Review: Soft Shell Pants that Kick Butt

OUTDOOR RESEARCH CIRQUE PANTS

Autumn is in full swing in the Blue Mountains and I’ve been really excited to bring these pants out of hibernation and be reminded of how fantastic they are.

I’m going to keep it simple.  I absolutely love these pants. They are my go-to pant for pretty much anything active from autumn to spring.

They are technical soft shell pants designed for high energy activities when the mercury falls.  I use them mainly for climbing, cross-country skiing, hiking and guiding.

Here’s why I think they’re awesome:

They’re wind resistant but still breathable

The OR Cirque pants are made from a densely woven, elastic fabric which blocks a lot of the wind but still allows the pants to breathe.  This keeps me comfortable in a whole range of temperatures, even when I’m working hard. 

OR Cirque pants

 

They’re water resistant

It’s been years since I bought these pants and I’ve used them and washed them a lot.  This combination a tightly woven synthetic fabric and a durable water-repellent (DWR) treatment means that rain still beads off the fabric and it takes about 10 minutes of consistently walking through sodden bush to get me really saturated.  

They are ultra durable

I have grovelled up gritty sandstone gullies and scraped my way up abrasive chimney climbs in these pants and they aren’t faded, pilled or too roughed up.  Over the years I’ve had heaps of pairs of outdoor pants and these stand up to the most rough treatment of them all.  And somehow they’ve stayed smart enough to wear to work (at least I think so :). 

They are stretchy

The OR Cirques are good for even the highest high-step.  I have a few other pairs of heavy-duty pants and most of them are thick, densely woven cotton, which is heavy and totally unforgiving. If I step too wide they can stop me mid-stride. The Cirque’s articulated knees and gussets make them even more flexible and comfy.

The cut

Let’s be honest, this stuff counts. As far as technical pants go these have a slim tailored fit that’s easy to layer under and over. They feel great on and look smart.

Lightweight

These pants are light. This matters when you’re packing them for a big trip but it also means that they don’t weigh you down when you’re wearing them – especially important if they get wet.

Quick drying

Like most synthetic pants, these dry pretty quickly.

Scuff pads for skiing/crampon use

There is a thick, reinforced patch on the inner ankle to protect the pants if you accidentally take to them with the edge of your ski or the point of your crampons. There are also attachment points for stirrups if you want to build your own mini-gaiters.

Scuff pad on the ankle to prevent punctures and slices from crampons and skis

Scuff pad on the ankle to prevent punctures and slices from crampons and skis

 

Pockets

There are several zip pockets on these pants for storage of snacks, change, knives, lip balm, MP3 players. My favourite one is on the right upper thigh. Sometimes it’s a little hard to get to when I’m wearing a harness but it’s a great spot to keep my phone and a muesli bar (at a push).

 

Hip and side pockets are generous without getting in the way

Hip and side pockets are generous without getting in the way

 

Attention to detail

There are a couple of other things I love about these pants:

1.  There is a strip of fleece around the inside of the waist which reduces friction and makes them feel a bit warmer when you put them on on a cold morning.

2.  The Velcro pull tabs on the waist make for the perfect fit. They’re also great if my weight fluctuates from season to season or I want to tuck some thick layers in when it gets really cold.

 

Velcro straps to adjust the waist for a perfect fit

Velcro straps to adjust the waist for a perfect fit

 

Any cons?

The only thing that could be a con (but also a pro) is that there are zips down the sides of the ankles. While this makes the pants easier to get on and off over boots, it makes them difficult to take up if you want to shorten them.

 

All in all a big thumbs up.  I recommend these pants.

 

 

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