MONTBELL VERSALITE PANTS
TEST SERIES BY STEVEN M. KIDD
May 12, 2014
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Steven M. Kidd
5' 9" (1.75 m)
179 lb (81.20 kg)
Backpacking Background: I've been a backpacker on and off for over 30 years. I backpacked as a Boy Scout, and then again almost every month in my twenties, while packing an average weight of 50+ lbs (23+ kg). In the last several years I have become a hammock camping enthusiast. I generally go on one or two night outings that cover between 5 to 20 mi (8 - 32 km) distances. I try to keep the all-inclusive weight of my pack under 20 lb (9 kg) even in the winter.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
|Image Courtesy MontBell
Manufacturer: MontBell Co.
Year of Manufacture: 2013
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.montbell.com
MSRP: US $99.00
Listed Weight: 3.6 oz (105 g)* Size Medium
Measured Weight: 3.7 oz (102 g)* Testing Size Large
Accompanying Stuff Sack: 0.3 oz (8.50 g)
Sizes Available: S/M/L/XL
The MontBell Versalite Pants are marketed as a "truly Ultra Light waterproof/breathable garment that doesn't skimp on the features". In fact the Versalite Pants and Versalite Jacket which are sold separately boast a sub-11 oz (312 g) combined weight. I am also testing the jacket and reporting on it in a separate series, so please feel free to review it as well.
The material is 15-denier Ballistic Airtight rip-stop nylon. The pants have an elasticized waist with a draw cord, but there are no ankle zips. The seams are fully taped. The material is a 2.5 layer Super Hydro BreezeŽ technology and to save weight Montbell states the pants use Smart Sewing Technology.
The previously mentioned fabric, 2.5-layer Super Hydro BreezeŽ technology is rated as follows: (Water resistance: 20,000 mm Breathability: 20,000 g/m˛/ 24 hrs).
Fortuitously the Versalite pants and jacket arrived on my doorstep on a cool rainy afternoon. I was excited to see them arrive in a package that was around the same size as a ream of paper, yet it weighed much less. In fact I could barely feel anything within the contents of the corrugated box as I knelt down to pick it up.
|Close-up of the Leg Cinch Cord
The material felt paper thin and smooth, yet not slippery. I was impressed and glad to see this 15-denier fabric in rip-stop. I own a few down sleeping bags and quilts that utilize 15, 10 or 7-denier fabrics, but I never expected a rain pants to be this thin.
These 3.7 oz (102 g) pants really have no frills. They do have an elasticized waist and a drawstring, but there are no pockets or zippers anywhere to be found. In fact the leg hems only have a cinch cord but nothing that will keep them taut. I don't see them staying tight without putting an overhand knot in the cord, and that could be tedious to undo when I want to remove them. Since there is no snap or hook and loop closure at the pant leg bottom, rather merely the cord I'd prefer to have seen a cord lock to keep the cuff secured. I personally don't feel these few grams would have sacrificed too much, and the true gram-weenies could've simply removed them if they wished.
|Stuffed Next to a Soda Can
The stuff sack itself weighed 0.3 oz (8.50 g) when I placed it on the scales, bringing the combined weight of the sack and pants to 4.0 oz (113 g) for Large pants. I typically wear a medium in most MontBell items, but I went up a size as I generally always do with rain gear. I rarely use the stuff sack that accompanies all MontBell products. Typically I stuff the item into itself within a pocket, but as these pants have none I will probably use this sack.
So long as this very thin fabric truly holds up to inclement weather I'm certain to be impressed. They weigh a third less than my next lightest pair of pants, and I often perspire inside that pair. I truly hope the thin nature of the Versalite pants allows them to be more breathable.
|The Weight Test!
I'm very excited to begin testing the MontBell Versalite pants over the next several months. I look forward to a vigorous test, seeing how breathable they are and how well they hold up to heavy rains. I'm also interested in the durability of the very thin material.
I'm quite impressed with the ultra lightweight nature of these pants and I'm excited to put them to the test. The only thorn I potentially see in these pants at the outset is a lack of cord locks on the cinch cords at the cuffs.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
|Versalite Pants with Accompanying Jacket
21 - 22 December, 2013: Virgin Falls Trail, near Sparta, Tennessee. The trailhead is at approximately 1780 ft (543 m) with a gradual decline on the entire where we camped at Big Laurel Falls roughly 2.2 mi (3.5 km) in at an elevation decline to around 1040 ft (317 m). I was traveling with two hammock camping buddies and my 5 year old. The next half of the trip would have been a gradual climb for another two miles, and since this was my son's first real test carrying the better part of his gear and we knew we'd be encountering a 600ft (183 m) climb the next day we decided to stay at this site. These falls were also in a valley protected by three sides of terrain and as the temperatures were over 65 F (18 C) with plenty of rain in store and the potential for severe even tornadic weather overnight we decided to stay here. Rain, it did...and a lot! By the morning of the 22nd after the front moved through, temperatures had dropped to around 38 F (3 C).
