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Gear Guy

Who makes the most versatile soft shell alpine pant?

I'm looking for a good all around soft shell alpine climbing pant; something I can wear alone in warmer weather and layer under in cooler weather. Any suggestions? Denise Albuquerque, New Mexico


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.

Mammut Champ pant

Champ pant

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 them—perhaps they were a little too technical for the typical Bean customer—which 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 Mammut’s Champ pants sell for $195 ( and use the newest iteration of Schoeller Dryskin, called Schoeller Extreme Dryskin Bi-stretch. They’re expensive pants, but arguably well worth it.

Schoeller Dynamic is also a popular choice. This fabric doesn’t have the Cordura component of Dryskin, so it’s not as durable but it costs a little less. Cloudveil’s Switchback Pant ($165; 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 (

You’ve seen our picks for 2006 Gear of the Year, and now the entire 2006 Outside Buyer’s Guide is online. Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive women’s section.

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Filed To: Pants
Lead Photo: courtesy, Mammut