We all have 'best loved' items of clothing, which we consider irreplaceable, and a piece of 'performance' clothing seems especially prone to this deification. We ignore its slow decent into a lace doily, occasionally making reluctant and doomed attempts to find a replacement. In my wardrobe I have two replacements for my 'best loved' trousers – and they rarely get an airing. I'm drawn back again and again to the 'fashion' trousers that have proved their worth in a 'performance' environment over the last 12 years. But deep down I know they're not good enough. They're flattering on the figure, tough, stretchy and warm, but shower proof, quick drying and breathable they ain't (and there are holes where there shouldn't be): fine for roadside cragging, but a liability in the mountains.
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Are the Mountain Equipment Combin trousers the solution?
Sold as mountaineering wear 'equally at home on high alpine traverses as it is on the GR5', I'm hopeful. They're a very good cut: neither too high nor low in the waist; not baggy around the ankle, and snug around the body without being too tight. I might even go so as far to say they're stylish.
Made of Schoeller Dryskin, they give me confidence they'll fill the gap where technicality is concerned. The material has a superb stretchiness about it that also manages to be soft enough not to set your teeth on edge when you put them on. The waistband is lined with a fleecy material and there's a strong double popper fastening with an integral belt.
The two hip pockets are big enough for cold hands and more, and the single thigh pocket comes in handy for emergency food rations (chocolate). Toggles on the zipped pockets are useful when wrestling with the boxing glove effect required to keep hands warm in recent UK winters.
So far so good. And outside, in the wind, rain and snow? Yes, they fill the gap: keeping out the wind, comfortable to walk, scramble and climb in, and they don't leave me shivering after a heavy shower. Even better, they don't snag or rip, either.
Their stretchiness has turned them a bit baggy around the belly, and even though it detracts from their elegance it's not a bad thing as they need layering when it gets cold. They're fine by themselves on a mild day but when it got to below freezing I had to dig around for the thermal leggings. And on a minus 8°C morning in Snowdonia, when I stopped moving to mess around on a pitch of almost-frozen ice, I got cold, even with the extra layer.
"...These are durable, comfortable and extremely useful performance trousers that do their bit in the mountain in most seasons..."
A few small irritations
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