Who makes stylish, affordable soft shell pants for alpine hiking?

I going trekking in Peru and Bolivia this July and would like to take a soft shell pant that combines around-town style, warmth for alpine hiking, and affordability. What recommendations do you have? Ron San Francisco, California

Jun 11, 2007
Outside Magazine
Arc’teryx Gamma LT pant

Gamma LT pant


Boy, do I have a pant for you. It’s the Arc’teryx Gamma LT pant (arcteryx.com), which uses a stretch-woven fabric from Schoeller to create a lightweight, tough pant that has a remarkably wide comfort range. I’ve worn it this spring in temps from the mid-30s to low-70s, and it has been warm or cool as conditions dictate. I’d take it up Mount Rainier with little more than a pair of light wool long underwear to put underneath. The pant has also stood up to glissading, sliding down gravel slopes, banging into rocks, and more. And it looks great: very trim and sleek, with low-profile zippers. Fine for around town.

But, the bad news is the price: $150. I do think the Gamma LT is worth it because it’s so versatile and well-made, but I concede that is a chunk o’ change for a pair of pants.

Arc’teryx does make another pant called the Agent Comp, which is a tough, soft-shellish sort of pant that goes for $99. Is it as nice and versatile as the Gamma LT? Ummm….no. But it’s a nice pair of pants!

Here’s a thought: Take a pair of Ex Officio’s excellent Amphi Pants ($60; exofficio.com). It’s a light, comfortable nylon pant that’s great for hiking or around town. Take some Patagonia Capilene One (formerly known as Silkweight) leggings ($36; Patagonia.com) to wear under them and extend the comfort range on cool days.

Convertible pants mark you as a “turista" as surely as a baseball cap and white sneakers, but Mountain Hardwear’s Convertible Pants ($100; mountainhardwear.com) are comfortable, durable, and decent-looking. Again, take the Capilene One stuff for a layer underneath.

Have a great trip!

You’ve seen our picks for 2007 Gear of the Year, and now the entire Outside Summer Buyer’s Guide is online. Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including hiking apparel.

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