OUTDOOR RESEARCH NEOPLUME PANTS
TEST SERIES BY DAVID BAXTER
March 29, 2009
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binkly99 at yahoo dot com
Seattle, Washington, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
180 lb (81.60 kg)
Backpacking background: I have been hiking for six years, and backpacking for five. I get out on the trails or snow every weekend, regardless of the weather. My trips range anywhere from fairly short dayhikes to longer multi-day backpacking trips. In the winter I snowshoe or snow-climb in moderate terrain and occasionally participate in a glaciated climb. My typical winter pack is about 15 lb (6.8 kg) for a day trip, and 35 - 45 lb (16 - 20 kg) for a glacier climb with an overnight camp. In the summer my pack is around 25 lb (11 kg).
INITIAL REPORT, November 15th 2008
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research.com
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: Outdoor Research
Listed Weight: 15.1 oz (428 g)
Measured Weight: 15.2 oz (431 g)
Size tested: L
Sizes available: S, M, L, XL
The Neoplume pants arrived at my door packaged with a single cardboard tag attached to the waistband describing the pants and their features. The descriptions are printed in both English and French. The zipper pulls were rolled up and wrapped in tissue paper.
The pants are slightly shiny and all black except for a small "OR" monogram on the left hip. The outer material, 50-denier nylon, is a smooth texture and feels sturdy. The inner material feels about the same thickness but is much smoother and shinier. The PrimaLoft ECO Sport insulation has a slightly squishy loft to it. Outdoor Research says the insulation is distributed more in the upper parts of the pants to provide insulation where it is most effective. They do feel noticeably thicker above the knees. There are few visible seams on the pants. The outer side seams are integrated with the zippers and the inner seam is on the inside of the leg. A single seam runs up the middle of the backside. The waist band has a slight elastic stretch feel, mostly in the rear. The fly has a smooth running double zipper. A large "OR" monogrammed plastic coated button snaps the fly closed. A small nylon-strap style belt with a simple snap buckle closes over this. The buckle is fairly small and it will be interesting to see if it can be easily opened with thick gloves.
There are two pockets, both just below the belt line on the front of the pants. There are no pockets on the rear. Each pocket is about the size found in a typical pair of jeans and can accommodate a hand wearing a light glove. The interior material is dark grey mesh-like fleece that feels pleasing on bare skin. On the outside of each leg a double zipper runs the full length of the pants. These allow the pants to be put on without taking off footwear. The zipper pulls also have small lengths of cord, except for the fly zipper, and run smoothly in both directions. At the top and bottom end of each zipper is a small flap of material with a sturdy snap to fully close the pants. The top flap also has a patch of hook-and-loop material.
Each pant leg has an integrated gaiter rising from the end of the leg up about 4 inches (10 cm). The bottom of the gaiter is elastic, with a generous amount of stretch, and closes around the ankle. The gaiters can be opened with hook-and-loop fasteners and a single snap on the outside, where they meet the leg zipper, to allow one to put the pants on without taking off footwear.
|Full length size zippers|
|Integrated gaiter in the ankles|
TRYING IT OUT
I first tried to put the Neoplume pants on over my jeans. The side zippers worked very well for this. I ran the zippers in both directions until they met around hip level, climbed into the pants, then zipped them back up and connected the snap-flaps at the waist and ankles to close them. With the fly zipped and buttoned the pants stayed up despite being slightly too large for me in the waist. Using the small belt to tighten them worked fairly well but the cord only runs an inch or two in each direction, so the amount of adjustment is limited. The inseam is about 2 inches (5 cm) too long for me and the bottoms did drag on the ground but when I put on my boots this wasn't a problem.
The pants have a nice loose feel and are very comfortable, but at the same time have a closer fit than other insulated pants I've used. They fit well over my jeans but could be a stretch to wear over anything much thicker. The smooth inner material slides well over under layers and does not snag. I was able to move around freely and the articulated knees allowed plenty of bending without constriction. After a lot of movement the pants did begin to fall down some and I was wishing the belt allowed for more tightening. I am right between sizes for these pants, with the medium being too constricting and the large a little baggy, and I believe this is the main cause. Just walking around my apartment they do feel quite warm, I was feeling toasty after only moderate activity. Hopefully they will prove to be just as warm in the backcountry.
SUMMARY AND TEST PLAN
The Outdoor Research Neoplume pants are a lightweight synthetic insulation pants for colder temperatures. They have a full length side zipper to allow wearing over other layers easily. For effective insulation more of the Primaloft Sport material is distributed above the knees, where warmth is more critical.
I am looking forward to trying out these pants in the backcountry this winter. I will be out in a variety of conditions mostly depending on the weather of the Washington Cascades. Over the next few months I plan to spend a few nights snow-camping in my tent, another few nights in a self-constructed igloo, and one or two snow free trips to the Olympic coastal beaches and central WA deserts. The pants will face cold snowy conditions all the way to chilly ocean breezes and freezing desert air. I hope they will be up to the challenge!
