Hazy Trail Waterproof Walking Trousers from Columbia are excellent for people who enjoy getting out all year round, but do the majority of their hiking on coast and countryside trails around sea level, with the occasional adventure into the hills. Reasonably priced, lightweight, easy to carry and put on, decently breathable and reliably water- and windproof, they are the perfect pair of protective pants to carry in your pack as a just-in-case option during long day hikes and backpacking adventures.
Calf leg zips
Proper pockets with zips
Packs into its own pocket for easy carry/storage
Excellent range of sizes available
No recycled content
Lack of reinforcement on high impact areas
Regular leg length is a little short
One color only (black)
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Meet the reviewer
Pat has hiked all over the world, his adventures taking him to Mont Blanc, the roof of Western Europe; the Norwegian Alps; the highest peaks on Australia; and New Zealand’s Great Walks – among others. He’s an experienced tester of hiking footwear and gives each pair a thorough thrashing before reviewing.
Columbia Hazy Trail Waterproof Walking Trousers: first impressions
These down-to-earth Columbia Hazy Trail Waterproof Walking Trousers do their main job well, without making a massive song and dance about it. They have several good features – including proper pockets, an integrated carry pouch, reflective details and calf zips – but they’re really just designed to do one thing: keep your legs and hiking pants dry during sudden rain and snow storms when you’re out hiking.
• List price: $100 (US) / £100 (UK)
• Weight (men’s large): 320g / 11.3g
• Gender specificity: Men’s / Women’s
• Water resistance: Not specified
• Breathability: Not specified
• Sizes: XS-XXL, plus extended sizes up to 6X
• Leg length options: Men’s: Regular / Long; Women’s: Short / Regular / Long
• Materials: Omni-Tech (100% polyester)
• Colors: Black
• Best for: Day walking, hiking, trekking
The 2.5-layer Hazy Trail trousers are made with Columbia’s own Omni-Tech material, with a microporous membrane incorporated into a polyester-based laminate (none of which is recycled, sadly) that is tasked with keeping wind and water out while allowing the wearer’s body to breathe.
According to Columbia’s own tech scale Omni-Tech provides protection against “light to medium rain and snow” in “mild conditions” and during “moderate activity”. So let’s be clear: while these pants are well suited for day walking, hiking and trekking at up to low alpine level, they’re not designed or intended for climbing mountains or taking on anything too extreme.
I’ve been told that, as a public-listed company, Columbia don’t publish the results of technical testing on their garments or the materials used (which seems odd, frankly), so I’ve no idea what the verified hydrostatic head (HH) or breathability rating of these pants is, but third-party sources (and Dr Haskell Beckham, Columbia’s Vice President of Innovation) quote figures of HH: 10,000mm or more for Omni-Tech, and give the material a breathability rating of 10,000 g/m²/24hr.
There are rain pants and waterproof jackets out there with bigger numbers, but these ratings are good (larger than those given to the flysheets of many decent backpacking tents) and comfortably high enough for a garment to be considered reliably waterproof and comfortably breathable (textile experts say any garment with a HH of at least 5,000mm can be considered waterproof). Furthermore, the seams of the trousers are fully sealed (as you would expect), the pockets (which zip shut) have a waterproof overflap, and the trousers appear to have been treated with a water repelling (DWR) substance.
All of which sounds and looks great, but obviously I had to put the Hazy Trail trousers to a few real tests on some soaking wet walks in order to see how their performance compares with those of the best rain pants on the market.
Columbia Hazy Trail Waterproof Walking Trousers: on the (hazy and hydrated) trails
Luckily, while I was testing Columbia’s Hazy Trail waterproof trousers, Britain was battered by a sequence of storms that ensured the trails weren’t just hazy, they were downright drenched during the days I was out and about. The walking wasn’t especially pleasant, but at least I was able to really put these pants through their paces in the conditions they were designed for.
The Hazy Trail trousers worked just fine in terms of doing their primary job: keeping my legs dry. As noted above, these pants are designed for use in wet but non-extreme conditions, which is the sort of scenario the majority of us face most of the time, as we go for day walks and the occasional backpacking trip or overnight trekking adventure. (If you’re climbing a mountain or going somewhere very cold, wet and challenging, look for a hardier pair of protective pants such as the Haglöfs LIM ZT Shell GTX Pro Pants, but know that you’re going to pay a lot more for them.)
Light rain beads on surface of the Hazy Trails and rolls off, and the trousers didn’t wet out during the testing process (which is more to do with the DWR than the membrane) or let water through to my under garments. In my experience they supplied good protection from the elements, being both water- and windproof.
In terms of breathability, microporous systems like Omni-Tech (and Gore-Tex) breathe best in low humidity, and in the UK we experience quite high levels of humidity (even in winter), especially around the coast where I live and do most of my walking – so the conditions were quite challenging for these trousers. Nevertheless, they still performed reasonably well – I didn’t accumulate too much condensation and I’m confident they will work even better in drier, colder, less humid conditions.
These are over-trousers, designed to be pulled out of a pack and used as a shell layer on top of your hiking pants when the heavens open while you’re out walking. As such, it’s important that they’re simple and hassle-free to carry, and accordingly the left pocket on the Hazy Trails doubles up as a stuff sack, swallowing the rest of the garment and zipping shut to form a neat package that can be stuffed into the pocket of a hiking backpack and easily located when it starts raining.
Aside from this capability, I was pleased to see proper pockets on these rain pants – there are two, and both zip shut and have a waterproof protective flap to cover the zip. Note: the zip itself isn’t fully waterproof, so I still avoid putting anything that absolutely needs to stay dry in them, but these pockets can still prove very useful when you’re out and about.
A calf-length zip on each leg allows you to slide these trousers on without taking your walking boots off (because, by the time you’ve done that, you’ll be soaked through). You can tighten the bottom of the legs with a cord and toggle, and loop the cord over the speed hooks on the top of the lacing system of your hiking boots or walking shoes (if they have such a feature), to keep the pants in place and stop your best hiking socks getting wet.
The waist also tightens with a toggle, which I had mixed feelings about (the closed loop prevents one end getting lost, but the cord is far too long and it’s hard to get a tight, secure fit).
The Hazy Trail Waterproof Trousers are only available in one color – black – but they do have several reflective elements on them – around the back of the knees, on the bum and at the ankles – that make hiking at night on shared lanes a little safer.
With waterproof over-trousers, there’s always a trade-off between robustness and weight and bulk. At 320g for a pair of men’s large, Columbia have prioritized ease of carry over longevity, and there are no reinforced areas on these pants. If you typically time your hikes to happen in the drier months, but still need some just-in-case wet weather protection, these will be perfect; but if you’re looking for waterproof trousers you can wear for long periods of time throughout extended periods of the year, in conditions that are in any way rough, then you’ll need a tougher pair.
Fit and comfort
On test I found that these trousers have been appropriately sized to comfortably fit over hiking pants. One thing I did find was that the leg length on the regular-sized trousers was a tad short, so if you’re in any doubt, opt for the longer leg. (And, while we’re talking about sizing, it’s great to see Columbia recognizing that the outdoors is for everyone and making these waterproof overpants available in extended sizes up to 6X, albeit for an extra tenner – although they’re very often reduced by up to 50%.)
Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. He’s authored walking guides to Devon and Dorset, and once wrote a whole book about Toilets for Lonely Planet. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and instagram here.