Gear Shed

Q:

Which soft shell pants should I get?

Schoeller Dryskin ses to be the material of choice in soft shell pants, followed by Schoeller Dynmic. There is also a stretch-woven polyester used by Patagonia in the Guide Pant (which I believe is now discontinued) and a lighter version of the se material used in the Simple Guide Pant. Can you discuss the pros and cons of the Schoeller vs. the material used in the Patagonia pants? How they perform one vs. the other. And the temperature range in which each can be used comfortably. In short, which do you recommend? Scott Lubbock, TX

The Gamma LT pants     Photo: courtesy, Arc'teryx

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The Gamma LT pants

A:That Schoeller stuff is SO good—everything you see is either it, or a close knock-off. I have a pair of Arc'teryx Gamma LT pants ($169), made with a light Schoeller fabric, and they are great. Study, comfortable, and ideal in cool temps for climbing or hiking.

Patagonia's Simple Guide pants ($125) are so similar—a light, tough pant for hiking/climbing in cool and maybe a little bit damp conditions. They also offer some warmth if layered under a shell. The Gamma LTs are a bit better tailored, but there is not a mile between them.

I also like Outdoor Research's Exo Pants ($165). More of a home-grown fabric—Cordura nylon outer with a lightly insulated polyester liner. Very tough, with a wide temperature range. A little warmer than the two I mention above. Water-resistant, and plenty of pockets for stuff.

Overall these materials really change the dynamic of what you need to wear. They are light and moderately warm, and in many cases replace a pair of long underwear and an accompanying shell. Great for cool-weather rock-climbing or hiking, and in summer months suffice as a high-altitude pant. With a bit of backup (long underwear) they’re also okay for something like an August Rainier climb.

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