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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > MontBell Versalite Pants > Test Report by Brett Haydin
MontBell Versalite Pants
Test Series by Brett Haydin
Initial Report - December 12, 2013
Field Report - March 12, 2014
Long Term Report - June 16, 2014
I started backpacking in Wisconsin as a youth, being involved in the Boy Scouts programs. As a young adult, I worked at a summer camp leading backpacking, canoeing and mountain biking trips. I now generally take short weekend or day trips in a variety of terrain each year - from mountains to grasslands. I take one or two longer trips each year, where I typically carry about 40 lb (18 kg). I prefer to be prepared and comfortable, but I have taken lightweight trips as well.
Product Information & SpecificationsManufacturer: MontBell Co, Ltd.
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: www.montbell.com
MSRP: $99.00 US
Listed Weight: 3.6 oz (102 g)
Measured Weight: 3.9 oz (111 g)
Color Tested: Black (only color available)
Size Tested: Large ( available in S, M, L, XL)
Fabric: 15-denier "Ballistic Airtight" rip-stop nylon
Waterproof: 2.5-layer Super Hydro Breeze proprietary technology
Warranty: Covers all defects in materials and workmanship for the lifetime of the product.
Product DescriptionThe MontBell Versalite pants, which I will refer to as just the Pants or Versalite, are intended as rain gear for multi-day backpacking in the summertime, according to the manufacturer. The Versalite is very simple in design, which clearly contributes to its obscenely low weight - 3.9 oz (111 g)! It does come with a stuff sack as well.
The pants have an elastic waist band with a draw cord that I can simply tie. There is a fabric tag sewn into the inside of the pants (in the front) with instructions on care, and that mention the product was manufactured in Vietnam. In the back on the pants there is a small loop sewn into the waistband that may come in handy for hanging the pants once they become wet. There is also a MontBell logo welded into the back of the pants on the inside with the size listed. The pants also have a MontBell logo imprinted on the front.
The pants lack any zippers, but the cuffs are wide enough to slip my feet through easily. The cuffs also have an elastic band sewn into the hem. There are a couple of "holes" in the pants that are sewn into the top of the pants, more-or-less on the sides, but slightly rear. I'm not sure what they are for, but they are clearly intentional and I have included an image below. The seams are taped for extra protection from the elements.
The fabric is 15-denier rip-stop nylon. It is called "Ballistic Airtight." MontBell heats and stretches the nylon fibers which help to contribute to its light weight and durability. The waterproof technology is a "non-porous polyurethane treated 3-layer laminated fabric." It has a waterproof rating of 20,000 mm and the breathability rating is 15,000g/m2/24 hour.
Initial ImpressionsThe first thing I noticed about the Versalite Pants is that they are in fact quite light! I love that they stuff into a small stuff sack for easy storage. They are much more compact and are lighter than my current rain pants.
I was a little concerned about the fit, but they fit well. I can put an insulating base layer and regular hiking pants on underneath and still feel like I can move unrestricted. The lack of any zippers means just a few adjustments in how I use the pants. I won't be able to pull them on over some of my footwear, for example.
The quality is everything I have come to expect from MontBell. The workmanship is superb and there are no visible blemishes or other defects.
It happened to be raining in the days following their arrival, so I took a moment to put them on while I walked my dogs. I was pleased with the performance during the brief 30 minute stroll and I am looking forward to putting on a backpack and getting out in the woods with them!
Reading the InstructionsThe pants come with a pair of hang tags attached to them. One is simply a retail label with the color, size and product name. The other is a cautionary statement that while they are advertised as durable, contact with rocks and trees could result in abrasions or tears. This is certainly consistent with the description as a rain paint, and not a full on shell for mountaineering.
The website was easy to navigate and clear to understand. The sizing chart was easy to find and accurate based on the fit that I received.
The image at right shows just how compact they get, when compared to a soda can (in an insulated coosie).
Field ConditionsOver the past several months, I have been on three backpacking trips with the Versalite Pants. My first trip was to Devil's Lake State Park in Wisconsin. I hiked with snowshoes a total of 12 mi (19 km) through a mix of open fields and deciduous forests and stayed at the established campground. The weather was sunny, windy and rather cold. The high temperature was only 35 F (2 C) with an overnight low of about 20 F (-7 C).
My next trip was an overnight trip in the Torreya State Park near Tallahassee, Florida. This 6.3 mi (10.1 km) loop took me through a mix of forest, bluffs and some swampy terrain. Along the way I saw several deer and many different birds. It rained for parts of the trip with a mix of overcast skies and sunshine. Temperatures were between 65 and 80 F (18 and 27 C).
My final trip was to the Wyalusing State Park in Wisconsin. I hiked, sometimes with snowshoes, a total of 8 mi (13 km) along bluffs, through deciduous forests and up and down some nice steep hills. The weather was cooperative, with clear skies and high temperature of 40 F (4 C). Overnight lows dropped to about 20 F (-7 C).There was no precipitation.
Additionally, I have worn the pants on six runs of 3 to 7 mi (5 to 11 km) as a outer shell for winter weather, primarily due to wind. As springtime has started to settle in, two of these runs have been in the rain. I have also used the pants on three day hikes in similar conditions to my backpacking; cold and in the snow!
