www.gore-tex.com
Gore Tex’s most waterproof membrane, Pro Shell, got a significant upgrade this year. The 2.5- and 3- layer membrane has always been on top of the waterproof category, but breathability was an issue. The new Pro Shell is a rumored 28 percent more breathable than the original, putting its sweat management properties up with the best in the industry. The 100 percent ePTFE-based microstructure is bonded to the outer material, with a specially developed lining completing the system. To increase durability, Gore added a new patent-pending Micro Grid Backer technology for internal abrasion and snag resistance. We tested a new Arc ‘Teryx Pro Shell jacket for Fall ’13 on an Interconnect ski from Solitude to Alta to Brighten and back. This tester’s pants were last year’s Pro Shell, the jacket was the new stuff. The Interconnect is lots of steep skinning, followed by great backcountry ridges and bowls. The new material really does breathe well. We’ll report on ongoing tests later this spring, with special focus on not only breathability, but waterproofness as well. Expect to see this new tech in a handful of outdoor brands like The North Face, Arc’Teryx, Outdoor Research, Marmot, and Mammut.

www.bergans.no
Bibs may seem like the kind of ski product reserved for kids, but I love them—they give you really bomb-proof coverage against the snow, especially in the deep stuff, when snow can wiggle its way under your jacket hem.  And these bibs from Bergans of Norway pull out all the stops. They incorporate full water-resistant zippers down the legs, easily adjustable suspenders, and removable gators, and two mesh pockets up front.  The three-layer water- and windproof membrane kept me safe from the elements, but they had enough stretch to make ‘em comfortable and mobile, especially on long skins into the backcountry (or while pulling tricky moves while mountaineering). The zipper fly also makes attending the calls of nature much easier than I remembered when I was a kid—which is wonderful!  A Recco avalanche rescue reflector has been integrated into the pants, offering some comfort when heading into the backcountry, but I’m not a big fan of the mesh thigh pockets. No matter what you have in them, they feel over-stuffed.
-Chris Boyle

www.rei.com
Converting from pants to shorts (when you’re wearing a two-in-one combo) typically means sitting down, unzipping the legs, and then wrestling them off over your hiking shoes. And if your kicks have gotten muddy, the pant leg interiors will get muddy, too—unless you add another step and remove your footwear. REI’s Sahara Pants have a simple, ingenious solution: they’ve run side zippers up the full length of the lower leg, providing both an easy method to cool off and an efficient way to remove the legs without so much as sitting down. Just unzip vertically, then unzip the loop at the thighs and you’re in shorts mode, no muss, no fuss, and no dirt or mud (the color-coded thigh zips also make it easy to put them back on).  The lightweight nylon fabric has a UPF 50+ rating and has been treated with a DWR finish to help shed moisture and stains, and the elastic waist helps dial in the fit.  We love the travel- and trail-friendly profusion of pockets, including side cargos, front hand, a zippered coin pocket, and two rear pockets (one zippered).  The gusseted crotch also allows for freedom of movement on the trail. Sizing, however, might prove tricky; the inseams come in two-inch increments (which is great as the pant’s can’t be easily hemmed), but the S, M, L, XL designation could leave some between sizes.

us.rab.uk.com

The fact that our tester was willing on more than one occasion to wear his Rab Hueco Pants instead of a pair of shorts during this summer’s sweltering heat is a testament to their comfort. In fact, the Hueco’s lightweight versatility almost runs counter to notion that this gear comes from a UK manufacturer presumably more familiar with Scottish Highland squalls than triple-digit heat and humidity. However, the Hueco performed admirably as the go-to camp attire at a weekend music festival in the Blue Ridge Mountains, not to mention on day hikes and short commuter bike rides (hell, they even made an appearance at a tony Georgetown Independence Day brunch, on one of the hottest days of the year amidst D.C.’s summer blackout). Plentiful and ample pockets, including one off the right thigh, offer room to stash incidentals and snacks, while the hems can be tightened via cords should you need to keep out crud or other nasties. A small measure of spandex (3 percent) with the polyester provides the right measure of stretch, and the fabric dries quickly should things turn foul.  The one knock our tester had is that the front hip pockets can feel a little tight to access in those instances when you’re in a rush to extract some item. The fit for these pants is quite slender, too, so keep that in mind when ordering.

www.eddiebauer.com/EB/First-Ascent, 15 ounces
For many apparel manufacturers, “women-specific” often means that they shrink the length, narrow the shoulders, widen the hips, and add a lot of color—which is why brands like First Ascent rise to the fore in the outdoor industry. Their Rainier Storm Shell Pants benefit from all the same high-tech elements found in the men’s version, including three-layer waterproof/breathable material with reinforcement patches in the seat and knees, a feel and sound that’s far softer and quieter than any hard shell should be, and three-quarter length waterproof side zips that make on-and-off a breeze, even over bulky hiking boots. The combo of belt loops and an integrated belt system also let you dial in the perfect fit.  The cut is tailored to a woman’s slimmer frame—but the real touch of genius can be found with the U-shaped rear zipper, which allows femme testers to easily commune with nature without having to shed the pants (or a climbing harness) in the process. (a detail that’s not part of the men’s Mount Rainier)  These pants are ideal as an extra layer to toss on when conditions become nasty while hiking, backpacking, or climbing. But they do double duty as your backup ski or snowboarding pants for all but the gnarliest of conditions. As they’re designed to go over a pair of hiking pants, expect them to be roomy; go smaller if you want a truly trim fit or are planning to wear them over a next-to-skin baselayer.