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Hands-on Gear Review
REI Talusphere Full Zip Review
Cons: Heavy, boot cinches are so-so, velcro waist flaps
Bottom line: A super versatile, durable, and storm worthy pant at a great price; the downsides being it's not as compressible or light weight as other models in the fleet.
The REI Talusphere Full Zip is a fully featured rain pant that is constructed of stretchy PU fabric, which allowed for some of the best mobility out of all contenders. The Talusphere performed well above average in two of the most important attributes of a rain pant - storm worthiness and breathability. The only downsides of the Talusphere are its weight; it's by far the heaviest pant in our review and has a larger than average packed volume.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Rain Pants of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Talusphere uses REI's proprietary 2.5-layer REI Elements waterproof-breathable laminate to ensure weather resistance. In our real world testing and side-by-side garden hose and shower tests, this competitor performed above average for its overall storm worthiness and ability to keep the user dry. Via our testing, we determined that the Talusphere fared marginally better than its stretchy and slightly more expensive counterpart, the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic, as well as our Best Buy award winner, the Marmot PreCip Full Zip pants. Overall, the Talusphere wasn't quite as weather resistant as the Marmot Minimalist Pant or our Editors' Choice the Outdoor Research Foray Pant.
Comfort and Mobility
Along with the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Pant, the Talusphere is constructed using an extremely stretchy fabric, which provided above average freedom of movement, along with excellent mobility, earning a perfect 10 out of 10. When we pushed the stretchy fabrics to the max by crawling over and under downed trees and practicing yoga, we found the Mountain Hardwear Ozonic offered a marginally better range of motion when compared to the Talusphere. With that said, the Talusphere still offers top-notch mobility and a higher level of performance in this category than both the Marmot Minimalist Pants or the Outdoor Research Foray, along with the other models in our fleet. The Talusphere features a slightly looser fit than most and was less slim fitting than either the Foray Pants or the Stretch Ozonic.
Breathability & Ventilation
The Talusphere was above average in breathability, earning a near perfect 9 out of 10, putting it in the top tier of performers. It was comparable in breathability to the Outdoor Research Foray Pants and Marmot Minimalist Pant and outperformed all other pants in our fleet except for the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic. The Talusphere features two full-length side zippers that allow the user to ventilate from the top or bottom via a Velcro flap; this helps secure the waist area when the upper portion of the side zipper is open. While we thought this technique functioned well in light rain storms, or after it has stopped raining (where we might not have removed them yet), side zippers are not ideal in heavy rain storms; you can read more in detail in our buying advice. Simply put, using side zippers to ventilate in moderate or heavy rain storms can allow for water to run down the inside of your pants - straight into your boots; trust us, we tried.
The one caveat of the Talusphere's Velcro tabs, located near the waist of the pant, is that they don't stay closed and tended to pinch our hips under a heavily laden pack's waist belt - slightly more than other models on the market. In the end, we loved how easy and quick the full-length side zippers facilitated putting on and removing the pants; however, we had to practice caution with some packs where the waist belt would sit in relation to a hip belt.
While the Talusphere's basic waist band design offered decent security, it wasn't quite as effective, nor as secure, as the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic's built-in webbing waist belt. We preferred the security of the Velcro flaps over the Stretch Ozonic's, but found the Ozonic's flaps were lower profile, which made them more comfortable and less prone to pinch our hips (when wearing a pack).
In addition to weight, packed volume is where the Talusphere fell short when compared to the competition. This contender was 25% heavier than most models and was only slightly less compressible than most of the options we tested. In fact, it offered a comparable packed volume to The North Face Venture Pant and was only a little larger than the Marmot PreCip Full-Zip pant, scoring a 6 out of 10. If packed size is an important aspect, consider the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic or Outdoor Research Helium, which scored a 9 and 10 out of 10, respectively.
The Talusphere performed poorly in the weight metric, earning a 4 out of 10. When weighed on our scale, they topped out at 19.5 ounces (I know, we double checked); this competitor is about a half pound heavier than most of the pants in our fleet and five ounces heavier than the next closest model. The Talusphere is heavy due to being a fully featured pant, which does offer a number of benefits due to the additional features. While there are heavier pants out there, we'd hardly consider the **Talusphere* to be lightweight.
This contender is made with 50D Polyester external fabric which is among the thickest of shell fabrics used in pants we tested. The polyester used in the Talusphere is more abrasion resistant than nylon. Overall, the Talusphere proved itself to be among the most durable in our review; they were certainly tougher than the closest stretchy competition, the **Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic* (though it's important to note that the Stretch Ozonic is half the weight).
Ease of Use
The full-length side zips allow this pant to completely zip in half, a feature that makes donning them (with any boots, snowshoes, or even skis) a breeze. The Talusphere is looser fitting than most of the pants we tested. REI added a drawcord around the ankle of the pant to help keep the excess material in check and prevent it from being floppy. Our testing team found that the drawcord functioned well, determing that it was an improvement over having nothing at all. Unfortunately, even when the cinch was fully engaged, the wide lower portion of the pant still felt a little loose around our ankles, especially when wearing lower volume footwear, like trail running shoes. This equated to having to work harder and ensure that we didn't step on the bottom cuffs of our pants.
The teeth featured on the side zippers are larger than average and were easier to zip closed than most options; they also got hung up less frequently. Overall, we also think that these larger gauge zippers are less prone to getting hung up on other fabrics and more durable in the long run.
The Talusphere is easily one of the more versatile pants found in our review. A great choice for backpacking and hiking, as well as at home snowshoeing or mountaineering. Our testers agreed that they're more than durable enough for downhill or backcountry skiing and snowboarding and the pant cuffs are wide enough to fit over most ski/alpine touring boots.
These pants are a fantastic value. They use high-quality fabrics and generally have better features than similarly priced pants. They were a strong contender for our Best Buy Award, though ultimately, the Marmot PreCip Pant were $10 cheaper, and were lighter, and more compressible. It's worth nothing that the Talusphere pants are more durable and storm resistant and the fabric allows for better freedom of movement.
Conclusion and the Bottom Line
The REI Talusphere pants are sweet, super versatile pants that come at an excellent price. Their stretchy fabric is both durable and offers some of the best freedom of movement of all rain pants we tested. They are both durable and very storm worthy. Their only downside, which kept them from being an award winner, was that they were among the heaviest and least compressible pants found in our review. For a piece of gear that most folks carry in their backpack 90+ percent of the time, it was enough of a difference that it prevented them from winning an award. However, they remain an exceptionally functional pant for a wide range of outdoor activities.
Other Versions and Accessories
We tested the 32" inseam length but these pants are also available in a shorter 30" inseam that is identical to this model reviewed here.
— Ian Nicholson
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