Sunday, 6 December 2009
Rain Gear, Part 2, Trousers
While I may have spent too much looking for the perfect waterproof jacket I haven't had the same problem with regard to overtrousers. I have a pair of Berghaus Extreme 3 layer Gore-Tex ones with full side zips that are as old as my Phoenix jacket. I bought the full zip type so that I could put them on while wearing skis and while they can be a bit of a handful in a breeze they work well. I haven't had much call to use them in recent years so they're still in pretty good condition apart from the odd stain caused by wax.
Of course when I starting kitting out again I wanted to get something lighter and by chance found a pair of light overtrousers in my local Trespass store. I think they're the Trespass'Prusik' model made from coated ripstop type nylon, the coating/fabric being branded as Trestex. What I liked about them apart from the price was that they had almost full length zips which makes them easy to get on/off over boots. The zip is double ended which allows me to vent them if required and has both internal and external stormflaps, the outer one closed with velcro patches, the waist has a simple shockcord and cordlock. I consider these my winter overtrousers and so far they've proved to be both waterproof and breathable. They pack down nice and small, weigh 299g and if I remember correctly cost around £15 in the sale. They're not the lightest available but you can pay much more for very little benefit, breathabilty may potentially be better in more expensive brands but I feel that condensation is less of an issue in overtrousers, in any case I haven't noticed condensation in these.
While being pleased with the Prusik's I still wondered if I could reduce the weight but found it difficult to reduce it significantly without spending quite a bit. The obvious answer was to look for something for summer use, basic overtrousers would be fine as hopefully they wouldn't be needed too often (Whatever gave me that idea!) so I went back to Trespass to look at the really basic Trespass Packa range. I found exactly what I was looking for, basic overtrousers in plain breathable coated nylon, again branded as Trestex with simple stud fasteners at the ankle. I paid around £10, sale price again so no complaints there. There was one small problem though, they have vents to allow access to your trousers pockets (2 front, 1 back) but they can't be fastened shut with the result that when it was breezy they allowed rain to enter and inflated like a balloon. The easiest option was simply to seal them on the inside with duct tape although I could sew them closed and seal the stitching as I would a flysheet using silicone sealer thinned with white spirits (I could possibly glue them shit using silicone). I wore these on my last overnighter and in spite of tramping through and falling into peat bogs and wet heather they performed really well being both waterproof and breathable, I was wearing lightweight Columbia Omni trousers and any lack of waterproofness or breathability almost certainly have been apparent. These pack even smaller than the Prusiks and are half the weight at 150g. Personally I think they're both great, they've worked well so far and if they get damaged it isn't going to cost much to replace them.
I think it's easy to overlook the cheaper brands and it was only by chance that I found them but sometimes you can find perfectly servicable products at a really good price by looking at the item rather than the brand name. I don't mind paying for a top end product if there isn't an alternative, it's virtually impossible to get a light, warm sleeping bag or duvet jacket for example without spending serious money but in the case of the over trousers I probably saved between £50-£100 and thats money that can be better spent on other kit where there isn't a low rent alternative.