These smart-looking winter walking trousers claim to retain the wearer’s own body heat using thermal reflective tech, but are they hot property on a hike?
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They look like party trousers. OK, so they’re simple black on the outside, but inside the Back Beauty Passo Alto Heat Pant are lined with silver slabs of foil, or what Colombia calls Omni-heat technology. Dressed-up in out Sunday for the great outdoors, we headed out to Iceland in winter – where the temperatures never rose much above freezing – to give them a good test.
Columbia Black Beauty Passo Alto: Foil lining
The mid-rise waist initially felt a bit high, and the apparent foil lining was an early concern, but both worries proved unnecessary. Even on days when extra thermals were required underneath the fabrics didn’t seem to fight each other as you might expect and the mid-rise waist made the Women’s Black Beauty Passo Alto Heat Pants super warm around the hips and waist.
Black Beauty Passo Alto: Wind chill factor
With bonus wind chill and buckets of rain and snow in Iceland, the Back Beauty Passo Altos underwent a rigorous test. The outer soft-shell worked well as a windcheater, and the thermally-protective backing cleverly allows the fabric to breathe at the same time as helping to retain some much-appreciated body heat. Result!
Black Beauty Passo Alto: Zip it up
The Back Beauty Passo Altos feature zips in the bottom of the legs to allow either a boot cut style, or to remove them over boots, though we wouldn’t recommend the latter unless the boots are clean-ish. The drawstring hems with boot hook proved handy when walking in deep snow.
Columbia Black Beauty Passo Alto stretch pant: Clean look
After a week’s wear, the Back Beauty Passo Altos remained surprisingly clean-looking. They repelled small amounts of water really well, not letting a drop-through when caught a quick rain shower. The drips seemed to sit on the surface, in fact, the Black Beauty Columbia pants only became properly wet when worn behind a waterfall (well, it is Iceland!), but they seemed to dry relatively quickly once back in a warm vehicle.
Columbia Black Beauty Passo Alto: Water resistance
The water resistance is really impressive. As a photographer, I spent a lot of time kneeling on the floor trying to capture a good angle, so the articulated knees in these trousers meant they never rose up. So no cold ankles. A few minutes here are there kneeling on fresh snow didn’t seem to seep through either.
Black Beauty Passo Alto Omniheat heat pant: Super-snug
Super-comfortable and snug, and fashioned from fabric with a good amount of stretch – and with good quality zips – the Back Beauty Passo Altos remained a joy to wear. Worn day and evening, all week, both inside and outside, these well-made walking trousers kept the warmth in, and the cold out, while retaining a level of style that doesn’t leave you feeling like you’ve just come off a mountain straight into a restaurant each evening. For travel trousers, that’s almost unheard of.
Black Beauty Passo Alto Omniheat stretch pant: durability
Update 2022: the Columbia Black Beauty Passo Alto pants have now been taken on multiple trips, through many tough cold and wet conditions. Despite being well worn, and through the washing machine many times they still look as smart as when new, with no pulled threads and still just as warm and comfy.