Riding in winter can be fun, but you need the right gear to keep you warm and dry. You can choose to go for over pants, but here we will only review dedicated winter motorcycle pants.
We look at some of the best winter motorcycle pants on offer and give you our verdict.
Amongst stiff competition, our top pick is the Merlin Mahala pants. They are the mid-priced choice in this test, but they offer all the weather protection and safety features you need. The Merlins also come in sand and olive colors if you want to get away from traditional black.
Best Winter Motorcycle Pants Reviewed
Merlin Mahala Pants
Merlin’s Mahala pants are the mid-priced choice here, and they differ from the others on the test because they are not predominantly black. Black is available, but also green and sand choices.
The Mahala pants offer impact armor on both the knees and hips. Impact armor is more comfortable than standard plastic varieties but offers comparable protection.
Comfort and flexibility are essential in motorcycle clothing, which you can wear for long periods. Stretch panels on the knees allow you to get into a more comfortable position on the bike and the thigh ventilation zips keep you cool.
The buying guide mentions the need for a wide cuff to get the pants over your boots, but loose flapping material is not comfortable. Merlin overcomes this with adjustment straps on both the calf and ankle.
We liked the Merlin Mahala pants a lot!
- Cordura construction
- Waterproof, breathable membrane
- Removable thermal liner
- Knee and hip impact armor
- Thigh ventilation
- Low rise waist
Rukka Start-R Pants
Rukka has an excellent reputation for quality motorcycle gear, and the Start-R pants don’t disappoint. From the thick Codura 500D outer shell to the D3O knee and hip protection, you definitely get value for money.
Add in a five-year warranty, and you should expect the Rukkas to serve you well for many years.
All the usual features are present, with a Gore-Tex lining providing the waterproof, breathable membrane. There is a pants-to-jacket connecting zip but only one outer pocket, which is a shame.
The Rukka pants use D3O protection on the hips and knees. This technical material is used for various applications, from motorcycling to racing and other sports. D3O remains highly flexible but offers outstanding impact protection. You can swap the D3O protection for the D3O Air with added ventilation holes for breathability.
- Cordura 500 construction
- Gore-Tex breathable, waterproof membrane
- Knee and hip D3O protection
- Five-year warranty
- Only one external pocket
Dainese Tempest 3 D-Dry Pants
The Dainese Tempest pants come in two colorways and look stylish, with reflective strips on the knees and calves breaking the predominantly black color.
On warmer days, you can open the huge ventilation zips to keep you cool, which makes these winter pants suitable for multiple seasons.
Crash protection is always essential; this is where the Dainese pants are a slight letdown. Dainese D-Stone fabric protects impact areas, adding abrasion resistance, but the only armor is in the knees. You can fit hip armor, but it’s an optional extra. That said, these pants are at the cheaper end of the pants on review, so something has to give.
The Dainese are good-looking pants that keep you warm and dry while still being useable in warmer weather. Buy the optional hip armor, and they’ll also offer you excellent crash protection.
- 100% waterproof D-Dry membrane
- Impact areas reinforced with D-Stone fabric
- Thigh air vents for good ventilation
- Removable thermal liner
- Stylish look
- No hip protection – inserts available separately
Dainese Amsterdam Pants
The Dainese Amsterdam offers an alternative, plainer winter motorcycle pants to the firm’s Tempest 3-D Dry pants at the same price. The most significant difference is that the Amsterdams do not feature ventilation zips on the thighs.
While ventilation zips make the Tempest multi-season, they are a weak point that can potentially leak. If you only want the pants for winter use, choose the Amsterdam over the Tempest. The Amsterdam pants feature a removable thermal liner, so they’ll be comfortable in Spring and Fall.
Armor is provided in the knees but missing from the hips; from personal experience, this is disappointing. I recently crashed wearing my winter pants with just a foam insert on the hips. My hip ballooned to the size of a football and was very painful! Get armor if you can.
With Dainese build quality, the warm and dry Amsterdam pants make an excellent choice for winter riding.
- Knee armor
- Waterproof membrane
- Removable thermal liner
- Looks are a bit bland for some tastes
- No hip protection
- No thigh ventilation
Firstgear Kilimanjaro 2.0 Pants
The Kilimanjaro pants are the most expensive on the test, but for the money, they offer everything you need.
They are, of course, 100% waterproof with taped and sealed seams and protectors on the zips to prevent water ingress.
SAS-TEC armor protects your knees and hips. This technical material feels soft to the touch but instantly hardens and spreads the force in an impact. Flexible armor like this is more comfortable than the traditional solid plastic versions.
Keeping out drafts is a removable bib, complete with shoulder suspenders, ideal if you wear the Kilimanjaro’s with a jacket that does not zip to the pants. Also provided is a jacket-to-pants zip.
Without the removable bib, the Kilimanjaro pants look like any other winter motorcycle pants, with a low waist, but the features justify the higher price.
- Removable bib with shoulder suspenders
- Great ventilation
- 100% waterproof
- CE level 2 impact armor protection for hips and knees
- Integrates with Firstgear heated clothing
- No removable liner
Considerations, Care and Cost
Our guide to what you should look out for when buying winter motorcycling pants.
The number one priority for winter motorcycle pants is to keep you dry. If you are dry, you can add additional layers to keep you warm. But once you are wet, you are going to be cold.
Look for welded seams, storm covers over the zips, and a waterproof lining such as Gore-Tex. Don’t forget to check that at least one of the outer pockets is waterproof.
See our guide to cold-weather motorcycle gear.
The second priority of winter motorcycle pants is to keep you warm. Foam padding is great but bulky, so look for a removable thermal liner. In warmer weather, you’ll appreciate the option to take out the liner.
We never know when the worst might happen, so as a minimum, look for padding in impact areas such as the hips and knees. Hard armor is a better option if available and within your budget.
When you try the pants on, check that the armor is in the right place and held securely. Armor that moves as soon as you crash is far less protective.
Adding ventilation vents makes the pants useable through more seasons. It still rains in the summer season, just not as much. Good ventilation may negate the need for a separate pair of summer pants.
Wide Cuff To Go Over Your Boots
Not so many years ago, the fashion was to tuck your pants into your boots. Okay, it was a long time ago, but I’m old! The problem is that rain will run down your pants and into your boots.
Your winter motorcycle pants cuff must be wide enough to slide over your boots easily. It’s preferable to have a velcro or zip opening to make them easy to put on. The cuff must be wider if you ride an adventure bike and use off-road boots.
Jacket To Pants Connection Zip
A jacket-to-pants connecting zip is helpful for several reasons.
- It keeps out cold draughts.
- It keeps the jacket and pants together if you crash, preventing the jacket from riding up and causing gravel rash.
See our guide to winter motorcycle jackets.
A low waist can let in drafts and water. If you buy a jacket and pants that zip together, this doesn’t apply. The other option is to buy a jacket with an extended back.
Pulling up to a toll booth and having to open your jacket to get to a pocket is a pain. It also lets in cold air and possibly rain. With at least one waterproof outer pocket, you can keep items easily accessible.
Our top pick is the Merlin Mahala pants, they offer the best balance of features, protection, and value for most riders.