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Two Stars = Has one or more significant flaws, with some redeeming qualities.
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Rab Latok Pants: Solid Where It Matters
Posted on: December 20, 2011
If you're reading this review you're most likely here for one of three reasons. A) You're looking for new winter pants. B) You've found a smoking deal on the Latok Tours and want to make sure they aren't going to fail. C) You're a gear junkie surfing Alpinist.com. For those of you in Category A, these are solid pants. For the Category B folks, you can hit "Checkout" without fear. The rest of you, Alpinist TV is pretty sweet, or check out our Web Feature archives.
I used these pants from October 2010 through last weekend. That means they saw more than twenty days of ice in the Northeast, a brief bit of hiking with the ice tools in Chamonix, touring in Utah, three wonderful days of November Hyalite swinging, plus another couple weeks of front, back- and sidecountry skiing. I am almost six feet tall and usually wear a size 32x32. I went with a pair of medium Latok Tours. They are sized with a ski mindset, so people used to form-fitting climbing pants might want to go down a size, or get used to the pants ballooning over the top of their gaiters. Also when worn with the shoulder straps the waist is pulled up to the belly button level. Whether intentional or not, this makes the Latok Tours warmer, prevents harness chaffing and guarantees you won't expose any skin while bending down to fiddle with crampons or bindings.
When I look for winter pants I think of two words: "waterproof" and "hardshell." Some of you (probably people who only ski powder, don't break trail or are too hardcore to use their tools on ice) will disagree. That it is fine, wear your softshells all you want. But I want pants that will keep me dry when kneeling against melting ice, breaking trail in heavy snow or on a multi-day trip. I also want a single pair of pants that I can comfortably climb, skin, ski, hike and, occasionally, toboggan in. With this in mind I decided to try a pair of eVent shells. I had heard a lot about the fabric and was curious to see how it would perform.
Over the course of the year, I was only able to put one real hole in the pants, and I'll address that later. Most of the time the pants would catch on something sharp and I'd expect to see a huge tear, but when I looked down the pants were unmarked. On a closer inspection, my Latok's had accumulated a number of faint abrasions on the external layer, and when turned inside-out many of these were visible as black scratches on the silvery internal fabric. Testing it in the sink, it was apparent that these small scratches were no longer 100 percent waterproof. The takeaway message here is that the eVent fabric is burly, and while you can damage the waterproofing, it's hard to put a hole in it. On my old Koven's similar use resulted in giant tears that required lots of repair tape and Seam Seal. In contrast the Latoks just needed some Seam Seal brushed onto the inside to restore their waterproofing.
As far as breathablity goes, I never had a problem with the Latok Tours. Despite a lot of hiking and more than a week of skinning, I never got the I'm-wearing-a-trash-bag feeling usually associated with hardshells. The non-full-zip vents are a nice touch. My old pants had the tendency to come undone at the waist vents, and then fall to my ankles. That can't happen with the Latoks.
So far this review has been positive, probably because these pants are solid. But there is one thing that drove me completely nuts: the pockets need to be raised two inches. I don't know if Rab was going for some sort of backcountry ski thing, but the thigh pockets suck. They extend from mid-thigh down to just above the knee. Hiking (or even skinning) with a pocketed wallet, keys or phone is obnoxious. Carrying a camera in the pockets is a non-starter, as anything you put in them will bang against your knee and be the first point of contact of between you and the ice. Car keys in the pockets led to some painful abrasions. (This was the only hole I put in the fabric all winter.)
On another, but less important note, the bottoms of the pants lack eyelets or loops. Internal gaiters, which the Latok Tours do have, rarely ever work for anything other than piste skiing, but if Rab had included a couple loops, and I could have created a bomber gaiter with just some elastic cord. That feature seems to have been overlooked.
So there it is. I picked out these pants because my old shells were practically destroyed from use, and they've worked out well. After a full season I have one tiny hole in the pocket and a few abrasions on the lower leg. The pants look almost new, and I plan on wearing them for the foreseeable future. While a little baggier than the usual climbing pants, the Latok Tours do a good job as an all-purpose winter shell.
Pros: durable; warm; waterproof.
Cons: poorly placed pockets; baggy; no eyelets for under-the-boot straps.
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