UKC

Softshell Trousers Group Test

If you had to pick just one pair of softshell trousers for everything you do through summer into autumn, what would you look for? They should be stretchy for freedom of movement, and tailored to let you climb and walk unhindered. They need to offer good wind and shower resistance to keep the mountain weather out, but since we're after a 2-3-season all-rounder they should feel light and airy when you're out all day in the sun too. And of course they've got to be tough enough to stand up to alpine adventures, UK mountain rock and scrambles. A tall order?

trouser group test montage, 31 kb

Over the last few months we've tested eight pairs of light-to-medium weight softshell trousers on crags, backpacking weekends and even some tail-end winter mountaineering. So which is the best all-rounder? Here's the verdict...

Overall summary

Model Rating & Summary

Berghaus Patera

Price: £130

Weight: 407g

(size 34)

An excellent 3-season mountain-oriented model that'd be just as at home cool weather hillwalking in the Lakes or summer climbing in the Alps, the Pateras are a class act. Not cheap though, and not ideal for the very hottest weather.

OR Ferrosi Crag Pants

Price: £75

Weight: 318g

(size L)

Light and breezy for hot weather, with a casual cut that suits cragging and bouldering, Ferrosi Crag Pants are not however warm or robust enough for full-on mountain days or cooler conditions, so they are not hugely versatile. No zips on the pockets, and the cut is not that technical for mountain use.

Mountain Equipment Frontier Pant

Price: £110

Weight: 447g

(size 34)

Best in Test Highly Recommended Small, 5 kb


Weather-resistant and tough as old boots, the Frontier Pants are well-cut trousers particularly suited to cooler conditions and big rough mountain routes. Perhaps overkill for summer cragging, but if this was a mountaineering-only review they'd be hard to beat.

Montane Alpine Stretch

Price: £100

Weight: 397g

(size L)

Best in Test Highly Recommended Small, 5 kb

Durable and fairly simple trousers - but in a good way - the Alpine Stretch are spot on for everything from valley crags to the mountains. About middle of the road for warmth, but the cut is a bit less refined than some, and might not suit everyone.

Jottnar Vali

Price: £130

Weight: 505g

(size L)

Well-tailored and luxuriously soft mountain trousers, the Vali are good for cool weather UK cragging, bridge season hillwalking, and summer alpinism. Probably the warmest on review but this makes them a lot less suited to heat. And they're pushing both weight and price.

Mammut Courmayeur Advanced Pants

Price: £160

Weight: 459g

(size 34)

Though they have one of the stretchiest fabrics here, Courmayeur Advanced Pants are still tough and weather-proof enough for testing days on big mountains. They're well made and nicely cut. Second heaviest in this review, and one of the warmest, so they're not the best in hot weather. And check out that price tag!

Rab Torque Pants

Price: £85

Weight: 332g

(size 34)

Best in Test Large, 14 kb

Neither the warmest nor the coolest - and as such they suit a wide range of conditions, making them hard to beat as all-rounders. Light, durable and weatherproof, close-cut yet with bags of freedom to move, Torque Pants are a superb, stripped-back mountain and crag trouser at a surprisingly fair price. Now we're torque-ing. Worthy winner of Best in Test.

Arc'Teryx Gamma Rock Pants

Price: £125

Weight: 366g

(size L)

Gamma Rock Pants are not a great all-rounder for UK hill use. Low level cragging is more their bag than the alpine climbing they're billed for. If it's cold and windy then you'll probably feel under dressed, so save these for warm conditions. Looking pricey for what are effectively just summer rock trousers.

Berghaus Patera £130

Berghaus Patera pant product shot, 99 kb

Weight: 407g (size 34, our weight)

Sizes: Men's 30' - 42', Leg length 30', 32', 34' (No women's version)

Fabrics: Main body - SCHOELLER Dryskin Softshell with 3XDRY technology (200gsm) Content: double weave 72% nylon, 18% polyester, 10% elastane. Additional panels - AF Softshell (191gsm) Content 90% nylon, 10% elastane.

Berghaus say:

A formidable mountain trouser that is lightweight and tough.

The Patera Softshell Pant is a rugged and lightweight three-season climbing pant, featuring SCHOELLER Dryskin stretch fabric. This pant is suitable for a wide range of activities, from hard rock climbing to high-mountain treks. Featuring four pockets and fully reinforced at the knees, seat and ankles, this pant is built for long, tough mountain days.

