Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
Montane Featherlite Pants
[Originally written for BackpackGearTest.org, this review was current at the time it was written but should now be considered out-of-date. It is likely this product has been improved based on test results such as those reported here and experiences from other users. It is also possible that this product no longer exists or has been superseded by products produced at a later time. This page is included for historical purposes as an example of a gear testing report I had submitted.
Only minor updates such as email addresses, links, and formatting have been made as necessary to accommodate inclusion of an older report into this web site.]
Web site: http://montane.co.uk/
I have been hiking and backpacking extensively since 1989. Weekends frequently find me in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Longer trips I've taken include (but are not limited to) such diverse locations as Copper Canyon, Mexico; Annapurnas, Nepal; Olympic Mountains, Washington; Austrian Alps; Paria Canyon, UT and AZ; and a 1999 thruhike of the Appalachian Trail.
Montane Featherlite Pants, size XXL
I knew very little of Montane Pertex clothing. At the time I purchased these pants, there had been a few mentions of Montane Featherlite clothing on the various hiking and gear related email lists I read but there were perhaps more requests for information than there were experiences to share.
While I was certainly in the market for a pair of water resistant wind pants like the Featherlite pants, I was not looking for them when I bought them. I had been killing time in Lincoln, NH when I walked into MacKenzie Gear, an outfitter. I have made a bit of a habit of stopping at that store when I'm in the neighborhood because they do tend to carry a small selection of lightweight gear not usually found on the shelves of other area retailers.
Nevertheless, I was surprised to see a few pairs of the Montane Featherlite Pants on the rack and pulled one out to take a look at them. They seemed extremely light and rather fragile as windpants go.
I was ready, as usual, to hold them up to my hip and immediately put them back on the rack when they were as short as capris. I was very surprised therefore to find that they seemed long as I held them up. Not wanting to turn down an opportunity, I pulled them on and was pleasantly surprised to find them nearly long enough for my long legs. The rise was also long enough and the pants accommodated my hips quite well.
Given the difficulty I have in finding any sort of pants that are long enough, I didn't hesitate too long before I purchased them.
The pants are made out of lightweight Pertex material. The fibers in this fabric have a Durable Water Repellant (DWR) making the fabric DWR without needing to periodically reactivate the repellency with spray on coating. The store carried only black as an option though the Montane web site shows other options.
They have an ankle zipper which enables me to pull on the pants over trail shoes though not over boots. The ankle zipper has a reflective strip along its length.
There is a one handed drawcord at the waist. There are no pockets.
The pants stuff into a tiny stuff sack about 3" by 3". It's about the size of my fist once stuffed.
About 3.5 ounces plus 1 ounce for the tiny stuff sack with cordlock.
While these pants were designed to fit men, the soft fabric allows a waist large enough to fit a woman's hips to be draw in and drape comfortably without excessive folds feeling bulky. The inseam length according to the web site should be 34" however by my measure, they are 36". The legs come down to my ankles but are not long enough to drape across the top of my shoes.
I have used the Featherlite pants in a great variety of trail conditions. I've worn them in everything from 20 degree to 60 degree sun, to light rain, to snow, sleet, and heavy rain in a variety of temperatures.
They are light and breathable enough to wear in temperatures that normally have me wearing just shorts. In sun, the dark color can, however, make them feel needlessly hot when the temperatures are in the moderate 60 degree range. One slightly strange aspect is that they are so "slippery" that there is less friction if your legs rub together with these pants than without. It's possible they might prevent chafing should someone otherwise be prone to chafing.
They work wonderfully to keep light rain at bay and to keep you dry from the occasional splash. They are not, however, waterproof. Extended use in heavy rain and wet snow will allow the moisture to enter the pants. The seams are not taped and easily provide an entry point for water.
Because the fabric is so thin and light, it drapes extremely well. This feels fine in moderate temperatures but in colder temperatures, that means the pants provide no insulation. Unless you have furry legs or wear an insulating layer under the pants, the thin fabric against your skin almost feels like it's not there. There were times in cold weather, when wearing the pants on top of shorts, that if my metal hiking poles came in contact with my legs below the leg of my shorts, I thought the poles were against my skin and I must have torn a hole in the pants. A quick look assured me that the pants were whole; they just provided no insulation.
My first few times out, I stuck to three season trail conditions. The fabric seemed like it would snag on anything that looked sharply at it. But, when I just slipped past a few thorny bushes without so much as the tiniest of snags, I got a bit bolder. One of my most demanding hikes with these pants was a winter hike of North and South Hancock Mountains in the White Mountains. We had a full complement of winter equipment (plastic boots, snowshoes, crampons, etc.) but the weather promised to be sunny so I wore the Montane pants.
As we approached the summits, the trees were heavily laden with snow. The trail had so much snow it had, in typical winter fashion, raised the level of the trail into the spruce canopy. We found ourselves pushing through stiff spruce boughs. These boughs would grab at everything we were wearing and our packs often got snagged as we pressed through the branches. The Montane pants performed flawlessly and I was happy to notice that not one snag had been made in the seemingly fragile material by the end of the day.
A Spring trip found me on the Long Trail in Vermont. A late season snow storm had left up to 2" of new snow on the ground at upper elevations and more was coming down as we hiked. The temperature and elevation fluctuated as did the state of the precipitation. We hiked in everything from plain snow, to a mix, to cold rain. It was just too sloppy for body heat to keep up with the moisture that did get inside the pants and I was eventually soaked and cold. True waterproof pants would have been appropriate for that situation.
Possible improvements (or more ideas for related products):
These pants perform as advertised. They are water resistant and in light showers, dry from body heat almost as fast as the rain falls. They breathe extremely well and are comfortable in a wide range of temperatures. They can easily be layered over insulating clothing. They are much more durable than appearances would indicate.
I am planning on using these pants for the majority of my PCT 2003 thruhike though I may plan to switch out for more waterproof pants in Washington State where I anticipate a great deal of rain.
Lightweight hikers would do well to consider Montane Featherlite Pants for hikes where heavy rain and sloppy snowy conditions are unlikely.
Last updated, July 10, 2010.
Tips and Tricks
Gear Reviews and Discussions
AT FAQ and Stats
Trip Reports Gear Lists Mail Drops About Me Acknowledgements Photos Updates Fun Email Mara