Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight, streamlined, true to size, dries fast, durable, zippered pockets.
Cons: Small front pockets, not available in lengths, only mildly water resistant.
Best Uses: Multi-pitch rock climbing, cragging. hiking/backpacking, around-town use.
The Patagonia Rock Guide Pant is our Editor’s Choice rock climbing pant. It has everything one can ask for in a three-season climbing pant; it is lightweight, climbs well, fits well, and has all the features you need with none that you don’t. This pant thrives in the multi-pitch environment, where you’ll really appreciate the zippered topo pocket, the feather-light weight, and the wind blocking, quick-dry fabric (if and when the weather turns ugly).
The lightweight fabric is not made for repeated offwidth or chimney use. For these types of high-impact climbing, I would recommend the Prana Axiom Jean, the burly Mountain Hardwear Piero, or even a pair of Cotton Canvas Carhartt or Arborwear pants. You don’t have to baby this pant, however, and if a climb includes a few pitches of offwidth thrutching, I wouldn’t think twice about using this pant.
It is the second lightest pant that we reviewed, second only to the Arc’teryx Rampart Pant, but much more durable. It doesn’t breathe quite as well either, but the fit is much more appropriate for climbing, and the breathability was never a problem. If you are buying this pant for hiking rather than climbing, however, consider the Rampart Pant for sure.
At $79 retail, the Rock Guide Pant is only $9 more than the cheapest pant reviewed, the Prana Stretch Zion Pant, but they fits and climb significantly better. I actually find that the pant legs stay rolled better on the Rock Guide Pant than on the Stretch Zion Pant, even when using the roll up leg snaps.
One large downside of the Rock Guide Pant is the lack of different inseam lengths. Patagonia has really dropped the ball here, as all the other pants in the review made by other companies (Mountain Hardwear, Prana, and Arc’Teryx) have 3 different inseam lengths to choose from. If you have a hard to fit body type, you may want to consider looking at some of the other pants, or find a good tailor in your area.
The pant does not look as good around town as the Prana Axiom Jean, but looks as good as or better than the other competitors. You will look like a rock climber. That’s not such a bad thing, is it?
The Rock Guide Pant will almost certainly become the best climbing pant you’ve ever owned. Use it, abuse it, and enjoy it!
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Rock Guide Pant is lightweight, streamlined, and well thought out. It is very well suited to the needs of a multi-pitch rock climber. I think the Rock Guide Pant is destined to become a Patagonia mainstay.
Weight and Materials:
The fabric of the Rock Guide Pant is a blend of 96% stretch-woven nylon and 4% spandex. This is Patagonia’s lightest soft-shell, and as a nylon product (as compared to the stretch-woven polyester used in their Simple Guide or Alpine Guide Pant), it has less wind and weather resistance, but a significantly lower weight. The Rock Guide Pant weighs in at just 10.5 oz. Despite this it is actually quite durable. After nearly a year of abuse on hundred of pitches of climbing, it still looks almost brand new. The fabric is treated with a DWR treatment, which gives light water and stain resistance. The material, when it does soak through, dries very quickly (totally dry in 30 minutes after a downpour). It breathes very well, and has a small degree of stretch (primarily lengthwise). I recommend the Forge Gray color option, which also hides dirt, unless you are doing most of your climbing in desert environments, in which case you may want the lighter colored Retro Khaki.
The Rock Guide Pant is made with Patagonia’s “regular fit,” which they define as neither slim nor oversized. The pants are built like a straight cut jean, meaning that the leg of the pant is more or less the same diameter throughout its length. This means that the Rock Guide Pant is fairly snug throughout the seat and the thighs. This makes for no bunching under a harness and it also makes for a good looking pant around town. The lower leg is more of a loose fit, but not baggy. It is the narrowest pant at the ankle that we reviewed. There is still plenty of room to allow for the biggest of moves and plenty of airflow, but it is not so big that it obscures your view while climbing. I still like to roll up the pant legs while doing especially technical climbing, but it is not a necessity for every climb, unlike some of the other pants reviewed.