This concludes my initial report. I will post a field report in about two months updating the performance of the Neoplume Pants. Thank you to Backpackgeartest.org and Outdoor Research.
FIELD REPORT, January 26th 2009
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
The Seattle area experienced unusually cold temperatures from mid December through Christmas. We had more than 6 inches (15.4 cm) of snow on the ground in town and temperatures in the low 20 F (-6.6 C) range. Most days were cloudy with a light snow fall and stiff breeze making for serious wind chill. I found myself wearing the Neoplume Pants when I'd walk to work or spend significant time outside since I don't own more casual warm pants.
I also spent one night in an unheated backcountry cabin. We cross-country skied the Beckler River road about five miles (8.1 km) each way with only minor elevation gain. Temperatures outside were around 15 F (-9.4 C) and about 25 F (-3.8 C) inside the cabin with no heat source.
Finally I spent another night camping at Ancient Lakes in central Washington. Skies were overcast the whole time but it did not rain. Temperatures were around 30 F (-1 C) during the day dropping below 15 F (-9.4 C) at night. We covered about 6 miles (9.7 km) round trip with approximately 1000 ft (305 m) of gain. Camp was made at one of the lakes inside the coulee.
I also carried the pants on two dayhikes. They were used during lunch on Dirty Harry's peak and again at Kendall Lakes. Dirty Harry's is about a 9 mile (14.5 km) hike with 3500 ft (1067 m) of gain. Kendall Lakes is a snowshoe route along an old logging road. Mileage is around 7 miles (11.27 km) with 2500 ft (762 m) gain. On both days the weather was sunny and very cold with highs around 15 F (-9.4 C) in the sun.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I am quite pleased with the performance of the Neoplume pants. For a fairly light weight and thin insulation layer they provide great warmth. I was especially happy to be testing these during the cold snap Seattle experienced in late December. The only casual pants I own are denim jeans which proved far too cold to wear for long outside. I found it easy to wear the Neoplume pants over my jeans while spending any significant time outside and simply zip them off if I went back inside, without removing my shoes. The full length zippers work very well for stepping in and out of the pants. For about a week I wore them on my daily walk to work. There was about six inches (15.24 cm) of snow and ice on the ground and any precipitation was falling as snow. My walk is about a mile (2.2 km) each direction and I stayed comfortably warm the whole time. On the return trip, which is uphill, I would have to vent the pants by partly unzipping the side zippers to keep from overheating.
I also wore the pants on a photography trip through Discovery park. Though it was sunny the temperature stayed around 25 F (-3.8 C) and there was about a foot of snow on the ground. The pants again performed well. I frequently was on my knees to get a specific angle but I did not feel any water penetration until after several kneelings. Even then while the pants felt damp at the knees I did not get cold. They did not dry while I was at the park but it was quite cold even with the sun.
Just before Christmas I cross-country skied to my friend's cabin on the Beckler River road, near Skykomish WA. Normally one could drive here but this year the road is not plowed and with the heavy snow fall and coming warming rain he was worried about the roof. Our mission was to clear the snow off before the rain soaked snow collapsed it. On arrival at the cabin I quickly put the Neoplume pants on over my soft shells to preserve the aerobic warmth from skiing. I stayed nice and toasty while my friend was forced to take his boots off and add a heavy base layer beneath his pants, getting cold in the process. We then took turns shoveling off the roof. This was difficult work and often times I would get buried hip deep in drifts. The pants shed snow quite well and I stayed dry and warm. The internal gaiters were effective in trapping warmth and keeping me warm but less effective in keeping snow out of my boots. For future trips I will likely leave my full sized gaiters on.
The only real problem I had with the pants was due to their length. Because they are longer than my usual size they drag on the ground a little if I am not wearing gaiters. After awhile the ankles became soaked and this further pulled the pants down. I ended up putting the external gaiters back which solved this problem.
I also wore the pants around camp at Ancient Lakes in central Washington. This was a desert camping trip to escape the snow, though it wasn't any warmer. With the 30 F (-1 C) temperatures and a strong wind the wind chill was about 10 F (-12 C) most of the time. Once we'd setup camp at the lakes we wandered around exploring the coulee and cliffs. We kept a very slow pace and I was glad to have the pants for warmth. They seemed very wind proof even at the tops of the cliffs where it was windiest. The only places I could feel a draft were along the side zippers if the wind hit it just right. Sitting outside in the Neoplume pants, insulated boots, a down jacket, gloves, and wool hat I was comfortable.
The Ancient Lakes area is covered in sage brush and I was worried about tearing the nylon but the pants held up very well. I did snag the fabric a few times while passing through some brush, resulting in some abrasion marks to the fabric but they appear only cosmetic. Again, because of the length of the pants, and my desire not to wear gaiters without snow, I had the ankle areas drag slightly on the ground. This caused them to become quite dirty after the trip, especially on the backs of the heel. I did not see any fabric damage though. On my return I washed them in my washing machine set to cold. I noticed afterward Outdoor Research says to wash them separately. They were washed with my zip-off nylon pants, several pairs of jeans, shirts, and other dark colors before tumble-drying them on low. They came out very clean with no damage from the wash.
