Tough trousers

We’ve tested eight pairs of the toughest trekking trousers on the market for men and women. Which will come out on top?

Couple walking outdoors

Ladies trousers

This unusual offering from the Swedish brand combines a comfortable stretch fabric with reinforced panels for extra durability in rough terrain.

Fjallraven Abisko trekking tights

Fabric
The stretch fabric is tougher than you might think, and is actually quite warm. It offers good wind resistance but no real water-resistance, so you’d need to put over-trousers on in wet weather. The reinforced rear and knee panels are really tough, and stop you getting damp if you sit or kneel on wet ground, as well as providing extra protection from sharp rocks and stones.

Features
There are two zipped leg pockets and a zipped waist pocket, although the close fit of the tights means it’s difficult to get much in them! They do have good ankle zips though, which makes it much easier to get them on and off.

Fit
If you like to wear tights or leggings for exercise, you’ll love these. They fit like running tights and are really comfortable, hugging the legs and thighs without feeling restrictive. They maximise freedom of movement – better than any walking trousers we’ve ever worn – but still sit comfortably under a pair of overtrousers if it starts raining. The tights come in a range of sizes from XXS to XXL, and the cut has a high waist to give good midriff coverage.

Final thoughts
These super-stretchy, comfortable leggings are a real winner. They give excellent freedom of movement but feel stylish and feminine too. The toughened knees and bum add to the durability and means they’re unlikely to snag or tear. They may not be quite as protective as softshell walking trousers, but they easily compete with most other lightweight fabrics. The only real drawback is the price – they’re not cheap.

4.5/5

 

Haglofs describes the Mid II Flex pant as ‘tough, versatile and dependable’, while emphasising the in-built stretch of the fabrics used to give flexibility and freedom of movement.

Haglofs Mid II flex pants

Fabric
These trousers use Haglofs’ Climatic fabric, a breathable polyamide-elastane blend that has built-in stretch. They also incorporate a 4-way stretch double weave flexible fabric over the knees and seat, which combines to give excellent freedom of movement. The fabrics have a DWR coating for improved water resistance but are Bluesign-approved and PFC-free.

Features
The Mid II Flex trousers are designed with articulated knees and an elasticated waist, with additional belt loops. They have two hand pockets and two large zipped thigh pockets, plus a rear zip pocket. You also get gusseted ankle zips and drawcord hems to stop the lower legs flapping about in high winds.

Fit
The trousers come in three leg lengths, offering a range of fits. However, the overall cut seems roomy in the thigh but fairly tight in the waist and hips, which may not suit all body shapes.

Final thoughts
The breathable and stretchy fabric makes these pants a versatile option for a range of active outdoor activities. They also have a good range of features, including numerous practical pockets. However, the cut may not suit all body shapes, unless you have a narrow waist and hips in relation to your thighs. Also, despite the DWR coating, we didn’t find them particularly water-resistant, nor are they fully windproof – chill seemed to cut through a little. As such, in grim weather you’d still be reaching in your pack for overtrousers.

3/5

  

This new offering from British brand Montane uses a new fabric to produce a pant designed with fast mountain walking and backpacking in mind.

Montane Alpine Trek pants

Fabric
The Alpine Trek Pants use Granite Stretch Lite fabric throughout; a lightweight nylon-face fabric with stretch, which offers good wind resistance and durability. The fabric’s inner face is designed to wick away moisture, while the outer has a DWR treatment to shed light rain. The insteps of each leg are reinforced with tougher Cordura panels for added protection from abrasion.

Features
The pants have belt loops and are supplied with a removable webbing belt. There is a secure press stud and secondary button fastening and a zipped fly, while the inner waistband has a brushed microfleece lining for additional comfort. There are two mesh-lined zipped hand pockets, an extra zipped security pocket inside the waistband and a low-profile rear zipped pocket. The fixed legs have ankle zips to accommodate a range of footwear.

Fit
Articulated knees and an active cut make these pants well suited for mountain or trekking use. The cut is slimmer in the lower leg, with no excess fabric to flap around, but with an accommodating but athletic fit in the seat and thigh. The pants are available in short and regular leg lengths.

Final thoughts
These well-made, relatively lightweight and extremely comfortable trousers permit good freedom of movement, and are wind and water resistant – giving enough protection to cope with all but extreme winter conditions. In warm weather they stay cool and comfortable, and rarely feel clammy.

5/5 BEST IN TEST

 

An adaptable and tough hiking and backpacking pant from the French outdoor brand, which is well-known for producing good quality, affordable outdoor kit.