The inseam of the guide pant is fixed (31” for waist sizes up to size 30, 32” for size 31-33, and 33” for size 34 and up). If you are handy with a sewing machine, however, you could add 1.5” to the length by removing the stitching on the hemline (but then you will lose the nice wide hem that makes rolling the pants so easy). You could also shorten the pant by sewing a higher hemline. I recommend using the services of a tailor for this project so you don’t ruin your $80 investment! Patagonia does do some alterations on technical garments in-house as well, but I was told that the Rock Guide Pant is not included. You may still want to contact Patagonia directly for more information (800-638-6464).
The waist seems to fit true to size, and with many options for sizing (odd sizes included from size 31-35), you should be able to really dial in your fit. As far as having room for layering, I would not want to wear anything more than thin long underwear under the Rock Guide Pants, but they would accommodate that easily. In conditions that might warrant heavier layering, I would consider using a heavier weight pant (perhaps the Patagonia Simple Guide Pant) instead.
Pockets and Features:
The Rock Guide pant has four pockets, 1 rear pocket (zippered), 2 front, and 1 cargo pocket (zippered) on the right thigh. This thigh pocket is perfect for a photocopied route topo, but actually is quite deep, and can fit much more (camera, bar, etc), although it becomes a little cumbersome when full if you are hiking. The fact that it has a zipper closure is essential. The zipper closure on the rear pocket is also appreciated, although I rarely use this pocket while actually climbing. A nice feature if you are going to use these pants for travel, however. The thigh pocket is stitched on, so you are feeling the actual face fabric of the pants on the inside, while the front and rear pockets have liners made of a comfortable, lightweight mesh. This same mesh runs around the waist of the pant for additional padding and comfort. A flat button closure and belt loops let you choose your belt of choice and lie flat underneath a harness.
One of the nicest features of the Rock Guide Pant is the wide hem (stitched section at the bottom of the pant leg). If you want to roll up the pant, just work following the hemline and the pant will stay put very securely. Having these wide folds really makes a difference. The stitching on the Rock Guide Pant is also noteworthy in its consistency and quality. Finally, the gusseted crotch and articulated knees are not unique to this pant, but they are simple and effective, and they are part of what makes this pant so easy to move and climb in.
No product is EVER perfect. Here’s what I came across as complaints about the Rock Guide Pant:
The front pockets are quite low volume, so that while using the pants around town, having a wallet, cell phone, or keys in these pockets is very visible and presses against your thighs slightly with each step.
The pants (as mentioned above) are fairly tight through the thighs, and this may not fit all body types, or you may need to size up to get a good fit. In designing a technical garment, Patagonia had to make a decision on fit, and they chose to make the fit a little snugger. If you’re buying a more technical pant for the first time, this may take a little getting used to.
The Rock Guide Pant is not available in lengths, as compared to all of the other company’s pants in the review. This issue was mitigated for me since the pant is more fitted and so easy to roll up for climbing. Some buyers may need to consider getting the pants hemmed to fit their body type, however. Contact Patagonia or contact a local tailor for more information.
The lightweight fabric has Patagonia’s proprietary DWR (durable water repellent) finish, but in reality is only mildly water resistant. The repellency works while brushing against wet bushes on an approach, for example, but in any rain the pant is quickly soaked through and the material sticks to your skin until it dries out.
Right before publication, the stitching on the crotch (just below the fly) began to come undone and created a small hole (see photo). This will easily be covered by Patagonia’s repair/return policy, but it does mean that you need to ship the pants off to Patagonia for up to 10 days. Don’t wait until right before your big fall climbing trip!
This pant excels for all types of three-season rock climbing or hiking. I would not recommend using this pant in the winter, but it can be layered under for fall climbing or summer alpine trips. A five mile approach, followed by 12 pitches of climbing, getting back to the car by headlamp? Grab the Rock Guide Pant and go for it.
For a pant that you will wear day after day on the rock and in town, the Rock Guide Pant is worth every penny.
The Rock Guide Pant comes in two colors, Forge Gray and Retro Khaki. It does not come in varied inseam lengths, but as discussed above, hemming is an option. The pant does come in a variety of waist sizes, including odd sizes from 31-35.
The other pants in the Patagonia Guide series are the Simple Guide Pant and the Alpine Guide Pant. The Simple Guide Pant is part of this review, read more about it here. The Alpine Guide Pant is a serious mountain softshell pant that shares similar styling to the Rock Guide Pant but is otherwise quite different.
— Dan Sandberg
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Most recent review: September 18, 2011
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