In this review Toby Archer takes a look at a selection from the 2015 Wild Country clothing range; all designed for climbing and with some items that straddle the border between "cragging clothing" made of natural fibres and fast drying, wind-resistant "mountain" clothing, generally made of synthetic fabrics.
Torque Pant RRP £70
The Torque Pant (yes, I know, slightly silly name) are basically softshell trousers pretending not to be. At first glance they are cut rather like jeans: belt loops, two simple front pockets, straight legged, one pocket at the back. But put them on and you realise these are made of a very stretchy, tough-feeling nylon, what Wild Country calls “durastretch canvas”. Also closer study reveals neatly hidden drawcords at the ankle and reinforcement at the knees. In use, the Torque Pant have been perfect climbing trousers. The ankle drawcords means you can see your feet well and the huge amount of stretchiness means that there is no resistance when doing the widest of bridging or the highest of high steps. The material, being synthetic is wind resistant and fast drying. Best of all, they seem to be as tough as Wild Country claims - plenty of kneebaring up offwidths (the start of Goliath’s Groove anyone?) hasn’t put a scratch on the Torque Pant. The stretch means they work well for bouldering too where I find many ‘normal’ trousers don’t stretch enough when a harness isn’t hitching up the legs. For mountain and multipitch use, I miss a thigh pocket to keep topos and snacks in, but otherwise the Torque Pant does everything that decent softshell trouser do, while looking more casual and also costing less than many ‘technical’ softshell troos. I’m not particularly bothered by colour normally but I’m not fond of the colour my sample pair was provided in - a sort of claret? I think this is what Wild Country calls “fudge” but as they use that and the equally ridiculous “forged iron” as the name of the colour options, I’m not sure which to warn you away from!
Wild Country say: Fudge is indeed the claret pair pictured and Forged Iron is a dark slate grey for the customer desiring a more understated look.
Balance Pant RRP £65
The Balance Pant is made of stretch-cotton and stretch they do. This, allied to knee reinforcement and a crotch pattern designed for lots of mobility, means they are great to climb in with or without a harness on. The Balance have an elasticated flat waist, tightenable by a drawstring, again clearly designed with climbers in mind meaning there is little to cause discomfort under your harness. The pockets are a bit weird looking, being on the upper thighs of trousers. When not climbing, they seem to hold my wallet and phone as well as jeans pocket do, but they do look odd. I’ve tried to think whether they have some advantage when you are actually climbing but it isn’t obvious, so perhaps it is just to make them look a bit different. Overall, I think the trousers look good, helped by the neutral khaki-ish colour mine came in, a colour unhelpfully called by Wild Country “funghi”! The Balance are great in warmer weather, with the cotton feeling nice even on slightly humid evenings when the synthetic Torque pants feel sweaty. The cotton is also a tight weave so they keep cool breezes and midges at bay, although I wouldn’t use them as a mountain trouser if there was any chance of them getting wet. Some knee-barring in offwidths hasn’t done them any harm so the cotton seems to be pretty hard wearing. Overall, a good natural-fibre pair of trousers for summer cragging and bouldering. Of course you can buy basic cotton trousers for much less than the Balance Pant’s price, but these have clearly been designed by climbers for climbers.
It should be noted that Wild Country haven’t got their sizing consistent yet. I wear 34 inch waist jeans; I got the Torque Pant in medium and like to wear a belt with them as they are quite loose. But Wild Country sent me the Balance Pant in large and they are still only just big enough for my waist, so the Torque are sized generously whilst the Balance Pant is very much the opposite.
Wild Country say: Being a small company and new to the clothing market the sizing was something we struggled to rationalise for 2015. We have made a great effort during the development of additional garments for 2016 to ensure that the sizing is uniform across the board. If you’re a Medium in the Torque you’ll be a Medium in the Balance and our new Work pants also, the only variable will be your preferred style of fit.
Dynamic Jacket RRP £85
A good lightweight summer do-everything sort of jacket. It has a nylon shell and soft warm brushed interior and is rather similar to jackets like the Marmot Driclime range, although the outer nylon Wild Country use is more textured and seems rather tough. It’s a slim fit, I could maybe do with a bit extra chest and shoulder room in the size medium but I can still climb fine in it. Inside the sleeves, the end sections are lined with smooth nylon to help you get your hands through, but this has an annoying habit of sticking out through the cuffs.
The Dynamic has one chest pocket - interestingly the jacket packs easily into that pocket but Wild Country missed a trick not adding a tab to allow you to then clip a packed jacket on to your harness for belaying on windy top-outs. One other gripe - why a double ended zip? If you pull the jacket hem down over your bum, the zip has a habit of popping open at the bottom and starting to unzip. It doesn’t do it all the time but it does enough to be annoying. I don’t really see why you would want the zip to open from the bottom, the jacket is perfectly comfortable under a harness.
Although seeming quite pricey for a ‘light summer jacket’, at its recommended retail price of £85, the Dynamic is cheaper than many other lined-windproof jackets of similar design from brands more known for making ‘technical mountain clothing’.
But overall, with the above caveats, I really like the Dynamic Jacket. I’ve been wearing it loads for climbing, including 25 Stanage VSs in a day where my climbing was getting rather scrappy towards the end. It seems very abrasion resistant and is close to the perfect summer cragging jacket for me. Personally I’d like to see them add a simple hood that you can pull over a helmet for windy belays and turn the pocket into ‘packaway-pouch’ to clip it to my harness, but otherwise, a really usable and tough jacket.
(If you're after a similar jacket with a hood, that packs into its own chest pocket and clips to a harness look out for one in the WC 2016 collection!)
Logo T Shirt RRP £25
#Pureclimbing. If you’re one of generation that gets professionally annoyed by the “youngsters” putting a hashtag in front of anything, don’t get this t-shirt as your shoulder will be emblazoned with it. If, on the other hand, you want to publically identity with your subculture, go for it! Personally, this is more than I would spend on a t-shirt these days but I’m old and work in the public sector. In the past, when travelling as a ‘yoof’, my branded climbing t-shirts led people to start talking to me about climbing and even to invitations to climb with them once I got to their country. Otherwise it’s a t-shirt and does pretty much what all t-shirts do! I’ve got a few tiny holes in mine around the harness - probably managing to catch it in krabs while fighting to get gear off a bandolier while half entombed by a man eating offwidth, but that will teach me to get involved in such silliness.
Horizon Beanie RRP £22
More opportunities to identify with you subculture while trying to avoid considering the irony of that subculture’s supposed anarchic leanings now being acknowledged through the wearing of a commercial entity’s brand on your noggin. Less sociologically: this is a nice, warm hat that I think looks quite cool and has a cheery picture of setting sun knitted into it. I like wearing woolly hats, so really like this one!
- For more info on the Wild Country Apparel see the WILD COUNTRY WEBSITE
Here's a look at the range for 2016:
About Toby Archer:
After many years living in sub-arctic Finland, Toby last year made the (for a climber) very unoriginal decision to move to Sheffield, where he now teaches. He is often to be found somewhere on the Eastern grit edges, or even occasionally on Peak District limestone. He considers himself to be among the three leading world experts on converting Finnish grades to UK grades... as long as it's not harder than E2.