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Reviews > Clothing > Pants and Shorts > Westcomb Syncro Pant > Test Report by James E. Triplett
by James E. Triplett
Initial Report - October 13, 2008
Field Report - January 8, 2009
Long Term Report - February 25, 2009
Personal Biographical Information:
I am an
experienced hiker, backpacker, and camper, and am gaining more
experience with winter camping every year. I hike every day,
backpack when possible, which leads to many weekends backpacking and
camping each year. I try and take at least one annual
backpacking trip in addition to many one to three-night weekend
trips. My style can best be described as
not at the cost of giving up too much comfort. I generally
in a tent, and seem to be collecting quite a few of them to choose from.
Additional Westcomb Syncro Pant information:
(From hang tags, and the Westcomb website)
I won't go overboard with the hang tags, but they contain information that wasn't easily available on the website. There are four tags on the Westcomb Syncro Pant, three of them having something to do with a Switzerland company named Schoeller, Schoeller Dynamic (stretch fabric), Nano Sphere (naturally self-cleaning), and Bluesign (lowest possible concentration of harmful substances). The fourth tag has information on Westcomb, as well as a model and size sticker.
Plenty of hang-tags on the Syncro pants
October 13, 2008
The Westcomb Syncro pants are the first pair of true hiking pants I have had for a long time. Generally I find myself wearing some sort of synthetic pants from the Gap, so this should be a real treat for me.
So far, the pants seem just great! I received a large / tall size as requested, in the color "Major Brown", which isn't as brown as I might have thought, but they are a nice color (although it is hard to capture with a camera). The size is almost perfect. According to the rather hard to read size chart on the website, the pants should fit a waist of 37 inches (94 cm) and an inseam of 33 inches (84 cm). The tall pants are 2 inches (5 cm) longer than the regular size. I've had success with pants in a variety of sizes, but I would describe my true size as a 34 inch (86 cm) waist and a 35 inch (89 cm) inseam. The length of the pants is surprisingly long enough, and the waist, as expected is a shade bigger than I require, but seems to be fine.
Articulated knees and seam construction
The fabric of these pants is rather stretchy and seems to be soft and comfortable. It has more Lycra than I anticipated, but hopefully that will be an asset. The waistband is wide, and has a solid sleeve running around the entire perimeter of the pants. This sleeve houses the included belt, which I believe is attached inside the sleeve. There is one tiny belt loop to the left to retain the tail end of the belt. The buckle of the belt appears to be typical of webbing buckles, however, after trying on the pants several times I eventually discovered that there is a magnetic clasp that allows the buckle to be undone with out sliding the webbing. This is a nice touch! Another nice touch is the pull-cords inside the hems at the ankles, which hopefully will allow for good heat retention in the upcoming fall and winter months.
Rear pocket and reflective logo
The Syncro pants are nicely finished with sturdy seams, and are appointed with three zippered pockets, one on each side, and the third on the right hip. The pants have articulated legs, which simply means they are constructed so that the knees are slightly pre-bent. The pants have a standard men's trouser fly zipper, and a single snap at the top of the zipper.
None of this information was available on the website. In fact the description for the Syncro Pant is actually the one for the Syncro Jacket. I really had no expectations of what these pants would be like, other than the descriptions of the materials, and the picture, which were on the website.
Rear center of the waistband
Despite having limited information prior to the pants arriving, Westcomb makes plenty of claims on the tags accompanying the product. Those include stain release, Permanent Stretch, Shape Retention, breathability, and Abrasion and wind resistance.
My test plans include evaluating the Westcomb Syncro Pant for fit and comfort, warmth and durability. I will be using the pants on all my day hikes and weekend trips. This will primarily be in Iowa and Missouri. The average temperature and precipitation data for Eastern Iowa is in the table below. The elevations here range from around 480 feet (145 meters) near the Mississippi river, to around 800 feet (245 meters) around my house.
