Recreating in the jungles of Central America requires top drawer equipment to stand up to the rugged evnironment in a way to make the time enjoyable. We found that kind of quality in the Craghoppers Bear Surivor Trousers that we’ve had a chance to try out the past 2-3 months.
Entertainment has one central idea around it, to afford pleasure to the viewer. On TV, there is an enigmatic character called Bear Grylls. Whether or not you like the gentleman, he is entertaining to say the least, and it is an unarguable fact that he is especially hard on the gear he uses out in the woods. Bear can be seen climbing, jumping, crawling, and conducting a myriad of maneuvers on Man vs. Wild. With the knowledge of the demand he puts on his clothing, Bear enlisted the help of Craghoppers, an outdoor clothing company that has been around since 1965. Together, they designed a specific set of clothing for those who are especially demanding of the clothes they wear. I can relate to Bear Grylls’ needs, as I have abraded and torn my way through many supposed outdoor textiles.
Cotton is a great choice for a situation where one can get dry fast, perhaps not far from the house or car, and I love my tough Dickie’s jeans as much as the next person. However, most outdoorsmen tend to shy away from cotton if they are going to be outside for extended periods of time. As they say, cotton kills when wet. So this poses a problem: what kind of pants are comfortable, non-cotton, and durable enough to meet the demands of the bounding woods walker, or even the casual rock crawler or boulder bounder? Personally I have a habit of wearing through Carharts in a year, and the bouldering pants that I have tried are too stiff for long hiking. So the Craghopper seemed appealing enough. I don’t know what exactly Bear brings out into the woods for each segment, but the pants definitely have the storage capacity that many are looking for. Bear Grylls came to Craghoppers, and with the design team, they set about making clothing with Bear’s input in terms of fit, length, stretch points, and storage.
The first thing I noticed about the pants was that there was no integrated belt. Praise the Lord! Many of these so called hiking pants with nylon belts sewn into the waistband make it impossible to hang items off of them. If you don’t have a Tek-Lok, and are a fan of a leather sheath, the integrated belt does not yield many options. I’ve found myself taking out the supplied belts and sewing belt loops onto my other nylon pants to suit my fancy. The team at Craghopper showed that they know what the bush bounder wants, with double belt loops, not just singular loops, for added rigidity. The pants come with 10 belt loops, doubled up in the normal belt loop configuration with reinforced stitching. If one belt loop does fail, it has another so that your knife does not start to droop. Two of the loops have a button snap closure on them, reinforced with two sewn in belt loops. This makes them extremely handy for drying the pants after washing either at home or in a stream. Bear requested that the pants not need any specific washing or drying instruction and that the act of washing them did not hurt the life of the pants. That means they can go in the dryer on warm too!
The pants are made out Polyamide (basically a type of Nylon) with a tight rip stop weave. The rip stop weave allows for a tear only in a horizontal fashion, making it easier to repair if needed. The pants are also treated with Nosquito insect treatment. I noticed this while I was in Costa Rica, as I watched the confused dipterans move away from the pants and straight towards my face. The pants offer UPF40+ protection from UV rays as well. A normal cotton T-shirt, in a white color, gives the user a UPF7 rating, and goes to a UPF rating of 3 when wet. If you were in a desert situation, or even just having a quiet day of paddling out on the open river, which would you prefer? The UPF40+ rating may also help defeat the degradation of the Nylon from the sun, so don’t be hesitant to set them on a rock a couple hundred times to dry during their bush life.
The inside of the waist contains reinforce stitching on the pull points, with webbing material to line the inside of the pants. I counted 7 individual stitching lines on the waistline itself! It does not stretch at all, and remains snug around the waist. There are two buttons at the front of the pants, one clear on the inside, and an outside waist button. The outside waist button has a Craghoppers stamp, is tough and is held on with a piece of webbing, reinforced. I don’t understand why the inside clear button is not reinforced either, as it looks hastily stitched. The pants come with a replacement button for this spot in case the button does come off. The pant buttons are situated a good distance from the top of the waistline, ensuring that the navel area is not creating a hot spot. The buttons do not get caught on backpack waist straps, and the belt loops are also unobtrusive and do not stick out far to get caught on objects. The zipper teeth on the fly are made of a type of nylon, and will not corrode.
Pockets are a necessity for anyone on the Woodsmonkey site. If you are on here, you like stuff. You need places to put said stuff while you’re out bush romping. These pants carry 8 pockets for all your pack rat needs. The pockets are well laid out too, with the normal 6 pocket cargo pant style; 2 on the side, 2 front, 2 back pockets, and smaller pockets inside three of the pockets to separate things out. The left side cargo pocket has an external vertical zipper (great for lens cloths), the right cargo pocket has a smaller little pocket with elastic (great for holding a heavy item instead of them bouncing around, like a GPS or cell phone) and a small zipper pocket on the right side front pocket (perfect for my SAK, they slip out easily). The cargo pockets close with two buttons. I would not have minded seeing zippers on these instead, but they will suffice. They also have expansion stitching so one can put larger items in there like a t-shirt. The cargo pocket expansion stitching is towards the back, so that it cannot get caught on bushes or drawer knobs as easily. I have a pair of cargo shorts that have the expanding cargo pocket stitching, and they always get caught up on stuff.
