OUTDOOR RESEARCH MEN'S NEOPLUME PANTS
TEST SERIES BY EDWARD RIPLEY-DUGGAN
INITIAL REPORT November 26, 2008
FIELD REPORT January 26, 2009
LONG TERM REPORT March 27 2009
||Catskills, New York
||6' 0" (1.85 m)
||215 lb (97.50 kg)
I enjoy walking in all its forms, from
a simple stroll in the woods to multi-day backpack excursions. Though by no
means an extreme ultra-light enthusiast, from spring to fall my preference is to
carry a pack weight (before food and water) of 12 lb (5.5 kg), more or less. In
recent years, I've rapidly moved to a philosophy of "lighter is better," within
the constraints of budget and common sense.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Year of manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.outdoorresearch.com
Color: Black (this is the only available color)
Shell and lining: 30-denier ripstop nylon according to hang-tag (but lining polyester according to laundry & materials tag)
Insulation: PrimaLoft ECO Sport 60 g/m2 (waist-to-knee), 40 g/m2 (knee-to-cuff)
Listed weight: 15.1 oz (428 g) for size L, as noted on website
Measured weight: 17 oz (482 g) for size XL
Stuffsack: Not included
Place of manufacture: China
Outdoor Research Men's Neoplume Pants
Courtesy of Outdoor Research
The Neoplume pants arrived uncompressed. They were largely as I had expected from examining the website. The exception is the lining, which (according to the laundry & materials tag) is polyester, not ripstop nylon as stated on the Outdoor Research (OR) website and on the hang-tag. This lining fabric, unlike the shell, has no ripstop pattern. Practically, this makes no difference, as linings don't generally need ripstop protection. The pants have an insulation depth of approximately 1/2 inch, 1.25 cm, in the more heavily insulated waist-to-knee region.
There were two hang-tags attached to the pants. One provided information on the Neoplume series of garments (a jacket is also produced), together with simple technical data. The other provided information on PrimaLoft ECO Sport, the latest iteration of the popular PrimaLoft synthetic insulation materials. This tag states that the insulation is made with 50% recycled fibers, in addition to being thermally efficient, fast-drying and water resistant.
I tried the pants on immediately for size, as I was concerned about fit. The website states that the XL is for a 39 waist, and I generally take a size 40. As I had hoped the fit was good, even when used over a couple of under layers, in this case loose black climbing tights layered over merino wool liner pants. This is a combination I often wear in winter. I found the combination comfortable. The leg length is excellent, pretty much perfect for me.
The OR warranty is unusually comprehensive. It's called the Infinite Guarantee, and states "We believe so strongly in the quality of what we make that if, at anytime, our product fails to meet your needs, we are happy to exchange or return it. Because of this solid belief, our products are guaranteed forever and are designed with this in mind. Your total satisfaction in our product is our goal."
Design and materials
I have inspected the Neoplume pants carefully, and was pleased with the quality of manufacture. The stitching is generally very neatly done, and I noted no loose threads or misaligned seams. The fabrics used appear to be quite sturdy, but for all that the garment is pretty compressible. PrimaLoft ECO Sport insulation is used in two weights. From waist to knee, an area subject to greater heat loss, the 60 g/m2 product is used. From knee to ankle, the lighter-weight 40 g/m2 version was selected, as heat loss from this section of the leg is much less. Although no stuff sack comes with the pants (a surprising omission, in my opinion), I was able to get them to fit easily into a stuff sack from another product that's 5 inches in diameter by 10 inches in length (13 x 25 cm).
The nylon shell of the pants has a slick but not especially shiny finish. The ripstop pattern is quite subtle. The polyester lining is extremely comfortable against bare skin. The side and fly zips are covered on the interior with flaps, so there is no contact with bare skin, an important consideration with a cold-weather garment. However, these are not full-fledged draft tubes. The flaps seem to be uninsulated, so far as I can determine.
