At first glance, the name of the Northwall softshell pants from Patagonia might seem to be a nod to the outdoor gear maker’s longtime competitor, The North Face. But in reality it is simply a reference to the mountaineer’s “cold side of the pillow” – the dark, windy and often stormy north facing side of just about every climb on the planet.
Sound far fetched? Consider the fact that Mount Everest has been climbed some 1,500 times since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first conquered the peak in 1953. Of those, however, only a small fraction have summited via the treacherous and windswept North side. In fact, the North Face of Everest was not even successfully climbed until 1980 when Reinhold Messner accomplished the feat.
But enough of the history lesson; let’s talk about pants. Designed for all-around weather resistance, the Patagonia Northwall features stretchable, water-resistant Polartec Power Shield Pro fabric for wind and water protection, along with a layer of Regulator R4 fleece for added warmth. The seams are fully sealed and reinforced for extra protection without added bulk, while the slim lower leg profile with scuff guard won’t interfere with crampons (or snowshoes). Internal tie-down loops work with most ice climbing boots to keep the pant legs from riding up during use.
As far as fit is concerned, the Northwall’s articulated seat and knees move easily through your full range of motion, and the fabric offers a nice stretch for athletic moves. There’s even a drop seat (a la the classic long johns feature) for “the business” and side zips for added venting. A single thigh pocket makes it easy to keep a few essentials close at hand.
With the stretch and the scuff panels, it is clear that these are designed to serve as heavy duty mountaineering pants, capable of standing up to days of technical ice and rock climbing. The good news is they also work well as all-around backcountry pants, and are especially suited to active winter sports like snowshoeing and Nordic skiing thanks to their highly flexible fabric and wicking properties.
Patagonia’s Northwall pants come in one color – black – at an MSRP of $399. For more information visit Patagonia.