Saturday, 17 December 2011

Mountain Equipment Combin Pants

I have had my Mountain Equipment Combin pants for a few years now and thought its about time I got around to writing about them. I had been searching for the holy grail of trousers for walking in the hills for a good number of years, and it seems that I may have found it. Trousers have always been too hot, too cold, got too heavy and cold in the wet, were too hot when you put rain trousers on over the top, stuck to your legs and made you hypothermic, and in general nasty.

Combin Pants- are advertised as Mountain Equipments "lightest year-round mountaineering pant. Equally at home on a high alpine traverse as it is on the GR5." It took a while for me to get over the price of the Combin Pants, the current asking price of £120 is pretty steep, but I thought that to get something really good, you need to pay for it.
So I bit the bullet and found a garment that appears to work very very well indeed.

Combin Pants are made from a Schoeller fabric. That, on its own, should make your ears prick up. Schoeller are renowned for making groundbreaking materials in the outdoor industry, and Mountain Equipment have used it very well indeed here.
Bobbled after a LOT of use.
The material in use here is Schoeller Dryskin Extreme-  the claims are pretty out there. The Scholler website claims it to be"Wind and water repellent, breathable and hard-wearing stretch fabric with functional fibers on the inside for rapid moisture transfer." This is almost too good to be true, or at least, that's what I thought when I first looked at it. Still. If you're going to take the plunge, it may as well be for something you've not tried before as something you have tried and know doesn't work.

Initial thoughts of them were that, yes, they were very comfortable, and yes, definitely stretchy. They may well be a little heavy weight for summer walking, and maybe not warm enough for very cold winter days. However, comfort-wise, very nice. The belt is a flat webbing belt, so it doesn't get in the way if carrying a heavy pack with waist belt, the buckle, again, is designed as flatline as possible, with no protruding nobbly bits to make things uncomfortable, and the closure of the top of the trouser is a very simple and elegant 2 popper affair. They keep them up, and in the correct place for wearing. So the basics are covered.
2 of the zips. Really quite stealth like

It has 4 pockets, which also double as vents. one each on the left and right hip, a deeper one on the lower left thigh and one on the right buttock. They are all zipped (zippers having string attached to them to make for opening and closing easier with gloves etc)- also, as a side note, the zips are of excellent quality. We all know what its like trying to open a zip which has too much or too little friction for the fabric around it- not so here. Perfect functionality.
As mentioned, the pockets act as vents as well, and are very good at their job. You notice when they are open, especially when it is cold. If you are standing in the wind, and you notice that your leg appears to be slightly chilly, I can guarantee that you will have left one of the pockets open. Close it up and the leg instantly gets warm again. Equally, hacking up a hill and legs getting hot- open the pockets and they begin to cool down.
This along with the breathability of the fabric means that I don't think I've ever really had a day when they were too hot- even though they are Black.

In the rain, the cold and the snow of - well, autumn, winter and spring in the UK, again, the Combin Pant excelled. In all but the heaviest shower you can carry on wearing them- to a point, they will repel water, but once they get wet, they dry very quickly indeed. The fabric is windproof to a ridiculous degree- so much so that I prefer them to windstopper trousers simply as they are just as good in the wind, and more versatile as they can be worn when the weather gets warmer. As mentioned before, the only time I got a cold leg in the wind was when I inadvertantly left a pocket open... When it gets really cold, a pair of thermals underneath, and hey presto, they are fine for ridiculously cold temperatures.

The zips on the 4 pockets have never got stuck, the material is robust, its been climbed in, scrambled in, dragged across rocks, brambles, heather, cramponed, etc. and still it works well and has no holes to speak of.
Places to thread your bottom of trouser strings
There are no strings in the bottom of the legs, but there is a hem with holes in should you wish to attach your own. And as this is an all year round garment, there is no internal gaiter- which is perfect for wearing normal gaiters with. (internal gaiters and ANOTHER pair of gaiters on top are a nightmare of sweaty bottoms of legs)- again, the Scholler fabric comes into its own especially when wearing softshell gaiters. I think with that combination I had the most amazing experience of trousers and gaiters without getting hot and sweaty. Astonishing.
Washing is simple, just like any other garment, and when on a multiday hike, because they dry so fast, you can wash them on the go- as it were. Or, like me, just wear them everyday, I hate to say it, but even after a number of days continual wear (I've not counted the days, but it was pretty nasty), they never once became uncomfortable. 
The fit is excellent and the 4-way stretch make them so comfortable to wear its quite unbelievable.
I think the reason I haven't reviewed them before is because they work so well, it hardly seems necessary to review them.

I've used them in the UK across the whole gamut of weather, also multi day trekking in Canada (they were the only pair of trousers I took on a 3 week holiday), Colorado in February, and a whole number of other countries that don't come to mind right now. I've used them for climbing, walking, trekking, scrambling,  and on occasion running.
In Summer, in Winter, for pretty much anything outdoors, (unless it is absolutely throwing it down), this is my choice of pant. Hands down. No question. I suppose I am a bit spoiled now, and everything else I try on has to come up to the standard of the Combins.

I suspect that if Mountain Equipment tried to make these in another material, they really wouldn't work so well, so perhaps this isn't just a review of an item of clothing made by them, I suppose it is also a ringing endorsement of Schoeller and their fabric. I don't own anything else made by them, but if this is a typical example of what they do then I can fully understand why anything made with their fabric is so expensive. Its not a "waterproof membrane" that doesn't live up to expectations, but rather a stretch fabric that exceeds all possible imaginings.
Ignore the price.
Buy them.

(Apologies for the somewhat rave review. I re-read it and I sound like an evangalist for Mountain Equipment. I'm not really, but these trousers are excellent. I thoroughly recommend them- my girlfriend now has a pair, as does my sister, they love them too). No idea if they still make them as I can't find them on the current website, but if you can get a hold of them. Do.

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