Hannah MitchellBASE Digital Writer Hannah is a Lake District-based journalist and all-round outdoor lass with a particular fondness for rock faces.
Just how important are waterproof trousers? The answer really depends on your intended activity. Waterproof trousers come in different levels of protection, technical performance and purpose. They are designed to be worn over your usual hiking or climbing trousers, and provide a layer of defence against abrasion, as well as the obvious – stopping you from getting wet.
When it comes to mountaineering and winter climbing, a good pair of waterproof trousers will not only keep you comfortable, they also offer an added layer of insulation. In extreme cold, GORE-TEX waterproof trousers are a good option as they have a degree of breathability too. Being sweaty in extreme cold is at best uncomfortable, and at worst, dangerous. So, in this case the answer is – very important indeed!
Myself and my partner in climb, Sam, gave the men’s and women’s Rab Latok GORE-TEX Pro pants a thorough testing in the depths of Scottish winter. GORE-TEX Pro is basically a step-up from GORE-TEX’s original membranes and technologies, with added durability and extra protection from the elements. For an in-depth run-down on these premium pants from the renowned mountaineering brand Rab, read on…
Excellent waist adjustability with hook and loop fastening
Super-soft lined waistband
Snap hem adjusters for different boots
Really flippin’ tough
Really flippin’ waterproof
If we really had to pick one, it would be that the fabric is pretty stiff to begin with (and that’s a stretch)
What I’m Looking For
I can’t say I have a huge basis for comparison when it comes to proper mountaineering pants, but what I can say with authority is that a pair of lightweight hiking waterproofs won’t last long when they come to blows with crampons on the North Face of The Ben!
My burgeoning winter climbing career was demanding a pair of hardshell waterproof overtrousers that could withstand Scottish winter conditions and (hopefully) take me further afield. They need to fit over tights and winter troos, not ride up above my boot tops when I’m climbing or let snow in when I’m wading through powder, have a good amount of mobility and a bit of breathability too. I’m 5’8” and often find with outdoor trousers that I fall somewhere between a regular and long leg length, which means I often put up with gaps or surplus fabric – I don’t want leaks, drafts or bagginess.
I’m after a good form fit with some adjustability to accommodate the fluctuations of the female body. I want warmth, durability, comfort and above all, dryness.
I’ve been wearing an older model of Mountain Equipment’s Tupilak pants for a few years now. The Tupilaks are incredibly tough and resistant to crampon cuts and rock abrasions, but they have a bit of a rubbery feel to them and aren’t incredibly breathable.
I usually go for a bib-style waterproof overtrouser, or at least ones with detachable braces. A bit more breathability would be great, as I run pretty warm even in winter, and of course durability, comfort and a decent range of adjustability for wearing with different types of boots is essential. Pockets are a big bonus too.
Let’s get that one and only ‘con’ out of the way nice and early. Straight off the hanger, these pants are a little bit stiff and rustly! However, after proudly parading around the house in them for half an hour plus a full day out in the corries, we can confirm that we sound significantly less like a pair of walking paper bags, and that old familiar crackle of that DWR coating is lessening with every outing. On the subject of DWR – it’s worth reading around the PFC content of these coatings and their environmental implications. A lot of technical waterproof garments use DWR containing PFCs, it’s pretty hard to avoid. However, Rab are continuing to make significant moves towards lessening their environmental impact generally, and GORE-TEX has developed a DWR that is free of PFCs of environmental concern in their less technical products.
They fit and feel premium in quality and the leg lengths are just right. The all-round taped seams and zips are reassuringly rugged, and Sam notes with delight that they have pockets! The Latok pants also have belt loops and brace attachment points, and we did purchase additional braces for ours as there’s nothing worse than a downward creeping waistband, and multiple layers on your bottom half will do that to you. Rab’s own braces are £30 RRP, but can be found online for as low as £22.
Aesthetically, they’re black, they look the business and are subtly branded with a Rab logo at mid-thigh height.
This year’s winter exploits have been mostly confined to the Cairngorms, with a number of trips into Coire An t-Sneachda for gully bashing, powder wading and axe-wielding. We dropped pretty lucky to have half decent conditions most of the time, and some less-than-ideal ones that we made the most of anyway.
