I’ve “needed” a pair of ski softshells for a while now. By “needed,” I mean I have a perfectly fine pair of Marmot Scree pants are generally functional but tuck into my ski boots and sometimes get snow on them. I wanted something that looked a little sleeker (and justified it by saying that it was about the ski features like built in gaiters and vents).
I’m a bit of a fabric nerd, and I was looking for pants with a lot of elastane (Spandex, Lycra, same diff). My Patagonia Simul Alpine Pants just have some stretch in the crotch, as if that’s the body part that moves on a mountaineer, and I find them a little constrictive. (They’re bright blue, though, so I wear them lots.) I also like nylon. It edges out polyester on strength and durability, which means thinner fabric to get the same performance. Thinner fabric means more breatheability and faster drying times. The Arc’teryx Procline series and Dynafit Mercury softshells were at the top of my list and the Procline FLs popped up in the REI Garage just in time for my membership coupon to kick in. Decision made.
I had the chance to take them out on two half-day tours this weekend, and overall, I give’em a 3 out of 5. They’re a great choice for bluebird spring tours, but in terms of weather protection, I wouldn’t consider them a softshell. They’re just an active pair of pants that play nice with ski gear.
- Fit. The Procline pants come in 8 different sizes, compared to 4-5 with Dynafit, Patagonia, and Black Diamond, and they cover one of the larger size ranges of the manufacturers (which, hooray! Because backcountry skier babes are big and bitty and everything in between). They also have this snazzy built in belt that’s super lightweight and won’t get lost like a normal ones that come with the BD Dawn Patrol pants. If that’s not enough to hold your pants up, you’ve also got suspenders.
The belt feature on these bad boys.
- Stretch. I loved how these moved. They use the most elastic in their softshells compared to the other options, and I can see them being nice for the mixed ascents where we stash the skis at the top of a couloir and scramble to the top. They won’t restrict you when you’re high stepping or pull when you’re bending over to adjust your boots.
- Pockets. The two main pockets are fleece lined, which proved clutch in warming my hands up after transitioning to downhill. They also have a cargo stash pocket on one side. Usually, with pockets like these, it feels like my phone are swinging around on my leg or sneakily trying to drag my pants down. I liked the way they carried in these pants; it felt like a more secured load, and I didn’t notice the extra weight on one side.
- Breatheability. No swamp ass in these pants. If the thin material wasn’t enough to regulate heat, they also had some great vents with mesh coverings to keep your goodies under wraps.
- Weather resistance. I expect softshells to be my go-to touring pants. Sure, there will be some stormy days where I’ll want a full on Goretex layer, and June tours to Camp Muir when I can bust out the tie-dye leggings, but I want my softshells to be my default choice. These aren’t quite it and err a little more on tie-dye leggings side, except, you know, not being $12 on the Target clearance rack. They did fine in wind, which I was surprised by. The selling point for the beefed up (in material and price tag) Procline AR is the GoreWind construction. They just aren’t the really water resistant. After getting them out of the package, I flicked some water on them and it beaded up as expected. But when I went to brush the drops off, they rubbed right in. Taking them out to tour, I got wet spots from kneeling to get in my pack and taking a little tumble down from Pineapple Pass (which, for the record, I only did for the sake of the review). I’ve never had those issues with the Patagonia Simul Alpines or the Marmot Scree pants.
I was hoping for a good pair of softshells for volcano ski summits this spring, but these pants won’t give me much hope if I get caught in inclement weather on top of Rainier. I’m still tempted to hold onto them; they’ll be nice for an early June ski tour through the Enchantments, where it’s usually “legging weather,” but nice to have the perks like pockets or the room to add a base layer for a chilly night in the Core Zone.
For summit pants, I might fall back on my old faithful Marmot Scree. I find Marmot’s choice in color and cut to sometimes be laughably off trend (the Screes have a nice mom-jean cut), but the performance never fails to impress me for the price. I’d also be inclined to try the Dynafit Mercury or Patagonia Dual Point pants, sacrificing a bit of stretch for more weather protection.