Patagonia Alpine Guide Pants
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $225
A fine cold weather outer layer that works well in a wide range of conditions. Clearly designed and sized with winter in mind but also a good cool weather shoulder-season option. Worth trying on in person to ensure they fit.
- Great fabric
- Simple but very usable pockets
- Comfortable design - I just like wearing these
- Worth the expense
- Built-in belt doesn't add much in terms of fit
- Too warm for me to wear much above 40 degrees
Most of the time, when I'm hiking in the winter, I used to debate whether to just wear a base layer or add a pair of wind pants. the problem with wind pants is that even the most breathable ones still tend to make me feel overheated, unless the wind is pounding. the problem with hiking without wind pants is that sometimes, the breeze cuts through my base layer and leaves my legs chilled.
Problem solved with Patagonia's alpine guide pants. they are made from a fairly stretchy soft shell fabric that does not in any way restrict your freedom of movement. But, the outer face is sufficiently 'tight' that it deflects most wind and feels much thicker and more durable than a hard shell. It also does a great job with blowing or wet snow - it just beads up and rolls off. At the same time, these pants feel much more "breathable" in terms of moisture management than any hard shell pants I have worn.
In terms of fit and features, these are fairly simple pants. the cuffs partially unzip and have snaps to secure them over the collar of your boots. They are large enough to fit pretty easily around my scarpa inverno plastic boots. they have enough elastic to also fit well around the cuffs of my regular hiking boots, but they worked best with low gaiters with the regular boots.
The pants have three pockets - two size-zip pockets on each hip that are mesh, so they could allow a little extra ventilation; and a third, flat zippered pocket on your right thigh, that could hold car keys, a cell phone, or an energy bar. they have a zippered fly and a built in belt that mildly cinches the waist tighter, but not much tighter. the pants don't have belt loops, so make sure they fit pretty well - the built-in belt does not pull very tight. the cut of the pants is a little large without being baggy, so you could wear a base layer underneath. because the belt does not pull very tight, make sure these fit well in a store; if they feel loose, you might want to go down one size.
In the field, i took these pants on several day hikes in the snow in New England, and I wore them on some cool days in the mid-Atlantic. i also cleared my parents' driveway twice with a snowblower, one day where we had about 4 inches of extremely wet and heavy snow, and the other with a foot of powder that the wind was constantly blowing back onto me. on the hikes, I usually carried a pack, and some of the hiking was fairly strenuous. the temperatures were between ten and 45 degrees. on a few of the hikes, i had solid (20-30 mph) winds and a great deal of blowing snow; on one warmer day, it was lightly drizzling.
These pants really shined on the cold hikes and with the wind and blowing snow - I was protected from the wind and snow, my legs felt very comfortable, and moisture buildup was limited to nonexistent. one of those days with the snowblower, i was starting to look like a snowman - and nothing was getting through these. on the days where the temperature was getting into the 40s, i thought that these felt a little warm. they were excellent at handling a very light rain, but i would have been happier with pants that are a little lighter/less thick much above 40 degrees.
i'm planning to take them up the white mountains of new hampshire in a few weeks. if the wind really blows, over 40-50, i'll probably wear these under a hard shell. if it's consistently below zero, i will probably wear a light to mid weight base layer with them. i think these pants will probably become a fixture in my layering system for the winter.
Price Paid: 130GBP
Good pants, well made, durable and warm enough for normal winter in the UK (not Scottish/colder winters). Thankfully waist designs are getting back to normal and these have a high enough waistband.
Only problem is, in conformity to fashion, they have flat fronts; this makes the front hand pockets less useful and causes some knee drag if you have anything like muscular thighs. The lack of room also makes the shallow thigh pockets less useful. They should also come with a wide webbing belt but that seems to be the norm for most companies. Lowe Alpine make a wide-ish belt.
Expensive but you are paying for prestige and ethics and so not as much value for money as the Marmot softshell pants/trousers, for instance (which also have a more functional fit).
Update: February 3, 2012
The fabric is very good and shows no signs of wear. The two leg pockets are overkill — one larger bellows pocket would be better. The stupid "technical" fly with a double zip should be changed to a normal zip that reaches lower.
These issues, as well as the flat front design, stopped me getting another pair.
20.7 oz / 587 g
7.6 oz 90-Denier 92% Polyester, 47% recycled / 8% Spandex
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