Gear Guy

Q:

Why shouldn't I wear ski pants when mountaineering?

I have been happily skiing and snowboarding in my Patagonia Nitro II pants for the past few years. However, having recently signed up for a mountaineering course, I was told they aren't designed for mountaineering because of their two-ply, mesh-lined material. I'm confused as to why pants perfectly fine in a skiing environment can't work for mountaineering. I don't want to shell out $300 on another pair of pants! Ken Toronto, Ontario

A: I have heard many truly stupid things in the years I've been writing this column (now about 8,938 years, in Internet time). But the notion that your Nitro II pants (no longer made, and much lamented) aren't right because they aren't "designed" for climbing just about takes the cake.

It wasn't that long ago that most waterproof shells had mesh lining, and today many still do. The Nitro II themselves are a terrific outdoor piece—I was wearing a related piece, a mesh-lined Patagonia anorak from the mid-nineties—just the other day while skiing in a near-blizzard. Kept me bone-dry and comfortable. And they'll work just fine as a mountaineering shell or pant, too.

It's true that mesh-lined garments don't layer quite as well as three-ply pieces, which replace the mesh with a layer of fabric laminated to the back of the waterproof-breathable layer. The mesh can also "catch" a little when you're doing extremely gymnastic moves. And, yes, it's sort of conventional wisdom that three-ply pieces are a little more durable because the inner layer protects the waterproof-breathable layer better. But if it hasn't been an issue in skiing, then it sure as hell won't be an issue when climbing. So tell the moron who gave you this advice to go suck an ice ax. Actually, those yahoos sound like borderline fascists.

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