Expert Review: Norrona Lofoten Men's Pants

Published on 04/18/2023 · 11 min read This review is my honest opinion of the pants, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2022.
Elias Lawson, Ski Expert
By Ski Expert Elias Lawson

All photos courtesy of Elias Lawson

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the pants, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2022.

My take

The Norrøna Lofoten pants are ideal for both backcountry touring and lift-accessed skiing. Featuring a GORE-TEX design with minimal insulation, these pants are best paired with layers underneath to maximize their performance on the mountain fully. Highly windproof and waterproof, moderate breathability, and extremely durable for both recreational skiers and outdoor professionals.

About the pants

  • Brand: Norrøna
  • Model: Lofoten GORE-TEX Pants
  • Size Fit: Large - True to Size (a bit baggier than Norrøna claims as their “technical fit”).

About me

  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 185lbs
  • Pant size: Large (32x36)
  • Experience: 8 years resort, 3 years backcountry

Test conditions

  • When I bought these: December 2022
  • Days used: 6
  • Where I’ve used them: Central Oregon Cascades backcountry
  • Weather conditions used in: Dry and light champagne powder, sunny spring corn, icy couloirs, white-out blizzard, and gale-force winds.

How they perform

Durability
5/5
Waterproofing
5/5
Ease of Movement
4/5
Breathability
3/5
Comfort
3/5
Warmth
2/5

What I was looking for

I have been searching for a thin-layer hardshell pant option for quite some time. My recent snow pants have served me well but had significant insulation better suited for an in-bounds resort-specific pair. In the past few seasons, having shifted my skiing to mainly backcountry objectives, I needed something that could facilitate uphill travel with solid breathability while remaining wind and waterproof for harsh conditions. I also needed them to have ample room for gear storage (beacon, voile straps, headlamp, snacks, radio, etc.). So, many large pockets were a must.

Why I chose this gear

Ultimately, I chose the Norrøna Lofotens as they offered the best and most efficient features on the market. I was attracted to the large front cargo pockets, thoughtful reinforced material around the ankles, and the option for zip-on bib suspenders. They compared closely to other options from top brands like Arc’teryx, Patagonia, Flylow, and Strafe in terms of performance for me. Still, they had the edge on these other offerings regarding usability and ergonomics. I also run super hot in the backcountry and usually peel layers shortly after starting on the skintrack. It’s actually rare that I’ll make it to the top with anything but a T-shirt. With my last pair of pants, I could never get layering right. If I wore no baselayers, I’d end up freezing at the summit, and if I wore extra layers, I nearly died of heat exhaustion on the ascents. The Lofotens are just about perfect for regulating temperature. With a pair of baselayer pants under them, I’m content skiing both uphill and down all day long.

What I love about them

  • Fit: The fit here is mostly on point for me. I’m a pretty tall dude at 6’3”, and the Large fully covered my top boot buckles while still leaving breathing room around my waist. That is exactly what I was looking for, not to get snow up my ankles. They tend to be a bit baggier on fit, which I imagine is to provide a better range of motion. Personally, I would probably go a hair slimmer throughout the entire length if possible, but this also may be due to my relatively slender frame. My one gripe with these pants is how wide they flare out to go over my boots. It makes them convenient for wider cuff boots, but they could’ve trimmed the circumference down by 0.5” and still had ample room to cover the power strap and buckles. To fix this problem, they have snap-on buttons at the base to fold over the excess material and yield a lesser overall profile. But these feel extremely tacky and seem to cause more issues than just the regular flared width. I’ve definitely snagged them a few times as I’m dismounting my snowmobile, and I reckon it’d also be easy to get them caught on crampons during ski-mountaineering adventures. Given that this is not the intended market for these pants, I might consider other options for true spring mountaineering.
  • Waterproofing: Weatherproofing seems to be a major strength of the Lofoten if not its best quality. The rigid GORE-TEX design is both waterproof and windproof and performs amazingly well across various PNW conditions. While I never experienced heavy rain, I did see wetter spring-ish snow and heavy, dense “cascade concrete.” I also spilled my water bottle a few times during rushed hydration breaks, and it repelled perfectly, so no complaints here.
  • Durability: As of yet, I have no complaints about the Lofoten regarding durability. Norrøna has done a fantastic job adding extra material to the cuff area around the ankles; I have quite a few cosmetic black scuffs on both pant legs in this area but without tears/rips or permanent damage. They did a great job of locating and intentionally padding these high-risk areas. The zipper quality and interior pockets are also very well crafted and seem to be made to last for many years. Norrøna offers a very generous 5-7 year warranty to back their top-notch quality. One note, though: These pants feature standard GORE-TEX versus GORE-TEX Pro on their pricier models. GORE-TEX Pro has Micro Grid Backer (snag resistant) fabric rather than polyurethane. While I haven’t experienced any issues with the standard GORE-TEX, I am intrigued to see its durability compared to other Pro gear I own.
  • Weight: Not too much to note about the weight. These are far from the heaviest pants I’ve owned, but they aren’t terribly light, either. Weight is certainly a concern in the backcountry, but I’d say the slightly heavier exterior construction pays off dividends for weatherproofing and durability. These pants don’t have any unnecessary weight. The design is thoughtful and efficient, and I appreciate the extra material in critical areas. I’d rather have these pants than ultra-light gear that won’t stand up to heavy use.
  • Quality: Absolutely zero issues here. Norrøna is up there with the highest-end brands on the market, and it shows. The Lofoten pants show their quality in the material choices and attention to detail on usability and durability. Not to sound too tacky here, but just in picking them up, I can feel the level of quality is superior to many other brands I’ve skied on. They feel tough and durable yet very practical for everyday skiing.
  • Special Features: I love the zip-on bib attachments. I have yet to use them in the field, but I will likely try them in my next endeavor. Even if I don’t ultimately use the bibs as my go-to, I appreciate the intentionality of Norrøna in including the option. They also come with another nifty pocket.
  • Ease of movement: For the most part, I am pleased with the ease of movement of the Norrøna Lofoten. But some of the aforementioned issues regarding fit also come into play here. The widely flared ankles seem to cause more issues on uphill movement than I’d like. They make gear transitions a bit more complicated and increase the risk of snagging them on crampons, ski bindings, poles, or terrain features. The overall baggier fit also seems to complicate movement in some circumstances. A slightly slimmer, more stretchy design might yield easier touring without worrying about snagging my pants on obstacles. For what they are (being a rigid, stiffer GORE-TEX hard shell), I still give them 4 stars on movement. But in a perfect world, I would like to see a more tapered fit down the legs, with a more technical, athletic feel for uphill pursuits. The wide ankles, baggy fit, and stiff material is an interesting combination that I’m not sure is ideal for my type of skiing (free-touring and technical ski mountaineering).