7 - 8 February, 2014: Roan High Knob, Pisgah - Cherokee National Forest, North Carolina - Tennessee Border. We started at Carver's Gap at an elevation of 5512 ft (1680 m) and hiked up to the Knob and hammock camped near the AT shelter. There were 17 folks that attended this 4th annual 'Colder - Higher Hang' at the Knob. The distance for the hike is just a little over a mile (1.6 km) up to an elevation of 6286 ft (1916 m), the trek was slow going with icy trails nearly the entire way up. The temperature was around 27 F (-3 C) as we ascended and never dropped below 17 F (-8 C) at night. There was minimal precipitation that fell as snow. We'd really hoped for snowier and colder conditions this year, but were happy to gather as a friendly group.
28 February - 2 March, 2014; Fiery Gizzard Trail, South Cumberland State Park, near Tracy City, Tennessee. A buddy and I from the 'Colder - Higher Hang' and other hammock group gatherings decided to get some hiking and relaxation time halfway between our two homes. I had both my 5 year old son and my 6 1/2 year old daughter out for this trip and they were both carrying the bulk of their own gear. That stated, we hiked 2.5 mi (4 km) on the first evening to the Small Wilds Camping area off the trail and set up camp. We had to be out early on Sunday morning, so we hiked back another 2 mi (3.2 km) on the second day with our gear and set up camp again. We also did several miles of day hiking. I was proud of them! Temperatures the first night dropped to around 37 F (2.8 C) and there came a light rain shower that lasted long enough that I needed to don my rain gear. The second day was dry with temperatures rising to nearly 60 F (15.5 C) and never dropping below 50 F (10 C) that evening. Elevations along the trail are a fairly consistent 1700 ft (518 m).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I've been really impressed with the MontBell Versalite rain pants. They are so lightweight and small they stow away and are barely noticeable when I stow them away in my pack. I generally store them on an outer mesh or kangaroo pocket based on which pack I'm using.
On my initial outing I was certainly able to put the pants to the test. My son and I met a few buddies near Virgin Falls for a hang and an opportunity to hike a few miles. During the trip we encountered consistent rain throughout the evening and the gear never faltered. There was a major front coming through middle Tennessee that weekend and there were repeated alerts for Tornado Watches and Warnings. I'm not certain of the actual rainfall through the evening, but I'd estimate a minimum of two to three inches (5-8 cm). It was warm out before the front came through, but I was comfortable sitting around in the rain pants after the rain started. During the evening I did not wear the Versalite's over trail pants, merely my compression shorts.
|Hanging with My Little Buddy
|Crashed through the Storm
It stormed through the night, but no severe weather came too close. We simply had some thunder and lightning and plenty of rain. Both my son and I slept through the night and arose to a light rain. He ran around as boys do, and the three adults had coffee and swapped stories about our rigs. By now I was wearing pants with the rain gear over them. It was cooler and I was comfortable. As we set out to hike back to the trail head the rain was abating and I considered removing the Versalite pants, but decided to keep them on for testing sake. I stayed dry from external moisture and didn't perspire wearing the pants. This included nearly an entire uphill climb over the duration of the hike.
|Post Storm Raging Falls
The constant rain from the night before caused the creeks to rise significantly overnight and the trail crossed it in several locations. There was one point that had a cable crossing and we rock hopped and kept our feet dry on the way in. Exiting was a different story and we were all actually a little nervous with my son in tow. I crossed once to drop my pack and had raging waters coming up to my knees. The pants were no match for this! I then returned to carry him over on my shoulders with one of my friends closely behind us. Finally, I went back a third time to gather my buddy's pack. All in, I crossed the creek three times back and forth. We had video, but no stills. I was wet inside and out from the knees down, but the water didn't creep up past the knee. I was glad for this.
On the trip to Roan High Knob I used the pants primarily as wind protection and to keep my backside dry from standing snow. I didn't wear them on the hike in, but once I made camp and set up my hammock I changed into a pair of down pants and put the Versalite pants on to protect them. They worked out great and it was very comfortable. I didn't wear them on the hike out either.
I used them in a similar manner on my most recent outing, as protection for my down and from embers near the fire. On the first night of my recent outing it started sprinkling enough to get things wet, but I sat comfortably around the fire in my Versalite set: the jacket and the pants.