Snap and buckle opening
Initial Report Summary:
The Westcomb Syncro Pants are made of "a sophisticated blend of high-tech fibers". So far they seem to be stretchy and comfortable. It will be interesting to see if the pants can meet the claim that annoying stains such as ketchup, honey, coffee, and red wine simply "slid off", or if not can be rinsed off with a little water. The workmanship, materials, and construction seem to be top rate, and I am anxious to do some backpacking in these pants.
January 8, 2009
I have worn the Westcomb Syncro Pants on all my backpacking and hiking outings since receiving them in October. This has included two overnight backpacking trips to Pinicon Ridge Park, as well as daily hikes in the nearby woods with my black lab. The total accumulation of hiking has been approximately 100 miles (160 km).
Temperatures have ranged from 65 F (18 C) down to a low of -10 F (-23 C). Trail conditions include clear dry trails, wet muddy trails, and since the end of November, snow or ice covered trails.
Fit and Comfort:
As described in the Initial Report section, the Westcomb Syncro Pants fabric is rather stretchy and seems to be soft and comfortable. This has proven to be the case. The pants seem light enough, and I haven't experienced any chaffing or other discomfort while wearing them. The fit around my waist is a little big, but the length is perfect for my 35 inch (89 cm) inseam.
When hiking in temperatures below about 25 F (-4 C) I have worn the Syncro Pants over a pair of wool hiking tights. This has worked quite well as the bulk of the tights makes the pants fit just a little better. The combination of the warmth from the wool tights, and the wind blocking ability of the Syncro Pants, has provided sufficient protection from the cold and wind. I have yet to feel cold with this setup, even in temperatures as low as -10 F (-23 C). (This of course is along with adequate cold-weather apparel for all the other areas of my body.)
The NanoSphere self-cleaning fabric has done pretty well at keeping the pants looking fresh. The properties of the fabric allow the pants to remain wrinkle free even after being tossed in the corner of my tent at night. Despite being listed as water repellent, when hiking in a steady rain, the water has soaked through the pants. The pants have taken on some dirt and stains over time, but have come clean after washing.
My only real issue with the Syncro Pants is the configuration of the integrated belt. The belt is sewn into the pants underneath a continuous sleeve around the waist. Since it is sewn in, trying to slide the belt (in order to center the buckle) results in bunching up of the pant fabric. Additionally, having a sleeve instead of belt loops means there isn't a way to tuck in the extra length of belt which hangs from the buckle. And finally, the continuous sleeve and attached belt make it impossible to thread the belt through devices such as a knife holster.
The articulated (pre-bent) style of the pant legs hasn't really been noticeable except when trying to fold the pants. I can't say that I detect any difference compared to non-articulated pants, but the design should reduce wear on the knee areas. I have played with the draw-cords in the hems of the pant cuffs, but haven't had any occasion to use them while hiking. Leaving them loose allows the pants to drape nicely down over my boots or shoes. The magnetic lock on the buckle continues to be easy to use, and one of my favorite features.
Care and Cleaning:
I have washed the Westcomb Syncro Pants twice, in a machine washer, followed by line-drying. The seemingly permanent stains came right out, and the pants immediately had a pressed appearance and were ready to hit the trail right after drying.
The Westcomb Syncro Pants are well constructed and thus far have proven to be comfortable, durable, and easy to keep clean. They have provided ample wind protection on cold-weather hikes. The color is kind of a green-tan, which in my opinion deviates from the "Major Brown" color description. The color and stretchy fabric make them something I wouldn't care to wear in a social setting… but they are fine for backpacking. My only real complaint is the integrated belt, which I believe could be improved by adding some openings to the belt sleeve, and by not sewing the belt into the pants. I think the magnetic buckle is cool!
Long Term Report
February 25, 2009
I have continued to wear the Westcomb Syncro pants on a daily basis. Daily for hikes of 2 to 4 miles (3 to 6 km) in the woods near my home, and three 1-night backpacking outings. One to Pinicon Ridge Park near Central City, Iowa, and two to Palisades-Kepler State Park East of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In total, this has probably amounted to about 100 hours of wear (including a couple of 24 hour stretches) for the long term testing period. Many of the recent day-hikes have been snow-shoeing excursions.