​For more info see: berghaus.com

Fabric

The Patera's Schoeller Dryskin softshell fabric has tons of stretch for easy movement and as a result feel really unrestrictive. Weight-wise it's about middle of the road by the standards of this review, so with their lightly brushed inner and good breeze resistance these trousers perform well in cooler hill conditions, living up pretty well to their 3-season billing. Yet the fabric is not too heavy for warm weather use. Moisture beads reasonably well on the surface, but not remarkably so, and for a rainy day there are better performing trousers in this review. Ripstop panels in the seat, knee, thigh and instep give durability where it's most needed.

Backpacking on Aonach Beag in the Berghaus Pateras, 221 kb
Backpacking on Aonach Beag in the Berghaus Pateras
© Dan Bailey

Fit

The fit is on the slim side throughout, which we prefer for mountain use where excess material is annoying. There's a small diamond at the crotch and a bit of a bend in the cut at the knee, neither being as marked as on some other trousers. The cut combines with the very stretchy fabric to give minimal restriction when climbing. The only limit we've found to throwing our legs up high has been, well, our legs. Three different leg lengths are available, so there ought to be a pair to suit most men. Unfortunately however there's no women's version. One criticism, at least on us, is that the knee panel comes a little too low down on the leg despite the Pateras being a great fit everywhere else. It's annoying to have a seam right across the kneecap.

Features

Four zipped pockets give you adequate room for bits and bobs (though we rarely use them on trousers) - one on each hip, one at the rear and a fourth on the right thigh; all are mesh lined in order to double as warm weather vents. There's no drawcord or zip at the ankle, but then there's enough stretch in the fabric to fit over the top of big mountain boots anyway. An integral webbing belt with low-profile plastic buckle, double popper and zipped fly, and a brushed waistband complete the features.

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Crag Pants £75

OR Ferrosi Crag Pant product shot, 144 kb

Weight: 318g (size L, our weight)

Sizes: Men's S-XXL (No women's version)

Fabrics: 86% nylon, 14% spandex 90D stretch woven body, Cordura® 91% nylon, 9% spandex stretch woven side and knee panels

Water-Resistant, Wind-Resistant, Abrasion-Resistant, Breathable, Quick-Drying, Lightweight, Movement-Mirroring Stretch

Outdoor Research say:

Ferrosi soft shell plus Cordura® equals perfect climbing pants

The abrasion-resistant stretch Cordura® panels at the knees and hips of the Ferrosi Crag Pants allow for unrestricted movement, and the breathable nylon/spandex body fabric blocks wind and light rain. With a comfortable stretch knit fabric waist, these soft, stretch pants are perfect for working on your next project.

For more info see: outdoorresearch.com

Fabric

Real summer lightweights, Ferrosi Crag Pants are not best suited to cooler mountain conditions, but of all the trousers in this test these are the ones you'll want when the temperature goes through the roof. They feel very breathable and airy, and we've yet to get sweaty in them even on hot days. There's plenty of stretch throughout for unhindered movement, whether you're cragging - for which these trousers have clearly been specifically designed - or just out hillwalking. Panels of slightly more durable fabric give a bit of added protection at the knee and, strangely, a strip down the outside of the thigh (why there?), but the rest of the fabric is thin stuff. Though we've yet to make a mark it's fair to say that these trousers are not going to be as durable as some. While they're not bad for wind and water-resistance, given their thinness, they simply don't offer enough protection from the elements for 2-3 season use in the mountains.

Cragging in the OR Ferrosi crag pants, 187 kb
Cragging in the OR Ferrosi crag pants
© David Myatt
Nice and cool in hot weather, 158 kb
Nice and cool in hot weather
© Nat Pawlowski

Fit

Outdoor Research bill these as 'trim' fitting, but we beg to differ. Very roomy in the bum and thigh, and only tapering towards the lower leg, the Ferrosi has a casual fit that will not suit everyone. We guess the baggy cut is meant to allow full freedom of movement for climbers, but given the amount of stretch in the fabric OR could easily have got away with a closer, less breeze-catching fit without compromising this at all. No women's version is available.