Salomon Wayfarer Utility pant

Fabric
The Wayfarer pants are made from a polyester-elastane fibre blend, which is double-woven and offers 4-way stretch to permit excellent freedom of movement while remaining durable and hard-wearing. The fabric is windproof and water-repellent yet soft to the touch. It’s also Bluesign-approved for added environmental kudos, and has a UPF 50 rating to provide additional sun protection in hotter climes.

Features
The feature set is adequate if not spectacular. You get two small hand pockets, two rear pockets and a single zipped thigh pocket. There are belt loops at the waist, but no ankle zips or thigh vents.

Fit
The fit is slim and tapered, with articulated knees, but not overly restrictive in the seat or thigh. They’re very comfortable, although a little snug if you have a pear-shaped frame. Unlike many other women’s walking trousers, these come in three leg lengths too (with inside legs of 29½”, 31½” and 33½” respectively), so whether you’re tall or petite there should be a pair to suit you.

Final thoughts
These versatile outdoor trousers are tough enough and warm enough for use in variable weather conditions. The comfortable and stretchy fabric makes them ideal for active pursuits, and the tapered cut feels contemporary and feminine. They’re fairly lightweight but the softshell fabric is quite warm, so they’re probably too hot for summer wear. They’re reasonably well-priced though, especially if you find them on sale. As with almost all outdoor wear, our advice would be to shop around – we recently found them online at £30 off the RRP, which makes them very good value indeed.

4/5 GREAT VALUE

Men's trousers

These technical trousers combine hard-wearing Fjallraven fabrics with stretch panels to aid mobility for active pursuits.

Fjallraven Keb trousers

Fabric
Considerable thought has gone into construction, and these trousers incorporate a mix of fabrics – primarily Fjallraven’s G-1000 Eco, a proprietary poly-cotton blend which has strong environmental credentials, thanks to its use of recycled polyester and organic cotton. The trousers have reinforced panels at the seat and knees for extra durability, and ‘kick panels’ to prevent wear from hiking boots. They also feature elastane stretch fabric inserts to aid mobility. Seams are securely stitched to stand up to heavy-duty use. All the G-1000 panels can be waxed for additional water resistance.

Features
The G-1000 fabric makes these trousers very durable, but the trade-off is that they are fairly heavy and potentially hot. However, this is mitigated by numerous venting options. There are double zip openings on each leg, from knee to hip and along the calf, which really help to dump excess heat effectively (provided you don’t mind flashing a bit of leg on the hills). You get practical pocket arrangements too, thanks to two leg pockets with button flaps – one is also zipped for extra security, while the other incorporates a stretch pocket that is ideal for carrying a mobile phone or GPS. There are belt loops and twin hand pockets, but no rear pockets. The fixed leg endings have a robust strap adjustment and button fastening, plus lace hooks to secure the trousers to your boots.

Fit
The trousers are cut very well, with little excess fabric to snag or billow, plus shaped knees and seat. Little details also aid comfort – for example, there is no inner leg seam. Instead, a fabric panel has been used to reduce chafing and wear. Two leg lengths are also available, catering for regular and taller walkers. 

Final thoughts
These supremely functional, comfortable and well-made trousers offer excellent freedom of movement, ample pocket space and good durability – although the stretch panels are not as hard-wearing as the more heavyweight fabrics used elsewhere in the construction. Although expensive and a little heavy, they are a pretty versatile option for three-season walking. Fully waxed for winter use, they’d be a good windproof and weather-resistant option, especially if worn over leggings in very cold conditions, but the trousers are also ideally suited to spring and autumn walking. They’d probably get too hot in high summer, even with all the vents open, but then surely you’d be in shorts anyway, right?                             

5/5

 

  • Haglofs Rugged II mountain pant
    £150, haglofs.com, 5/5

Haglofs describe their toughest trekking trousers as an ‘extremely durable, fully featured stretchy hybrid trekking pant’

Haglofs Rugged II Mountain Pants

Fabric
Rugged by name and rugged by nature, these trousers are constructed from Haglofs’ excellent Climatic stretch fabric, which is strong but soft and comfortable. There are additional reinforced panels at the seat, knees and hems. Main seams are triple-stitched – all in all, they feel pretty much bombproof. The fabrics are windproof and water-resistant, but Bluesign-approved and PFC-free, offering peace of mind for green-conscious consumers.

Features
You get belt loops and two hand pockets, as well as two roomy thigh pockets with stretch bellows. There’s also a zippered back pocket, a stretchy media pocket incorporated in the right-hand thigh pocket and an additional hidden security pocket in the waistband. To mitigate the warmth of the heavyweight construction, thighs have zipped vents. These work well, although the placement is not quite as effective as on the Fjallraven Keb trousers. The fixed leg endings have a webbing strap and plastic buckle to cinch them in over boots.

