Torrentshell 3L Pant vs. Older Model
Since our last test period, Patagonia remodeled these pants. Instead of the previous 2.5 layer construction, these are constructed with a full 3 layers, using recycled nylon. The first photo depicts the updated pant, the second photo is the model we tested.
We've purchased the updated pant for testing, but until we release our findings, the review to follow is our account of last year's Torrentshell Pant.
Hands-On Review of the Previous Torrentshell Pant
The Torrentshell Pants from Patagonia are simple, lightweight, waterproof shell pants for short-term and occasional use. They are very similar to many products on the market, in a number of ways. The attribute that best differentiates them is the environmentally friendly materials, construction, and business model behind them. For many, this alone will be worth the modest price of admission, especially when the product works just fine in a category that doesn't demand maximum performance.
In total, these are nothing super special. They aren't the lightest, aren't the most durable, aren't the most comfortable, and aren't the most weatherproof. However, they aren't the most expensive either, and Patagonia backs them up with their renowned warranty and environmental consciousness.
Over even the bulkiest of backcountry ski boots, the 3/4 side zips slip easily in both directions. Only snowshoes or skis will have to be removed.
Rain pants, for most users, need to keep out periodic short showers and occasional lengthier deluges. In this context and these uses, the Torrentshell pants will hang in there. The lining is a little vulnerable to long term wear, and the zippers aren't as water-tight as some. Again, for short term and occasional use, the Torrentshell will keep out the weather.
The cuffs of the Torrentshell are best used over regular-sized hiking and mountaineering boots. Over low cut trail shoes they won't seal and it takes work to get them over the top of even low profile AT ski boots.
Comfort and Mobility
Patagonia's athletic cut leaves room for motion. Some testers wish the pants were less baggy. When wet, the thin fabric and clingy lining stick to inner layers and bind up a little bit. The drawstring waist holds the pants up and stays low-profile beneath even heavy backpack waist belts.
Breathability and Venting
There are two clear strata (with one exception) in the realm of waterproof fabric breathability. At the top of the heap is the externally branded, licensed coatings and laminates. Gore-Tex and EVent definitely breathe better than the proprietary coatings and laminates. Patagonia, in the Torrentshell Pants, uses their own branded "H2No" fabric. The most significant difference between it and one of the licensed fabrics is the breathability.
Patagonia's proprietary "H2No" fabric saves money for you and for Patagonia, but it just doesn't breathe as well as Gore-Tex or EVent.
Ventilation is separate from breathability. To us, breathability is the transmission of water vapor through the fabric itself. Ventilation is the ability to open zippers or other closures for full air exchange. The ventilation option on the Torrentshell is the 3/4 length side zips. They open from both top and bottom and can pretty effectively shed air. The catch is that open vents on your rain pants will definitely allow rain in just as effectively as they let air move around. This is the case with any rain and shell pants. The 3/4 side zips of the Torrentshell are similar to those on the Outdoor Research Foray and on the Arc'teryx Beta AR.
Venting the Torrentshell side zips does indeed increase airflow. It also increases, of course, external water incursion.
A couple pockets are all we can comment on, in terms of features, for the Torrentshell Pants. Two hand-warmer style pockets on rain pants, though, makes for a pretty robust feature set. For the most part, shell pants are very simply constructed. We dig the dual pockets on the Torrentshell, which even our Editors' Choice winner is lacking.
Every one of our testers liked the dual hand-warmer pockets of the Torrentshell. Rain pants generally have minimal features. Most have just one pocket, if any. This dual set is refreshing and welcome.
The Torrentshell Pants pack to about the size of a 12 ounce can of Mountain Dew; this is typical for pants in this price and protection category. The Top Pick Outdoor Research Helium Pants pack even smaller, while the Arc'teryx Beta AR shove down to a size that is almost three times the bulk of the Torrentshell.
The Torrentshell cuffs are tight over ski boots. This isn't their designed use, but some will surely go there.
The size medium Torrentshell Pants we tested weigh 9.5 oz. A few pairs are lighter, and lots are heavier. A close competitor, in a variety of ways, is the Marmot PreCip Pant. The non-full-zip version of the PreCip is about an ounce lighter than the Torrentshell. The Top Pick Outdoor Research Helium is much lighter at 6.5oz.
The drawstring waist of the Torrentshell saves weight and bulk over different designs. It does all you need it to do.
The thin fabric of these and the "2.5 layer" construction won't be the most long-lasting choice. You don't select these for durability. We have seen other products made with Patagonia's "2.5 layer H2No" fabric lose all waterproofing after a few seasons of use. We haven't yet tested the Torrentshell Pants long enough to ascertain maximum durability, but our experience with similar products suggests some durability limitations. This shouldn't be a huge deal-breaker, as most just won't use their lightweight rain pants often enough to wear them out prematurely.
These are the pants you tuck in the bottom of your ice climbing pack as extra warmth or that you carry the length of the Appalachian Trail to use just a handful of times. They are light and unobtrusive (though not as light and compact as others) with just the right amount of protection when you need it.
Patagonia backs up the Torrentshell Pants with a guarantee and assurances of environmental sensitivity. If these things matter to you, the value of the Patagonia product may exceed that of the Best Buy award winner.
We don't have much to say about the Patagonia Torrentshell Pants. This is a good thing. They'll work when you need them to and stow away largely unnoticed when you don't.