Review: Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant
Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant
$240, 11 oz. (men’s small)
Sizes: men’s S-XL
With heads bowed against the steady rain and driving wind, we plodded uphill toward the Grand Col de Ferret, a mountain pass at 8,323-foot (2537m) marking the border between Italy and Switzerland on one of the world’s great multi-day treks, the Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps. Throughout that July day when the weather ranged from light rain to a wind-driven tempest, I never wore rain pants, only the Westcomb Recon Cargo Pant. I also wore them at other times on that nine-day trek, in light rain, cool wind, and in milder temperatures and sunshine, and through heavy rain and thunderstorms and temps in the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit on a 39-mile, mid-September backpacking trip in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. All of those situations demonstrated how these three-season soft-shell pants excel when the weather turns foul.
Why choose soft-shell pants instead of rain pants? The Schoeller Dynamic fabric, with NanoSphere and a DWR (durable, water-repellent treatment) for water repellency, shakes off light rain and cuts some wind; but most importantly, these pants breathe supremely well, so you don’t overheat in moderate temperatures, as would often be the case wearing waterproof-breathable rain pants (which aren’t nearly as breathable as soft-shell fabric). They are warmer than standard, nylon zip-off pants when wet, and dry faster from body heat when the rain lets up.
The performance aspects of the fabric are similar to other soft shells (and Schoeller fabrics are widely used). What distinguishes these pants are their comfortable fit and low weight. At 11 ounces, they’re about as light as you’ll find in weather-resistant hiking pants, and they roll up to the size of a liter bottle to all but disappear in your pack.
The gusseted crotch gave me complete freedom of movement whether on long ascents to passes on the Tour du Mont Blanc, or scrambling over and around truck-size boulders on the off-trail route to 12,200-foot Knapsack Col in the Wind River Range. The fit is trim—not at all tight, but also not baggy, which can result in the lower pant legs picking up more moisture from rain and wet vegetation. The trim cut of these pant legs helps facilitate faster drying from body heat, and the cuffs cover boot tops but also fit smoothly under low gaiters. When the sun came out on the Tour du Mont Blanc and in the Winds, I easily rolled the pant legs up to my knees.
Plus, the basic feature set is all you need in pants: two zippered hand pockets (some pants don’t have zippers on those pockets); one zippered thigh pocket big enough for a large map and pair of lightweight gloves; a snap in the front (rather than a button or hook-and-loop patch, neither of which is as durable); and a soft, velour-lined waistband with an integrated, low-profile belt, so your pants won’t slip south, but also remain comfortable under a pack hipbelt.
Like any soft-shell fabric, the Recon Cargo Pant will eventually get soaked in steady rain, and that can make you feel cold; if you expect sustained rain and cool temps, waterproof-breathable rain pants are the best choice. But for occasional rain and moderate temps, when rain pants can cause you to overheat and get soaked from the inside, Westcomb’s Recon Cargo Pant offers a comfortable fit, good breathability and water repellency, versatility, and comfort for hikers, backpackers, climbers, and other three-season adventurers.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all my gear reviews at The Big Outside.
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