Small and light mean nothing if I am not dry and warm. In this arena, the Versalite Pants excel. I have had no problems with water getting into my pants, even while hiking in an hour or more of consistent rain. In Florida, I was able to put this to a good test and with the jacket overhanging my pants, there were no leaks to be found. My pants stayed dry! The following morning, there was some rain that tapered off by the time I left to return to my car. At first, I thought I would hike without the pants, but it quickly became clear that the tall grasses and foliage would saturate my pants. So I put the Versalite on over my hiking pants and stayed dry the rest of the way. I was also impressed that by the time I reached my car, my hiking pants had also dried off; now that's breathable! The image to the right shows me hiking in Florida.
I was a little concerned at first about whether I could get the pants on while wearing hiking boots. I have several pair of boots I use for different conditions and in each case, the pants slide over the boots. The pants don't slip down while I wear them either. The drawcord works just fine. Even while running in the winter, the pants fit well and allow for good flexibility.
I didn't notice this in the Initial Report, but the elastic cord in the cuff can be pulled out and slipped over the boot to provide a nice protective seal. While it doesn't keep the water out whenI wade through streams up to my knees, it certainly kept out debris along the trail. I like that feature!
I have also used the pants for wind protection while running around my home. I live on a rather large lake, so wind can be a big factor when running. Under the pants I have been wearing insulated running tights. This has been perfect for running in temperatures as low as 5 F (-15 C), even with gusting winds!
While backpacking, I have worn the Versalites over an insulating base layer and hiking pants with no problem. Once at camp, I change into a down pants with the Versalites over them as an extra layer of protection. There is enough room in these to accommodate the down pants, which I was grateful for!
Field ConditionsOver the past two months I have been on four additional trips for an additional six nights in the field. This included four more nights backpacking and two car-camping. My first trip was an overnight to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. I hiked the Hazel Mountain Trail, an 8.7 mi (14.0 km) loop meandering through a deciduous forest. Elevation ranged from 1200 to 2840 ft (366 to 866 m). I experienced a mix of rain with temperatures from 40 to 55 F (4 to 13 C).
My next trip was to Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky. I camped a total of three nights, with one night backpacking into the backcountry with my family. This backcountry trip was a short 1.5 mi (2.4 km) hike in to the campsite. The terrain was fairly easy with some rolling hills along a well-maintained path through a deciduous forest. We experienced rain, sunshine and mild winds at time but overall the weather was pleasant. Temperatures ranged from 32 to 70 F (0 to 21 C). The other nights we camped at the established campground at the national park where we had clear skies and warmer temperatures, 50 to 75 F (10 to 24 C).
I also took an overnight along the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin from the Brooklyn Wildlife trailhead to the end of the Montrose segment, a total of 11.2 mi (18.03 km). The terrain was a mix of meadows and deciduous forests with some marshes thrown in for good measure! Temperatures were great; 45 to 70 F (7 to 21 C). Weather was mild with sun and some clouds.
My final trip was an overnight to Governor Dodge State Park in Wisconsin. I hiked a total of 15.5 mi (24 km) along the Military Ridge State Trail into the park and around a couple of loops in the state park (Lost Canyon and Meadow Valley). I experienced some heavy rains - 2 in (5 cm) over 90 minutes at one point according to local weather reports. The temperatures were moderate - 50 to 70 F (10 to 21 C).
Additionally, I hiked eight additional days which includes three days of turkey hunting in Central Wisconsin. While much of my time was sitting in a blind, I did break it up with some hikes from one location to the next. My longest day was 8.4 mi (13.5 km) and the shortest was 3.8 mi (6.12 km). While hunting on one day, rain came and I used the pants underneath my camouflage suit.
I was pleasantly surprised that the pants remained comfortable even as the summer drew near. Humidity in the Midwest can be a bit tough but even in muggy weather I felt as comfortable as I could be. I have worn other pants that get clammy and stick to my legs, but that didn't happen with these.
I did a fair amount of scouting while hunting this season. Often I would wear the pants when the weather was threatening. In doing so I hiked through some nasty brush along the way. I found myself being more careful than normal so I wouldn't snag the fabric. I am happy to report that the pants did not suffer any damage. While I certainly took it easy in the woods, I am glad that the pants are dependable and durable.
I love that the pants are simple and lightweight. I found that I really didn't miss having zippers on the sides in the conditions that I experienced. Pulling on the pants over my boots isn't especially easy, but it isn't too difficult either. For me, the trade off in weight-savings is well worth the effort. I don't wear the pants all the time, but when I need them I am glad they are there.
I have worn the Versalite pants over long underwear and even another set of pants with no problem. I did throw on my down pants under these once to see how they fit and that gets to be a little too constricting with all the layers.
Continued UseThe MontBell Versalite Pants will become my standard rain pants during the spring, summer and fall. In the winter, these pants work well for running, but the fit is too tight for winter use for my preferences.
SummaryMontBell has made a real winner here. Combined with the Versalite Jacket, this combination makes a formidable pair in the fight against mother nature.
Pros: Waterproof, sizing is accurate and lightweight. They also pack well and remained very durable.
Cons: None. Really, I can't find a single fault with these.
This concludes my test series. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to MontBell for their generosity as well as the folks at BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to be a part of this test series.
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