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Soft Shell Pants

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Top Picks

How we choose: The best soft shell pants highlighted here were selected based on 126 reviews of 75 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

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Outdoor Research Cirque Lite Pants

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

The Cirque Lite Pants are another hit from Outdoor Research. These alpine climbing pants are hiking, scrambling, and three-season mountaineering friendly.

Reasons to Buy

  • Tough, four-way stretch fabric
  • Durable Kevlar scuff guards
  • Hip-hugging waist
  • Medium-snug fit
  • Extreme versatility
  • Leg vents

Reasons to Avoid

  • Could be a smidge snugger on the lower legs

  Hiking out from Peggy's Pond in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness (Washington) Outdoor Research's Cirque Lite Pants Ever do something dumb outdoors and turn a pleasant hike/climb into an epic suffer-fest? Yeah, me neither. Outdoor Research, the “working man’s” gear company, has made a pair of pants that can take you from casual hikes with friends all the way to alpine adventures on the edge of the void. The Cirque Lite Pants are your insurance policy against wardrobe failure in the wilds.

Read more: Outdoor Research Cirque Lite Pants review (1)

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants

user rating: 5 of 5 (7 reviews)

A very solid pair of hiking pants suitable for a variety of conditions across four seasons. These best sellers have been re-designed to meet Bluesign environmental standards, and to provide additional comfort. These trousers come in a huge variety of sizes so that you can find the perfect fit.

Reasons to Buy

  • Comfortable
  • Breathable
  • Wind resistant
  • UP 50+ sun protection
  • Lightweight
  • Stretchy
  • 46% recycled material
  • Soft stretch waist band with an internal drawcord for stability
  • Quick drying, light water repellency

Reasons to Avoid

  • Waist size is small: order up a size

    In most conditions, I prefer to hike in shorts or 3/4 length pants. I tend to hike pretty warm, and sometimes full length pants are too warm. But there are times, especially in the winter and shoulder seasons, when a full-length pair of pants are the perfect option. Outdoor Research is currently advertising that their best selling Ferrosi pants have been “redesigned for more comfort,” so I was eager to give them a test. Fit is snug… recommend sizing up Fit: I am a pretty solid size 38" waist, and most other pants/shorts I’ve tried in 38" fit perfectly.

Read more: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants reviews (7)

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Joggers

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

The Ferrosi Joggers are a light pair of synthetic pants that are great for hiking. I like the tactile, quick-drying, breathable yet durable fabric, and they’re well-designed unless you favor a fly with a zipper. The jogger style (elastic cuffs) work better with low hikers, but they make regular Ferrosi hiking pants. One of the best hiking pants I have worn.

Reasons to Buy

  • Fabric is light, comfortable, breathable.
  • Forgiving fit
  • Good basic features

Reasons to Avoid

  • No zippered fly.
  • Jogger vs. pants, a style choice.
  • Limited wind resistance

 BASIC INFORMATION Outdoor Research offers Ferrosi hiking pants for men and women (in regular and convertible styles, if you like pants that zip down to shorts); the jogger style I tested is only made for men, in sizes small through XXL. They run true to size. The jogger style is a bit different than the pants because the joggers have an elastic waist and an external drawstring to tighten them (the pants have an internal drawstring) and no belt loops or zippered fly. The Ferrosi pants [not joggers, loose cuff like normal pants] are sold in two-inch waist increments and in a couple of different lengths.

Read more: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Joggers review (1)

Top Hiking Pant / Soft Shell

Sitka Ascent Pant

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

The Sitka Ascent Pants are a compellingly solid pair of lightweight hiking and hunting pants, built for warm-weather conditions. Although they are made by a hunting-focused company, these are every bit as good for non-hunters as they are for the hunters—and near perfect for people like me who do both. The breathable, stretch material (Stretch CORDURA Nylon Woven Blend) keeps things cool downstairs when the temps are hot, but unlike many summer hiking pants on the market, these are actually durable and can take a beating.

Reasons to Buy

  • So comfortable you won’t want to take them off.
  • Odor control technology makes it so you don’t have to take them off.
  • Highly breathable = less sweaty bits
  • Deceptively strong...they are much stronger than they look.
  • Lots of sizing options for men and women
  • Loose enough for a baselayer underneath, thus extending their usefulness into cooler weather

Reasons to Avoid

  • Zipper pulls come untied
  • Velcro closure to mesh knee pad pockets
  • No rear-facing pocket

Conditions:For seven weeks, I’ve worn the Sitka Ascent Pants for a variety of activities in the mountains of Central Pennsylvania (Eastern USA), including backpacking, day hiking, cutting wood, trout fishing, morel mushroom hunting (no luck), and scouting for future whitetail deer hunting areas.    Reviewer’s Measurements: Height: 6'2" (74" or 1.88m) Weight: 200 lbs (90.7kg) Typical Pants Size: 32" waist, 34" inseam Reviewed Size: 33T (measures 33" waist, 34" inseam) Reviewed Color: Pyrite (3 total colors options exist—2 camo and 1 solid) Fit:These pants have what Sitka calls, an “articulated fit for maximum range of motion with minimal bulk.” This description is spot-on accurate, as the Ascent Pants feel practically tailor-made...

Read more: Sitka Ascent Pant review (1)

Outdoor Research Cirque Pants

user rating: 5 of 5 (2 reviews)

Functional, comfortable, active, 3-season sports pant! Excels even under difficult alpine climbing conditions here in our cool/moist PNW climate. Some features hard to find in any pant, are in the design of Cirque. Can't find your size? Great news ... I had an alteration tailor altered my leg length and kept OR's amazing 'infinite' guarantee!

