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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > Wild Things Alpinst Bibs > Owner Review by Richard Lyon

WILD THINGS ALPINIST BIBS
Owner Review by Richard Lyon
June 11, 2007

 

Personal Details and Backpacking Background.
Male, 60 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 200 lb (91 kg)
Email address: rlyon AT gibsondunn DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA

I've been backpacking for 45 years on and off, and regularly in the Rockies since 1986. I do a week long trip every summer, and often take three-day trips. I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes of 5000 to 13000 ft (1500 - 4000 m). I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do my share of forced marches too. Though always looking for ways to reduce weight, I'm not yet a lightweight hiker and I usually choose a bit more weight over foregoing my favorite camp conveniences.

PRODUCT DETAILS. The Alpinist Bibs are eVENT bibs marketed as a waterproof and breathable "hardshell" product for backpacking, climbing, and skiing.

Manufacturer: Wild Things Inc., North Conway, New Hampshire USA

Website: www.wildthingsgear.com. All quotations in this Review come from this site. Though this site contains very useful information about Wild Things products, a customer cannot order online. The site does include an order form and information about telephone and telefax orders.

Boring guy wearing Wild ThingsYear Purchased: 2006
Year Manufactured: 2006
Size: XL; available in sizes XS through XXL.
Color: Blue-grey. Also available in black.
Fabric: Three-layer eVENT.
MSRP: $350 US
Weight (listed, size not specified): 22 oz / 620 g; (measured, size XL): 22.5 oz/ 638 g
Warranty
: None listed.

Features: Full-length zippers on each leg, under full storm flaps that flatten almost to the fabric. Two zippered vertical breast pockets with similar storm flaps. "Waterproof zippers." Sewn-in drop seat elastic suspenders that are adjustable using a small plastic spacer. Articulated knees. Insteps reinforced with heavier fabric. The waist can be micro-adjusted by means of mated hook-and-loop patches on each side of the front piece of the bib at the top of the zippers. The cuffs have elastic sections and hook-and-loop patches to allow cinching over different sized boots.

FIELD CONDITIONS. I wore the Bibs in the Rockies from December through March ten days of in-bounds skiing or backcountry ski touring, and four days hiking or snowshoeing. Temperatures ranged from -30 F (-34 C) at night in January to a mid-afternoon springtime high of 65 F (18 C) in the Teton Range of the Rockies in Wyoming; and 0 F (-18 C) to 32 F (0 C), with average daytime temperatures were about 15 F (-9 C), in Alta and environs, Utah, and Nelson, British Columbia, in December and February, respectively. In these latter venues snow flurries and stiff winds generated a wind chill considerably more frigid than the ambient temperature. On all these days the Bibs served as my lower body outer shell over Icebreaker Skin 200 Leggings (medium weight merino wool long johns), without an intermediate layer.

I wore the Bibs as rain pants on an April day hike south of Dallas, through and after a thunderstorm. Temperatures plummeted from about 70 to 50 F (21 to 10 C) in about an hour as the storm front swept through. Underneath I wore cotton hiking shorts and synthetic boxer-short underwear.

EVALUATION. These Bibs are my first exposure to eVENT and with them I've found a new backcountry best friend. This fabric is remarkably breathable yet virtually windproof, and absolutely waterproof. eVENT makes these Bibs really versatile. My legs didn't get wet at all, either from the outside or from sweating, on a hard day of hiking and skiing through two feet of powder snow at 0 F (-18 C) or in the sun on a cloudless 65 F (19 C) spring day of hiking and mogul skiing. Insulating ability is terrific too. I didn't need a mid-layer on my lower body in the wind at -10 F (-25 C) (though my merino underwear deserves some credit too). The fabric's soft hand doesn't cause chafing or irritation when worn over bare skin. It's proven to be durable, without a scratch after a season's use.

Both overall design and several individual features merit commendation. These are no-frills bibs, with nothing other than two zipper pulls on the pockets and a small Wild Things logo patch sewn next to the left pocket to break an utterly clean line from chest to ankle no pouch, no belt, no cargo pocket on the leg. The lack of these items, which are in my opinion at best marginally useful, gives the Bibs (and me, when I'm wearing them) quite a sleek appearance. The cut of these Bibs, much trimmer than their predecessors and many other bib-type garments that I own (waders, ski suits), adds to this look. As a tall man I often must accept a super-sized waist to get the trouser length I need, but not with the Bibs. The fit is perfect, with just enough room at the waist to wear a heavy sweater, one of the very few times this has happened to a guy who has to get the waist of the trousers re-cut every time he buys a suit for the office.

Side zipper and cuffI can open the slash pockets with one mittened hand using the convenient pulls Wild Things has included. The zippers and their storm flaps keep out the rain and snow and give tree branches nothing to snag on. Double zippers on the legs allow a ventilation opening at the hip while at the same time the ability to pull the Bibs on without removing hiking boots. Both features were needed when the thunderstorm struck on the Texas day hike, and the ventilators are useful at almost any temperature when hiking uphill in snow, on snowhoes or with on skis with climbing skins.

I have always had separate elastic powder cuffs inside the trousers themselves at the bottom of my bibs and ski suits, to keep snow out on hikes and ski days. The adjustable cuff of the Wild Things Bibs, however, did an acceptable job even on some serious powder days. Their cuffs extend below the upper two buckles on my telemark boots and the fastener holds fast.

Pluses and minuses. I really like just about everything about the Bibs. Waterproof, windproof, breathable, stylish, comfortable, and everything (almost) does what it should. There's only one design element I would change. The plastic spacer makes it quite difficult to adjust the suspenders when adding or subtracting layers, usually requiring pulling the elastic inch by inch through the thread to make a loop and then pulling that through to the other side. I need to take off my gloves to do this. A single D-ring with hook-and-loop patches, a clip with wider openings and teeth on one opening, like those commonly found on compression straps, or a clip with a small clamp that opened and closed would be an improvement. Better still, quick-release male-female connectors at the waist would make doffing and donning the Bibs for nature's call even easier, but would add some weight.

For a backpacker who's usually found in the normally dry climate of the Southwest or the Rockies the Bibs are on the heavy side when used strictly as rain pants. I have alternatives at one-third their weight, and when steady rain isn't likely I've left the Bibs in the closet. I plan to take them on base camp trips, though, where they can serve as an insulating layer on the dewy or frosty mornings common in summer in the Rockies. For use in the snow the Bibs are just about perfect.

My new best friend is an expensive date. Given their weight I consider the Bibs too pricey to acquire strictly for hiking in temperate climates. But for me at least well worth the money for their performance in ice and snow.

 



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