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Reviews > Clothing > Pants and Shorts > MontBell U L Tec Down Pants > Test Report by Mark Thompson

MONTBELL U.L. TEC DOWN PANTS
TEST SERIES BY MARK THOMPSON
LONG-TERM REPORT
February 21, 2012

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mark Thompson
EMAIL: markthompson 242 at gmail dot com
AGE: 47
LOCATION: Parker, Colorado, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (2.10 m)
WEIGHT: 190 lb (86.20 kg)

Outdoor adventures started for me at an early age, my passions have grown to include backpacking, rock climbing, hiking, hunting, fishing, canoeing, cycling, skiing and snowshoeing. Most of my adventures presently take place in Colorado's amazing Rocky Mountains. For trail hikes, my pack typically weighs 15 lbs/7 kg (summer/fall), 25 lbs/11 kg (winter/spring) and trail speed ranges from 2.5 - 4 mph (4 - 6 km/h) depending on elevation gain. For backpack trips, my pack weighs 40 - 45 lbs (18 - 20 kg) and my trail speed drops to 1.5 - 3.0 mph (2 - 5 km/h).


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: MontBell
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.montbell.us
MSRP: US $180.00
Size: Large
Listed Weight: 13.3 oz (377 g) (size med)
Measured Weight: 13.3 oz (377 g)
Other details (from their web site):
- High quality 800 fill power hypoallergenic goose down
- 15-denier Ballistic Airlight nylon shell & lining
- 50-denier nylon taffeta for reinforcements
- 100-wash rated Polkatex®® DWR treatment
- Color: CHBK (Charcoal Black)
- Fill Weight: 2.4 oz (68 g)
- Compressed: 4.9" x 8.6" (12.5 cm x 21.8 cm) (stuff sack included)

IMAGE 1
Photo courtesy of MontBell.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The pants arrived sealed in a plastic bag and packaged in a plain cardboard box. There were no instructions or corporate literature in the package but the tags sewn on to the garment provide care instructions and contact information for MontBell in Boulder, CO.

The pants look exactly like the picture on the manufacturer's web site. They are a full-feature pant with a checkered sewing pattern, two protective layers, full length leg zippers, elastic waistband with drawstring, a zippered fly and snap, and two zippered front pockets.

Protective Layers:
The first protective layer (on the front) starts at mid-thigh and goes downwards, covering the front of the pant leg. The second protective layer covers the seat. Both of these appear to be sewn over the top of the base garment and appear to add a level of abrasion resistance to protect the insulating material.

Full length leg zippers:
The zippers start at the leg cuff and go all the way up through the waist band. This will enable me to take the pants on and off without having to worry about getting the pants around my boots or crampons. The zipper is covered with a snap and the cuff and is backed by a flap on the inside to keep the cold out.

Elastic Waist Band:
The waist band is elastic in the back and has elastic draw strings in the front. With leg zippers that go all the way through the waist band, this is nice way to keep things snug.

Zippered fly:
The front zipper is covered at the top with a snap and insulated behind (certainly don't want drafts here).

Front pockets:
The front pockets are zippered (down when open) with nice zipper pull strings. The pockets are located such that contents are inside the pants, thus protected by the insulation. The zippers are adjacent and parallel to the leg zippers.

TRYING IT OUT

Other than trying the pants on in my living room, my first event was near Allenspark, CO. My plans had changed over the weekend and rather than go from Boulder to Leadville, we stopped at a family cabin for the night. Upon arrival, the temperature was a warm 38 deg F (3 deg C) which was fairly close to the low for the night. With my desire to test the pants, I opted for an afghan in lieu of a sleeping bag and I was not disappointed. I was surprisingly warm throughout the night.

My climbing card (similar to a dance card, but since I don't dance...) continues to keep full. Next weekend I will be taking a course on setting anchors for rock climbing. This will be a full day in the field with lots of standing around on exposed rock formations. The following weekend I am back to climbing mountains with Mt Huron and the "Apostles" on tap, then it's back to rock climbing with Hill Billy Heaven in my sights. I expect my winter to continue on this type of active pace and plan to include these pants throughout these adventures.

SUMMARY


The pants look fantastic! With winter rapidly approaching, I expect that I will be able to give these pants a real workout! I have already made a home for them in my winter pack.

