Like everything else these days, there is a wide selection of climbing trousers on the market. I've had a fair few, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, a glance through my wardrobe would reveal: Ronhills, Lost Arrows, S7s, Mammut Champs, and various pairs of Prana and Patagonia. All of these work, but if I'm heading out for a day on Scafell, Dow Crag or Gogarth, there is one pair which is invariably selected; Prana's Stretch Zion Trousers.
Hold on... Do I really need specific trousers for climbing? Isn't this just a marketing con?
Honest answer, no - you don't need specific climbing trousers. But you do need a pair of trousers that are cut for dynamic movement. Not many people can double dyno and heel-hook in their Levi 501's. There are plenty of trousers that are designed simply for fashion or other sports, which will perform perfectly well for climbing. However a good pair of climbing trousers will have been designed with movement in mind, be made out of a hard wearing material, with the stitching reinforced at crucial wear points, so you don't part company with your pants midway up Right Eliminate or some other Gritstone-offwidth-horror-show. Perhaps more importantly, you'll look the part whilst wading your way through a well earned Big Jim's breakfast at Pete's Eats after a hard day in the Pass.
As I have stated above, the most crucial thing for any climbing trouser is its cut. I remember a friend parcel taping his very ratty pair of Moons up, before his ascent of Run Fast Run Free, they had been discontinued and he couldn't find another pair, but for him the cut was just perfect. The cut on a pair of climbing trousers should be so good that no mater what direction you lift your leg, the trousers should be in no way be restrictive. I don't know about you, but I find climbing hard enough already, without being further restricted every time I move my legs. Nowadays most climbing trousers, including the Stretch Zions achieve this by employing a diamond crotch. Basically an ingenious diamond shaped piece of material, which enables amazing levels of non-restrictive flexibility to be achieved, positioned, you guessed it, in the crotch of your pants.
Prana have come up trumps with their Stretch Zion Pants, creating a light weight, slightly stretchy, well cut, wind resistant and very durable pair of trousers. I've been using them now for over a year, mainly on Lakeland crags and for mountain cragging and sea cliffs climbing they are hard to beat, especially for £45. The quick drying, wicking, synthetic fabric, provides a strong basis for these superb trousers. Getting soaked as a result of miss timing a wave at Chair Ladder is a far more pleasant experience in these trousers than in their cotton cousins.
Being clumsy, always falling over and walking into things, it is a credit to the durability of these trousers that after over a year of regular and hard use the stretchy fabric still appears to be without any extra holes. However, as with anything that gets regularly dragged up a rough surface, sooner or later holes will appear in the usual places.
Pockets, two mesh lined front, one zip-close rear and a zip-close cargo style one on each leg. I'm not convinced by the mesh lining, having almost completely destroyed it on another pair of Pranas, but the two cargo pockets perfect for stashing a snickers for that mid-route snack. The Zions also have poppers on the lower leg, enabling the lower leg to be rolled up and secured, allowing you to see your precise foot work should you desire to. However the cut around the ankle is quite neat so this hasn't normally been an issue.
On hot sweaty days, I'm not a fan of trousers, preferring to show off my legs in an old pair of Patagonia Baggies on the walk in, but having got very cold whilst belaying in shorts in the shade one time too many, I normally choose to 'don sum keks' (put my trousers on) for the route. Fortunately the Stretch Zions appear to weigh next to nothing and take up minimal space in my rucksack.
The Prana Stretch Zion have survived over a year of rock climbing with me, from bolt clipping in Costa Blanca, to long days out on Scafell. They are a near perfect pair of slacks for climbing on mountain crags and sea cliffs. Whilst they aren't perhaps as stylish as some models, they have a superb cut, climb well and are comfy from car to crag on all but the hottest days. All in all a well made and durable pair of trousers that are good value at £45.
Colours: Mud (brown), Sand (beige), Dark Fern (forest green), Kona (dark brown). Price: £45
For More Details see the Prana Website
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