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Montbell Versalite Pants Review

Montbell Versalite Pants Review

Montbell Versalite Pants (2018 Model)

Water Resistance
Breathability
Comfort & Mobility
Weight
Durability
Packed Size

Superlight Rain Pants

Montbell's Versalite Rain Pants are a UL backpacker's wet dream. Superlight and highly breathable, they're a bit on the delicate side and must be treated with care.

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Montbell’s Versalite Pants are 2-layer ultralight waterproof/breathable pants that weigh just 3.7 oz (in a men’s XL.) They can be used as rain pants or wind pants or when you want light layer to keep your legs warmer in camp. Montbell’s Versalite Pants have been available for many years, but the company recently switched from an in-house waterproof/breathable membrane to Gore Windstopper, resulting in a big improvement in their water resistance and breathability (more below). That, coupled with their extremely light weight and minimal features, make the Versalite Pants an attractive option for anyone wanting to reduce their gear weight.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Men’s and Women’s models available
  • Weight: 3.7 oz (men’s XL)
  • Sizing: 4 sizes available
  • Water Pressure Resistance: 30,000 mm
  • Breathability: 43,000 g/m²/ 24 hrs
  • 2 layer Gore Windstopper with DWR
  • 10 denier ballistic rip-stop nylon
  • Price: $139

Fabric upgrade

The previous generation of Versalite pants was a 15d rip-stop nylon, 2.5 layer pant that used Montbell’s proprietary waterproof layer called Super Hydro Breeze (Water resistance : 20,000 mm / Breathability : 15,000 g/m²/ 24 hrs). The new Versalite Pants, reviewed here, is a 10d ripstop nylon, 2-layer pant made with a Gore Windstopper waterproof layer (Water resistance : 30,000 mm / Breathability : 43,000 g/m²/ 24 hrs). The waterproofing and breathability performance of the new pants is considerably better.

Design and construction

The Versailte Pants are black and with a grey coating on the inside to protect the waterproof/breathable membrane from oils, suntan lotion, and dirt. The interior of the pants does not feel clammy, even when worn over shorts and directly against the skin. However, the grey coating is easily scratched off, particularly near the ankles if you put the pants on while wearing shoes or boots. Gravel stuck in the shoe sole scrapes against the coating and tears it off.

The pants are cut from a single piece of fabric, which reduces the number of seams that have to be taped in their manufacture. This reduces the chance of water leakage and helps reduce gear weight. The pants do have one taped seam down the centerline, running down the crotch and up the backside.

I added a cord lock to make it easier to close the pants
I added a cord lock to make it easier to close the pants

The fit is relaxed but not baggy in the legs. The rain pants do run a bit long, though it’s hard to tell how long the legs are on the size you order since they vary and the length listed on the Montbell website is for a size medium. The pants don’t have any pockets and there are no zippers, including ankle zippers.

There is an elastic waistband, augmented by a drawstring. The drawstring does not run all the way through the waistband and is sewn in near the front, which limits your ability to tighten the waist. The drawstring itself doesn’t come with a cordlock to hold any tension, so I added one to keep them snugged tight.

Sewn-in drawstrings are also a common point of failure in pants because they tear out easily and it is quite difficult to sew them back in unless you’re skilled in sewing repairs.  While the sewn-in drawstring on the Versalite Pants has resisted my tugs, and endured field use, I’ve had such bad experiences with pants (from other brands, too numerous to list) that use this type of drawstring anchor that I avoid it whenever possible.

I mainly wear rain pants to keep my legs warm in cool weather.
I mainly wear rain pants to keep my legs warm in cool weather.

Field performance

Montbell’s Versalite Pants are a dream to use in wind, rain, and cool weather to retain warmth in camp. The factory DWR sheds rain very well and they breath well when worn over shorts and lightweight long pants. The legs are also wide enough that I can put them on and take them off easily without removing my shoes (size 10.5 men’s trail runners), with some room to spare.

