The Westcomb Recon soft shell trousers are beautifully made and finished with nice touches, says Toby Archer. However, while he isn't a fan of drainpipe trousers for casual wear, he usually prefers a fitted cut for climbing. Can climbing trousers really be suited for both extreme and pub excursions, or is the versatile 'on- or off-mountain' styling of the Recon trousers a step too far?
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Toby ice climbing in the Recon soft shell trousers
”...Rushing to get to the icefalls, I managed to splash some take-away coffee on the Recons whilst driving. The hot liquid ran off like you would only normally expect with a waterproof fabric – suggesting there is more to Schoeller's “NanoSphere technology” coating than just marketing hype...”
The Westcomb Recons are all-mountain trousers with a design and cut that gives them, as the Westcomb website says, 'on- or off- the mountain versatility'. This versatility can be seen as a strength or weakness dependent on your perspective - something I will return to later.
The Recon trousers are made with Schoeller Dynamic fabric, which is stretchy, totally breathable, wind resistant and surprisingly water resistant as well. The trousers coped easily with wet snow and sleet whilst I tested them, to the extent that I didn't even consider putting waterproof trousers on during a soggy early season ice climbing trip. Last weekend I was wading through deep, sticky snow that was flicked up by my snowshoes. The material sloughed this off with ease.
In the rush to get to the icefalls that morning I also managed to splash some of my take-away coffee on the Recons whilst driving. The hot liquid ran off them like you would only normally expect with a waterproof fabric – suggesting there's more to Schoeller's 'NanoSphere technology' fabric coating than just marketing hype.
The material used is at the lighter end of the range of soft shell thicknesses that I have seen - they are not winter-specific trousers. While they're not the warmest softshell trousers I've tried, nevertheless with merino long johns under them, I've been perfectly comfortable ice climbing in them at about –5 in sheltered conditions. The fabric also seems hard-wearing.
The trousers are beautifully made and finished with nice touches such as a soft lining in the waist band. They have an inbuilt belt, something that I think many softshell pants miss. The belt buckle is low profile, does up cleverly with a tiny magnet, and is unnoticeable for me under a climbing harness. Two zipped hip pockets and a good-sized thigh pocket can easily be used whilst wearing a harness.
The cut is interesting. I've never been a fan of drainpipe trousers, but appreciate that with trousers for climbing, having them fit trimly over your lower leg is good to help see your feet in summer and either to avoid crampon snagging in winter, or to fit neatly inside your gaiters. The Recons are quite wide around the ankle and shin, and although they have an elasticated drawcord on the hems, they are still a bit baggy around the ankle. Using them without gaiters, I managed to snag and make a small hole on the inside leg with my crampons.
"...They have an inbuilt belt, something that I think many softshell pants miss. The belt buckle is low profile, does up cleverly with a tiny magnet, and is unnoticeable for me under a climbing harness..."
Recon Soft Shell Trousers
If I have one natural ability at ice climbing (and it's certainly not strength or bravery!) it is that I almost never catch my crampons on my trousers of gaiters and do not really understand how some people manage to regularly shred theirs, so this was odd and I think reflects their more casual cut that I mentioned at the start. The bagginess of the lower leg is even more noticeable because the upper leg in my medium-sized Recons is actually quite tight on my cyclist's thighs.
So overall, a very nicely made pair of softshell all-mountain trousers made from an excellent quality material. They are pricey but are designed to be versatile. Others will have to decided whether they prefer the look of the relaxed lower leg shape over the advantages of a slightly more fitted silhouette.
About Toby ArcherToby Archer is based in Finland, where he works as a researcher specialising in terrorism and political Islam.
He describes himself as an "international politics think-tanker, perennial PhD student, hopeless but enthusiastic climber, part-time gear reviewer, often angry cyclist, idealist, cynic."
Climbing keeps him from getting too depressed about politics. He blogs about both at:
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Toby Archer: