Mountain Equipment Combin Pant Review

Mountain Equipment's Combin Pants (trousers) are stretchy softshell legwear suited to summer and bridge seasons in the mountains. The feature set has a slight bias towards alpine use over UK rock or hillwalking - and in the product blurb Mountain Equipment say as much. I've not used them in the Alps, but I have had them out on some nice alpine-like Scottish spring days, from late season snow gullies to warm weather scrambling. The verdict? In their niche, I like them a lot.

An 'Alpine' spring day in Glen Coe - ideal conditions for testing the Combin Pant  © Dan Bailey
An 'Alpine' spring day in Glen Coe - ideal conditions for testing the Combin Pant
© Dan Bailey

Fabric

At 454g (size 34, braces included) the Combin are best described as a light-to-midweight 2-3 season trouser. They're too thin for Scottish winter, and if it's cold and windy then you might be pushing it a bit on a summer 4000m peak too. On colder days this spring I've worn them over thermal leggings, but even so I'd prefer a heavier fabric for stormy weather and general Scottish winter wear and tear. Fast moving, fine weather mountain days in spring or summer are their ideal remit.

Good stretch and fit for scrambling, climbing etc  © Dan Bailey
Good stretch and fit for scrambling, climbing etc
© Dan Bailey

Made of 88% Polyamide plus 12% Elastane, the Combin's Exolite 175 double weave soft shell fabric is very stretchy for freedom of movement, but still feels tough enough to handle plenty of abrasion. It shrugs off light showers, dries quickly, and I've found that despite being very thin it does keep out a fair breeze. In warmer weather I've been comfortable and un-sweaty in them. The fabric is well suited to a range of conditions from cool and breezy to warm sunshine - a nice summer day in the Alps, in other words.

Beginning to regret wearing thermal bottoms underneath  © Dan Bailey
Beginning to regret wearing thermal bottoms underneath
© Dan Bailey

Around the Ankle

There's room at the hem to fit over a winter boot, but I'm not sure the Combin Pants would work so well with bulky ski boots since there's no zipped gusset for extra space. The fabric feels light and stretchy, while the kick patch is thick, tough and comparatively rigid. Do they marry well? I might prefer a less beefy patch on trousers this thin, as it seems a bit incongruous. However the rigidity does give structure to the lower leg, which helps create a neat fit at the ankle and minimises any risk of snagging with a crampon. The addition of a lace hook is very useful too, holding it all in close and preventing any riding up (and when you don't want it, the hook can be tucked away into the hem). You also get a grippy silicone strip on the inside, which does seem to help keep the hem down around the boot. The Combin's lower leg has clearly been designed first and foremost for use with mountain boots, and for this it scores top marks.

The inbuilt lace hook tucks neatly away when not needed  © Dan Bailey
The inbuilt lace hook tucks neatly away when not needed
© Dan Bailey

But what when you're not wearing big boots? For use with rock shoes you can draw in the fabric at the hem with the inbuilt Cohaesive cord adjusters. This works well, giving a clear view of your feet, while the elastic tails are hidden safely out of snag range inside. It's also possible to turn up the trousers at the hem; the fabric holds a fold, though the thickness of the kick patch does impede this a bit.

Fit

These come in both male and female versions - and it's good to see women getting parity in more technical climbing-oriented clothing. Both versions have a good range of sizes, with two different leg lengths on offer.

The tailoring is quite fitted - slim in the leg to cut down on excess material, but with a bit of movement built in via a diamond gusset, and some articulation at the knee. Between the athletic fit and the stretchy fabric, I find movement unrestricted. High steps and wide bridging moves are no problem.

The high waist means no gaps, and works well with a harness  © Dan Bailey
The high waist means no gaps, and works well with a harness
© Dan Bailey

I'd like to single out the extra-high waistline in particular. This works really well under a harness or a rucksack hipbelt, and eliminates the cold spots around the waist that you can get when lower-waisted trousers slip down. With this high waist you can tuck a base layer in, and it stays tucked all day. Mountain Equipment have gone for maximum practicality here, over and above fashion, and that's to be applauded.