Features

The hip pockets are mesh lined for ventilation, and we can tell this works very well because even a slight breeze whistles through your nethers. That's nice on a hot day, but since these pockets cannot be zipped shut you get ventilated whether you want to or not. And because they're open they also bulge out as you move, with the risk that they'll snag on something or get in the way as you fiddle gear on or off your harness. The single thigh pocket and roomy rear pocket are both zipped for secure storage of bits and bobs. You also get a little sleeve on the thigh that fits a toothbrush handle - good for boulderers. For your chalkbag there's a little elastic loop at the rear, and unusually, another on each thigh. At the waist is a zipped fly and a popper, and the waistband has added stretchy panels for a relaxed feel. In place of a belt and buckle OR have gone for an integral fabric drawcord, that feels unobtrusive under a harness. An elastic drawcord lets you cinch the ankle tight, though when wearing rock shoes we generally find ourselves turning the trousers up instead.

Mountain Equipment Frontier Pant £110

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large, 15 kb

ME Frontier pant product shot, 56 kb

Weight 447g (size 34, our weight)

Sizes: Men's 30 - 38 Short, Regular & Long leg length & Women's 8 - 16 Short & Regular leg length

Fabric: EXOLITE 175 stretch double weave Soft Shell fabric

EXOLITE 275 stretch double weave Soft Shell seat and knees. Durable, double-weave stretch Soft Shell fabrics with smooth outer faces to improve abrasion resistance and soft inners to provide all-day next-to-skin comfort.

Mountain Equipment say:

An all-round, high performance Soft Shell pant for active use on technical terrain.

Combining 175g and 275g EXOLITE fabric these pants offer comfort, durability and breathability when moving fast in alpine terrain. An entirely re-engineered fit block is combined with essential mountain features such as integrated venting pockets and reinforced kick strips.

For more info see mountain-equipment.co.uk

Fabric

The first thing that strikes you about these is their toughness. From thugging your way up granite chimneys to kicking holes in your legs with crampons, mountaineering can be pretty hard on your trousers, and the Froniter Pants have clearly been built to cope. The slightly softer, stretchier and lighter weight 'Exolite' fabric used in the main is rugged enough in itself, but the addition of even tougher ripstop panels at the knees, seat and instep puts the Frontier Pants at the top of this test for durability. Our one criticism is that the high-wear patches feel a little rough on the inside next to your skin - but then if you're not hard enough to cope with that, then you're probably too soft to be wearing these trousers. The fabric may be a little less stretchy than some, but there's still easily enough give in it for free movement. It keeps breeze and showers at bay very well too, putting the Frontier Pants firmly into the 3-season mountain category. As they're relatively thick and heavy they might not be your first choice on a hot day though.

Frontier Pants - better in cooler weather than hot, 143 kb
Frontier Pants - better in cooler weather than hot
© Dan Bailey
Probably better suited to mountains than cragging, 141 kb
Probably better suited to mountains than cragging
© Alex Berry

Fit

Slim fitting without being skin-tight, Frontier Pants strike a good balance between comfort, looks and practicality. There's not really any excess material to catch the wind or get in the way, which is definitely an advantage for mountain use in particular. Overall the cut is superb, with plenty of inbuilt bend at the knee for maximum articulation. It seems an odd thing to say, and we don't know what exactly Mountain Equipment have done to achieve this, but the crotch area seems particularly effective as regards leg lift and general comfort. The lower leg is cut straighter and less tapered than some other trousers in this test, but although there's no drawstring to take the ankle in the trousers give a good close fit when stretched over a pair of boots. A zipped gusset at the ankle gives you extra play to accommodate chunkier winter footwear, and there's a lace hook at the front too to keep everything neat and snug. If you're mountaineering in big boots this arrangement is perfect, but when you're wearing rock shoes the zipped gusset and lace hook don't have much to offer. Without some kind of ankle volume adjuster you're left having to turn these trousers up when rock climbing in order to keep them out of the way of your feet. It's not a big deal, but illustrates that the Frontier Pant is more mountain - than crag-oriented. Three leg lengths are available for men, while in the women's version you get a choice of two.

Features

With four zipped pockets - one on each hip, one on the right thigh and one to the rear - you're never short of somewhere to keep the jelly babies. All four are lined half with mesh for ventilation and half with plain fabric, to avoid snagging the mesh in the zips. In hot weather additional air flow is available via a long zipped vent on each thigh. These seem to be placed particularly well for 'pumping' air through as you walk, compensating to an extent for the warmth and breeze-resistance of the fabric. For ease of access when wearing a harness the fly boasts a double zipper, while the waist fastens at the top with two poppers. There's also an integral webbing belt with a fairly standard low-profile plastic catch, and a brushed lining in the waistband for comfort and sweat absorption.

