Be bold, start cold. That was hammered into my mind my first time snowshoeing. You’re going to be moving so much that quickly, you’ll be warm enough to not need a billion thermal layers. However, if snow is falling or calf-deep, it’s still nice to have waterproof pants. But how do you strike a balance between waterproof and not-too-warm?
Can’t I just wear my snowboard pants? Sure, if you like sweat. Ski or snowboard pants are great for when you’re moving for a couple minutes and then not moving for 30 minutes in a lift line and on a chairlift. They’ll keep you warm during all of your stillness. However, try to wear them snowshoeing or cross-country skiing and you’ll be peeling them off, wondering if you just did a hot yoga session with how much sweat there will be.
Your best bet is layering. As I mentioned before, layering is great when outdoors, especially when conditions can quickly change. I always wear thermal-weight long underwear as my base layer for snow activities. I have a pair of Brooks running pants I love as an outer layer–they are warm and comfortable. However, waterproof they are not. I did some research and decided to invest in a waterproof shell pant for snow activities.
I did some research and saw the same name come up a few different times–Outdoor Research’s Cirque pant. With a killer deal on Amazon, I tentatively went for it. I was a bit concerned when they arrived–they looked just like ski pants–but took them snowshoeing to see just what they were about. While the outside was waterproof like ski pants, they were far more lightweight and breathable in comparison. Plus, they had pockets–multiple pockets, including one on the thigh that was perfect for holding my cell phone (even with a ridiculously thick case).
Like ski or snowboard pants, the inside bottom is reinforced and comes with a hook to attach to your boot laces. It’s almost like a built-in gaiter. I had already purchased nice fancy gaiters with a Christmas gift card, but I don’t think I could wear them on top of these. That feature didn’t work too well with snowshoeing or xc skiing, as the snowshoe straps covered my laces and there were no outer laces for xc skiing, but could still come in handy for other snow activities.
The pants definitely were a bit warmer compared to my Brooks running pants. I might even need to downgrade my long underwear to be light or mid-weight, as in temps around 25* a few times pulling my phone out of the pocket it was a little sweaty. A warm phone is better than a cold phone (zaps the battery), so I wasn’t too concerned. The warmth also made stopping for breaks or trail beers less cold! The only con is the fit–I wish they were numbered sizes instead of XS-XL. They do have velcro on the hips for better adjustment, but they did fit me completely differently sitting down vs. standing. They also are pretty long on me (I’m 5’6), so I’m extra glad they are waterproof as they do nearly skim the ground. Shorter gals might be out of luck on these!
Outdoor Research’s Cirque pant comes in black or pewter grey, sizes XS-XL and retails full-price for $150. You can find them at Outdoor Research, REI, Amazon and other outdoor stores.