What happens when you combine premiere Canadian design with world-class Swiss textiles? You guessed it – the Recon, the latest high-tech softshell pant from the BC’s best, Westcomb Outerwear.
Westcomb Recon Softshell Pant Features:
- Integrated nylon belt
- Fleece-lined handpockets
- Zippered cargo pocket
- Velour-lined waist
- Schoeller Dynamic fabric
- NanoSphere repellant technology
- MSRP: $200.00
Recon Cargo Pants Take a Licking
Feed the Habit’s last run-in with Westcomb Outerwear elicited rave reviews for their uncompromising Crest Hoody. They set the bar high and the Recon is expected to continue the high standard of performance in their Summer 2014 lineup of technical gear. I’ve been thrashing the Recons throughout the nasty PNW spring and some of the early summer – it’s time to spill the beans on these high-tech cargo pants.
I can’t help but cringe when I call the Recons a ‘cargo’ pant. When I think of cargo pants, I think of big bulky trousers with torn-out crotches and cumbersome amounts of granola bars stuffed into the cargo pockets. The Recons stand in stark, stark contrast to the traditional cargo pant. They’re close-fitting with a svelte zippered thigh pocket and distinctively techy fabric. The idea here is to give you all of the performance of a softshell climbing pant, but with a little extra storage thrown in for good measure.
As far as construction goes, the foundation of the Recon is its Schoeller Dynamic fabric. Schoeller is a Swiss brand who has brought a number of well-received textiles into the spotlight recently. Their Dynamic fabric is a lightweight, stretchy and breathable offering that translates nicely into a technical pant. The fabric also offers all of the durability that you’ll need for extended use with a harness or in proximity to nasty scree bits.
My favorite testing trip with the Recons was an assault on the 10,500 foot Glacier Peak in the North Cascades. Glacier Peak has a nasty slog of an approach culminating in a set of switchbacks climbing 2,700 feet in 2.8 miles underneath the afternoon sun. If there were ever a chance to test a pant’s breathability, this would be it – fortunately, the Recon handled it with aplomb. When things got really sweaty there was a certain amount of microclimate building up due, in part, to the dark color of the pants which really absorbed the hot sun. That said, no other softshell fabric that I’ve tested could have dissipated the sweat and heat quite as well as the Schoeller Dynamic managed to.
Breathability is important, but it’s not quite the Recon’s strongest point. The tremendous amount of stretch inherent in the Dynamic fabric is exploited for the greatest possible performance by the clever Canadian design team, making for a pant that’s completely at home on class five terrain. A diamond crotch gusset nicely complements the stretch and the single cargo pocket is designed to carry its load in a way that doesn’t impeded range-of-motion around the knee. It’s an excellent design and, when I wasn’t mountaineering, these pants quickly established themselves as one of my choice rock climbing pants.
Once I finished off the approach to Glacier Peak and began the snow travel portion, the Recons really began to shine. They ward off snow and moisture with uncanny ease thanks to the unique water repellant treatment, which we’ll talk about next. Westcomb chose to ice the cake with a really tremendous water repellant technology called NanoSphere. I don’t completely understand the process by which it’s applied, but it performs considerably better than a DWR. This was most noticeable when the pants were dirty and my two-month testing period has really proven its longevity benefits as well. The advertising claims behind NanoSphere is that it mimics the naturally self-cleaning properties of hydrophobic surfaces found in nature – based on my testing, Schoeller really delivered on these promises. I’ve only washed the pants on a few occasions because the water repellancy remains so resilient when the pants are dirty.
Hiding behind all of the tech is one feature which very few companies can successfully integrate into their products. Can you guess what it is? Well, I’ll tell you — industry-leading manufacturing standards. Westcomb’s factory in British Columbia yields garments that are both highly technical and, just as importantly, are built to the toughest standards in the industry. It’s not an abstract quality – the even lines of stitching and carefully matched seams bear testament to just how much care is taken over each Westcomb garment. This translates into real-world performance and longevity for the most demanding outdoor use.
There are several little features which really top off the pants nicely. For one, the zipper on the pockets is non-locking so that it’s easy to access your belongings with just one hand. The integrated belt is a nice touch, particularly since it combines with the velour-lined waist to make for a very comfortable experience when wearing a heavy backpack. There are no pockets on the butt of the pants, but I didn’t miss them with the generous sizing of the other pockets. There was only one odd thing on the pants — Westcomb advertises them as having drawcords on the cuffs of the pants, but mine have no such thing. It may be that I’ve tested an earlier model — or that the specs are off on their site (it happens).
- Schoeller Dynamic fabric is an excellent foundation for stretch and water repellancy
- Pants sit very well beneath a pack or harness, thanks to careful pocket placement and velour-lined waist
- Fleece-lined pockets are a great touch on windy or cool days
- Non-locking zippers add security but still allow one-handed access to belongings
- Dark fabric color was a little too much on warm days
The Bottom Line
It’s tough not to recommend the Recon, and it’s such a great addition to the already very impressive 2014 lineup from Westcomb. I would suggest buying a lighter color if you’re planning on hiking long approaches in these, but otherwise they’re a wonderful pair of technical pants. The bottom line, really, is that these are the type of pants that you can put on and not think about for the rest of the day. They just work.
Buy Now: Available at Campsaver.com