Norrøna Bitihorn Zip-off pants

Breathable, lightweight and durable pants are a must-have for any long hike in the backcountry. I’ve used the Bitihorn pants on two separate long-distance hikes: the Bitihorn lightweight pants in New Zealand (the zip-off model did not exist yet at this time) and since I was happy with them I wanted to use one again for our trip across Nepal. Bitihorn is still a nice and comfortable pants to wear, though Norrøna have made some changes to the model and not all for the best. It’s a pricy pants, too: 200€ for the zipoff model, 139€ for the standard one.

Specs

Just for the record: I’ve used the men’s model of these pants (explained below), so the specs below are for this model, not the female one.

  • Weight: 360g
  • Flex1 fabric
  • Ankle with velcro adjustment
  • Back pocket
  • Custom-fit waist system™
  • Gaiter hook to connect pants to shoes
  • Hand-warming pockets
  • Inside mesh phone pocket
  • Stretch panels on knees and seat
  • Two thigh pockets

Comfort & Breathability

This has long been my favorite hiking pants because they are so comfortable to wear. The fabric protects you from the wind though it breathes really well, so they are great pants to wear on both warm and chilly days out in the hills. In Nepal it was not always possible to use the zip-offs due to cultural restrictions, but even when I just had them rolled up when it was hot and humid outside I was still not boiling.

The female model I used in New Zealand was great because it had a loose fit and allowed for an incredible range of movement. Shortly after that Norrøna has reviewed these pants and changed the cut to make the fit much tighter. After that I did not fit into them anymore, or at least they did no longer feel comfortable. Norrøna has always been a brand that pays attention to the aesthetics of their products, though in this case aesthetics seem to have taken over from functionality. For me, the most important feature of hiking pants is that they allow me to move through difficult terrain in the backcountry, not that they look flattering on my butt. For Nepal I’ve changed to the men’s model, and of course that was no perfect fit either but it at least allowed for better mobility.

2018-03-08 08.37.06

Durability

My Bitihorn zipoff made it to Nepal and back, though it did require some maintenance on the way. The main issue with the pants is where the back pocket is located: this is the first place where it started ripping on both the old and the new model, and it ripped there pretty fast. Of course, a lightweight pants will have taken a beating after using it so intensely for so long. Yet it only took a week or two before I had the stitch the area around the pocket for the first time, and I stitched it seven more times before the hike was over. Considering the price of the pants, I found their durability disappointing. PJ’s Bergans Imingen zip-off pants lasted through it much better.

Features

There are a couple of excellent features that Norrøna includes while the weight of the pants remains low. My favorite is the custom-fit waist system. I’m not a big fan of wearing belts, I always find them a bit awkward and in the way for a hipbelt, but with the velcro that lines around the hips you can adjust the hip-width of the pants to make for a perfect fit.

Another very practical thing are the zippers on the legs. One zipper tightens or widens the legs, so you can have them closed when it’s cold or open them up when it’s warm so you can roll up the pants. Another zipper runs the length of the lower legs up to the knee. With this one you can unzip and rezip the shorts without needing to take your shoes off, of take the entire pants on and off with your shoes on. This was really nice for us: when winter struck in Nepal I would often start out walking in primaloft pants during the first couple of hours, but when the sun hit and it quickly became warm I could slip into my Bitihorn pants without the hassle of balancing on your shoes while you’re switching pants.

I did also like the bigger thigh pockets: they are big enough to fit a phone, or even your passport when you need it close at hand. I often had passport and permits in there when I knew it would be a day with a lot of checkposts. A passport is a pretty big item to have in your pocket, yet the pockets are placed smartly and having it there was never a bother while I was walking.

2018-03-08 08.36.27

Conclusion

The Norrøna Bitihorn is a comfortable hiking pants with a lot of great features. If it wasn’t for the tight fit of the women’s model, their short durability yet high price tag I would use these pants again. For now I’ll have a look around and test some other models on the market.

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