Upon exhaugsting my last pair of hiking trousers, I searched around for suggestions of what to go for as my next pair. One name cropped up time and again, the Mountain Equipment Ibex pants. Stretchy, softshell trousers with an alpine cut, much like other models from other brands I had tried previously, but; they turned out to be one of my best buys in recent years…
So Mountain Equipment are a brand I was already familiar with, having owned a couple of their sleeping bags. Similarly to those, the quality of these pants is exemplary. Great workmanship, very well put together. I’ve never feared a stitch coming loose or the zips failing or any other defect appearing and true to my expectation – about 18 months down the trail and they still look pretty much new. That is not to say that they haven’t been put through the ringer mind you, I’ve worn them on every trip since buying them with most of those trips being multi-day.
When we move away from general workmanship and start to look at the design features of the pants, they really start to shine. Im generally quite active in my pursuits outdoors and like to throw a scramble into my day route, or a few in my backpacking routes if possible. With that in mind, I need good movement to my clothing. The Ibex pants have pre-shaped knees and a good cut to the crotch and seat which means that there is no restriction when crouching or stretching. One extra feature that I’d never had on my hiking trousers before is the thigh vents. Just below the pockets, there are zips (one on each leg) that open to reveal a mesh backed section of material. It’s easy to overheat on a strenuous day, even in the colder months, but these vents definitely help to let a lot of warmth escape. They work even better when there is a slight breeze to cut through them. One of the most welcome of occasions to use them came on my 20 mile hike along the Cleveland Way last summer. The weather was somewhat tropical that day, but being on the coast there was a slight breeze which meant that the thigh vents on the Mountain Equipment Ibex kept my legs cool.
The other element to these trousers that helps achieve both the things explained above, is the material. Made from Mountain Equipment’s own softshell material – Exolite 210 – they have a good amount of stretch and are breathable. The first major test that I had put the pants through in terms of their stretch was a scramble up Tryfan’s North Ridge in Snowdonia. If you know your scrambling, you’ll know that there is a bit of clambering and stretching involved in this route and the Ibex pants made the whole experience easier in that respect. While being breathable, the material is also wind resistant and has a DWR finish which actually stands up amicably against light to medium showers. I’ve worn them many times without overtrousers in heavy rain, while on a multi day trip or wild camp and hoped they would dry quickly – never ceases to amaze me how quickly they do just that! There is a slight bit of bobbling now around the knee area, but this material has resisted being scuffed and suffering the impact of me falling on and against hard rock when scrambling. It’s a double weave fabric, which adds to its durability and makes these suitable for scrambling and climbing as well as trekking/hiking.
There is one feature that I feel like I should be more impressed with on these trousers, though. They do come with an integrated belt which is obviously supposed to stop them falling down or riding up. I find that the belt doesn’t really do anything other than ride over the waist of my trousers and annoy me. The trousers themselves stay put but the belt slides around everywhere, so is pretty much redundant. There are two press studs at the waist as opposed to a button, which I find is a better idea. As I said, these hold the trousers nicely around the waist and are less likely to fail than a button in my opinion, doing a good enough job to render the belt a bit of a novelty.
Overall, I’ve been impressed by the Mountain Equipment Ibex pants. After 18months or so of heavy use, they still do what they did for me on first use. They fit, and move well with my movements whether scrambling or hiking. They’re breathable, with thigh vents for when you’re working extra hard. The material is wind resistant, DWR coated, and very quick to dry. Aside from the belt, which can be removed; I can not really find fault with these mountain trousers.