Pros:
- Full of features
- should be warm
Cons:
- All of the features add some weight

A sincere thank you to MontBell for their generosity and to the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for facilitating this test. This concludes my initial report. Please check back in mid-December for my field report.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Since receiving these pants for test, I have ventured out into the mountains on five day-hikes, three snowshoe hikes, two rock climbs, two backpacking trips and one car-camping trip. All of the trips have been within the colorful State of Colorado. Below are the particular trips where weather and environmental conditions provided the most opportunity and placed the greatest demand on these pants, enabling a robust test.

Location: Winfield, CO
Date: 14 - 16 October 2011
Elevation: 10,500' (3,200 m)
Product usage inclusive: 11 hours
Weather: cool, low of 24 deg F (-4 deg C) and high of 41 deg F (5 deg C)

Location: Lost Creek Wilderness
Date: 2 - 3 Dec 2011
Elevation: 8,500 - 10,000 ft (2,591 - 3,048 m)
Product usage inclusive: 5 hours
Weather: cold! 4 to 14 deg F (-16 to -10 deg C) and snowing - approximately 8 in (20 cm) in 9 hours

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park - Two Rivers Lake
Date: 24 - 25 Dec 2011
Elevation: 8,500 - 10,700 ft
Product usage inclusive: 8 hours
Weather: clear and cold 4 to 26 deg F ( -16 to -3 deg C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Wow, talk about warm! After the sun drops below the mountain tops, the temperature is sure to follow suit. This was certainly the case on nearly all of the adventures testing this product. I found that the full length zippers make it super easy and quick to put the pants on. Surprisingly enough for a rock climber, my balance isn't the greatest so I typically need to lean on something or sit down to change pants. With the full-length side zippers finding a seat was not required, a great feature considering every place to lean or sit has been covered in snow since November. I did note that the pants didn't work as well as hoped when rock climbing as there was just too much stuff hanging from my climbing harness. Certainly not a problem with the product, it just turned out to not be as viable of a use as I had originally thought.

During the two nights I was camped in Winfield, I found that my 30 deg F (0 deg C) rated sleeping bag wasn't quite up to the cold nights and so, the MontBells to the rescue. Honestly, the pants saved the trip. Without them, I would have had to retreat and chalk up the weekend to another lesson learned.

The pants accompanied me on my scouting trip to the Apostles and during my successful summit of Mt. Huron and Mt. Tabeguache. Although the conditions didn't warrant their use, they served as part of my 10 essentials. I am somewhat of a neat freak and preferred to keep the pants in their stuff sack for containment and easy identification. Even in the stuff sack, the pants compressed very well and took only a small amount of room in the pack.

While backpacking in the Lost Creek Wilderness, I found the pants to be far too warm for actual trail usage, even with the day's high at 14 deg F (-16 deg C). Unfortunately, I discovered this fact after being on the trail for a mere few hundred yards and was forced to stop for an unplanned clothing change. Although not utilized during the hiking portion of this trip, I put the MontBells to use after setting up camp and in the morning prior to departure. I was pleasantly surprised that, even when the temperature made its rapid evening descent, I remained blissfully warm, a welcome relief at the end of the day! My three climbing partners were certainly jealous of my obvious comfort. I awoke to an additional 8 in/20 cm of snow and very low temperatures and wore the pants as an outer layer as I made the day's preparations. I was pleased with the quality of insulation and heat retention, specifically noted by the limited amount of snow that turned to dampness on the outside of the pants. Again, the full-length zippers made it fast and easy to change insulation requirements when going from minor activity to being trail ready.

After a rugged but pleasant day of snowshoeing (with a 50 lb/23 kg pack) up to Two Rivers Lake, I set up camp, and as is the norm, my body cooled quickly with the decrease in activity. I donned the MontBells and remained comfortably warm throughout the afternoon. The full-length side zippers made it super easy to put on over my hiking pants and allowed for easy temperature control. When the temperature took a rapid descent with the setting of the sun and plummeted much below the predicted low of 18 deg F (-8 deg C) I was really glad I brought the good stuff, particularly the MontBells. Even with the temperature on the decline, I kept comfortable by merely increasing the length of closure on the zippers. The snaps at the bottom of each leg kept the pant legs neatly in place while the zippers were partially closed. I was pleased to find that the elastic waist readily accommodated the added bulk of my lined hiking pants. With the temperature in the single digits the design of the zippered pockets enabled my snack bars to thaw (enough to eat anyway).


