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Outdoor Research Supercharger Pant

rated 5 of 5 stars
photo: Outdoor Research Supercharger Pant soft shell pant

The Outdoor Research Supercharger pants are a lightweight hiking pant made of Schoeller fabric with Nanosphere technology, which makes them breathable and stretchy but also wind, water, and dirt resistant.

I found them to be very functional and durable when used on ‘swamp hikes’ in South Florida and also in every-day causal wear. They would be suitable for a variety of uses, which helps to justify the steep initial cost. I found the sizing to run large and the inseam a bit short, though I admit, I am not of a very average size for a woman.

See my updates at the end...after hundreds of miles of use, I've upgraded these to the best outdoor pants I've ever worn!

Pros

  • Water-repellent/resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Quality construction and materials
  • Very durable
  • Trim fit around the ankles

Cons

  • Short inseam for my height and weight

 


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Fit and Feel
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My first experience with the OR Supercharger pants was that they were larger than expected. I requested a size 6, as I have found this is the size that most consistently fits me in other outdoor brands (Mountain Hardwear, Columbia, Royal Robbins). But the waist of these pants was too large. So I requested the next size down, a 4. Luckily the second pair fit quite well. I have since ordered a different style of OR pants (capris), also a size 4, and the fit was consistent.

So I would caution that OR pants, in general, run a size or two large. Also, the inseams are a bit short for me. This is not unique to these pants, given that I find most all of my pants too short…the pitfall of being tall with no hips. But I’ve been wearing them to work with the cuffs rolled slightly and they also work nicely as a pair of capris.


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The trim fit at the ankles is something I was at first sight not all that fond of. Even though I am tall and slim, I have never thought skinny jeans were all that flattering. But I came to find that this design is quite functional when it comes to outdoor activities, especially in the ways I used the pants. Namely, in ‘hiking’ through miles of standing water in the Everglades, the trim fit made it much easier to move through the water…I daresay even enjoyable. 

Similarly, I recall many hiking experiences along overgrown trails and finding that my traditional boot-cut nylon hiking pants hung-up on the vegetation. Not only that, they would become saturated with dew and become tightly wrapped around my ankles, inhibiting my movement. The OR Supercharger pants excel in 2 regards: the trim fit streamlines your movements and the material does not cling to your legs, even when wet. 

Functionality

At this juncture, let me highlight the water-repellent properties. I found that the pants do shed water (and dirt) quite exceptionally as you can see....


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I exposed them to water repeatedly, and even after several laundry washes, they shook off droplets like nothing. The Schoeller soft shell fabric with Nanosphere technology supposedly works by being so finely woven that particles can’t work their way through easily. However it works, it works. But the material is not waterproof. Unsurprisingly, during my Everglades hikes in knee to thigh-high water, the submerged parts of the pants got wet.

What was surprising is how the material absolutely did not wick the moisture above the waterline. I was expecting the water to travel all the way up to my waist (due to the capillary-like action that so many other textiles exhibit), but the pants remained bone dry, while still repelling the numerous splashes that I kicked up. And let me tell you, it is nice to not have to hike in wet underwear.

But even when wet, the pants are still very light and comfortable, similar to quick-dry technical t-shirt materials. And as this material really doesn’t absorb the water, it also dries very quickly. Another surprise: because I gave them quite a dousing of mucky water during my hikes, I figured I should give them a pre-wash in the shower with me.  This proved to be unnecessary, as the water I ran through them came out mostly clear. So it does seem to be true that they repel the dirt quite well, too.

Construction and Quality

Like I mentioned above, the Schoeller soft shell fabric has the look and feel of other quick-dry technical textiles. But unlike these similar materials, the threads do not snag or pull easily…they appear to be too tightly woven. And when compared to traditional nylon hiking pants, the fabric is stretchy, allowing for better movement around the knees and hips.

Flat lock seams and panels also add to the comfort level.  The material is not as paper thin as nylon, so the pants do feel a little warmer than my other hiking pants. The temperature was still tolerable, even in the Florida summer sun…though I would like to see these pants available in a color other than just black.

The waistline is comfortable and functional with 2 snap closures and a small zip; though I still feel the need for a belt at times. No problem, as they also come with belt loops.  Pockets are limited to 2 front mesh hand pockets (which function well as extra venting due to the flared slash opening) and a small right-hand zipped pocket on the side…a good chapstick and key holder but not much else. For perspective, my behemoth Galaxy S4 just fits in the side pocket, barely. Finally, zips on each gusseted cuff allow for the pants to slip over boots and to be rolled up. There also are hidden loops for instep laces.


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One thing I am very curious to still test fully is the pants ability to fend off mosquitoes. I wonder that the same properties that make the material resist water and dirt might also keep out unwelcome proboscises. So far I’ve not noticed any getting through but I have yet to do an overnight, when the mossies are most hungry.  I will report back if I find an answer, though I remain skeptical since I’ve seen determined mossies even go through the double layer of Carhart canvas pants! 

In conclusion, the OR Supercharger is a rather uniquely tailored multifunctional pant made of very sophisticated materials. The light-weight, quick-dry, and wrinkle-resistance qualities make them an ideal candidate for travel, while the trim fit around the ankles gives them added suitability in sloshing through water to riding your bike to work. The price is steep but I’m willing to bet that they will last a long time. And if you’re not happy at any point, rest assured that OR is a stand-up company that will go beyond-the-call to make you happy (they once replaced an old and used Bivy with a brand new one, for no cost!... a move that went well beyond my expectations).

Testing Conditions

I used the pants during multiple day hikes in the Everglades and for casual wear during the summer months in Florida.
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Update 4/2014:

3/4's of a year and hundreds of miles of trail (and bushwhacking) later, I can confidently say these are hands-down the best outdoor pants I've ever owned. So I upgraded my rating to a full 5 stars and am looking to buy a second pair.

I must admit, I felt a little cool about these at first, mostly given the steep price, but they quickly became the only pants I want to wear into the wilderness. They are not indestructible, but I've also put them through the wringer tramping through Big Cypress and the Everglades. I'd argue that they've held up really well despite my abuse. I got a small hole when they snagged on a tree I was climbing over and the bottom material is a little distressed from the constant abrasion with the mud and sawgrass, perhaps being a little too close to campfires as well. I haven't even bothered to sew up the hole, as the ripstop material has prevented it from getting any bigger.

My favorite features remain the trim fit around the ankles and the material's ability to repel dirt and water. I love that they don't wick water up the legs...an important factor when hiking miles through shin to knee deep water. Very comfortable, functional, durable, and stylish!

***

Here's a nice video depicting an epic 3 day/33 mile thru hike of Big Cypress, 2/3's of which were underwater, courtesy of my friend and hiking pal Antonio. After all the mud caked on the pants by the end, I thought I might have to throw them away but no, it all came out in the wash!

Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (Sample provided by Outdoor Research for testing and review)

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Specs

Men's
Price Historic Range: $81.22-$124.95
Women's
Price Historic Range: $69.73-$124.95
Product Details from Outdoor Research »

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