Georgie Smith tests out and reviews Patagonia's Rock Guide Pants on climbs in Chamonix and walks along Itay's Amalfi Coast. The Rock Guide Pants are also available in a men's version. Photos by Daniel Fitzgerald.
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I confess that I chose the Patagonia Rock Guide Pants because they looked stylish and I thought the 'Forge Grey' colour would go well with nearly all my base layers - nothing to do with function or features! I was going hiking in Italy for five weeks and looking good is, well, quite important when you're only taking one pair of trousers. Would their function live up to their looks?
Fit and Fabrics
I think the slim cut and straight leg of the Rock Guides would be flattering on most body shapes. They fit me very well - for reference I'm 5'8 and the 32" leg length and the rise are just right. Normally I find women's outdoor trousers too short for me. Occasionally when precise footwork is called for on a climb I find the bottom of the trousers too wide and have to roll them up, but I've found they are not so wide that they dangle over my boots and get overly muddy while walking.
The trousers are very comfortable against the skin. The fabric is soft, especially the lined waistband, and the seams are sewn very flat and neat so they don't chafe, bulk up or scratch anywhere. They are made of 96% stretch-woven nylon with 4% spandex and have a diamond-shaped gusset in the crotch, so all in all they are super stretchy. The only thing stopping me bending in them is my own suppleness, or lack thereof. Even Pilates has proved no problem! The fabric doesn't seem to crease, either, which is a real bonus - on the odd occasion they have found themselves on the floor next to my bed, rather than neatly folded in the wardrobe, they still looked smart in the morning! Because they don't crease much and are lightweight, these trousers are easy to pack, too.
I found the pockets well thought out, especially the back and thigh pockets, which remain accessible with a harness or rucksack on. Both are generously sized, too: I started keeping my camera in my back pocket while climbing. My only gripe would be that the thigh pocket is on the right leg - if it was on the left it would be an ideal place to put a card to access cable cars. Living in Chamonix, I use the cable cars a lot. I don't tend to use front pockets for stowing things because I find it uncomfortable so I didn't mind that the front pockets were small on these - it was a squeeze to get my hands in, but they're not so tight that I can't warm chilly fingers up in them. The fact that the front pockets are quite small has a benefit - I don't get that annoying flapping that I often notice with front trouser pockets; a problem my sister always describes as 'elephant ear pockets'.
As our stay in Italy progressed the temperatures grew hotter and hotter. At the beginning of the trip the trousers coped well keeping the chill and dampness of the morning sea mists off. Towards the end of my stay the days were becoming very warm but my trousers were still performing well; my legs didn't get too sweaty and the trousers didn't cling. The legs are designed to roll up to the knees easily and they stay rolled up fairly well. I got caught in a couple of sudden southern Italian deluges and thankfully the lightweight Rock Guide Pants were still fairly comfortable when soaking and then dried quickly. The sun protection is a useful feature especially in areas like the Amalfi Coast where the UV index is very high.
Patagonia Rock Guide Pants
More info: on the Patagonia Website.
Back in Chamonix, I walked up to Lac Blanc for a bivi - it was a warm walk uphill but quickly became chilly as the sun dropped behind the mountains. I put on a pair of thin thermals on underneath my Rock Guide pants, they were stretchy enough for this to be comfy and my legs stayed nice and toasty.
The Rock Guides have proved to be very durable; I'm sure if they can survive sharp Amalfi limestone (which my fingertips most certainly didn't), they'll survive anything. The Deluge® DWR coating they have is still going strong after 3 months of heavy use. It also seems to help prevent dirt sticking to them, which is a bonus. When bouldering up at the Col Du Monte my boyfriend found that the grey colour showed the chalk up really well! Thankfully a quick brush down and you would never have known that I had chalky handprints on my bottom!
"I'm sure if they can survive sharp Amalfi limestone (which my fingertips most certainly didn't), they'll survive anything."
I like buying Patagonia because they seem a genuinely very environmentally conscious company. These trousers are recyclable through their "common threads recycling program", though I don't think they will be ending there anytime soon. The guarantee is very good and in the past I have had a broken zip repaired on another pair of Patagonia trousers without quibble and for free, which is defiantly not to be sniffed at, and helps towards justifying the not inconsequential price tag.
All in all a fantastically comfortable pair of lightweight, can-do-anything-in pair of trousers. And ones that are fit to be seen in at an Italian bar after a day out on the hills!
UKC Gear, Apr 2011
© Daniel Fitzgerald
About Georgie Smith
I'm a climber, a runner, a biker, sun lounger, not a morning person, a swimmer, a chef by trade. The boy who sold me my first ever pair of climbing shoes eventually became my boyfriend and climbing partner. We live in Chamonix, where we don't work too much and play lots outside.
I enjoy lots of different types of climbing: short, cold days ice climbing in winter; long summer evenings spent bouldering; long, gentle multi-pitch routes; scary sea cliffs with the waves crashing around; exposed via ferratas; climbing at crags with nobody else around; cragging till every finger is bleeding and I can barely lift my after climbing pint! I have done the occasional alpine route, and have a wish list a mile long.
I climb because I love it. I love adventures, being outside, the movements you make and the feeling of freedom when you climb.
Find out more about Georgie at: skinnylegsphoto.com
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