All Systems Go

Pants

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Prana Expedition
Take your favorite wind pants and add a touch of fleecy insulation and stretchy Lycra and you've got the Expedition, the most versatile cold-weather pants I tested. Above tree line in Colorado, they kept me warm in camp in subfreezing temps. The next day, while hiking in 50-degree sunshine, I only needed to crack the below-the-knee vents to stay comfortable. Demerits: The lined fabric is a little slow to dry, and the thigh pocket is oversize and poorly positioned. $100; www.prana.com

Patagonia Simple Guide
If you've pared down everything else in your layering system and want pants to match, this minimalist version of Patagonia's time-tested Guide is an easy choice. With lighter-weight fabric and fewer features (no scuff guards or ankle zips), the Simple Guide shaves almost half a pound off the original. Both versions benefit from an upgraded stretch-woven material that increases resistance to abrasion and water. Get the revamped Guide ($145) if you need something that can double as a backcountry ski pant. $125; www.patagonia.com

Ground Pinnacle
Judging by the recent profusion of tapered, only-in-black soft-shell pants, you'd think there were a contingent of rock-climbing Goths driving the market. The Pinnacle bucks the trend with a jeans-style cut and color options. I abused them for the better part of a month—from bushwhacking below tree line to postholing in wet spring snow—and they still look new. The quick-drying Schoeller Dryskin fabric has an armorlike Nanosphere finish that repels water, mud, and marinara sauce with equal effectiveness. $165; www.groundwear.com

Cloudveil Run Don't Walk
Would you rather freeze than wear tights? Stop shivering and try these crossovers. Smooth-faced Polartec Power Stretch fleece performs like cold-weather tights, but thanks to a relaxed cut, back pockets, and a magnetic-buckle waist belt, they feel like your favorite chinos. I wore them on a chilly trail run, then did something I'd never do in standard-issue leg-huggers: went straight to the grocery store. The fabric isn't as water-resistant as others here, but it's warmer and more breathable. $105; www.cloudveil.com

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