Montane Alpine Stretch Pants £100

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large, 15 kb

Montane Alpine Stretch product shot, 41 kb

Weight: 397g (size L, our weight)

Sizes: Men's S,M,L,XL,XXL Regular leg length only (No women's version)

Fabrics: 90% nylon, 10% Spandex

GRANITE STRETCH fabric wicks hard, dries fast and has a four way stretch for dynamic body movement. Reinforced with hard-wearing GRANITE STRETCH Tough fabric across the knees, lower thigh and instep, providing protection from abrasive, rocky terrain

Montane say:

Lightweight alpine climbing softshell pants

Developed for spring / summer alpine style climbing, these pants have a high stretch and close alpine fit for dynamic movement. Featuring reinforced knees and kick panels for protection.

Activities: Alpine Climbing / Mixed Ice Climbing / Rock Climbing / Scrambling

​For more info see: montane.co.uk

Fabric

Montane's 'Granite Stretch' fabric has plenty of give in it for easy movement, and feels about medium weight by the standards of this review. As such it's arguably best for use in conditions in the middle of the temperature scale, be that sunny Alpine rock, UK crags on cool days or general hillwalking. In colder conditions these trousers would feel too thin, and they're certainly too lightweight for stand-alone wintry early spring or late autumn use, when in our experience you need to add thermals underneath. On the other hand, though the fabric wicks well and does not feel clammy in moderate conditions, it is perhaps just a little on the thick side for the very hottest weather (if we ever get any of that this summer). It has good wind and shower resistance and feels pretty durable overall, particularly the ripstop-patterned 'Tough' panels at the knees and instep.

Montane Alpine Stretch pants in a spring-like Glen Coe , 210 kb
Montane Alpine Stretch pants in a spring-like Glen Coe
© Dan Bailey

Fit

With Montane's Alpine Leg Fit, the Alpine Stretch Pants are fairly close-fitting in the legs, relying on an articulated knee, a big crotch panel, and the general stretchiness of the fabric to give you freedom of movement. We've found leg lift is unrestricted in these trousers, which is obviously a particular advantage for climbing. Funnily though we do find these a little baggy just at the bum (not that ours is tiny); the cut then tapers quite steeply towards the lower leg for a neat, non-flappy fit around the ankle. A small zipped gusset at the ankle helps accommodate big boots; that's useful in the mountains, but means that the Alpine Stretch doesn't turn up as neatly as some other trousers on test (when wearing rock shoes for instance). Per size, they are available in a single leg length only, and there is no women's version. In this review only the Alpine Stretch Pants and Rab's Torque Pants (see below) are built with an elasticated tracksuit-style waist that does away with the need for a button or popper fastener. We like the comfort and simplicity, but of the two the cut of the Alpine Stretch is marginally baggier and just seems to have a less refined feel overall.

Features

These are nice simple trousers, uncluttered with loads of features. You don't get leg vents, but since the fabric is reasonably airy we haven't so far noticed their lack. You do get two zipped hip pockets and one at the rear, all mesh-lined so that they double as vents. Though there's no button or popper fastener in the elasticated waist there is a zipped fly, which is of course pretty much essential when wearing a harness all day. There's a brushed lining at the waist to soak up sweat; and a little chalkbag loop at the rear; and that's it.

Jottnar Vali softshell pants £130

Vali product shot, 36 kb

Weight: 505g (size L, our weight)

Sizes: Men's S,M,L,XL (No women's version)

Fabric: Schoeller stretch fabric with 3XDRY treatment for water repellency and breathability, 120g/m²

Jottnar say:

New for 2016, Váli is a richly-featured versatile softshell mountain pant using water repellent material developed by proven Swiss fabric technologists, Schoeller®.

The 3XDRY® treatment repels light moisture and dirt from the outside whilst rapidly transporting perspiration from the inside, which also makes these pants incredibly quick-drying.

Packed with multiple pocket and ventilation options, double-lined in the seat and knees for improved abrasion resistance, lightly insulated and with the inherent stretch of softshell. The Váli mountaineering pant is the perfect partner for alpinism, winter climbing, cragging on cold days and mountain travel at altitude.

