or regular hiking shoes. The hip pockets are spacious and secure – in fact, they’re so spacious that you can pack the pants down into the left pocket when they aren’t being used. It’s a handy feature if you need to pull them out of your pack when it starts to rain, and then put them back when the skies clear up again.
Packs down into its own pocket
Not very stylish
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Are Climbing Pants Good for Hiking?
Soft-shell pants tend to be more durable than hiking pants, and they do a better job of blocking the wind and rain. Not to mention, the stretchy fabric gives you the range of motion needed to tackle those tough hikes.
Is it Better to Hike in Pants or Leggings?
Pants are always going to be the superior option when it comes to hiking and mountaineering. They’re far more durable and offer more protection against the elements than leggings will. Not to mention, when you encounter bugs, the little critters will have a harder time biting you through pants than they would through leggings.
When it comes to mountaineering, there are few things more important to consider than what you wear. Extreme temperatures and inclement weather are common in the mountains, which is why you need an outfit that can resist water, adapt to heat and cold, and feel really good on your body through it all.
In particular, the best mountaineering pants need to be both durable and flexible. Depending on your route, you may have to prop yourself up on your knees or take high steps up a steep incline. With that in mind, we believe that the Arc’teryx Beta AR pants are the best for men, and the Fjallraven Keb trousers are the best for women.