Reviews

3

Comfortable soft-shell hiking pants that do what they…

Rating: rated 4.5 of 5 stars
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $139

Summary

Comfortable soft-shell hiking pants that do what they say—keep wind and even light rain and most snow off your legs and keep warm in cooler temps while also allowing venting in warmer (but not hot) weather. Durable, comfortable, and can even pass for decent pants in town stops.

Pros

  • Good wind resistant Gore fabric
  • Decent water/snow resistance
  • Very comfortable
  • Flexible stretch panels
  • Durability
  • Quick drying
  • Sustainable (Bluesign) manufacturing

Cons

  • Too warm for hot weather
  • Soak through in brush or heavy storms
  • Not as fast drying as lighter pants
  • Athletic fit not for everyone
  • Price

Pants_Scotland5.jpgFeatures

REI documents the following features, and I have provided my comments on each alongside, with more explanation in the appropriate section.

  • Fully windproof and highly breathable, GORE WINDSTOPPER fabric is water repellent enough to keep you dry in anything but a prolonged downpour.  True - see Weatherproof section below. They kept me warm in winds up to 40 mph and through light rain and heavy snow storms.
    Pants_Snow1.jpg
  • Stretch soft-shell panels at front of knees and back of thighs permit excellent freedom of movement while maintaining windproof, water-repellent and breathable warmth. True – see Comfort section below. They are extremely comfortable and flexible, and I wore them constantly on my two-week Scottish trip on the trail and in town.

    Pants_Side.jpg
  • Articulated knees and gusseted crotch offer a comfortable fit and freedom of movement.  True – see Comfort section below. From climbing fences, scrambling up rocks, and negotiating brush, I never felt constrained and the fit suits me well.
    Pants_Fence.jpg
  • Gusseted ankle zips make getting the pants on and off over boots fast and easy.  Untested – while they do zip relatively wide, I haven’t used mine to pull off over boots. I avoid that for the most part so the inside of the pants stay clean. I did unzip them to allow more ventilation on easy trails and hot days. The stretch panel material could catch on larger boots but I am sure you could get them over a pair of trail shoes.
    Pants_CuffOpen.jpg
  • Zippered back pocket for securing backcountry essentials; drop-in hand pockets are clip friendly; knife pocket keeps multi-tools and knives convenientTrue – all three pockets were useful and either zip closed, which was handy in town re-supplies, or are deep enough to hold a phone etc.
    Pants_PocketPhone.jpg
  • Step-in loops let you add an under-boot cord, preventing pants from riding and keeping debris outUntested – I used gaiters and didn’t feel the need for an under-boot cord. For my size, the pants would be the right length for this if needed.
  • Built-in daisy-chain waistband lets you quickly adjust the fitTrue – The belt was easy to use and adjust, with the only minor issue being occasionally slipping out if you didn’t fully hook it through (solved with a little practice).
    Pants_BeltFront.jpg
  • Zippered fly with snap button closure. True – worked well for breaks on the trail for, well, you know.
    Pants_Front.jpg

Fit & Comfort

I found the Windstoppers extremely comfortable. So much so in fact, that was all I wore crossing Scotland for two weeks, whether on the trail or in town.
Pants_PackFront.jpg

Waist size fit well (it adjusts from 32 to 34 inches) and the built-in daisy chain belt worked fine—there were a couple of slips early on but that was solved after a few times due to not fully hooking it through the webbing. There was no chafing or irritation from the belt under my pack.


Pants_Boots.jpg
The inseam is just the right length for my legs…not too long or short and comes down to the perfect length over my boots. In fact the length was so good I often would forego gaiters and use the Windstoppers to keep trail debris out of my boots (ankle length).
Pants_Boots2.jpgYou can almost see the mud line on my boots above stopping where the Windstoppers overlapped. I pulled the pants up here for a better view.
Pants_Back_TentDry.jpgThe pants have an athletic fit, I would say, but are not too snug. They may not fit everyone but were perfect for me. They feel good while moving and stretch when needed.
Pants_Knee.jpg

The stretch panels do catch slightly when you try to put them on but you quickly learn to avoid that by pointing your toes a little more as you pass the knee section.

The Windstoppers feel fine on the skin—no irritation at all and no stiffness or discomfort despite being wind/water resistant.
Pants_Snow4.jpg

One of the things I really enjoyed was using them in snow and light rain instead of rain pants. The Windstoppers didn’t have that “swish” noise that a lot of rain pants have.
Pants_Boots1.jpgThe Windstoppers work well over boots and with gaiters. I usually wear them zipped at the bottom to keep a leaner profile and avoid snagging them on brush etc. However, unzipped they slide right over my ankle length boots and looked fine in town
Pants_MarLodge.jpgand were very comfortable around camp or stream-side foot cooling lunch stops. 
Pants_LunchStop.jpgI wore them with gaiters over the top in several snow and rain storms and didn’t notice a lot of seepage.
Pants_PocketPhone1.jpgSome folks might like extra pockets, but I prefer a simpler design as I have lots of room in my pack’s belt and side pockets for storage. 
Pants_BeltBack.jpgA map and phone fit fine into mine and even a small wallet in the back pocket when in town re-supply days.

Construction

The pants are made of Gore Windstopper soft-shell fabric with stretch soft-shell panels. 
Pants_Snow2.jpgThey have articulated knees and a gusseted crotch. The shell material (lower legs and thighs mostly) are 52% nylon, 40% polyester, 5% “other”, and 3% spandex. Not sure what “other” means?

