Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight, no frills, true to size, good cut, comfortable, breathable, zippered pockets, versatile.
Cons: Not offered in lengths, heavy when it gets wet, not breathable enough for hot summer climbing.
Best Uses: spring and fall rock climbing or hiking, summer alpine rock climbing, ice climbing, mountaineering.
The Patagonia Simple Guide Pant is an excellent cool to cold weather climbing pant, and it earns the title of Top Pick for its unique "in-between" weight that shines in a wide variety of temperatures and conditions. Depending on the temps and conditions that you normally climb in, this may be the best pant for you in the review.
Without layering, this pant is good by itself for active use in temperatures of roughly 30-70 degrees F, and with a pair of long underwear, the temperate range could easily go down to 10 degrees F. If you are looking for a pant that is better suited to warmer weather, consider the Patagonia Rock Craft Pant instead. The rock craft pant breathes better, is lighter, and is cut tighter for use without layering.
If you are looking for a good quality pant at the lowest price, consider the Prana Stretch Zion pant, but also consider whether the cut and features of the rock craft pant might be worth a few extra dollars over time. If you are looking for something extra durable, consider the Mountain Hardwear Piero pant, or if you don't need the breathability and quick-dry qualities of a synthetic pant for your climbing use, consider a super-durable cotton canvas Arborwear or Carhartt type pant instead!
The quality in design and workmanship in the simple guide pant is evident, and it has been made to be as simple and functional as possible. You will find yourself grabbing this pant for a myriad of uses: mountain biking, cross-country skiing, and hiking, as well as all types of climbing, big wall, multi-pitch, or cool weather cragging and bouldering. We believe that this pant is a home-run.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Weight and Materials:
The fabric of the Simple Guide Pant is made of 91% recycled polyester and 9% spandex. These are Patagonia's lightest stretch-woven alpine pants, weighing in at 12.3 oz / 348 g. The fabric is coated with a Deluge DWR treatment which sheds snow and light rain very effectively. It also blocks the wind very well. These are my go to pants on days in the Northeast when it might just rain, snow, or sleet. The material stretches well and is fairly durable; the stretch and give of the material help prevent from rips or tears. I caught an errant crampon point on these pants and there was no mark! The inner lining of the fabric is also very comfortable against the skin and the mesh pockets and waist belt are luxuriously soft.
The inseam of the guide pant is fixed (31.25" for sizes XS-S, 32.25" for size M, and 33.25" for size L-XXL). Patagonia calls the fit "slim" but I find it quite roomy, with plenty of room to layer under comfortably. The cut of the pant is more or less straight from the thighs to the ankles, which means some extra material in the lower leg. This makes fitting the pants over mountain boots a breeze, and also allows for no resistance on a high step.
I think that the waist fits true to size; I typically am a size 33" waist and fit perfectly in a size M (31-33"). The elasticized waist belt is what allows for the range.
Pockets and Features:
The simple guide pant feature four zippered pockets: two front handwarmer pockets, one thigh pocket, and back pocket. The thigh pocket is universal across Patagonia's guide line, and is a perfect size and in a perfect location. Each of these zippers is also DWR treated to be water resistant, which is a nice touch.
The pants feature a two-way fly, for easy access while wearing a harness, as well as the staples of any good climbing pant: articulated knees and a gusseted crotch. They have a button closure and nice, low profile belt loops.
The simple guide pant also shares the same wide hem as the Rock Craft Pant (formally the Rock Guide Pant), which makes rolling the pants up convenient and secure. Part of the reason I like this pant so much is that it does not have a zippered cuff like many of the competing alpine softshells on the market, which is why this pant is so lightweight; it could be considered a "crossover" pant.
My major complaint with these pants is that I can't wear them year-round! They are just too hot to use in the summer months, especially with the darker colors. So, for a general use rock climbing pant, they just aren't as versatile as other pants in the review.
If you are caught out in a downpour, these pants will absorb water, making them much heavier and a little clingy.
There are some signs of wear, a bit of abrasion and "pulling up" of threads in the weave around the thighs in particular. My guess is this is from doing some bushwhacking.
The material in these pants is a compromise between the level of breathability and wind resistance, so depending on your usage you may not find them breathable enough, or not wind resistant enough (more likely). Personally, I don't use these pants for ski touring since the wind goes through them on the descent.
Folks that are looking for a more ordinary look might object to the lack of a second rear pocket. The second zipper on the fly can also make it appear that your fly is unzipped; I've been told a few times!
Finally, these pants are not available in lengths. Either the inseam length fits, or you'll have to hem them, either yourself or professionally.
I think that the Simple Guide Pant is the best product on the market for cool weather rock climbing, whether that means summer alpine routes or spring and fall (or even winter!) cragging. It also works phenomenally well for moderate to high output winter activities.
As a mountain guide these have become my go to pants in fall, most of winter, and spring. I think that they have a very professional look to them; they avoid wrinkling and staining, and allow me to "look the part." I prefer the black color.
This is the highest priced item in this review, but compared to other softshell pants on the market, this is actually on the low end. Considering its versatility and quality, the price tag seems very reasonable.
Other Versions and Accessories
The Simple Guide comes in three colors, Forge Gray, Black, and Retro Khaki. It does not come in varied inseam lengths, but comes in sizes from XS to XXL.
The Patagonia Simple Guide Pant - Women's, $100, is an excellent cool to cold weather climbing pant, and it earns the title of Top Pick for its unique "in-between" weight that shines in a wide variety of temperatures and conditions.
The Patagonia Simple Guide Hoody - Women's, $150, lacks a chest pocket, which we believe is an excellent feature that greatly contributes to this jacket's performance. The Patagonia Simple Guide Hoody is an affordable softshell that performs well in a variety of conditions and for a variety of activities.
The Alpine Guide Pant is built similarly to the Simple Guide pant but is heavier, warmer and has features such as zippered cuffs and tie down loops that make it more of a serious mountain pant. Consider this if you are searching for something for winter use primarily.
— Steve McNamara and Dan Sandberg
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Most recent review: April 27, 2012
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