The ideal fabric for this use is Schoeller Dryskin, a combination of Cordura, Lycra, Coolmax, polyester, and polyamide. The result is a material that is tough, breathable, water-resistant, highly wind-resistant, and comfortable across a surprising range of temperature ranges. Throw a pair of shell pants over this stuff, and you can practically wear it up McKinley. Or, by itself, it can take you up Rainier.
The down side is that clothing made with this still-exotic material (it first appeared about five years ago) remains wildly expensive. L.L. Bean once made what they called Guide Pants from Dryskin. They sold for about $119 and were a steal. Alas, L.L. Bean quit making themperhaps they were a little too technical for the typical Bean customerwhich is too bad. You might find a pair of Cloudveil Symmetry pants, which originally sold for $195 but are discontinued and can be had for $120 at online stores such as www.alpineer.com. Mammuts Champ pants sell for $195 (www.mammut.ch) and use the newest iteration of Schoeller Dryskin, called Schoeller Extreme Dryskin Bi-stretch. Theyre expensive pants, but arguably well worth it.
Schoeller Dynamic is also a popular choice. This fabric doesnt have the Cordura component of Dryskin, so its not as durable but it costs a little less. Cloudveils Switchback Pant ($165; www.cloudveil.com) uses this material and works well in all-around alpine conditions. And Sierra Designs offers a pant made with material similar to Dynamic, called the M8 Pant. It sells for $120 (www.sierradesigns.com).
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