We’re in the heart of the summer hiking and backpacking season, a time when a lot of people are trying out all the new gear they could get their hands on, budget constraints notwithstanding. So any number of backpacks, trekking poles, water filters and other assorted gadgets are getting put through their paces.
But what about the gear you put on your body? The stuff you wear is as important as anything else.
I tend to skimp here, but there is high value in putting the right clothes on your body. Breathable, flexible, durable and functional clothing will keep you comfortable as you do all those sometimes uncomfortable things.
I recently got a chance to test a brand that I have eyed for some time. Arc’teryx is known as a high-end maker of outdoor clothing with a reputation for making some pretty fine stuff.
In my case, I recently bought a pair of Perimeter pants from the company’s Traverse collection. And for my test, I took these to the Rockies for a weekend of camping, hiking, mountain climbing and other outdoor fun to see just how they’d fare.
My impressions are as follows:
Fit: I’m pretty fussy when it comes to fit. Too loose and you just do too much sagging. Fine for hip-hop, terrible for hiking. To tight and you feel, well, constricted in all the wrong places, a particularly annoying problem when going up steep inclines or reaching for footholds in awkward places. I did all of that and then some.
Simply put, the Perimeters fit incredible. They never sagged (really important to keep the cuff from snagging your boot heel), but stretched when I moved. The waistline was perfect, and the inseam gave me no problems. If only all my pants fit this well.
Comfort: Breathability and resistance to water are key, and again, the Perimeters score well here. I encountered a lot of snow on different parts of this trip, so that meant I got wet. But the pants dried out quickly, and also kept my skin dry. With the hard work of going uphill for hours, I never had a problem feeling overheated in my legs.
Utility: This is a simple set of pants — it’s not overrun with pockets everywhere, and they do not convert into shorts. That fine with me. My pack can hold my stuff, and I’m more comfortable on the trail and on the rock in longer pants unless it’s warm or hot. The pockets, while snug, were roomy enough. A side zippered pocket was a good place to stow my phone, which I use as a camera when on the trail. The stretch in the fabric allows you to stuff those pockets with small items and not feel constricted.
Some hiking pants have internal or built-in cinch systems rather than belt loops; the Perimeters do not. Again, fine by me. Belts are more reliable.
Durability: The fabric is thin, but marketed as being tough enough for rock climbing. We did a good amount of that on our summit day; nothing technical, but on rugged rock just the same.
I also did a couple of glissades down some snow slopes, picking up some good speed on my seat while dropping several hundred feet in elevation on soft snow with some bumps here and there.
After the trip, I looked at problem areas for damage — knees, cuffs, and so forth. Everything looked good. But when I checked out the seat, I noticed a small tear, maybe a couple of centimeters long. I don’t know if that came from the glissade, or grinding out a tight spot on the rock higher up the mountain, but it is what it is. I’d say the pants were tough enough for hiking, but something else on the mountain proved to be too much.
Overall, I liked these pants a lot. They are a definite upgrade from other hiking pants I’ve owned, and definitely the most comfortable pants of any kind I’ve ever worn (I’d wear these to work or just walking around any time). My hope is that what I experienced with the tear was an anomaly from that trip. But if you’re looking for a good pair of hiking pants and don’t mind shelling out a little extra cash, this product is worth a look.
Price: The Arc’teryx Traverse Perimeter pants for men retails for $119.