The construction of the pants doesn't include any sewn compartments; the insulation simply rests between the shell and lining. The waist is slightly elasticized at the rear, and closes at the front with a metal snap fastener, the surface of which is protected by clear plastic. Tension in the waistband is maintained by a thin (1/2 inch, 1.25 cm) webbing strap, which fastens at the front with a nylon snap buckle. This strap extends only across the front half of the pants, from the side zips to the fly. The fly zip is a two-directional YKK zipper, which can be opened with either the top or bottom pull. The top zipper pull has a loop of cord attached for ease of operation.
The pants have two fairly sizeable fleece-lined pockets, both of which have a full zip. The OR logo is imprinted in pale gray just below the left pocket. Each leg has a full-length two-directional YKK zipper. The pulls for these (two on each zip) are covered at both the waist and ankle with triangular tabs extending from the shell, which are secured with metal snaps similar to the one on the fly. The zips can be opened at top or bottom for airflow, or they can be totally released. When this is done on both sides, it is possible to put on the Neoplume pants without having to remove my boots. I believe this is an essential feature in cold-weather pants, and I'm very pleased that it is present here.
Each leg has an internal gaiter, which is elasticized around the rim. The gaiters have both a snap and a strip of hook-and-loop fastener that must be released in order to use the leg zips, at least from the ankle end. This should help keep warmth in, and snow out. However, these pants don't have a crampon patch at the ankle. Since I have holed my fair share of pants with crampons, and even snowshoes, I will not wear these pants with either of these traction devices without using an external gaiter. However, for bare-booting, I am hopeful the internal gaiter will prove sufficient.
The laundry information, attached to a label sewn to the interior waistband (instructions both in text form and in international symbols), is straightforward. The garment is to be machine-washed cold, and tumble-dried on low heat. Fabric softener, bleach, and ironing are not recommended.
Overall, I'm quite impressed with the Neoplume pants. I'm a big fan of winter pants with full zips, as they are far more versatile and useful in cold temperatures than those without. I've not yet worn these on a hike or backpack, but I've had them outside the house in chilly conditions (20 F, -7 C), and have found them toasty. I'm also delighted at the way they compress, although again I'm a bit surprised that they don't come with an appropriate stuff sack.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I used the Outdoor Research Neoplume pants over the past two months or so, in one of the coldest winters here in the North-Eastern US in the past several years. During this Field Test period, they have been used during two nights of backpacking under nearly Arctic conditions (-15 F, -26 C, or possibly colder). They were worn in camp, and in my sleeping bag for extra warmth. I have used them a number of times for cross-country skiing, on two of these occasions in ferocious winds; for general hiking (with snowshoes and crampons); and on one extremely hard bushwhack, involving much scrambling on frozen ledges. Use was in the Catskill and Shawanagunk Mountains of New York, to elevations of about 4000 ft (1220 m). Conditions included deep snow cover, as well as rain and occasionally ice-slicked rock, with day temperatures from about 15 to 32 F (-9 to 0 C), give or take a few degrees.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
My reaction to the Neoplume pants has been mixed. Potentially they are a useful part of a sleep system, but I have found during daytime use that the nylon surface (especially when wading through deep snow, of which there has been a recent abundance) wets out quite quickly from snow-melt, with some of the moisture penetrating the insulation. To be useful at night, the Neoplume pants really need to be carried and donned in camp. They can't be used during the day if intended for this purpose, as damp pants and a down bag are bad news indeed. This rather limits their usefulness for winter backpacking, in my opinion. For insulated camp and sleep wear I would prefer to select a lighter-weight option.
The pants are a good addition to my arsenal for cross-country skiing, as they are highly wind resistant. I have worn them in sustained 20 mph (30 kph) winds, while skiing in sub-freezing conditions alongside a reservoir in a bowl in the hills (and on numerous other less windy occasions). They kept me very comfortable, and I thought this was a tough test, as the windchill was around -5 F (-20 C).