Finally I carried the pants on a few dayhikes. For several days the forecast mountain temperatures were below 20 F (-6.6 C) so I threw the Neoplume Pants into my daypack as well. On the summit of Dirty Harry's peak I put them on while I ate my lunch. It was about 5 F (-15 C) with the wind chill. I found the pants quite warm and they worked very well for trapping the aerobic heat I generated on the ascent. I ran both the side zippers to their uppermost ends and found that I could slip them on without removing my snowshoes if I wanted. But because I was worried about tearing the fabric on a snowshoe claw I chose to remove them before putting the pants on.
The Outdoor Research Neoplume Pants have worked very well for me so far this winter. It has been unseasonably cold in town through December and I was very glad to have them for simple activities like walking to work, photographing the snow, and waiting for buses. They worked even better on the two overnight trips. They slip on very easily and quickly without having to remove whatever pants I am wearing first, preserving heat in the process. Once on, the pants trap body heat very well. I have found them very comfortable as well and non restrictive.
Most of the difficulties with the pants have been due to their inseam length, which is about two inches (5.1 cm) longer than I normally wear. While wearing gaiters over the pants this is not a problem but with only down slippers or boots the ankles tend to drag on the ground. This has resulted in wet insulation and dirty pants primarily with no obvious damage. If the pants were offered in a "short" length this would likely solve the problem for me. I would also appreciate a belt that was longer to allow the pants to be cinched tighter, or perhaps belt loops so I can use my own belt.
LONG-TERM REPORT, March 29th 2009
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I have used the Neoplume pants for two more overnight trips in the final report timeframe. In February I assisted in a snow camping, rope travel, and climbing training trip to Skyline Lake. The lake sits around 5000 ft (1525 m) on a ridge opposite the Stevens Pass ski area. Temperatures ranged from about 35 F (1.67 C) during the day down to 15 F (-9.43 C) at night. Skies were overcast grey but it did not snow. Winds were brisk and cold. I also used the pants on a short backpacking trip to Sand Point on the coastal beaches. Camp was made in the trees just off the beach. Elevation gain was near zero. I forgot my thermometer but it did not drop below freezing overnight. Winds off the ocean made for chilly conditions however. Skies were again gray with a light drizzle.
I also wore the pants for a few night photography trips to Kerry Park in Seattle. Temperatures were around 40 F (4.44 C) but it is a breezy place and quite cold. The pants kept me very warm standing still waiting for sunset.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Neoplume pants continue to perform well. I have remained comfortable and warm in all conditions I have used them. On occasion I have found them too warm and had to cool myself by partially unzipping the side zippers. This was most noticeable at Sand Point, where temperatures remained above freezing. I primarily wore the pants for their wind resistance. I have found them wind proof up to about 20 mph (32 kph).
While camped at Skyline Lake I had plenty of downtime assisting with knot tying and rope usage. I found myself wearing the Neoplume pants often to stay warm. Because I was walking around, kicking up snow, and kneeling down in snow, often my lower legs became wet above my gaiters. I did not get cold but I did feel clammy. The pants do shed snow well but for all day use moving around my hard-shell pants would have been better.
I also inflicted the first damage to the pants at Skyline Lake. While walking around I snagged the left knee, just above my gaiter, on an ice axe. The pick cut a two inch (5 cm) gash into the nylon but didn't penetrate all the way through. I temporarily sealed this with duct tape and am still looking for a more permanent repair. Aside from this they have been quite durable.
My only real problems with the Neoplume pants continues to be the fit, especially the belt. I have a hard time keeping the pants up, especially when doing any activity requiring a lot of bending and crouching or wearing a pack with a hip belt. While pitching my tent I continually had to hitch the pants up no matter how tight I cinched the belt. Also while wearing my daypack the hip belt would push the pants down. The Neoplume pants belt is little more than a simple buckle with a short piece of nylon on either side of the fly. The nylon doesn't go the whole distance around the waist because of the side zippers and doesn't truly tighten all the way around, which would make for a better fit.
The Neoplume pants have been great to have around camp, especially while snow camping. They have been very warm for their weight and surprisingly wind proof. I am able to compress them fairly small to fit in my pack. They are cut a little more trim than other insulated pants I have used and feel less balloon-like to wear. They are easy to put on and take off thanks to the full length side zippers. Despite one unfortunate encounter with an ice-axe they have also stood up well to hard ice and tree branches.
I have had problems with keeping the pants from falling down. Partly this could be due to my size; I am right between medium and large sizes for these pants. I have not found the belt buckle to be very effective. A better belt system, or perhaps adding belt loops so the wearer could provide their own belt, would go a long way towards improving the fit.
I will continue to use the Outdoor Research Neoplume Pants for my future cold-weather camping trips. While I do have issues with the way they fit, they are very warm especially for their weight. I plan to have the gash in the knee repaired. I will bring them along for any snow camping and late season backpacking trips to higher elevations. They will not be in my pack for most of the summer though - they are too warm!
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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