Follow Tom from our Bristol Shop as he takes on ME’s ultra-robust walking trousers and heads off on a mission along the Affric-Kintail way.
Mountain Equipment makes a large range of legwear for conditions ranging from warm, fair-weather walking and climbing to winter ascents of high-altitude peaks. For cooler and windier conditions, there is a range of softshell trousers that offer increased weather resistance. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to test a pair of the Mountain Equipment Ibex Pro Pants whilst walking the Affric Kintail Way on a recent staff trip – a 44-mile trek from Drumnadrochit to Morvich across the Scottish Highlands. The Ibex Pro Pants are midweight softshell trousers that Mountain Equipment describes as “Robust and wind resistant stretch trousers for year-round trekking and mountaineering missions.”
Before we look at the Ibex Pro Pants in more detail, let’s address a question we frequently hear in our shops: “What is softshell?”. A soft shell is a layer that is more wind resistant than a fleece but more breathable than waterproof garments – which are often referred to as hard shells. They range from wind-resistant to wind-proof, offer varying degrees of stretch and are generally very durable, with high abrasion resistance. The term “softshell” covers a wide range of layers – from very lightweight layers, offering fairly durable wind resistance, to burly layers which are extremely durable, water-resistant and windproof. Nowadays, softshells tend to fall into two main categories – those with a membrane, which is how they are wind-proof rather than wind-resistant, and the more breathable options without a membrane. Mountain Equipment use Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper technology in membraned softshells like the Mission Pant and their Exolite double weave fabric in their non-membraned softshells like the Ibex, Ibex Pro and lighter Comici Pants.
The Ibex Pro Pants are a newer, slightly thicker, warmer and tougher version of the best-selling Ibex Pants, with some added features and a more relaxed fit. They use Mountain Equipment’s Exolite 250 softshell fabric, whereas the Ibex uses Exolite 210, which offers an excellent balance of water resistance, wind resistance, durability and breathability. They have two hand pockets, two rear zipped pockets and two large zipped thigh pockets with sizeable zipped thigh vents behind them. The waistband features belt loops and elasticated velcro adjustments on each side, a metal button fastening and a two-way zipped fly for use with a harness. There are similar elasticated adjustments on the hem, using poppers instead of velcro, lace hooks and silicone grippers to optimise fit around a wide range of boots and prevent them rising up over the top.
These trousers come in sizes 30-38”, with three leg lengths and two colours available – black and Anvil grey. My Ibex Pro Pants are a 32” waist, with a regular length leg, and fit really well. The waist isn’t too tight to fit some warm leggings underneath for really cold conditions and the waist adjustments work well enough to wear them without a belt; even when you’ve filled the ample pockets with snacks and other essentials. The Ibex Pro Pants are made to Mountain Equipment’s “Mountain Fit”; an equally stretchy but slightly more relaxed, wider leg than the “Alpine Fit” found in the standard Ibex Pants. This allows for more layers to fit underneath and allows the thigh vents to ventilate the trousers very effectively.
When we started our multi-day walk along the Affric Kintail Way I was concerned that I might find myself with warm legs when working harder on some of the uphill sections during a mild week in September. I quickly found that, although they are warmer than the standard Ibex Pants, the massive vents are very effective and prevented me from getting sweaty even on the warmer, lower-level trails at the start of the walk. This makes them far more comfortable to wear when heavier and prolonged rainfall force the use of waterproof over-trousers. That being said, I found that my legs stayed dry through the showers and lighter rain we experienced without needing to put over-trousers on – they dried really quickly when it stopped too.
The Ibex Pro Pants are a fantastic addition to the Mountain Equipment range. Offering a slightly warmer and tougher option than the standard Ibex Pants but maintaining fantastic breathability and ventilation.