The stretch panels (knees and back of thighs) are 63% nylon, 26% polyester, and 11% spandex. The materials and construction are Bluesign approved which ensures they were made in an environmentally sustainable fashion. I won’t go into the details here as this is easily searchable.

Durability

The stitching seems solid and after several months of use I see no loose threads or any other issues. 
Pants_RiverStop.jpgTwo straight weeks of jaunts through heather in the Scottish highlands, sitting on rocks, etc. did not seem to do any damage. The high mobility areas around the knees and back of thighs (stretch panels) are very flexible but do seem like they might be a bit less durable. 

A final test in July included several miles of off-trail exploration through underbrush including blueberry bushes. I felt a few pokes and prods but no damage resulted to the Windstoppers or my legs.

Weatherproof

REI claims that the Vaporush Windstoppers will “keep those nasty, whipping alpine winds from reaching your skin with the windproof protection of GORE WINDSTOPPER soft-shell fabric. Not only do these pants envelop your legs in warmth on exposed ridgelines and summits, they also fend off light rain—and they breathe better than fully waterproof pants.”
Pants_Snow1.jpg

I found these claims to be matched by the performance within the conditions that I experienced. While I didn’t experience exposed alpine ridges in really cold weather, I did wear these for six days (two trips) and over 50 miles of hiking in two different snow storms this winter with temperatures to the low teens. The second trip, and coldest, included a Helly Hansen merino wool baselayer I was testing at the time. This included walking through drifts of snow up to 3 feet deep (but mostly 1-2 feet) and blowing snow with winds up to 30 mph (but mostly 10-20). I stayed warm and dry, and although working hard they vented well. 


Pants_Scotland4.jpgTrue wind testing came during my Scotland trip where I walked on two separate days in high winds and never noticed it on my legs.

I also wore them through several rainstorms upwards of 3-4 hours and they were relatively water resistant. The worst soaking was a two-hour summer storm the other week, but I think most of the moisture was due to my hiking through wet brush.

Cold resistance is excellent within reasonable temperatures (down to 10 degrees F). I wore them alone while moving from 20 to 80 degrees, and with a baselayer below 20 or in worse weather.

Surprisingly, the Windstoppers handled heat okay to a certain level. My Scottish walk included some of the warmest weather in decades—several 70 plus days—and I didn’t feel excessively hot. My last trip in the southeast US mountains it was closer to low 80s. The Windstoppers did OK, but got a little warm in these temperatures where I would normally wear shorts.

Layering

As mentioned above, I wore a merino wool baselayer below the Windstoppers on several cold and windy/snowy trips. The baselayer fit easily under them despite the athletic fit. This combination kept me warm and relatively dry in some pretty nasty weather. A pair of rain pants (Marmot Precip) fit well over the top on one trip and only added the swish factor noisiness.
Pants_Snow4.jpgGaiters (low Outdoor Research for the most part) fit fine over the top and added that extra layer of protection while hiking through snow from 1-3 feet deep.

As I mentioned above, I didn’t try to remove the Windstoppers over boots using the zips. I don’t like mud and dirt scraping on the inside so I only do that with full rain pants when I have to. The Windstoppers were so comfy and adaptable to most temperatures that this was not necessary anyway.

Testing Conditions

The REI Vaporush Windstopper Pants were tested from January to July 2018 in a variety of conditions. This included four 2-3 day backpacking trips in the early part of the year including a 48 hour rainstorm, a 1-foot snow storm, and another snow and sleet event. Temperatures ranged from about 10 degrees F to about 40 degrees.

In addition, I wore these pretty much exclusively in my two-week 200-mile crossing of Scotland in May. Temperatures were unbelievably mild from 30 degrees to mid 70s. Several days of rain (around 3) and two high wind days (up to 40 mph). A last test was performed in warm, humid, and stormy summer temperatures in the Southeast US mountains including off-trail wanderings through typical brush during a long afternoon rainstorm.

Pants_CampSeat.jpgTester Specs

I am around 6 feet tall and 170 lbs with a waist size of around 33 inches and inseam of 32 inches. Based on the on-line sizing chart, I chose the medium REI Vaporush Windstopper Pants. Their specs of an inseam of 32 and waist of 32-34 meant they theoretically would fit me perfectly, and that was the case once I got them.

Recommendation

I highly recommend checking out the Vaporush Windstoppers when considering a soft-shell pant to fill in your hiking wardrobe somewhere between light hiking pants and rain pants or insulated winter pants. They are comfortable and flexible on the trail, durable off the trail, and suitable for a range of weather conditions while looking decent for hanging out in town as well. In short, they were well-suited to my Scottish trip for which I purchased them.
Pants_ScotlandDone.jpgI even ended up wearing them to the celebration dinner after the TGO Challenge when I had a pair of travel pants available that I shipped to the hotel. I think windy colder season trips with potential weather, where lighter soft shell pants and warmer winter ones are not quite right, are the ideal conditions for the Windstoppers.

Alicia MacLeay TRAILSPACE STAFF

Great review, Phil! Thanks for taking the time to share it and these helpful pictures. Did you know REI has a corresponding jacket to go with the pants? https://www.trailspace.com/gear/rei/vaporush-windstopper-jacket/


1 month ago
denis daly

excellent review phill...You just sold me on adding these for the fall and winter


1 month ago
FlipNC

Thanks Alicia. I did see the jacket, but I tend to change my top layers more often than pants so stuck with my super light wind shirt with a couple of interchangeable layers under it rather than a 1 pound jacket.


1 month ago
FlipNC

Denis - I really liked these wandering Mt Rogers area in the snow this year. Price is a little high, but I used my dividend so didn't put cash out for them.


1 month ago

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