Soft-Shell Hiking Pants
Beyond Clothing Ascent Glide Pant
$135, 9 oz./326g (men’s 30 short)
Sizes: men’s 30-42, short, regular, and long
On the second morning of a three-day hike in early October on the 22-mile Boulder Mail Trail-Death Hollow-Escalante River Loop in southern Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, we started hiking down Death Hollow in the deep shade of canyon walls, wading in the chilly creek through pools as deep as mid-thigh with air temperatures in the 40s Fahrenheit (around 5° C) and a steady wind blowing. We had to wear pants for the occasional, unavoidable bushwhacking through stands of head-high poison ivy along the creek banks. Inevitably, the legs of my Beyond Clothing Ascent Glide Pants got soaked (as did my boots; I relied on insulated top layers to stay warm).
Several hours later, we reached our campsite with my pant legs still soaked from walking most of the day in water. But in the short time I took unloading my pack and pitching my tent, they dried completely on my body. I never had to remove them and wore them throughout that evening in camp.
I also found these soft-shell pants comfortable while backpacking in strong, chilly wind on a few mornings, even uphill carrying a full backpack, and in rain one afternoon, on a four-day backpacking trip in the Wind River Range in August; and wearing them only in camp (days were warm enough for shorts) on a weeklong backpacking trip in Glacier National Park in September. These pants felt just right over two sunny September days of climbing and hiking with a climbing pack at Idaho’s City of Rocks National Reserve and Castle Rocks State Park, in light wind at times and temps from the 50s to mid-60s Fahrenheit (10-18° C).
The recycled, very stretchy, four-way stretch nylon construction, with articulated knee seams and a crotch gusset, creates a very comfortable fit that moves naturally with my body whether hiking up and down steep trails in rugged terrain or making a high step or stemming while rock climbing. The nice, low-bulk waistband has a few inches of stretch and is comfortable under a pack hipbelt or a climbing harness; I never noticed it collecting perspiration, either. The pants have low-profile webbing belt loops and, most usefully of all, an inner drawstring to snug the waist tight, preventing the pants from slipping annoyingly out from under a pack hipbelt or climbing harness belt.
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Unfortunately, the pant doesn’t come in women’s sizes and Beyond does not have a women’s equivalent pant. But the seven sizes, all in short, regular, and long, do cover a wide range of body types.
Besides the stretch and fit, the fabric is so breathable and light—at nine ounces/326 grams (for the 30 short), you’ll be hard-pressed to find lighter soft-shell pants, especially anything made with such high-quality construction and materials—that they remain comfortable in a wide range of temperature and wind conditions, even while exerting hard, such as carrying a heavy backpack uphill. These are the lightest hiking pants I’ve ever worn. And they squish down to about the size of a softball, basically stuffing into any small, hard-to-fill space inside a pack.
The other side of that coin, of course, is that they’re not warm or weather-resistant enough for true winter conditions: Wind cuts through the light fabric too easily, which isn’t a problem when you’re exerting in temps in the 40s to mid-60s Fahrenheit (10-18° C) but would quickly make almost anyone hypothermic in temps below freezing; plus, the fabric simply lacks the density and moisture resistance to stay dry through constant contact with deep snow, and long underwear underneath the pants would only get wet, too.
The fabric dries very quickly once the air is dry, but even with a DWR (durable, water-resistant coating), it basically cannot dry out while still getting wet: In Death Hollow, I was rarely out of the creek long enough for the pant legs to dry; and while hiking six miles in light but steady rain in southern New Hampshire in late October, the pants got soaked and could not dry while it was raining, so I felt chilled.
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I don’t see these as pants for backcountry skiing except for touring on sunny, warm spring days in spring snow conditions. However, I do see them as adequate for milder, late-winter days of Nordic skiing on groomed track.
The built-in Avert Gaiter inside the cuff uses a two-strand drawcord that wraps around and under your shoe, sealing the cuff over the shoe to keep small stones, dirt, snow, and other debris out. While it can be a little tricky to attach because the hook is tiny, I found it works well and the cord has great stretch to it for larger boots. Still, I wonder how long that tiny plastic hook and thin, light cord would survive a lot of rocky trail. Beyond says the gaiter fits under microspikes and cold-weather footwear, but I have not yet tried it with either, mostly because I’ll choose warmer pants for those conditions.
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The two jean-style pockets have the normal space for small items and the right one has an inner pocket to more securely hold a key or a smartphone. My Samsung Galaxy S22 just fits into that inner pocket and does not feel like it’s in the way when I’m high-stepping up a trail. The rear double pocket has an inner zippered pocket and an outer stow pocket.
The pants lack even one zippered thigh pocket, and I find having at least one more useful in hiking pants than hand pockets. Adding a feature like that would obviously add a little weight to the pants. Beyond Clothing told me the Ascent Glide has no thigh pocket to save weight, streamline the pant, and remove the bulk of zippers and seams on the thigh. Beyond Clothing’s philosophy behind the design was to create a “stealth pant”—in other words, it packs the necessary technical features without looking overtly outdoorsy.
The Beyond Clothing Ascent Glide Pant is an exceptionally lightweight, stretchy, breathable, and versatile three-season pant for hiking, backpacking, climbing, fitness walking, travel, and similar activities.
You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking this affiliate link to purchase the Beyond Clothing Ascent Glide Pant at beyondclothing.com.
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