When I told a friend that I was going to review products from Patagonia his demeanor shifted instantly from reserved adult to giddy adolescent.
The name meant very little to me but after some googling it was clear he was an icon in the climbing and outdoor world long before Patagonia was ever established. Prior to Patagonia’s founding he built two companies that manufactured highly acclaimed climbing gear.
Chouinard’s reverence for nature became inseparable from the DNA that became a component in Patagonia’s corporate culture.
Chouinard was light years ahead of his time.
He committed the company to funding environmental causes from the get-go which included tithing substantial profits to environmental activism.
In the mid-1990s Patagonia was active in helping a grass roots movement protect the Ballona wetlands in Los Angeles. Located amidst the hottest real estate market in Southern California, it was a prime target for developers. Our own environmental editor at Hawaii Reporter, Rob Kinslow, who at the time was employed as an aerospace systems engineer in the LA area, regularly visited in the wetlands.
He and a small team created a successful strategic preservation campaign to protect this precious resource. Over 6 years, working with local, state and national supporters his team built a coalition representing more than 2 million people. Their work resulted in a $20 million bond that allowed the state to purchase more than 640 acres of wetland.
Patagonia was one of the original members of that coalition and over the years has blazed a trail of stewardship, environmental values and responsible behavior.
In another example of Chouinard’s foresight, in the early 1990s, an environmental audit of Patagonia uncovered that conventionally grown cotton was a dreadful product for the environment. By 1996, he committed the company to using all organic cotton.
In 2014, Patagonia helped fund the advocacy documentary film DamNation, which is about changing attitudes in America towards its dams. Chouinard was the executive producer of the film.
The company continues its outspoken support of conservation with its Save our Public Lands campaign.
In a Quandry
The “Quandry” is unlike anything I’ve ever worn. Whereas I’ve always been a fan of natural fabrics and leery of anything that smacks of better living through petrochemicals, Quandry pants pleasantly surprised me.
They have a comfortable, slinky feel that was stylish and even sexy. It’s the closest thing to spandex that I’ve ever worn. In fact, it actually is 4% spandex and 96% nylon.
It’s stretchy, particularly around the waist and embraces your body without being too cloying. It’s tailored to make you look good and without giving up any freedom of movement. Often, crossover wear can be baggy and resemble battle fatigues more than fashion. It has to provide latitude, or you’ll not have any movement.
Not only can you move and groove in these pants, Quandry has another an attribute that makes it true to the crossover principle. You can wear it anywhere. Not just at a friend’s BBQ or the movies, but it’s stylish enough to be seen at any office without anyone batting an eye in disapproval.
In fact, it radiates style.
The design is what Patagonia refers to as a “Slim-straight fit”. The pant sits on the waist with a regular rise; not too loose and not too tight in the seat and thighs. With articulated knees and a gusseted crotch, it’s robust without looking overly engineered. There are two hand pockets, back pockets and a zippered cargo.
They are cut straight from knee to ankle. They will definitely work better if you have a lean-to-medium build. (A weight lifter or front lineman may not look all that good in Quandry pants). If you’ve got a good-looking posterior, all the better.
It’s also got the so-called DWR (durable water repellent) treatment. This is a fabric finish which repels light rain and snow.
If you get wet it will also dry off quickly.
The only disadvantage, from my point of view, is a rather minor aesthetic observation. Because the pant is close-fitting, putting your phone in your front (cargo pocket) is not going to look terribly attractive. Your best bet is to put it in your back pocket, where it will look better and not jostle around.
I wear Quandry in Hawaii (where the light fabric is a big plus) and the and the UPF 40 sun protection is critical. I also took it to the San Juan Mountains, in the southern Rockies, and road-tested it on the Continental Divide trail.
Patagonia has finally converted me to synthetics. It’s priced at $79.
The Tenpenny has an old fashioned appeal from both an visual and practical perspective. They are rugged and lightweight.
What I really enjoy is their comfort.
Slipping into the Tenpenny for the first time is like putting on your favorite pair of jeans. With a 74% (organic) cotton 26% nylon blend so it feels really comfy from the get-go and combines the comfort and breath-ability of cotton with the durability of nylon.
The first time I wore them was a rainy hike on the Mau’mae Trail trail near my Honolulu home in the Ko’olau mountains of Oahu. The trail follows the crest of a serrated ridge which means you have to hop atop boulders, leap over jagged lava rock and spring up steep inclines.
You’ll need all the mobility your pants can muster and the Tenpenny pants proved excellent in this regard.
My first time out was after a drenching rain. I got splashed with mud but the rain beaded off my legs. These pants (like the Quandry) feature a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.
Other features include two front handwarmer pockets; two rear pockets; right-front coin pocket and right-front on-seam cell phone/utility drop-in pocket which fit my 6 ¼ x 3 1/2 “ cellphone. They pants also fit the classic cross-over definition—they are dressy enough to be worn in the first class section of an airplane.
They make great travel wear. They afford comfort and there are pockets to stash your passport, wallet and mobile phone.
The fit on these pants is more relaxed than the Quandry. The Tenpenny are a better choice for those with for athletic and muscular body types, as well as larger frames.
However, they are tailored enough to flatter the wearer. The waist with a regular rise; relaxed fit in the hips, seat and thighs, then cut straight down to the ankle.
I can attest that the pants are tough.
During the evaluation I slipped with a full pack and hit my knee with the full weight of the pack and some other gear I was carrying. I was lucky not to be hurt but there was a tiny rip on the knee that I had to get repaired. I suspect most other pants that light would have not fared as well.
I liked the deep color called Ash Tan but you can also get them in “Forge Grey”. They retails for $99.
The Torrentshell Jacket
As any boy scout knows, being prepared is a credo to live by.
The Torrentshell Jacket came in extremely handy both in Hawai’i’s Ko’olau mountains and on the Continental divide. In both locales (as you’d expect in the mountains) the weather can change on a dime. In Hawai’i you can get away with getting soaked without too many consequences but at 9000 feet in the Rockies, the repercussions can be quite another thing.
This garment is as the Patagonia website states, unpretentious but well designed. Manufactured with 100% recycled nylon face fabric, it has a two-way-adjustable hood that’s easily stowed with a cord-and-hook arrangement in the back of the hood.
You can zip it quite high which creates a sort of chin guard. I used the hood one very cold morning in northern New Mexico and it kept my ears quite comfortable. The cuffs have hook-and-loop closures and there’s also an adjustable drawcord hem to really seal out the rain. The Jacket will self-stuff into handwarmer style pocket with a carabiner clip-in loop that can come in handy.
Not only will the Torrentshell Jacket keep out the rain but it’s also handy as, yes, a shell. If the weather gets a bit nippy, as it can at high elevation anytime of year, this garment will help keep you warm.
The bottom line—any serious hiker needs to carry decent foul weather gear in his or her backpack and the Torrentshell Jacket is both lightweight and easily stored. I carry it in my daypack now that I’m back in Hawaii.
My jacket came in Buffalo Green (a sort of Forest Green) but you can get it in 10 other colors. It’s priced at $129.
Much thanks to Bill Zemanek for top photo