It’s one thing to test the warmth of winter-wear when doing hard physical sports but it’s a bit different if you just plan on lounging around in the unforgiving cold like a lone emperor penguin. In that case, it’s not so much about wind resistance and more about keeping the heat of your inert body where it counts, in your pants.
I was going camping with two of my buddies on what was most likely going to be the coldest weekend of the winter. The whole thing materialized without much forethought. It was going to be a steady -23c the whole night without wind and I had no idea what I was getting into. I was probably generally ill equipped but I’m pretty sure I picked the right trousers.
Perfect for accidentally falling asleep in the snow
I went for the simple merino wool long-johns and insulated pants combination. It just so happened that I had the Mansell Pants lying around so I thought I would test those out. I knew while putting them on that I would never leave my legs in want of heat or comfort for the next 24 hours. They felt like pyjama bottoms and I planned on using them as such.
The pair fit firmly but were in no way stifling. I had the option to use belt loops and the adjustable internal waist tabs to adjust the fit but i had no need to. I am also a big fan of the Velcro, snap-on button and polyurethane zipper combo at the front. These features allow for a quick pants drop but only when appropriate. However, the downside of zippers is that they can get tricky when your hands are frozen. You need to know what you’re doing down there.
The highlight, however, were the pockets. I can’t overstate my appreciation for pockets in pants. It’s always the last thing I check when I buy a pair but it’s usually the first thing that enrages me when there aren’t any. I won’t name names but the pocket-less trouser manufacturers know who they are. Anyway, these pockets were roomy, cozy and well positioned for human use (I’m looking at you Arc’teryx). As can be expected, they also seal with the use of polyurethane zippers which is essential for any winter sport pant.
Feeling confident with my gear, I began the short trek towards the camp site up a steep and steady hill. The snow was solid but also reasonably deep. That’s when I remembered that I was wearing gaiters.
Each pant leg ends with a stretch vent gaiter protruding underneath the main fabric. The obvious use of these is to avoid having snow and ice crawl down your boots. The gaiters are very much waterproof and breathable but I did have an issue with them. I was wearing humble insulated winter boots of minimal girth which were fine for our trek but it turns out the elastic gripper was too wide to fit snugly onto them. I actually had to be mindful when trudging on the terrain, wondering if jeans would have been more successful in blocking the creeping snow. Obviously, these gaiters were meant for bigger boots but I would have appreciated a way to adjust the elastic or something of the sort.
Once at the camp site, we set up the 3-man tent and got a solid fire going. While snapping frozen dead branches and tending to the fire, I was never fearful for my clothing. These insulated pants were as rugged as they were weatherproof. I’m of the opinion that the Mansell Pants were instrumental in maintaining my core temperature throughout the evening. The revelry and merrymaking that ensued also did not ruin the pants, though I did not fall in the fire so I don’t know how resistant they might be to flames.
A friend of ours came to join us for a bit and was nice enough to bring us extra provisions for the long night ahead. He would have stayed had he not had to go to work four hours later.
I was the first to go to sleep which means that I was the one that had to warm up the tent with nothing but my own body heat. I’ve got to say that the whole process of taking off the boots and getting in the -40 degree sleeping bag was a bit arduous due to my constantly freezing fingers which were too numb to handle such things as zippers and shoelaces. Keeping those warm enough to remain functional meant that I had to maintain my body temperature. I therefore had to strategically get into the mummy bag without taking too many outer layers off in the process. In the end, I only took off my boots and insulated jacket. i kept the pants on and slept very comfortably in them. It’s like I said, they’re like pyjama pants...for your cruel, frigid grave of a bed.
I did have a good long sleep in the end. Getting up was not as tricky as going to bed, though admittedly, it was with a clearer mind at that point. I was, of course, the first one up so all I could do was wait around and do jumping jacks around a dead fire while the others slowly awakened, all the while drawing in the heat of dying embers with my chilled digits.
There’s not much more to say about that experience. We packed up, left, ate unhealthy things and all took huge naps once we got home because, apparently, our bodies burn up fuel like dying stars when exposed to the cold. Putting all of this into perspective, I’m really happy that I had these pants in my possession for such an event. I know that a snowboarder would have much more to say about these, but if you’re at all like me and prefer to have a limited but versatile wardrobe, I can definitely vouch for this pair for any winter activity, be it of the dynamic or of the slothful sort. The insulation and weather proofing were top notch but the gaiters could have been problematic in certain conditions. I also just realized that the pants actually look pretty cool with their vintage stretch style. I almost wish they had bell bottoms.