Fit
The part-elasticated waist band also has Velcro adjustable straps, as well as belt loops. The fit is fairly slim but not restrictive – making them a good cut for a range of outdoor activities, from hillwalking, scrambling and general mountaineering to trekking and even climbing. Leg length is fairly long, at about a 33” for a size M.    

Final thoughts
High quality materials and excellent construction makes these just about the toughest hillwalking trousers around. Yet despite their hard-as-nails credentials, the fabrics feel soft and flexible thanks to built-in 4-way stretch. The trousers are cut really well and you get a multitude of useful pockets. They’re also extremely windproof and water-resistant, shedding drizzle easily. Their warmth makes them ideal for three-season use, but although they are equipped with thigh vents, they don’t shed heat quite as easily as the Fjallraven Keb trousers. They’re also a little heavier, though given the robust construction the weight is not excessive. They’re also better suited to taller, slimmer builds due to the relatively long fixed leg length. But if you’re looking for a pair of quality trousers that are built to last, these are a highly capable option that will give years of good service. We’ve also seen these on sale recently at £50 less than RRP, which brings them into slightly more affordable territory.

5/5 BEST IN TEST

 

Mountain Equipment Ibex pants

These versatile soft shell trousers are designed for adventurous hillwalkers and mountaineers in need of a lightweight but versatile mountain pant.

Fabric
The trousers are constructed from Mountain Equipment’s proprietary Exolite 210 double-weave soft shell fabric, which is very durable but also has built-in stretch for ease of movement. The face of the fabric is smooth for improved abrasion resistance and coasted with a DWR treatment for good water-resistance, while the inner is soft – almost fleecy in texture – giving excellent next-to-skin comfort.

Features
These trousers are lighter on pockets than either the Fjallraven or the Haglofs trousers included in this round-up. You still get two small zipped hand pockets and one small rear zipped pocket, as well as two zipped thigh pockets, though these are too small to accommodate bulky items. However, the lower pockets are partly mesh-backed, meaning that they can be opened to act as thigh vents and cool the legs. The waistband is lined with microfleece for added comfort, while there is a double press-stud waist closure and an additional integrated waist belt – both of which we actually found slightly annoying. We’d prefer the no-fuss security of a standard button closure and belt loops.

Fit
The fit is fairly slim in the leg, with pre-shaped knees and a close cut to the crotch and seat. The stretch fabric means there is zero excess fabric to flap around, making them ideally suited to a range of active pursuits. The leg endings have ankle zips with an internal gusset panel for a secure fit with a range of boots.

Final thoughts
The Ibex pants are ideal for the UK’s variable climate and versatile enough to serve as capable outdoor trousers almost all year round, striking a practical balance between weight and toughness. They’re lighter and cheaper than either the Haglofs or Fjallraven trousers tested here, and though they don’t have quite the same level of robustness in construction, they’re still well-made and durable. Our only niggle is the integrated and somewhat fussy waist belt, which seems a little superfluous.

4/5

 

Lightweight, hard-wearing, weather resistant and highly breathable pants for travellers, walkers or mountaineers.

Montane Terra pants

Fabric
The Terra pants are made from a nylon fabric called Tactel, which is wind and water resistant, fast drying and has a soft, cotton-like feel. This is combined with additional reinforced Cordura panels that offer extra protection for the seat, knees and inner ankles. Both fabrics offer UPF 40+ protection and the trousers also have a DWR treatment for additional water-resistance. Seams are double-sewn for increased durability.

Features
The trousers have two zipped hand pockets and a zipped security pocket. Thigh vents provide extra cooling when working hard, while ¼ length side zips means it is easy to adjust footwear, whether pulling up socks or retying laces. The pants have press studs at the ankle for a close, secure lower leg fit, which Montane says can also help to prevent heat loss.

Fit
The construction incorporates articulated knees and an active cut that is close but not too snug, permitting a good range of movement. Three leg lengths are available, meaning you should find a perfect fit whatever your size and shape.

Final thoughts
There’s a reason that Montane’s Terra pants are a proven best seller in outdoor stores across the land, from Fort William to Brecon. They’re a perennial favourite among UK walkers, being durable, comfortable, windproof, water-resistant and fast-drying if they do get a soaking. They are the lightest of all the trousers tested here too, and pack down very small for travelling or backpacking. Breathability is good, which is further aided by the thigh vents, and in summer we’d definitely wear these over all the other trousers here. Admittedly, they’re not as tough as the Haglofs or Fjallraven pants we tested – but Montane also make a tougher, more rugged (and higher-priced) version of these trousers called the Super Terra, which would stand up better alongside the Scandi brands.

4.5/5 GREAT VALUE