All of my UK hiking friends swear by their Montane Terra Pants which may be the most popular technical hiking and adventure pants on the other side of the pond. While they’re amazingly lightweight and comfortable, the Terra Pants are too warm for late spring or summer hiking in New England where you’d sweat to death if you wore them. But they are ideal for our shoulder seasons in spring and autumn, when cooler temperatures, wet conditions, and cold winds are the norm.
Montane’s Terra Pants are considered technical pants because they’re designed for the rigours of climbing, scrambling and mountain hiking where you need extra durability, water and wind resistance, and an active cut for enhanced maneuverability. These qualities are very evident as soon as you put a pair of Terras on.
The reinforced areas of the Terra Pants are hard to see on the black pair I have, so I’ll use this picture to illustrate. As you can see, the high wear areas around the knees, inner ankles, and seat are reinforced, in this case with Cordura high tenacity nylon ripstop. The rest of the pants are made with Tactel, which is nylon with a soft cotton-like feel. Both the Tactel and Cordura surfaces are coated with a Teflon surface finish that makes water bead and run off the surface of the fabric.
The Terra Pants have two large zippered and mesh-lined front pockets, and a zippered pull-out security pocket. They also have side vents along the thighs backed with mesh to release heat and moisture when you get too hot from exertion. The mesh is too big to repel insects unfortunately, which limits the seasonal range of these pants to non-bug seasons, at least in the Northeastern US. There are snaps at the ankles which allow you to tighten the fit or to retain leg warmth and boot zips on the sides that will fit over most trail runners and hiking boots.
The fit is active, with a high gusseted crotch and pre-bent knees to make it easy to take large steps for scrambling, climbing, and mountaineering. The waist is part elastic for a comfortable fit with a button and zip fly closure and removable webbing belt.
The Montane Terra Pants are remarkably wind resistant and warm, even though they feel so thin. I’ve taken them down to the 20 degrees (F) on hikes without feeling cold and feel confident that I could take them down even further without having to put on a long underwear base layer. I attribute this to the tightness of the weave which prevents the wind and cold from getting through and helps hold on to some of my body heat.
Breathability is also excellent and I’ve never felt like I was sweating in the Terras. I do use the zippered thigh vents like I would on full-zip shell pants and they definitely help keep my legs cool and dry when I’m bounding uphill on steep slopes with a loaded pack (I’ve been training for winter the past two months).
The Terras have also proven to be remarkable water resistant, due to the DWR coating that’s been applied to them. Moisture has not yet bled through the seat when I sit on wet moss, rock, or snow, although I suspect that a heavy rain would soak through them pretty quickly.
It’s worth noting that Montane recommends washing the Terra’s with Nikwax Tech Wash, which is the way I’d normally care for a hard shell pant (to preserve the DWR) and not a pair of hiking pants. While this makes the Terra’s a bit higher maintenance to care for, it speaks to the fact that they share many of the performance characteristics of a softshell pant, such as water and wind resistance, without the associated price or weight. That said, I’ve been washing the Terras with regular detergent with no ill effects and plan to continue doing so because I wouldn’t count on them in the rain anyway. I carry hard shell rain pants year-round for that purpose.
All in, I like the Terra Pants and appreciate getting a chance to try them out. The side thing vents are not something I have on other cool weather hiking pants and I’ve quickly gotten used to being able to regulate my leg temperature using them. They’re also relatively well priced compared to other technical hiking pants if you can get them on sale. Whatever, you do, make sure to get them in black, all black. I consider the two toned ones way to geeky for use in the States and if you wear them, people will ask to see your horse and Range Rover.
Disclosure: Montane’s US Distributor provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a sample pair of Terra Pants to try out but Philip wasn’t obligated to write a review.
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