The Latok GORE-TEX Pro pants have seen us through two winter Munros with 50mph summit gusts and spindrift, drizzle and dreich as well as a blindingly sunny and slightly sweaty day in Mess Of Pottage. We’ve had the pleasure of swinging axes on mixed and ice pitches, and thoroughly tested the pants’ durability with some bum sliding when the descent became a bit mundane.
Who Are These Trousers For?
These trousers are for winter walkers, climbers and mountaineers who want a pair of premium quality, durable and ultra-protective hardshell trousers for more technically demanding winter excursions. If you’re heading into conditions where spiky items are likely to be deployed, the crampon patches protect the hems and the internal snow gaiter is particularly reassuring when the conditions turn from type 2 to gnarly, but both features are probably a little surplus if you’re just looking for something to battle the April showers.
The Latok GORE-TEX Pro pants aren’t particularly stuffable in your pack, but for the conditions tested in, we wore them all day long, from daylight walk-in to headtorch descent. The breathability and relatively lightweight feel of the membrane means that doing so actually isn’t a chore, and even with layers underneath they offer enough room not to feel like the Michelin Man. With a Hydrostatic Head rating of 28,000mm (which put simply, means they’re about as waterproof as GORE-TEX gets), they’re incredibly effective at keeping you dry for a very long time. With that in mind, they are very much suited to situations when all-day wear is a necessity.
If you’re heading into conditions where spiky items are likely to be deployed, the crampon patches protect the hems and the internal snow gaiter is particularly reassuring when the conditions turn from type 2 to gnarly
What Stands Out?
Whilst I do try to follow the old adage ‘be bold, start cold’, sometimes I just feel a bit wimpy. Layering up for a walk-in often means getting sweaty then shivering on the belay later, but I found the Latok pants to be breathable enough that I could keep them on all day with no issues.
Fit and adjustability
Women-specific fits are a really grey area when it comes to outdoor clothes, because we’re all so different and our bodies can fluctuate far more than men’s. The dual sided hook and loop adjustment system on the waist makes these really adaptable to that, and very easy to alter (even with gloves on) throughout the day and according to your layers.
For hardshell trousers, I think these rank really highly in terms of articulation and range of motion. With the snap hem adjusters and added braces, they also stay in place pretty well.
Struggling into trousers in an icy carpark at stupid o’clock in the morning is not the way to start the day, but the 7/8th 2-way side zips mean the Latok pants are super easy to get on and off over big boots.
…not just the fact that they have them, but the low-profile hook and loop is less faffy than poppers and won’t wear out like velcro tabs do.
Whilst the Latok pants do come with an advisory note that the pockets may not protect electrical devices in extreme conditions, it’s really handy to have them for when things are fair to middling!
Durability vs weight
I was initially concwerned that the Latok pants would be a bit fragile owing to their weight, but they are impressively durable and the lightest pair of hardshell pants I’ve ever had. The crampon patches are particularly tough too at 222gsm.
The 2-way side zips mean keeping cool on an uphill trudge isn’t too much of a problem, the YKK zippers are easy to pull even with gloves on, and if you get your zip height just right, you look a bit like John Wayne. Winning.
Value For Money
At £340, the Latok GORE-TEX Pro pants are an investment item in our book, though the price is fairly similar to comparable designs from other brands. In terms of weight, technical performance and material, plus the reassurance of knowing you’ve got a quality pair of pants that are essentially a bit of safety kit when it comes down to it, you wouldn’t expect them to be cheap.
If looked after right, we reckon the Latok GORE-TEX Pro pants will look after us for a good few years to come. Rab also offer a wash, repairs and spares service, so if you do manage to knick your troos or rip a zip, they’ll patch them up or replace the broken bit from £10. Of course, you can always invest in GORE-TEX repair patches and do it yourself if your repair doesn’t call for a professional.
BASE Bottom Line
Well, try as we might, we couldn’t find any reasonable cause for complaint with the Latok GORE-TEX Pro pants.
They’re a premium quality, technical bit of kit with a price tag to match. Whilst likely to be overkill for low-level, non-technical adventures, if super-protective, breathable, comfortable mountaineering overtrousers are on your wish list for next winter, you can’t go wrong with these.
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