For hot weather hillwalking and cragging, legwear that's lightweight and breathable is the order of the day. From the Highlands to the Alps, this summer I've mostly been wearing Rab's Women's Fulcrum 'Pants', which seem to manage being both cool when it's sunny and showerproof when it's not.
I can't help starting with a gripe. The word pants, misapplied to trousers. In my world pants go under trousers, and are usually saggy and possibly older than I like to think. If you want a review of pants I am afraid you will need to look elsewhere. Now I've got that off my chest, I'm happy to report that Rab's Women’s Fulcrum Trousers have proven spot on.
They come in two colours – my review pair are ‘dark peacock’ aka turquoise with a bright lime green detail on the seams, zips and zip tags. They look good on their own but create a rather startling combination when paired with my bright red duvet jacket or favourite purple fleece; or indeed pretty much anything else in my wardrobe. Blame our colour blind gear editor for this particular choice. I might need to invest in a graphene (aka dark grey) pair to avoid looking like a character in Balamory every time I approach a hill.
But enough of the challenges of coordinating your mountain wardrobe, and to the nub of the matter: Are they any good? The quick answer is yes.
The Fulcrum's Matrix DWS fabric is both lightweight and very stretchy, making it a joy to wear on warmer days. At 267g (size 12, as weighed on our kitchen scales) these are probably the lightest hill trousers I've worn, and quick drying too; having used them on several long hot mountain walking days this summer I've yet to feel sweaty in them. Of course even in summer you can't avoid wind and rain, especially if you spend as much time in Scotland as I do. Given its thinness - and these trousers really are almost like tissue paper - the Matrix fabric is surprisingly breeze-resistant. It shrugs off a light shower pretty effectively too, though naturally there are limits.
For thin fabric this seems pretty durable, and I've certainly scrambled in them without causing damage. But though the build quality is good, you've got to be realistic about the limits of the fabric. In exchange for its lightness you can expect a bit of tradeoff in terms of long term durability, and with that in mind I don't think the Fulcrums would be my first choice as a daily work horse for mountaineering or big multi-pitch routes.
Finally they also provide 30+ UPF protection. Yes all clothes provide some level of protection, and no I'm not sure what the plus means in this context either, but if you're as easily burned as me then it's reassuring to have a figure for sun protection when you're out in it all day.
The Fulcrum trousers have a nice neat fit, which is both flattering and practical when you're outdoors, where I find spare material just tends to get in the way. The quality of the cut combined with the stretchy fabric makes for completely free movement - just what you want in legwear for hiking and climbing. You could probably do yoga in them. Leg seams are very low profile and understated, so there's no chance of rubbing or chafing.
This model comes in sizes 8-16, and is also available for men in sizes 30-38.
Inside the waistline is a nice brushed inner lining that's comfy against bare skin. The webbing belt is integrated into the waistband, and fastens with a simple metal hook which is easy to use one handed. This sits comfortably under a harness or rucksack belt; however compared with similar fasteners on some other trousers the metal hook does seem on the large size, and Rab could possibly have saved a bit of weight and bulk here.
There are three pockets, two at the waist and one on the right thigh which is a useful alternative if your waist is cluttered with a harness. All three pockets are fastened with YKK bonded zips, which are really lightweight and low-profile. I guess bonding the zips in place means less stitching, and thus less weight. All three pockets are of a good size for stuff like cereal bars or your Buff, but still fit so neatly into the trouser that if you aren’t using them you wouldn’t notice they are there.
Finally the trousers have a practical hem drawcord at the ankle which is easy to use when wearing them, and minimises the risk of snagging.
Light, stretchy and comfortable, Fulcrum Pants are a great choice for warm weather walking and cragging. In colder conditions you could back them up with some base layer leggings, though ideally they're best saved for summer. The price tag seems fair, but if you're giving them lots of hard abuse then don't expect them to last forever.
Fabric: super lightweight Matrix DWS fabric
Weight: 290g (size 12 regular - we say 267g)
Sizes: UK 8 - 16
Double snap waist closure; Integrated webbing belt with aluminium buckle; Belt tunnels with opening at rear; 2 YKK CONCEAL® bonded zipped hand pockets; 1 YKK CONCEAL® bonded zipped thigh pocket; Durable twin needle inside leg and rise seams; Knee articulation; Hem drawcord; 30+ UPF
The Women's Fulcrum Pant is a super light-weight, quick drying climbing pant, with a stretch Matrix DWS™ fabric, designed for mountain use in warm conditions.
A slim fit combined with the 4-way stretch of the Matrix DWS™ fabric provides excellent comfort and freedom of movement, whilst an integrated webbing belt makes the Women's Fulcrum Pant great for technical climbing use. The Matrix DWS™ fabric also provides 30+ UPF protection, making the Women's Fulcrum Pant ideal for summer climbing in hot environments.
All the essentials for a summer days climbing can be stored in hand and thigh pockets, and kept secure by YKK CONCEAL® bonded zips.
For more info see www.rab.equipment