Shortly after Thanksgiving we received a blanket of snow, and the ground has been white ever since. From the middle of December through the middle of January there was a stretch of 27 days where the highs were below freezing. But the amazing period was during the second week of January, where we set an all time record low, for any date, of -27 F (-33 C). And the following day we broke that record, with a -33 F (-36 C) low. I would estimate the temperature range of actually wearing the pants while hiking to be from 35 F (1.7 C) down to -30 F (-34 C), using various layering.
Fit and Comfort:
The Westcomb Syncro pants continue to fit nicely. They are a little baggy in the rear-end area, but in general they are long enough, fit properly around the waist, and have provided a comfortable fit throughout the test period. I haven't experienced any chaffing, and the articulated legs seem to work well at not causing any tight spots on my knees or legs.
I have worn the Westcomb Syncro pants primarily for hiking during this phase of the test, but also for snow shoveling, wood gathering, and other outdoor activities around my house. Since it has turned cold, I have worn the pants over either nylon tights for moderately cold temperatures, 25 to 35 F (-4 to 2 C), or wool tights for rather cold conditions, 25 to -30 F (-4 to -34 C).
The Syncro pants are not inherently warm as a single layer, but I have found that they offer reasonably good wind-blocking characteristics, which I find crucial for staying warm in sub-zero (below 18 C) temperatures. And they breathe! Which I also find crucial for winter hiking. The waist and size of the pants in general, are just slightly larger than what I need, so this has provided more than enough room for layering them over a pair of wool tights. The warmth of the wool, and the wind-blocking nature of the Syncro pants, has proven to be a great combination, even in temperatures as low as -30 F (-34 C)!
The fabric of the Syncro pants, Schoeller Dynamic NanoSphere, proved not to be waterproof in steady rain early on. But since the Field Report period, the only precipitation I have been hiking in has been of the frozen variety. I have found that the fabric sheds snow quite nicely. In fact, after making snow angles with my dog, the pants were totally void of snow, while my fleece hat, jacket, and gloves were covered in snow.
As I stated in the Field Report section, the only real issue I have with the Syncro Pants is the configuration of the integrated belt. The belt can cause the "belt sleeve" to bunch up if it isn't centered, although this hasn't proven to be much of a problem, other than not being able to center the buckle. My main complaint with the belt is that I can't thread it through anything, like a knife case, and in fact there isn't enough exposed belt to even clip anything around it.
Care and Cleaning:
I had to put this section in because Westcomb claims these are self-cleaning pants. Well, they pretty much are. The pants haven't retained any noticeable odor and consequently I didn't wash them during this period until the very end. After several weeks of being worn, the pants did get some small stains, some of which looked to be oil based. I threw the pants in the washer and washed them per the recommended instructions, and low and behold they came out looking like new. I am impressed!
The picture above shows the stains or spots after weeks of wear, while the picture below shows the Syncro pants looking good as new after their final washing.
As I just wrote, the pants came out of the latest washing looking like new. I have walked through reasonably heavy brush in them, fallen on the snow and ice, and pretty much shown no regard for the pant's safety when hiking, and they show no ill affects.
Except for not being brown, as advertised, the Westcomb Syncro pants have lived up to their billing. They are hard-wearing, permanent stretch, wind resistant, breathable, and provide great wearing comfort and easy care. Aesthetically they wouldn't be my first choice, but functionally they perform remarkably well. My only gripe is the continuous belt sleeve, which could easily be improved by changing the design to wide belt loops, and by not sewing in the belt. Oh, and I really love the magnetically secured belt buckle!
Picture of the cool magnetic buckle. The little silver circle is the magnet which prevents the buckle from accidentally coming undone.
This concludes my reporting on the Westcomb Syncro pants. Thank you to Backpackgeartest.org and Westcomb for the opportunity to participate in this test series.
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