Gear Guy

Gamma LT Pant     Photo: courtesy, Arc’teryx

Q:

Which pants best hold up to the demands of mountaineering?

I about to take on a few mountaineering trips involving Mount Rainier, Mount Shasta, and some of the Colorado 14ers. What is your recommendation for decent pants that are waterproof and breathable and will hold up to wearing a harness for an extended period of time? E.J. Dallas, Texas

A:I’ll be honest, you almost have too many choices. School of Thought 1 is to go with a hard-shell pant for full water- and wind-proofing. On the affordable end you have REI’s Taku Pant ($159; rei.com), which uses REI’s proprietary polyurethane coating. Stretch panels aid mobility, and gussets and zippers help them fit different boots…climbing boots, for instance. Over a pair of light or mid-weight long underwear, they’d be great. I have the Taku Jacket ($199) and think it’s great.

On the high end you have the Arc’teryx Beta AR pants (arcteryx.com), made with Gore’s new Pro Shell material. They’re really nice and are sized and designed to work with harnesses, big boots, underlayers, and so on. Also, Pro Shell is fantastic. It’s light, tough, breathable, and waterproof. Alas, these pants run $350. Marmot’s Exum Pant (marmot.com) has similar features and also uses Pro Shell, and saves a few bucks at $325.

School of Thought 2 is to go with soft shell pants, as they repel enough moisture to keep you healthy, have a wide comfort range, and eliminate an extra garment. If I were to climb Rainier this year, I would not take a hard shell pant. I’d take another Arc’teryx item: the Gamma LT Pant ($199). These are tough, comfortable pants that are fine on their own in cool conditions and offer lots of warmth if worn over a layer. I wore a pair on some climbs last summer and love them. I’d also suggest the Mammut Courmayer Pants ($179; mammut.com), which use a Schoeller material similar to what is in the Gamma LTs. The Mammut pants also are designed for mountain use, so reinforcements, zippers, and the like all are in the right place. Especially for climbs past late June, soft shells are ideal. Their only pitfall might be wet, blowing snow. But after July 1, the odds of that go down, even on Rainier.

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