Outdoors trousers is such an under treated item that it is almost shocking. You don’t really read many gear reviews or great stories about trousers, but when asked, everyone have their very favourite – a specific brand, pockets configuration, material and more. I too have my favourite trousers (or pants, lets go with pants): the Mountain Equipment Ibex Pants. I’ve used my Ibex pants so much now that they are pretty much the only pants I use outdoors: thru-hiking, walking, a light day hike, climbing and more, they are just so amazingly comfortable and functional and seem to have been cut to my shape.
But I’m jumping ahead, lets start from the beginning: outdoors pants, what is the deal? Outdoors pants have 2 main camps from what I know (no, jeans is not an option so it is not a camp!): the softshell vs the thin and light pants. There are pros and cons for both, so I’ll give a quick run down on each:
- Classic outdoors pants – those are usually thin, light and dry extremely fast. Mostly made from polyester on nylon and featuring a big variety of pockets options including cargo and others. The main points going for those trousers is their light weight, quick drying and cheap price. cuts vary but they are usually slightly baggy/loose and tend to have some way of shortening them (either by zipping off the legs or some tying option).
- Softshell pants – these are made of.. softshell – a stretchy and robust material that has some wind resistance properties. They are more associated with climbing, mountaineering and snazzy Italian and Austrians. The big thing for softshell pants is how robust the fabrics are, the stretch they offer and so a closer fit with great ease of movement and the fact that they do block some of the elements.
For many years I was a classic hiking pants guy (after ditching the jeans of my youth) and I used them for years. About a year after moving to England I had a chance to learn more about softshells as the weather in the UK tend to demand some level of weather protection at all times. At the same time I dubbed into ice-climbing and was looking for comfortable, non-restricting climbing pants. I tried several options and settled on the Ibex pants by Mountain Equipment. Though not intended for hiking, I took the Ibex pants on a few trips and slowly realized that the thicker softshell fabric was not only more robust and offered more weather than the classic hiking pants, they were actually more breathable too! Perfect pants no doubt – but why not everyone is using softshell pants?
- The assumption that softshell is too much for what they do
- Softshell is “not breathable”
- Cost – softshell pants do tend to be pretty pricy.
is you accept that the first 2 are wrong, and just willing to invest once every 10 years or so in a good pair of softshell pants, the price is mitigated by the offered useability.
Mountain Equipment is a British company (Cheshire) that been making outdoors gear since 1961. Mountain Equipment (ME) has been a round for a long time and it is very much associated with British winter climbing with their line of down products (bags and clothing), robust synthetic insulation and some of the most waterproof clothing in the market. ME now offers garments in the whole layering system – from baselayers to shells and insulations, they are also known for their gloves (I own a few of those) and they own made softshell fabrics.
In the ME range, the Ibex pants are part of their climbing and mountaineering category, aimed more towards summer alpinism and all round exposed conditions use. The Ibex pants are made from ME’s Exolite 250 fabric that is a weaved softshell made from 92% polyamide and 8% elestane, making it very stretchy and durable. The fabric is DWR treated and will shed light rain and blocks mild winds. In strong gusts and gale the Ibex too are insufficient and more “proof” trousers are needed. When the pants are fully soaked (happened to me a couple of times) the fabric still dries in no time despite being slightly thicker and I rarely needed to put them on again when still damp.
From the ME site (+my comments):
- Alpine fit with regular fit ankle; low volume lower leg; ankle zips with internal gusset panel – very useful when using trail shoes to keep the hem tidy and close.
- 2 zipped hand pockets and 1 rear zipped pocket – less chances on losing things
- 2 zipped thigh pockets with integrated mesh lining – well located to carry items
- Integrated belt with double press-stud waist closure – usually works well
- Microfleece lined waistband for improved comfort
- Drawcord channel at hem (drawcord not included)
Declared weight: 445g/15.7oz Measured weight: 420g/14.8oz (size 32 waist, 32 inseam) Available in long (34″ inseam) and regular (32″ inseam) Price: £80 ($125 USD)
How I use them
The Ibex pants have been with me on almost every single outdoors outing in the last 3 years: from climbing to family day hikes, they are the most functional and comfortable pants I have. I’m not sure I can even list all the situation I had them with me, but here is a sample:
- Cape Wrath Trail – 11days through the Scottish Highlands in sun, rain, hail and some snow
- Many winter outings with snow and hail for entertainment – The Peak district, Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Bracon Beacon and more
- Summer outings, mainly in the UK and USA, so less hot
- Ice climbing – mainly indoors
- Rock climbing in Wales
- Day hikes of every variety in any weather condition except when it is really hot (30°c+) where I go for shorts
As I said, the list is endless. I use the Ibex Pants for pretty much all I do unless it is really hot and shorts are the
obvious choice. Being such a versatile softshell fabric, I can easily put the pants on and stay with them all day even if the weather changes. I no longer use waterproof pants on the Ibex as I find that letting the Ibex get wet and then dry out is quicker and more efficient. In all but really nasty hail and gales, where the Ibex couldn’t stop anything, the weather resistance of the fabric is excellent. Most exposed days were handled easily with the Ibex pants, blocking most of the wind and light showers. When I did get heavy rains they go soaked in some point, but once the rain stopped – my body heat dried the pants in no time.
- Great fit – alpine style but with enough room for the thighs
- 5 pockets, all zipped: 1 back, 2 chino style and 2 front thighs
- Stretchy and robust fabric that still breaths easily
- DWR treated with good weather (wind and light rain) protection
- When wet dries fast
- Bottom leg zippers for a more “flaring” of the leg or for tapering
- The 2 buttons setup is a little tedious – 1 is not enough to hold well and 2 is a redundancy
- Belt tends to “slip” and release
- Can be too hot on warmer days
The Ibex pants are versatile, comfortable and durable – making them the ideal piece of clothing. After more then 3 years of use they still look great (to wear and tear there) and preform as they did from day one: breathable, quick drying and weather resistant.
If the ME fit works for you I’d say – get a pair of Ibex pants and dump any other pants you have, there is just no need.