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Montane Terra Pants

Montane Terra Pants - I switch to more technical pants when the weather gets cooler
Montane Terra Pants – I switch to more technical hiking pants when the weather gets cooler

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.

Technical Pants

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.

Reinforced forelegs and seat
Reinforced forelegs and seat

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.

Side zips help vent moisture but the inner mesh is not bug proof
Side zips help vent moisture but the inner mesh is not bug proof

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.

Hiking in Montane Terra Pants
Hiking in Montane Terra Pants

Performance

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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16 comments

  1. I’ve owned the Terra, Terra Pack and Terra Alpine pants over the last couple of seasons. The Pack pants are somewhat lighter – without the reinforcement areas of the Terra – and are perhaps more suited to the warmer time of year.

    The Alpine pants are a heavier duty material and I took them out on a trip to Lost Creek Wilderness, CO last weekend when daytime temps dipped into the low 20s or high teens without need for a base layer underneath.

    One word of caution – sizing is European and athletic, so many US customers will want to order one size larger than normal.

    Conversely, Montane offer three leg lengths for many of their trousers – Short, Regular and Long. That’s a luxury few others in the market offer.

    I’m a big fan of the Terra range. I’d like to see them offered by more retailers in the US.

  2. I got the geeky grey. To confirm what Stuart said, most people will have to size up. I even wound up getting a medium despite my (small) 28″ waist. The small fit, but the medium was more comfy.

  3. Hi Philip, as one of the users from the ‘other side of the pond’, these are first class walking trousers (sorry pants!) and I always wear them in the UK from early spring until our winter time. I use some custom made winter trousers from Cioch – a small Scottish ‘cottage’ manufacturer based on the Isle of Skye in the winter, but the Terra Pants are a real winner over here. Having had quite a number of summer holidays over in the USA, I can see why you would not recommend them in summer and even in the UK on a hot day and we had plenty of them this year, they are a bit too warm for me – but by then it is shorts weather anyway. Just like some USA tents don’t always work well in UK, I guess these have be designed for our more northern climate. Good review however and always interesting to see another country’s prospective on a UK favorite.

  4. Hi Phillip, I agree with your review of the terras. One thing I find missing is a rear zipped pocket. It doesn’t seem to bother everyone though. All my gear that says wash in tech wash, I use detergent that is specifically made to wash normal wool garments. It works for me with no bad effects. And it doesn’t break the bank.

  5. I am using the Arcteryx Palisade Pants. They do not have any zips but they dry quickly and has an attached belt.

  6. Do you have any recommendations as to pants that will work in hot and humid conditions?

    Cheers!

  7. I have just bought my first pair of ladies’ Montane trousers/pants and they are the very best I have ever had – absolutely love them! Thank you for the tip on washing – I have Woolite at home and will now be able to wash them for the first time after a trip on my 9km walk this morning. Cheers guys!

  8. Hi Philip, I’m looking for a pair of light ski touring pants with leg vents that can be used for late spring ski tours. These Terra pants look promising. My question is whether the leg openings can be “forced” over the top of the ski boot? (Perhaps if they are left partway unzipped?) I can’t tell just how big the leg opening is from what I’ve read or seen about these pants. (Nor about how stretchy they might be.) Thanks for your opinion! David

    • Nope. These are really intended for walking.

    • I don’t know how they’d work for ski touring but my brother told me about Red Ledge rain pants and I bought a pair. They have full zippers down the sides so it’s easy to put them on over boots. They also have a zippered back pocket, which should be standard on all rain pants. They are also quite reasonably priced. I’ve been quite happy with them.

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