We’ve just reviewed three top softshell legwear options from Berghaus, Montane and Mountain Equipment, but before we look at the individual strengths and weaknesses, here are som general points to help you if you’re in the market for a pair of softshell trousers.
Soft shell is a great choice for cold weather legwear. You get decent weather resistance but without the bulk, extra weight, restrictiveness, lack of breathability and flappiness – is that a word – of most overtrousers.
Usually it boils down to a choice between a non-membrane, double-weave, stretch Nylon type fabric – Schoeller is the best known and most expensive – or a membrane like Gore’s Windstopper or Polartec’s PowerStretch. In a nutshell you get more complete weather protection from a membrane fabric, but better breathability and often stretch from a double-weave material.
Features Worth Having
Stuff to look for includes a belt and double-stud waist fastening, thigh-vents if you intend to use them in warmer conditions, a close but not restrictive fit that will let you make high steps and prevent the waist from sneaking downwards in use.
For winter use we like zipped ankles to cope with big mountain boots, kick-patches to handly crampon scuffing and possibly braces to keep the waistline up where it should be.
Pockets are personal preference things. We never really use thigh pockets here, but you might. As they all come with pockets anyway, we’d suggest checking them to make sure they suit your personal needs.
Knees and seats tend to be prime sites for a bit of tougher material – the Berghaus Patera does these and ankles too. If you’re a neat climber who doesn’t kneel on things though, the former may be superfluous. If you’re a thrutcher however, all bets are off…
DWR or Durable Water Repellent treatment is what makes water bead and run off. It’s generally pretty good straight from the factory, but loses its effectiveness with repeated use. You can restore it and improve performance by washing and using an aftermarket treatment.
Quite often trousers not specifically aimed at winter users actually work pretty well if you layer them over a suitable base-layer tight or legging. Soft shell works well with snowy conditions and a bit of extra insulation will see you good to go.
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