For more info see Jottnar.com

Fabric

The Vali's puppy-soft Schoeller fabric may not be the most radically stretchy on test, but it still has enough give for unrestricted movement. The dry treatment shrugs off a light shower, and they tend to dry out quickly too. This fabric seems to breathe well, so whenever we've been steaming uphill sweaty legs haven't been an issue. With their luxuriously soft brushed lining and high weight the Valis are definitely at the cooler end of the 3-season spectrum, not one for a heatwave but ideal for things like summer alpine use or UK mountain routes on spring or autumn days with a nip in the air. That said, we don't find them quite as wind resistant as some of the other mountain-oriented trousers on test, and we think Jottnar's suggestion that they're suitable for winter climbing is a mite optimistic (extra layers required, definitely). For durability you get two layers of fabric on the knees and seat, and while it's the same soft light Schoeller rather than something tougher you'd be unlikely to wear a hole in both layers. In addition the anti-crampon instep patches are among the toughest on test.

Jottnar Vali - warmer than most on test, but still need backup in wild winter weather, 150 kb
Jottnar Vali - warmer than most on test, but still need backup in wild winter weather
© Dan Bailey

Fit

Though not the tightest in this review the fit is certainly on the close side, making them spot on for the mountains. The tailoring at the knee is really good, and though there's no crotch panel the Valis don't seem to need one. You can get you legs as high as you wish; you could probably do the splits (you're welcome to try).

Features

Up top you get a brushed waist band for sweat absorption, loops for braces, twin poppers at the fly and an integral webbing belt with a low-profile plastic fastener. One thing lacking here is a belt loop to secure the webbing tail. On the plus side the waist is neatly tailored to slip neatly under a harness. With two roomy hip pockets and two equally big ones at the rear there's plenty of storage. All have mesh linings for venting. On one hip there's a little bonus valuables pocket, a bit fiddly and unnecessary we think. Zipped mesh vents on each thigh help get the air circulating when you're working hard; these are covered by a flap of fabric, which to us just represents excess material. A zipped ankle gusset helps with the fit over bulkier boots, while the ankle can also be pulled in tight with an elastic drawcord.

Mammut Courmayeur Advanced Pants £160

Mammut Courmayeur Advanced Pants product shot, 104 kb

Weight 459g (size 34, our weight)

Sizes: Men's 44-56 Women's 17-92

Fabrics: Schoeller, 51x94DEN, UV50+ Elastane 7 %, Polyamide 93 %

Lining - Polyamide Stretch Knit, Elastane 18 %, Polyamide 82 %

Mammut say:

Robust and lightweight soft shell pants in reliable Schoeller quality. Additional reinforcements at the pockets, the seat and in the knee area make them the ideal companion for all tours with a high risk of abrasion.

The coldblack treatment absorbs up to 80% of sunlight and the pants do not build up any additional heat. They also have a UPF sun protection factor of 50+.

​For more info see mammut.ch

Fabric

The Schoeller fabric chosen by Mammut has absolutely tons of stretch for freedom of movement. Ripstop panels add abrasion resistance at the instep, knees, inner thigh, seat and in a strip around the hip pockets, giving the trousers a fairly robust feel for climbing and scrambling. A light shower beads on the fabric nicely, and it's reasonably breeze-resistant for cooler days in the mountains too. Of the trousers on test these are among the best suited to summer Alpine use, relative heavyweights with a warmth-boosting lightly brushed inner. Despite this, in hotter weather Courmayeur Advanced Pants don't feel ridiculously clammy, making them a reasonable (if not optimal) choice for higher level use on a typical UK summer day. Boosting their summer credentials, a 'Coldblack' treatment makes dark colours behave almost like light colours, according to Mammut, reflecting up to 80% of sunlight. We have no way of verifying this, but on an anecdotal level we have worn them on a sunny/breezy mountain day in low-twenties temperatures without cursing too much. They won't be coming sport climbing in Spain with us any time soon though.

