REI Mistral Pant and Marmot Oracle Pant Reviewed
A winning combination.
The wind was blowing so hard it was rocking me on my feet, the rain so fierce it was a drumbeat on my hood, coming in horizontally and stinging my face. Perfect conditions then to test my new REI Mistral and Marmot Oracle
As I woke up that morning and looked over the Brecon Beacons, the Welsh hills used by Britain’s elite SAS commandos to test recruits, a light drizzle was falling. Beyond my tent the hills were green and inviting below a low cloud base. Perfect softshell weather, I thought. Hah! That was my first mistake. My second was in getting out of my warm sleeping bag when I knew the forecast was for worsening weather with high winds expected.
As I set out into an increasingly heavy rain, my Mistral pant held up well. Its stretchy Schoeller dynamic fabric resisted most wind and water, which beaded up on the surface. The fabric really breaths well with none of the clammy feeling you get from wearing a hardshell, even when I was pumping out the Watts moving uphill at pace with a heavy pack. The heat you churn out seems to help keep moving perspiration off your skin and through the fabric.
But increasing wind and heavier rain finally overwhelmed the fabric, wetting it through and chilling my legs. So, it was out with the Oracle pant, a lightweight waterproof hardshell trouser with full-length zips along the sides so you can whip them on and off in the field without removing your boots.
Ok, now try that in freezing wet wind and cold, with the fabric flapping about and your fingers going numb. Mmm. Easier said than done. But done nonetheless.
The Oracle, once on, was great. They kept my legs totally dry and not at all clammy. I used to find that I’d get sweaty and overheated in my previous hard shell (a South African made low-tech breathable made by K-Way). With the Oracle, there was none of that feeling. Get a little hot, just pop open the side zips along the thigh to vent.
All in all these two pants are a great combination and should be perfect for alpine climbing. The Mistral softshell seems good to go for most work in dry snow and is light enough for summer use and high exertion levels. Add a baselayer it if the temperature drops. As for the Oracle, it’s well featured while still being lightweight enough to carry for those times that the weather goes a notch beyond what your softshell can cope with. It’s also not so flimsy as to give the feeling that it will rip or abrade the first time it touches rock.
Don’t just take my word for it: David Sowards-Emmerd over at backpackgeartest.org
said the Mistral are
· Much more breathable than nylon pants and are comfortable in a wide range of climates/weather (Have not tried the black ones in hot, 90+ F/32+ C weather yet).
· Somewhat water resistant – water beads initially, but takes some time to soak in. Good for light rain or brief exposure to heavy rain, but a 30-minute bike commute in bay area rain left me soaked regularly.
On the downside he though:
· The hook-and-loop closures at the cuffs are bonded by a heat activated adhesive (read: don’t put in dryer for too long). In addition, the hook-and-loop fasteners tend to adhere to wool socks. Recommendation – replace hook-and-loop fasteners with snaps (possibly shock cord, but the side zippers would lose functionality)
· The zip side pockets are shallow and things tend to fall out when left unzipped.