Gear Guy

The Mistral Pants     Photo: courtesy, REI

Q:

What are the best pants for cross-country skiing?

While there's plenty of snow here in Australia, the temperatures typically don't get as low as they do North America or Europe. Give me the low-down on some great cross-country ski pants that aren't insulated so I won't burn up.
– Tom
Canberra, Australia

A:No, I certainly wouldn't get anything insulated. But then, I never wear insulated pants. I always layer so that one pair of pants can be matched up with different conditions.

I suppose the main question is: Do you want a soft shell pant, or something that's more waterproof/breathable? In most conditions, I should think a soft shell would work nicely. Here in the States, that would be something such as REI's Mistral Pants ($90), which are very water-resistant, wind-resistant, breathable, and add just a little warmth. Layer them with synthetic or wool long underwear in cold conditions and you'll have a very comfortable setup.

In your area, you might check out the Arc'Teryx Gamma LT pants ($160). Kind of pricey, but I have a pair and they are fantastic pants. Comfortable across a wide temperature range, very tough, wind- and water-resistant.

If it's snowing reasonably hard or even raining, then more of a hard shell might be appropriate, something that's genuinely waterproof. Again, in the States that might include GoLite's Shadow Pant ($85), made from Gore-Tex PacLite, the lighter-weight version of Gore-Tex that sacrifices some durability for weight. But they're great in snow conditions. In Australia, look for the Katmandu's Alverstone Trousers ($225), made with three-layer Gore-Tex for excellent durability.

For these? Same deal. Just pack some light- or mid-weight synthetic or wool long underwear, and you can nicely fine-tune the pants for varying conditions and temperatures. Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 Leggings ($70) would be ideal. They're made from merino wool, so they're soft, warm, and have a wide comfort range.

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