IMAGE 1

Trying to get a decent photograph of a pair of black pants I found to be next to impossible (especially solo), so please forgive my lack of artistic grace and realize that I was warm despite the stupid cold outside temp!


IMAGE 2

Finally, at the end of one of my hikes I was able to get someone to photograph the pants in use while I sat comfortably warm outside a warming hut!

Last but not least, I was finally able to find a temperature and level of exertion that facilitated using the pants while actually hiking. The trip was a short photographic session in Rocky Mountain National Park where we would hike a short bit then stop to take pictures. All in all, the distance covered was approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) and the temperature was -2 deg F (-19 deg C). The pants performed flawlessly!

SUMMARY

The bottom line here is that these pants are super warm! I had hopes that I would use these during various hiking and backpacking adventures, but honestly, they are so warm that I wasn't able to utilize them effectively during any activity which required much more than minor cardiovascular exertion. I was, however, able to garner a significant amount of use during the less active portions of my adventures.

Pros:
- Super warm
- full length side zippers
- weight is commensurate (even light) considering the number of features

Cons:
- none so far



Please check back in a few months for my Long Term Report.

A special thanks to MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for their support and efforts to facilitate this test.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The MontBell Down Pants have accompanied me on every outdoor adventure I had taken throughout the reporting period. Although I have not had to use them every time, the warmth and comfort they are capable of providing generates a great deal of mental comfort, especially considering the frigid temperatures Colorado has been experiencing this winter. During the Long Term Reporting Period, I have taken 5 day hikes (including gaining the summit of one more "14er"), two days of ice climbing and one more winter backpacking trip. I garnered the most use from the pants during the backpacking trips while setting up camp, cooking, etc., accumulating another 15+ hours of direct use during the LTR. Below are the particular trips where I was able to use the pants in demanding conditions:

Location: St Mary's Glacier
Date: 4 Feb 2012
Elevation: 10,300 - 11,100 ft (3,139 - 3,383 m)
Weather: Lots of weather changes today, started sunny and cold (12 deg F/ -11 deg C) at the parking lot. The temperature increased to over 50 deg F (10 deg C) then dramatically fell during the mid-afternoon to 10 deg F (-12 deg C) with an incoming cold front.

Location: Second Creek, Near Berthoud Pass, Colorado
Date: 11 - 12 Feb 2012
Elevation: 10,000 - 12,060 ft (3,048 - 3,676 m)
Weather: Sunny and cold, low of 3 deg F (-16 deg C)

Location: Mt Yale
Date: 19 Feb 2012
Elevation: 9,900 - 14,195 ft (3,018 - 4,327 m)
Weather: Cold and overcast most of the day, interrupted by a snow shower and near white-out conditions. The temperature remained below 15 deg F (-9 deg C) for the entire day and winds were light but constant.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The MontBell U.L. TEC Down Pants performed flawlessly throughout the test series! Although I was not able to utilize the pants with my rock climbing harness (as I had originally planned) I discovered that I was able to use them with my alpine harness as the alpine harness is set up with quick connect leg straps etc. This proved to be especially useful during the High Altitude Mountaineering School I was taking in February. After packing in and as we began to set up camp, the decreased level of activity coupled with the cold caused me to reach for the down pants. Even with my snowshoes and harness still on, I was able to quickly don the pants and get back to the tasks at hand.

I did notice a slight amount of feathers on the outside of the pants, but I am uncertain if these were "escapees" or the result of a slight hole from a camp fire ember that attacked me as I walked past. I will have to learn to how fix that, but certainly a word of warning (not that everyone doesn't know this already): campfires and high end mountaineering gear don't play well together!

SUMMARY

After an additional two months of testing, the results of the Field Report continue to hold true. The pants are amazingly warm, light, functional and have earned their place in my pack as part of my winter "10 Essentials." The pros and cons remain the same:

Pros:
- Super warm
- full length side zippers
- weight is commensurate (even light) considering the number of features

Cons:
- none!

A special thanks to MontBell and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this fine piece of gear!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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