Courmayeur Advanced Pants in the (Arrochar) Alps, 131 kb
Courmayeur Advanced Pants in the (Arrochar) Alps
© Pegs Bailey
Slim fitting, but with plenty of stretch , 129 kb
Slim fitting, but with plenty of stretch
© Pegs Bailey

Fit

Though Mammut say the Courmayeur Advanced Pants are 'regular' fit we actually find them pretty slim, and on us they almost feel like leggings. This doesn't matter, since thanks to the quality of the cut and a fabric with plenty of stretch, leg lift is unrestricted. Around the bum, crotch and thighs there's little excess material to get in the way or catch the breeze; however the lower leg is cut straight rather than tapered, which looks better in photos but does mean a bit of flapping at the bottom unless you're wearing big boots. A popper adjuster at the ankle allows some fine tuning, but it doesn't go quite as tight as some might prefer, given the closeness elsewhere.

Features

Four reasonably spacious zipped pockets give you plenty of storage - there's one for each hand, a third on the right thigh and a fourth at the rear. Mesh linings in all four allow them to double as vents. The integral belt is of the standard webbing and low-profile plastic buckle variety.

Rab Torque Pants £85

Rab torque pants product shot, 73 kb

Best in Test Large, 14 kb

Weight 332g (size 34, our weight)

Sizes: Men's 30-38 (no women's version)

Fabrics: Matrix DWS™ fabric with lighter weight articulation zones / Matrix SWS™ reinforcement on knee and instep

Rab say:

Revised for Spring/Summer '16, our highly successful technical climbing trouser, the Torque Pant, is now even lighter and better than ever before.

The Torque Pants are a lightweight and close fitting technical climbing pant, designed in a Matrix™ stretch fabric with light-weight yet tough reinforcement areas, designed for take abuse in the mountains.

These technical pants are designed with a slim fit to provide greater freedom of movement. A thin baselayer can be worn underneath these pants.

For more info see rab.equipment

Fabric

Torque Pants are among the lighter models in this test, and since their Matrix DWS fabric is relatively thin they are not going to be as snug as heavier rivals in the colder conditions you might encounter in April or November - nor for that matter on the pre-dawn trudge up Mont Blanc. That said, while they don't offer the most insulation they do still have a very lightly brushed inner face, making them feel warm and weather-resistant enough for mountain use in most 2-3 season scenarios. In fact, in the tradeoff between cold weather and hot weather performance we think they strike a very sensible balance, making them a genuine all-rounder that's as comfy on a sun-baked summer valley crag as it is a breezy spring Munro. The fabric has enough stretch for complete freedom of movement, and there are lighter weight 'articulation zones' around the back of the knee and the top of the buttocks too (we can't work out if they actually do a job, but they don't do any harm). Wind resistance is excellent, and the fabric shrugs off light showers happily. It is clearly not going to be as durable as a heavier weight material, so to compensate for that Rab have added big panels of a far tougher and more abbrasive fabric, running all the way from the knee down to the instep to provide protection where it's most needed from both rock and wayward crampon points. This stretchy 'Matrix SWS' stuff really boosts the mountain credentials of the Torque Pants. So far, worries that it might feel sweaty in humid weather have proven unfounded.

Rocking the 'French workman' look, 60 kb
Rocking the 'French workman' look
© Dan Bailey
Excellent all-round mountain leg wear, 100 kb
Excellent all-round mountain leg wear
© Dan Bailey

Fit

If you prefer the baggy look then you'll hate Torque Pants. These are among the most form-fitting trousers in the review, but with a leg cut at a slight bend, a crotch panel, and the general stretch of the fabric, the feel is not remotely restrictive. There is little excess material to catch the wind or get in the way, and aside from making you feel nice and streamlined this must help shave a few grams off the weight. Down at the ankle the fit is close enough that there's no need for a drawcord or popper to take it in further; a zipped gusset creates enough room to accommodate big mountain boots. The only downside to this is that it does not hold a turnup as readily as a non-gusseted ankle. Sadly there is no women's version of the Torque.

Features

The Torque Pant's low weight is at least partly down to the stripped-back simplicity of their design. Rab haven't added leg vents for instance, and given the fabric's breathability we have not so far wished they had. There are just three zipped pockets, two for your hands and one at the rear; all are half lined with mesh for venting, and half with plain cloth to avoid zip snags. Instead of the usual webbing belt and buckle the waist is adjusted with an inbuilt elastic cord that's far lighter and less bulky. This secures on a really neat little plastic gripper that's fixed into the waist and sits unnoticed beneath a harness or rucksack hip belt. Inside the waist band is a soft sweat-absorbing strip. We like the simplicity of a tracksuit style elasticated waist, particularly, as here, when combined with a zipped fly for easy peeing.

