Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Way Hiking Pants Should Be

What makes Montbell's new Trail Ridge Convertible Pants worth a second look?

Montbell Quality
I'm a fan of Montbell clothing, and my U.L. Down Inner Parka is nothing short of amazing at just 9.3 ounces (men's XL). I find their quality to be top notch, and these pants appear to be no exception.

2-Way Stretch
This is what makes these pants unique. I've yet to find another manufacturer that offers lightweight men's convertible trekking pants with stretch fabric (these are 92% nylon/8% polyurethane DWR treated). I have some old REI pants that stretch, but they are heavy and hot...only to be used for the coldest weather. These lightweight pants have the right amount of give for the crazy positions we get our bodies into, and yet they are still as light as a pair of Columbia Silver Ridge II pants (both are about 14.8 ounces for a men's XL).

Zip-Off Legs
While some people only hike in shorts, I appreciate having pant legs when blazing through an overgrown section of trail. And of course it's a nice relief to zip the legs off when you are over heating. With an 11 1/2 inch inseam, you don't end up looking like you're wearing Richard Simmons style short-shorts either :-) Rather than having zippers at the bottoms of the legs to make it possible to remove them with your shoes on, these legs are just not tapered so they are quite wide at the bottom. I'm not so sure this will be widely accepted, but it's a lighter alternative than more zippers.

Integrated Belt
Most hiking pants are included with a belt, but I have to say this is about the nicest one I've seen. The buckle has a solid closure that won't come undone or loosen like others I have owned (Columbia), and the webbing is super thin (i.e. lightweight).

Zippered Pockets
Zippers just add weight right? Yes it's true, but they also add utility, and in my UltraLight opinion you need the right balance. The 2 hand pockets and 1 each back and thigh pockets are about right for me. The pockets themselves are mesh, providing some added ventilation if you leave them unzipped. I like to carry certain things in my pockets so they are very accessible (1/4 of a pack towel, lip balm, mint soap, knife...), and the zippers give me that extra bit of security for these important items.

Montbell clothing tends to have an "athletic" cut, something I don't appreciate because I don't have the lean build of a runner. I went ahead and ordered these any way thinking they would be OK because of the stretch. To my pleasant surprise I found that they are not tight like a pair of 70's disco pants...hoot hoot! The waist sits low, and they don't feel like they are binding anywhere. The length is on the long side for this 6'2" hiker, and I will probably hem them to take about an inch out of the length.

Bottom line is I really like these pants, and I fully expect them to last a long time. Montbell is living up to its good reputation!


  1. These look like they are nice pants. And funny that you compare them to the Columbia Silver Ridge II, cause that is what I wear, and I wear them because I did not like the way any of the other ones fit me. I have worn my Columbia's in all 4 seasons and been happy with them. I fully expect them to be around for quite a while longer (especially at the rate I get to use them) but am planning to get another pair before I start my thru in 20013, so I will keep these in mind. Thanks for the review!

  2. One way to deal with the wide leg openings for a negligible weight gain would be to put a 1/4" width piece of grosgrain in the hem as a drawcord (think military surplus fatigues). Easy to open to take off the legs, easy to cinch up to keep out ticks or whatever, and lighter than a zipper. An easy mod too, especially if you're already planning to hem them.
    Great blog!

  3. Chad, I've used the Columbia pants as well, and at least for me, these Montbell pants are far more comfortable. I plan to take them on my little JMT thru-hike this summer for sure.

    Greg, Good idea on the pant legs mod. I did hem them (I can't ever seem to leave things alone). I just might try your idea as well.


  4. Hi and thanks for this tip. I don’t have the Montbell pants yet but these looked decent and comfy. Right now, I have the Arcteryx Gamma LT Pant for men. It’s quite pricey but wow, the fit and material is really awesome. What made me decide on this is the adjustable pant cuff drawcord that deter bugs and cold from coming in. I don’t have to adjust anything, since it has a nice fit, too. If you want to look at the newer products for hiking pants, this resource page is tops

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