Gear Test: Westcomb Advent

These flexible, all-weather pants handle tough conditions, from hot and sunny to cold and snowy
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These flexible, all-weather pants handle tough conditions, from hot and sunny to cold and snowy

Now, I know some of my coworkers don't really like wearing pants, and I can't blame them: It's not exactly the most glamorous piece of outdoor wear. I mean, pants are pants, right?

Not exactly. It's tough to find pantaloons that are truly versatile over a wide range of conditions. The same shell and baselayer might be appropriate for rainy fall hikes and snowy winter schussing, but you'll likely have to swap out your bottoms. All of which makes the Westcomb Advent (price TK, 16 oz.) such a breath of fresh air: Neither winter nor summer conditions seem able to stifle these all-weather wonders.

Usually "all-weather" means "handles everything OK but excels at nothing" (think "all-weather tires"). But the Advents are truly the closest thing I've found to an all-weather pant. Example: While hiking in the Gores in late spring, we encountered thigh-high drifts and couloirs still choked with snow. On the glissade down, all of my compatriots emerged with frozen, soaked butts. The Advents, however, kept my tail dry and warm even when the glissade track turned to polished ice, and melting water from the snow drifts beaded up and sloughed off when I punched through the snow layer into a hidden stream.

Credit the Schoeller Dryskin outer layer, which gives this softshell material the near-waterproofness of a hardshell without making it crinkly or shiny. Couple that with Schoeller's 3XDRY fabric, and you've got nearly invincible britches. On a burning hot late summer day in the Rockies, I looked in my car thinking I'd brought shorts, when in fact all I could find were the jet-black advents. Terrified, I saddled up anyway, convinced I'd be in for a sweaty, miserable couple of hours. To my delight, the Advents breathed like a dream, even on exposed ridges under cloudless midday sun—I barely missed the shorts. (That famous Rocky-Mountain dryness probably helped; when I get a chance to test these in humid climates, I'll get back to you.)

The Advents got their ultimate test, though, on a Labor Day climb of 14,345-foot Blanca Peak in Colorado's Sangre De Cristo mountains. We faced down a chilly, windy alpine start, surprise Class 3 climbing on snow and ice, and oven-bake temps on our descent to the scrubby, arid valley floor below the peak. Put simply, the Advent vented moisture, insulated warmth, repelled water and snow, and withstood multiple scrapes and stabs from blade-like rocks when I needed them to—so much so that I noticed. And when's the last time you noticed anything about your pants?

It doesn't hurt that the Advents have a clean cut and super-slick look that makes me feel all sophisticated, but truth be told, these pants work so well I'd wear them even if the had Hello Kitty designs all over them. They're new for Fall 2009, so look for 'em at Westcomb dealers now (online retailers don't have them yet.

—Ted Alvarez

Westcomb Advent ($199, 16 oz. westcomb.com)