However, they are not so good in circumstances where a great deal of movement is required. On a recent extremely hard nine-hour bushwhack that I led, which entailed pushing through deep snowfields, and much climbing up and down frozen-in ledges, I found the pants frequently heading southwards towards my boots. Fortunately, I had wool liner pants on, so I didn't disgrace myself in mixed company. The issue doesn't seem to be one of fit (the waist size is fine); rather, there is quite simply not enough grippiness at the waist, given the sheer nylon. The belt, such as it is, extends only round the front (belly) area, back as far as the side zips, and it's a rather thin piece of webbing at that. The rear half of the waist is merely elasticized, and this simply doesn't cut it when I'm engaged in the sort of awkward manoeuvering that backcountry winter trips in this region entail. I'm sure that the movement of my pack against the waist in the rear doesn't help either. I found myself hitching my pants up every mile or so during the bushwhack, and this was vexatious.
Though the pants have an internal gaiter, this is (unsurprisingly) insufficient in deep snow, and I have to wear a full gaiter over the lower leg. This helps protect the pants from dangerous snagging on crampons or snowshoes (which can cause falls and serious mishaps). Unfortunately, the fabric above the gaiter then tends to bulge outward, and the loose folds in this area are a magnet for projecting twigs and the like. The end result is that the pants already have one or two small snags, which I will patch with nylon mending tape. The fabric doesn't seem terribly durable, based on this, although it has held up to the occasional butt glissade.
The pants do dry out quite quickly when damp, and I have worn them in mild rainfall earlier in the season. The DWR treatment proved quite effective. The zippers work well, and certainly render them a much more versatile garment, as this provides temperature regulation as well. There's a lot to like about them, but the limiting factor where I'm concerned is their failure to stay up when the going gets tough. This is a problem I've encountered with other pants of this type in the past, and I'd really like to see these equipped with suspenders. Also good to see would be a trimmer cut to the leg, and perhaps crampon patches on the area around the inner cuff for occasions when crampons need to be worn, but gaiters don't.
The Neoplume pants have been great for cross-country skiing, pretty good for winter trail hiking (where the trail is already broken), but something of a liability for serious off-trail travel in deep snow. They are adequately durable for wear under the former conditions, but snag too easily off-trail. A better belt and/or suspenders would make a big difference to their performance.
LONG TERM REPORT
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
For the past two months I have worn or carried the Neoplume pants as an insulation layer on all of my hikes and backpacks in the Catskills and Shawangunks. After the problems with the pants descending mentioned in the field report, I carried them solely for emergency use when in deep snow, but wore them when on trail. Temperatures during February were still quite cold, with day temperatures well below freezing. March has been significantly warmer, with daytime temperatures up to 50 F (10 C) during the day, though nightime temperatures have generally been cold, especially at elevation. Snow cover in the hills has been deep, and only now is starting to melt back. On warmer days this has been very wet snow, because of melting. The Neoplume pants have seen about seven days of use over the Long Term test period.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I have mixed feelings about the performance of these pants. They do provide excellent warmth, but their tendency to slide down around the waist when I'm bushwhacking or when I am otherwise in situations where I am moving with anything but a simple stride severely limits their utility. This issue may be partly due to my body shape, as I don't have especially prominent hips, but given that the waist fits well otherwise I feel that the issue is more likely a function of the construction of the garment, in specific the lack of a continuous waistbelt. While this makes for a comfortable fit, it does not make for a stable one, and I would really like to see suspenders as an option for the Neoplumes, or (alternatively) belt loops.
The warmth of the pants is excellent, and they are fine for camp use (and would be very handy in an emergency). They would be better still for carrying in this capacity if a stuff sack was supplied, and I'm a little surprised that one is not supplied. I have avoided using them during the long-term test on any occasion where they might get caught on brush, as they have already received one tear (which was easily repaired with nylon ripstop tape). They have withstood a couple of washings well. They were still comfortable enough when worn at temperatures of around 50 F (10C), but were pretty much superfluous at that temperature.
The Outdoor Research Neoplume pants are reasonably lightweight, wind resistant, and quite warm under all conditions under which I tested them. They offer a lot of warmth, but I will probably use them from now primarily for cross-country skiing, unless I attach suspenders. One secondary use that I will consider next winter is to carry them as an emergency layer, but only if I can find a suitable stuff sack (which should not be a problem). The frustration of having to hitch them up all the time when traversing difficult country makes them a liability for off-trail use.
Many thanks to Outdoor Research and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test these pants. This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org
Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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