I’ve tweaked my winter gear over the years.
As with many people, I bought into wearing bulky (and not breathable) “mountaineering shells,” eschewed fleece as outmoded gear, and wore equally unbreathable shell pants.
Then I gained experience, read the informative Winter Trekking website, and slowly modified my gear for the Nordic backcountry skiing in the Intermountain West (high aerobic output with cold and dry conditions and mainly sheltered areas) that I tend to favor.
Oh, I still wear heavier shell garments when I need them (an oversized Red Ledge jacket in camp, shell pants for more technical skiing, my snow gaiters, and I always take shell mitts). Still, the breathable wind garments and similar serve me better for the type of winter activities I do and where I do them.
And among the garments I use? Another Champion branded item from Target – wind pants with a polyester mesh lining.
Unlike the 3 oz wind pants I use for three-season backpacking, these Champion Windpants are looser fitting. The looser fits allow the pants to fit over other bulkier winter clothing. Additionally, the pants also have some ankle zips to fit over my Nordic boots easier, and have the previously mentioned mesh lining.
The pants are heavy by three-season wind pants standards at 9oz but light by winter use standards. I could save the weight by cutting out the mesh, but the mesh ends up, in many ways, what makes this product so useful.
The mesh keeps the pants off my base layers or ski pants for better breathability, keeps them a little drier, and adds a small bit of warmth, too — the same strategy employed by traditional and high-end winter base layers.
These wind pants are nothing special and found in many different retailers. Running clubs, high school and college track teams, and similar have used this same garment for decades (typically labeled as “track pants”) for the same reasons I use them for skiing.
How effective are they?
Well, I’ve been using them for almost a decade for a reason. And with any dry “fluffy” snow, I prefer them to hardshell pants. They stash easily, are versatile enough that I always put them in my camp kit when traveling, and similar pants are a backcountry staple for many. And I used them effectively for some sloppy but beautiful conditions in Bryce Canyon this past Thanksgiving.
My lined wind pants end up being found easily in discount stores such as Target or Walmart, any sporting goods store, and that 800-pound gorilla known as Amazon. And typically for $30 or less.
Simple, effective, and long term reliability; another item I’ll always have as a go-to piece of gear.
EDIT: And note, these are not the insulated snow pants currently for sale at Target as noted in the comments. If you are not familiar with these standard pants, the photos from eBay should be instructive. Change the label and color, perhaps changing the styling a smidge as well, and someone in your neighborhood probably wears them in between runs in 2019, 2000, or 1980 – Same mesh, same pockets, the same ankle zips.
UPDATE – These older-style windpants get a bit harder to find, but this pair from Amazon costs under $25 and work well.
Disclosure: I purchased these Champion C9 pants with my funds.