These pants are great for the weight and to date they've yet to fail. I'm excited to continue testing them. I never could get the ankle elastic to stay tight, so I have some pretty small cinch buckles that I can add to them if I want a secure fit around my ankles. Even so, I've rarely found a need to do so. I thought they may drag a little as I'm not so tall, but they really don't need to be tightened that often. That would still likely be my only suggestion for improvement on the pants.
|Headed to Roan High Knob
|Hiking out of Virgin Falls
Overall I've been quite happy with the MontBell Versalite Pants. They weight is so minimal I barely know they are in my pack and compress down so small it only makes sense to have them in my pack, even if the chance of inclement weather is minimal. I've been known to leave rain gear at home on short summer outings with nice forecasts. I been proven wrong and rained on also. I see no need to not be prepared in the future!
The quality of the material appears quite nice and durable to date as well. I've had positive comments from several friends that have seen the Versalite series. They've mentioned how sharp the gear looks and when I've told them to rub the material between their thumb and forefinger I repeatedly get this bug eyed look. I can attest I'm impressed!
I've already mentioned my only suggestion for improvement is with the ankle cuffs, but that isn't enough to keep them out of my pack! I'm excited to continue testing them over the next few months, and dare I look forward to wet and rainy outings?
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
10 - 13 April, 2014: Fiery Gizzard Trail, South Cumberland State Park, near Tracy City, Tennessee. I made this the last trip as a 'local' to my old quick weekend stomping grounds, as I'm currently transitioning in my career from middle Tennessee to the Indianapolis, Indiana area. The weather and temperatures were ideal for a spring outing with high's around 70 F (21 C) and lows around 58 F (14.5 C), sunny and no precipitation, but it was the height of the blooming season and my allergies were in full swing making it a less than desirable trip! Although there was no rain on the trip, I made good use of the gear in a squirrely fun adventure. Elevations for the trip averaged around 1700 ft (518 m) +/- 400 ft (122 m) going in and out of the Gulf.
30 April, 2014: Nevis, West Indies. I also carried the pants on a rain forest hike climbing Mt. Nevis, in the West Indies. I did find the occasion to don the accompanying Versalite jacket, but didn't find a need for the pants. This trip took me from sea level to around 2000 ft (610 m). I would have loved to summit the peak as it literally sits in the clouds, but my hiking party simply didn't have it in them.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Versalite series, to include the jacket and pants have continued to amaze me. I hate that I didn't make it to the field as often as I normally do in the spring, but this career transition has limited my pleasure trips to the backcountry. Even with only the one backcountry outing during the final test phase I'm completely satisfied with MontBell's superior quality. I've never found a product they've made that I can't rave about.
The Versalite series is so lightweight, yet durable and holds out the moisture surprisingly well without making me a sweatbox. I haven't worn it in driving rains for a full day of hiking, but I've used it in a tumultuous downpour with tornado warning and stayed completely dry.
On the spring outing I did not encounter rain, but decided to work my way around to the waterfall at Foster Falls. The air temperatures were warm as I previously mentioned, but I'm sure the water was around 55 F (13 C). I rock hopped the perimeter of a fall pool at the base to get near the water fall. I couldn't make it to the main falls as there was no possible way to do so without a full out swim in, but I did get to a side fall that is often dry in the summer. Wearing the gear I stayed dry and I didn't break a sweat inside of it as I stood under that falling water! I was wearing shorts under the rain pants and actually pulled the pants up toward my knees and used some cinch buckles to secure the elastic hem tightly around my legs just below my knees. My shorts never became wet from the water or perspiration. It was a fun experiment.
The day our group did the rain forest hike in Nevis was warm and not in the rainy season, but showers often pop up in the jungle. I carried a day pack with a handful of items and hydration that came in fairly handy for my non-backcountry pals that were with me! A shower broke out midway through the hike and I quickly found my rain jacket, but didn't feel it was necessary to put on the pants. I was the only member of the group that didn't become soaked for the remainder of the trip. Temperatures were near 80 F (27 C) and I can't say I broke too much of a sweat, but I may have if I had put the pants on. I was already perspiring some from the climbing activities, but I can assure the reader that after the 10 minute shower I was the only member of the crew that wasn't fairly drenched.
The weight to performance ratio has me completely sold on the Versalite pants. I can say for sure it will remain a mainstay in my gear stash!
I've come to love the Versalite pants. I find them durable, yet extremely lightweight. The only improvement I'd suggest is to add a few grams of weight with some cinch buckles on the elastic cord for the ankles. I rarely used any during the testing phase to ensure test integrity for positives and negatives, but I certainly will add a set going forward. The Versalite jacket and pants set will continue to be a mainstay in my gear stash.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.
I will certainly continue to carry these pants on backcountry outings and due to the minimal weight, and I'm even tossing them into the luggage for a trip to Puerto Vallarta this weekend. Who knows if the weather will go south?
I'd like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and MontBell Co. for allowing me to test the amazing Versalite Pants.
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