Elastic cords at the base of the legs help seal the bottom of the leg and prvent it from dragging on the ground
Elastic cords at the base of the legs help seal the bottom of the leg and prevent it from dragging on the ground. I never wear gaiters, so I appreciate this feature.

While the legs are a little bit longer than I prefer, the elastic cords at the bottom of each leg can be used to hold them at ankle height, preventing the hems from dragging on the ground, while sealing out drafts and splash-back. You simply pull on the exposed portion of the cord, twist it once, and pull it over your shoe so it rests around your ankle. The elastic cord doesn’t restrict blood flow and is hardly noticeable. Montbell calls it the Samue Leg Closure System and it harkens back to the technique used by the Zen monks of Japan to adjust traditional work clothing using ties sewn inside clothing instead of elastic cord.

However, the Versalite Pants are easy to tear and my pair already sport tenacious tape patches on the lower legs. I wouldn’t recommend them off-trail or wearing them on trail if you had to walk through waist high vegetation. The 10 denier fabric is simply too thin to rebuff contact with the point objects you find in forests.

Fit is relaxed but not baggy in the legs
Fit is relaxed but not baggy in the legs

Comparable Rain Pants

ModelZipperWeightMSRP
Outdoor Research Helium IIAnkle5.4119
Columbia Rebel RoamersNone1150
Precip Full ZipFull12100
Precip RegularAnkle8.980
Mountain Hardwear Stretch OzonicFull10150
Kuhl JetstreamAnkle8.8175
The North Face VentureHalf8.180
REI TalusphereFull15109
Arc'teryx Beta SLAnkle9.2199
Patagonia TorrentshellHalf1099
Marmot MinimalistAnkle10.3165
Outdoor Research ForayThree Quarter10.7175
Montane MinimalistAnkle5.3165
Frogg Toggs Ultralite PantsNone525
Red Ledge ThunderlightNone8.939
Red Ledge Thunderlight Full ZipFull Zip12.555
Red Ledge Free Rein Full ZipFull Zip13.380
La Sportiva HailNone5.9179
Arc'teryx Alpha SLFul Zip12.9269
Helly Hansen VossNone1435
Montbell Stretch Full ZipFull Zip10.8149
Montbell Rain TrekkerHalf8.689
Montbell Peak ShellNone4.6119
Montbell Convertible Rain PantsNone6.1119
Mountain Laurel Designs Rain Chaps (Silnylon)NA2.245

Recommendation

Montbell’s Versalite Pants are ultralight waterproof/breathable rain pants that weight less than 4 oz and are made with a thin 10 denier ripstop nylon. They’re very basic with a drawstring waist, but no pockets or ankle zippers in keeping with their minimalist vibe. While pants like this are great to wear in rain or as a lightweight warmth layer, they are fragile and easily torn. If the cost of occasional replacement isn’t a barrier, the weight alone is the main reason I’d buy them. The fact that they have superb water resistance and breathability rating is just icing on the cake.

Disclosure: Montbell provided the author with pair of pants for this review.

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10 comments

  1. Please explain why you no longer use gaiters.

  2. Zachary G. Robbins

    Have you tried any rain skirts? I recently bought one from Enlightened Equipment, but haven’t worn it yet. Been too busy bushwhacking the last couple of months and it would rip them to shreds. Skirts seem like a great way to bypass the whole paradox of taking pants on/off when you get too hot or sweaty.

  3. Could you layer a pair of down pant beneath them?

    • No. You’d sweat too much. Down is best “on top,” also because you don’t want to compromise the loft.

      During the day, I wear them over my lightweight long hiking pants. At night in camp, I wear them over the mid weight long johns I normally sleep in. That covers all the bases.

  4. How would you compare these to Lightheart Gear pants? I have been looking for lighter rain pants while considering durability/weight/price. Thank you for a very comprehensive list.

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