Reasons to Buy

  • Highly flexible 4-way softshell stretch fabric
  • Highly breathable, wicking fabric with huge goose down like temperature comfort range
  • Highly durable fabric, thick so cushions against rocks and brush
  • Active sport 4 pocket design, optimized for alpine climbing
  • Suspender and belt compatible
  • Extemely well crafted, reinforced fabric stitch patterning
  • Fully gussetted for use to help cool or use with ski boots
  • Color Choice!(2): Black (actually dark charcoal) and Putty

Reasons to Avoid

  • Inseam length options are limited! (solved it: got it tailored!)
  • If hiking: front side pockets (2) are shallow (designed for climbing harness use)

CRIQUE? Pronounced: "sir-ka"; Meaning:  "A steep, amphitheatre-shaped hollow occurring at the upper end of a mountain valley, especially one forming the head of a glacier or stream. Cirques are formed by the erosive activity of glaciers and often contain a small lake." Sounds like my favorite kind of hiking area! Lanham Lake Snowshoeing Used them again yesterday Snowshoeing at 25°F for a few hours, without underlayering.  They were totally comfortable on the Lanham Lake Trail day hike, just east of Stevens Pass, WA.

Read more: Outdoor Research Cirque Pants reviews (2)

Arc'teryx Gamma LT Pant

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (9 reviews)

A serious performer that is well worth the money.

Reasons to Buy

  • Fit
  • Stretch
  • Comfort
  • Versatility

Reasons to Avoid

  • None to date

I don't climb, but I do hike and backpack, and my preference has always been softshell pants. I was a Marmot guy for a while but after another pair found itself covered with Tenacious Tape (my fault...not Marmot's) I bit the bullet and dropped some bananas on the Gamma LT's after reading countless positive reviews. I've only had them for about three months but after just getting off a long solo in the Sierra's I'll say these are, by far, the best hiking pants I've ever owned. I'm a 32/33 with thick legs and the M fits like a glove.

Read more: Arc'teryx Gamma LT Pant reviews (9)

Marmot Scree Pant

user rating: 4 of 5 (10 reviews)

The Marmot Scree Pant is an extremely comfortable, water resistant, breathable, highly wind resistant soft shell pant that performers exceptionally well in 4-season weather. Points can be added for the stylish look of these pants.

Reasons to Buy

  • Fits well
  • Comfortable
  • High effective at wind protection
  • Warm
  • Stylish

Reasons to Avoid

  • Moisture build up in the pockets
  • Only one cargo pocket

Testing Parameters Several day hikes and mild weather backpacking. Three days on Mt. Rainier with lower elevation temps in mid-60s, upper elevation temps in low-20s with 30-40mph winds. ========================================= Fit & Comfort I purchased these pants in a store after trying them on. Past experiences have taught me that soft shell pants are short in the inseam and purchasing them online leads to shipping them back. This was the first pair of 32-inch waist soft shells that comfortably fit my 34-inch inseam.  The pants are soft and comfortable, easy to move in, and a pleasure to wear.

Read more: Marmot Scree Pant reviews (10)

Mountain Hardwear Yumalino Pant

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

These are a lightweight winter pant that move with you and keep the chill away.

Reasons to Buy

  • The light weight of them is a huge bonus for me. The stretchiness of the nylon/elastane allows them to move with you, the thin layer of fleece helps to maintain warmth, and they are EXTREMELY comfortable.

Reasons to Avoid

  • If you end up in a deluge you’re going to get wet. The DWR treatment lets droplets bead off but won’t keep a soaking rain at bay. Sitting on a wet chairlift during spring skiing can be a problem.

These pants are my go-to for 95 percent of my winter activities. I’ve worn them for winter trail runs, skiing (Alpine and Nordic), snowshoeing, skating, snowball fights, and casual walks. They simply deliver. This will be my third winter with them and their durability continues to impress me. The only tear in one of them was from a dog bite—considering I’ve worn them in brush, on chairlifts with sharp edges, wearing crampons, etc. I’d say they’re holding up well (no loose stitching either).

Read more: Mountain Hardwear Yumalino Pant review (1)

Outdoor Research Supercharger Pant

user rating: 5 of 5 (1 review)

The Outdoor Research Supercharger pants are a lightweight hiking pant made of Schoeller fabric with Nanosphere technology, which makes them breathable and stretchy but also wind, water, and dirt resistant. I found them to be very functional and durable when used on ‘swamp hikes’ in South Florida and also in every-day causal wear. They would be suitable for a variety of uses, which helps to justify the steep initial cost. I found the sizing to run large and the inseam a bit short, though I admit, I am not of a very average size for a woman. See my updates at the end...after hundreds of miles of use, I've upgraded these to the best outdoor pants I've ever worn!

Reasons to Buy

  • Water-repellent/resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Quality construction and materials
  • Very durable
  • Trim fit around the ankles

Reasons to Avoid

  • Short inseam for my height and weight

  Fit and FeelI My first experience with the OR Supercharger pants was that they were larger than expected. I requested a size 6, as I have found this is the size that most consistently fits me in other outdoor brands (Mountain Hardwear, Columbia, Royal Robbins). But the waist of these pants was too large. So I requested the next size down, a 4. Luckily the second pair fit quite well. I have since ordered a different style of OR pants (capris), also a size 4, and the fit was consistent. So I would caution that OR pants, in general, run a size or two large.

Read more: Outdoor Research Supercharger Pant review (1)

More Reviews of Soft Shell Pants

Trailspace reviewers have shared 126 reviews of 75 different soft shell pants.

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