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Warmth: Above, I gave these pants 2 stars for warmth. I compared these to a fully insulated pair of pants, where one might not need any other layers to moderate temperature. Given I also naturally run hot, I factored that into my rating. For me personally, these pants are a 5/5 on temperature (as opposed to warmth), given my typical usage case. I have never lacked in extremely cold conditions when paired with baselayer tights and athletic shorts. And considering how much uphill touring I do, I greatly appreciate a little less warmth. So, I wouldn’t say these are warm pants by any means. But depending on layering and application, they seem to be well suited towards both uphill and downhill pursuits.
  • Comfort: Overall, I don’t find these pants to stand out as either super comfortable or uncomfortable. It’s not meant to be a pair of cozy, insulated pants, and that’s okay. I went into assessing the comfort without comparing them to my previous fully insulated pairs. Throughout my quads, knees, and ankles, I find the pants to be just fine in comfort. They are a bit stiffer due to their GORE-TEX construction, but this doesn’t bother me particularly. Especially paired with a solid baselayer, they don’t alarm me in any way. But, I find the waistband to feel rather abrasive, and it is hard to situate just right over long days. This may be due to my usage, as I had no upper body baselayers tucked under the pants to provide extra padding. As mentioned, I run on the warmer side and love T-shirt touring for most conditions on the ascent. Without any extra layers on, the waistband rubs against my bare skin in a fairly uncomfortable way. I did try loosening and tightening the fit to fix the problem, but ultimately never dialed in the perfect feel.
  • Breathability: For any resort application, I would give 5/5 stars for breathability. But when it comes to mostly backcountry touring, I find the breathability lacking compared to other options on the market. While it does have fairly long leg vent zippers, they don’t open up as far as I would like and still have a mesh-like barrier that reduces airflow. For reference, each side opens up about 1” wide at most and is ~1.5’ long. Some strong competitors on the market have near-full leg-length zippers that completely expose baselayers without the annoying mesh barrier. I assume that the lack of a complete opening is there to protect from the elements. But for high aerobic intensity activities like touring, I would prefer the option for maximum breathability.

Favorite moment with this gear

I’ll actually have to mention two different days here to compare. Both occurred within the last few weeks during our most recent storm cycle. The first was a unicorn-deep champagne powder day with stable avalanche conditions—something fairly unheard of in Central Oregon. My partner and I were able to ski 3k vert of untouched steep powder through bowls, pillow fields, and tree lines. It was prime conditions, and the Norrøna Lofoten pants kept me very dry in the knee-deep powder. I recall also being impressed by how perfect my temperature was that day. So often, when breaking a skintrack in deep powder, I overheat quickly and start shedding as many layers as possible. It wasn’t a concern for me here.

The other occurred a few days after when my other touring group decided to push for a bigger objective—Mt. Washington, one of the most unique and prominent peaks in the Cascades lineup. Its razor-blade pointed spire stands as a geography marker in the region, and we were excited to see how far we could make it up this beast. Unfortunately, the weather turned sour, and we were faced with gale-force winds, scoured snow conditions, and quite a bit of ice. The uphill ascent gave us a run for our money, but my Lofoten pants kept me dialed in and focused on the right beta for our final push. When we finally topped out at our false summit for the day (the actual spire requires technical ice climbing, which we did not have the gear for that day, especially with the weather conditions), the winds reached a climax and were howling as loud as ever. I had a fully formed ice beard and wanted nothing more than to be back below the tree line and shielded from this storm. But amidst this, my legs were perfectly toasty, and the pants blocked all of the nasty weather. I might need a new balaclava, but I’m all set with the Lofoten.

Value for the money vs. other options

I have skied on many pairs of snow pants over the years, from cheap second-hand finds to high-end, expensive gear. These err on the pricey side at around $550 and are not value-minded by any stretch of the imagination. But considering their durability, build quality, and fantastic warranty, I think it’s fair to say that these are a worthwhile investment. Outerwear is not disposable gear and ideally should last multiple decades. I’ll happily pay a few hundred bucks more to ensure my pants will serve me well many years later. I’d put these in the same league as some Arc’teryx gear I own. It’s not for the novice beginner and isn’t necessary for budget-friendly skiers who only make it out a few times a season. But for folks who spend a significant amount of their winter days shredding the slopes, the Norrøna Lofoten is a perfect solution.

Final verdict

Norrøna has created an extremely versatile, everyday go-to shell option with the Lofoten. It has top-notch weatherproofing and durability and stands up to the harshest elements. Moderate breathability and warmth strike a nice balance for skiers who range from backcountry experts to dedicated lift riders, while Norrøna’s high-end quality and numerous practical features will appeal to everyone.

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