It was one of those spring days when being dry wasn’t an option. Like with any classic line in Colorado’s Gore Range, it was a long, sweat-inducing, fast-paced slog. Fortunately for the skiing but unfortunately for our comfort, a wet 8 inches fell throughout the day. Eight hours in and my partner and I were soaking. My GORE-TEX jacket was wet inside and out.
My Norrøna Lyngen Flex1 pants, however, managed to dry out between intermittent bouts soaked from falling sleet and bushwhacking.
Softshell pants are, by and large, the superior choice for touring in dry climates. They breathe better than hardshells, and while not waterproof, they dry quickly. So, why are there relatively few good options out there? After destroying one pair through normal use, ditching one pair because they were too tight, selling another pair because the pockets were all wrong, and getting rid of one more because the waist fastener was insufficient, I was on the hunt, once again, for a simple softshell pant that could exceed what felt like a fairly low bar.
Norrøna, known for its hardshell products designed to withstand the harsh climate of Norway, recently came out with the Lyngen Flex1 ski touring pants ($279). And they feature an interesting twist — a zip-off accessory bib ($79). After testing a pair for a full season in Colorado, I’m convinced that Norrøna found the secret formula for softshell ski touring pants: the benchmark combination of breathability, durability, and function.
In short: Norrøna’s softshell Lyngen Flex1 ski touring pants breathe exceedingly well, proved durable, and protected me from snow and water where it really mattered. They aren’t the most versatile softshell pants out there, and I really wish they had belt loops. But with a modern fit and clever features, they meet the demands of year-round human-powered skiing. I have not come across a pair of ski touring pants/bibs that I like better.
Nørrona Lyngen Flex1 Pants
- Sizes S-XL
- Weight 602 g (Pants), 120 g (Bib)
- Fabric Flex1 and GORE-TEX 2-layer
- Recycled content 50%
Norrøna Lyngen Flex1 Pants Review
Norrøna Lyngen Body
Although sold separately, the mountaineering bib significantly elevates the Nørrona Lyngen pants. After a year of testing the combo, I rarely found a reason to remove the bib. It’s light, stretchy, and breathes well. It’s got a distinctly athletic (read: corset-like) fit that may not work for all body types.
That extra snug fit is very unique compared to other bibs on the market. And it requires a specific layering approach. For me, a base layer T-shirt, then the bib, then a sun hoodie worked perfectly. The bib creates an almost medical-grade seal — no snow is getting in there no matter how many times you tomahawk.
Flex1 fabric is Nørrona’s signature stretchy softshell fabric that shows up across all of its collections and makes up the bulk of its pants. I’ve been impressed with the Flex1 fabric in all the products I’ve tested. It’s breathable but also exceedingly durable, and that’s really what I’m after. Norrøna also included waterproofing in the knees and ankle cuffs, which keep you dry while you’re wallowing in deep snow or kneeling in a snow pit.
In terms of warmth, the fabric is thick enough that I ran these pants all season without a base layer. Generous side vents can dump heat quickly and efficiently with a quick zip. I did add a shell over the pants, the Norrøna trollveggen Pro Light Pants, in the field on two occasions when the wind was unbearable. Someone who runs cold might enjoy a light base layer underneath.
Norrøna Lyngen Build
These Lyngen pants are purpose-built for ski touring. Nørrona clearly designed them around a ski boot. That means they’re relatively shorter and have more flared legs. The fit is spot on for ski touring; it’s low profile but not restricting in the slightest.
Versatility-wise, however, it isn’t perfect for other winter activities. A friend shredded the cuff of his pair while ice climbing; the flared legs are vulnerable to crampon snags in non-ski footwear.
The four low-profile pockets were one of the original features that drew me to these pants. Each of them serves the exact purpose I need them to. The top pockets easily fit my Mammut Barryvox beacon. And the thigh pockets have plenty of room for my gigantic iPhone 6. Inner elastic pouches keep things from flopping around and even accommodate my oversized phone.
The cuffs and internal gaiters are some of the best I’ve seen in touring pants. They have ample adjustability, a reinforced waterproof GORE-TEX fabric, and they fall at just the right place on the boot so as not to interfere with ski/walk levers or bindings. After a full year of testing, they show nary a sign of wear.
The durability of the pants is clear after a full season of testing. As far as softshells go, they are tenacious. No crampon holes, ski edge slices, or fraying seams. While I did experience a few misfires of the removable bib’s closure zipper, the primary pant zippers have all functioned flawlessly. I anticipate that these pants are going to live a long life — even if I have to fix or replace the bib down the road.
No Belt Loops
There’s a singular flaw with these pants: no belt loops. I’ll never understand why companies shun low-profile belt loops, like the ones Norrøna has on its Falketind Flex1 pants. Without the bib attached, Velcro and elastic waist fasteners simply don’t cut it for my waist. They don’t hold up the pants when they are loaded down with a beacon, iPhone, snacks, sunscreen, etc. One of my touring partners with the same pants and more pronounced hips disagrees, so to each their own.
Fortunately, I brought them to my favorite seamstress, who also happens to be my mother, to install belt loops. Problem solved.
I spent a lot of time in the Norrøna Lyngen Flex1 pants over a full ski season in Colorado, and I can say with confidence that these are the best ski touring pants I’ve come across. Purpose-built for human-powered skiing, these pants are best suited to dedicated backcountry skiers in drier climates who demand breathability and durability for season after season of use.