Arc'Teryx Gamma Rock Pant £125

Arc'Teryx Gamma Rock Pant product shot, 36 kb

Weight: 366g (size L, our weight)

Sizes: Men's S,M,L,XL XXL (3 lengths of inseam)

Women's 0,2,4,6,8,10,12,14 (Arc'Teryx's own sizing system)

Fabrics: Fortius 1.0™—84% nylon, 16% elastane, 160 g/m². Lightweight, durable, non-insulated, stretchy nylon/spandex blend textile.

Burly™ double weave—46% nylon, 46% polyester, 8% elastane, 275 g/m². A hard-wearing, durable, stretch woven fabric with a smooth outer face and a soft inner face that is comfortable next to the skin.

A DWR (durable water repellent) coating helps shed moisture

Arc'Teryx say:

Lightweight, breathable, technical alpine pant constructed with two weights of stretchy yet durable textile that provide enhanced abrasion resistance and mobility. Gamma Series: Softshell outerwear with stretch.

For more info see arcteryx.com

Fabric

At the lighter end of the models on review, the Gamma Rock Pant is more a warm weather cragging and walking piece than a pair of trousers you'd climb Alps in, despite Act'Teryx's description above. Its main fabric, Fortius 1.0 is pretty thin and has no insulating brushed backing of any sort, so while it is reasonably wind resistant for its thickness that is only relative, and you don't feel hugely protected from the elements on a windy Scottish hilltop. It does however shed moisture very well, so the Gammas are good in a light shower. The stretch is excellent - no issues with freedom of movement here - and breathability on hot days feels top notch too. We're not sure we like the fabric's synthetic sheen though. Heavier weight 'Burly' fabric adds durability at the knees and seat (though not the instep), and so far in our experience it lives up to its name. This has a good stretch of its own, and a lightly brushed backing that makes it both more comfortable against the skin and a little warmer. For genuine 2-3 season use, big mountain routes, Alpine summer and chilly weather UK hillwalking, it would have been better if this Burly stuff had been used throughout.

Gamma Rock Pants - at home down the crag , 163 kb
Gamma Rock Pants - at home down the crag
© Dave Saunders
More durable fabric in high-wear areas, 92 kb
More durable fabric in high-wear areas
© Dave Saunders

Fit

Despite the fit being described as 'trim', compared with some models on test we find the Gamma Rock Pant spacious. The seat and upper thigh have more fabric than we strictly need, and while that may be down to our own particular fit, a rear view of a model wearing them on Arc'Teryx's website suggests we're not alone. They taper down the lower leg but even here there is still enough room at the ankle to stretch over the top of a mountain boot without need for a volume expanding gusset. A benefit of this is that if you want to get the trousers out of the way of your climbing shoes, the cuffs hold a turnup neatly. With a nice bent leg seam and a big crotch panel, freedom of movement is excellent, but given Arc'Teryx's usual high tailoring standards we suspect it would have been so even had these trousers been closer fitting at the top - particularly bearing in mind the stretchiness of the fabric. While it's not an issue on a casual cragging day, for windy hill walks and long mountain routes we'd have preferred a slimmer fit throughout - besides which a baggy bum is not a good look. They are bound to fit someone like a glove though, so best advice is to give them a chance in the shop. A women's version is available, though we can't fathom the sizing system.

Features

To their credit Arc'Teryx have kept things simple. You get just two zipped pockets at the hips, which are roomy and fully mesh-lined for ventilation. There's no additional pocket at the rear or on the thigh, and since we can't remember when we last used either that's fine by us. We wondered if we'd regret the lack of leg vents, but thanks to the fabric's warm weather performance this hasn't been an issue so far. Down at the bottom of the leg, folded neatly out of the way on the inside, we discovered little plastic lace hooks. These help give a snug fit around the footwear in order to keep stones or snow at bay. On a fully fledged mountain trouser that would seem worthwhile, but since the Gamma Rock Pant is only just about up to the job on British summer mountains, and definitely not adequate on days when you're actually expecting to be stomping through snow, the lace hooks are unlikely to see much use. We'll end on a high note - the belt. This is a brilliant touch from Arc'Teryx - a webbing strip that secures onto a sewn-in daisy chain via a little metal hook, accommodating a broad range of waist sizes and sitting completely unnoticed under a harness. It's robust, simple and effective.

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