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Gear Guy

What's your take on the quality of gear from Canada’s MEC?

I'm looking for a pair of high-waisted waterproof-breathable pants for snowshoeing and skiing this winter. The Arc'Teryx Theta LTs are ideal, but at $350 the price is prohibitive. I did find a pair of Flight Pants from Mountain Equipment Co-op for about US$200. I've always been tempted by MEC's gear, but I worry about the relative durability of an equivalent piece that saves $150. Do you have any experience with the quality of the LTs' construction? Matt Seattle, Washington

A: Pants can be awfully expensive, at least in terms of bang for your buck. Two tubes for the legs, a big hole for your waist, a zipper—how hard can that be to make? But, in truth, good pants are a lot more technical than they probably appear. I have some Patagonia ski pants that were discontinued, I think, because they were so expensive and complicated to make. There must be 50 pieces of fabric in that pair. But they're beautiful, and fit like a glove.

Flight Pants

Arc'Teryx's Theta LT pants are a case in point. They, too, look fantastic—designed a bit like a short bib with shoulder straps, articulated seat and knees, Gore-Tex XCR fabric, various reinforcement points ( But, yes, they're also $350! Of course that will make anyone pause and think for a minute. In their defense, I'll say that the Thetas work as well as any pants out there, and unless you're glissading down granite slabs, will last for many years.

On the other hand, we have the Flight Pants you mention from Canada's Mountain Equipment Co-op ( On key points, they're similar to the Thetas: Gore XCR fabric, Schoeller stretch waistband, a short-bib style with shoulder straps. And the price is very attractive at $275 Canadian, which despite the stronger Canadian dollar of late still translates to around $200. That's a good price.

My recommendation, then: Go for the MEC pants. I own several of that company's products, and think the construction is generally excellent. Maybe not quite the detailing of the Thetas, but still more than acceptable. Good warranty, too, so if they blow out for some reason you can get them repaired.

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Lead Photo: courtesy, MEC