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Gear Guy

Who makes stylish, affordable soft shell pants for alpine hiking?

I going trekking in Peru and Bolivia this July and would like to take a soft shell pant that combines around-town style, warmth for alpine hiking, and affordability. What recommendations do you have? Ron San Francisco, California


Boy, do I have a pant for you. It’s the Arc’teryx Gamma LT pant (, which uses a stretch-woven fabric from Schoeller to create a lightweight, tough pant that has a remarkably wide comfort range. I’ve worn it this spring in temps from the mid-30s to low-70s, and it has been warm or cool as conditions dictate. I’d take it up Mount Rainier with little more than a pair of light wool long underwear to put underneath. The pant has also stood up to glissading, sliding down gravel slopes, banging into rocks, and more. And it looks great: very trim and sleek, with low-profile zippers. Fine for around town.

Arc’teryx Gamma LT pant

Gamma LT pant

But, the bad news is the price: $150. I do think the Gamma LT is worth it because it’s so versatile and well-made, but I concede that is a chunk o’ change for a pair of pants.

Arc’teryx does make another pant called the Agent Comp, which is a tough, soft-shellish sort of pant that goes for $99. Is it as nice and versatile as the Gamma LT? Ummm….no. But it’s a nice pair of pants!

Here’s a thought: Take a pair of Ex Officio’s excellent Amphi Pants ($60; It’s a light, comfortable nylon pant that’s great for hiking or around town. Take some Patagonia Capilene One (formerly known as Silkweight) leggings ($36; to wear under them and extend the comfort range on cool days.

Convertible pants mark you as a “turista" as surely as a baseball cap and white sneakers, but Mountain Hardwear’s Convertible Pants ($100; are comfortable, durable, and decent-looking. Again, take the Capilene One stuff for a layer underneath.

Have a great trip!

You’ve seen our picks for 2007 Gear of the Year, and now the entire Outside Summer Buyer’s Guide is online. Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including hiking apparel.

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Filed To: Pants
Lead Photo: courtesy, Arc’teryx