You get both belt and removable braces with the Combin pants, and while I initially thought this was a bit, well, belt-and-braces, it turns out that for me there's no redundancy here.

Wearing them with the braces hanging - maybe not the greatest look  © Dan Bailey
Wearing them with the braces hanging - maybe not the greatest look
© Dan Bailey

With the braces removed, I find they tend to sag at the waist and in the seat  © Dan Bailey
With the braces removed, I find they tend to sag at the waist and in the seat
© Dan Bailey

I've worn them without the braces several times now, and they invariably slip down, so that I end up with low crotch syndrome. This looks bad, and slightly hinders high steps too. To fit me properly at the waist, the braces turn out to be essential. On colder days there's no problem here, since I'll just tuck my baselayer under the trousers and then fit the braces on top. However once you warm up and shed extra layers you're left, effectively, in shirtsleeves and braces, which I guess is a look that only some will really carry off (a hipster beard would help).

On warm sunny days I tend to wear a T-shirt untucked - don't we all - but this isn't possible if you have the braces fitted. This is one of the main reasons the Combin Pants feel like a mountaineering specialist rather than an all-rounder. I can't see myself cragging with the braces fitted, for instance, while scrambling or hillwalking in T-shirt weather is sub-optimal too.

photo
Zipped thigh pocket

photo
Robust kick patch

photo
Belt, braces & double popper

Pockets and other features

A fly with a double zipper gives men easier access for pee breaks when wearing a harness, though an extra couple of cm length in the zip itself would have been even better in this regard. You also get two poppers at the waist, which does seem an improvement on one, although I can't articulate why.

While there are no rear pockets, two zipped hand pockets are provided, along with a single expandable thigh pocket. I tend not to use trouser pockets, though I guess it might be a good place to stash a cereal bar for quick access on a long route. The Combin has no venting zips, but all three pockets are mesh-lined so they can double as vents.

Summary

In my experience the Combin Pants only really work with braces. For me that rules them out for a lot of summer uses, simply because they can't be worn with an untucked T-shirt. Too thin for winter; too climby for walkers; too 'alpine' for crags... these are definitely not all-purpose trousers. But that's not a criticism, since this is very much a specialised product. Their forte is summer in the Alps, perhaps with a nod to spring in Scotland, and within that focused remit these are well-thought-out trousers. The fit is good, and the details - particularly around the lower leg - give them a polished, mountain-oriented feel. It's a big tick for the extra-high waistline too, which really makes a difference if you're wearing a harness. The price does seem a bit steep for something this thin and light, but perhaps that's to be expected in a niche mountaineering product. Mountain Equipment's heavier, warmer G2 Mountain Pant costs £30 more after all, while similar offerings from other brands are in roughly the same ballpark. Overall, they do a specific job very well.

Mountain Equipment say:

Refined Soft Shell legwear for fast moving Alpinists chasing Chamonix test pieces and classic Valais peaks. EXOLITE 175 fabric gives the optimum balance of mobility and breathability for big Alpine days that begin with freezing, pre-dawn starts before racing across endless rock and ice. A high waist sits comfortably under a pack for heavily laden approaches whilst kick-strips resist crampon snags and abrasive moraine.

  • Sizes: 8-16 (women)
  • Leg length: regular or long
  • EXOLITE 175 stretch double weave Soft Shell fabric
  • Mountain fit with regular fit ankle
  • 2 zipped hand pockets
  • Zipped thigh pocket
  • Removable and fully adjustable braces
  • Integrated low-profile belt with double press-stud waist closure
  • Wide self-fabric waistband for comfort under a pack or harness
  • 2-way YKK®fly zip
  • Kick-strip is tough and non-absorbent
  • Cohaesive™ cordlock and silicone grippers at hem and integrated lace hook
  • Sizes: 30 - 38
  • Leg Length: Regular & Long
  • Weight: 400g
  • Fabric: 88% Polyamide, 12% Elastane

For more into see mountain-equipment.co.uk

Combin prod shot




28 May

lets be clear. the best summer alpine pant is a cheap pair of leggins.