The Bear Grylls Craghoppers pants really set themselves apart from other pants in terms of their dexterity and stretchiness. The whole backside, inseam and knees of the pants have a tough, stretching nylon material. This isn’t spandex or any of those Under Armor type of textiles. The feel is that of a lightweight tent fly, yet it still pulls and bends. The knees and the inseam of most of my outdoors pants are the first to go. I further profess this point as I always have to fix my old surplus of BDU work pants I have lying around. The back pockets are also made out of this material, tough and abrasive resistant. Other common tears come from squatting or crawling under things, and over time this can abrade the material. I’m not afraid to do that with the Craghopper pants, especially since they are backed by a lifetime guarantee.
The Bear Grylls Survivor trousers are prepared for fraying at the bottom of the cuff legs, with a reinforced bottom rear portion of the pants possessing boot “tapes”, webbing material sewn into the fabric. This is where the boot normally steps on the pants, and the stitching comes undone. Craghoppers incorporated four separate lines of reinforced stitching to make sure that this wasn’t an issue. Fantastic! The inside of the trouser legs are also reinforced with the black material, where ropes, vines, and tree bark may abrade clothing when climbing. I love these pants; it was like they were engineered for me!
Fancy Pants in the jungles, both concrete and wild.
I used these pants on many different occasions, from working out, to the Central American jungles, and in the snow encrusted mountains of my home in North Carolina. I chose to wear them to the gym to see their reaction to heavy sweat. I found that mobility was not impaired, and I could even practice my Shotokan forms and conduct all my stretching exercises in the trousers. While teaching a kids core exercise class, where I set up a massive obstacle course, I bounded on my knees under ropes and had to do full jump tucks in the air. No problem with these pants! A full split would be no issue with the stretch material sewn into the inseam, back and knees. I’ve split other pants during the high humidity when the cloth would cling to my knees, while trying to lift heavy objects, but did not encounter the same results with this particular clothing. In (and above) the jungles of Costa Rica, the pants performed perfectly. During the hiking portion, I did not find them catching briars, thorn devils, or any of the normal seedpods that one would find in a scrub meadow or heavy jungle. Just like in Peru, there were black Palms and other thorny plants, which the trousers did well against, despite their light construction. They were not thorn proof by any means, but they still repelled the brush and vines that any normal pair of pants can, especially around the knees.
In an unfortunate encounter with acacia ants, I discovered that their small stingers could not penetrate the material as well. A larger wasp or hefty ant may be able to, but for the nefarious onslaught of smaller critters such as fire ants on the outside, these do well unless they crawl under the pant leg. When squatting or kneeling on the forest floor, the knees provided stretchy protection. While on a zip line across the jungle canopy, the pants were not constricting and worked well with the climbing harness. I also tried the Survivor Trousers out during the wintertime, with polypropylene long johns underneath them. Compared to my normal wintertime ensemble, I was able to move much more. When it became colder, I simply switched to heavier poly pro long johns underneath, and I was comfortable in this configuration. Crawling into and out of a snow cave was no longer a chore, and the knees dried out fast and did not frost up like wool pants.
Clothes can take up a lot of weight. Couple that with the possible stipulation that you want to carry heavy duty clothes, and you can almost triple the weight that you have to carry. The aspects of clothes that exhibit the term “heavy duty” make them just that: heavy! At 15.9 ounces, the lightweight textile will raise a few eyebrows in the ultra light hiker circles. Pants that can be converted into shorts are great and I have a pair of North Face Paramount pants that I have come to love as a traveling pants. But, when one reflects on the actual times they have converted pants to shorts, it probably wasn’t while in heavy brush. During a trip in Peru, I did not wear the shorts configuration of my North Face pants the entire time I was in the jungle. These Craghoppers pants are light enough to breathe well, therefore eliminating my personal desire for the pants/short conversion.
Do They live up to the Hype?
In one word–Absolutely. The design team at Craghoppers, combined with Bear’s knowledge, really hit home with this one. A lifetime warranty on any piece of gear is worth the investment, in my opinion. Heck, if these pants were $200 and endorsed by Parris Hilton, I still would love ‘em, because they work well for most outdoor use. Any rock climber, martial artist, father of three year olds, or trail runner could appreciate the movement and thought behind these Survivor Trousers. As of this February, they have a sale on the pants too, so I am going to stock up on the new darker black color versions. If the pants have impressed me this much, I may have to check out the rest of the line. There may be something in a name, but with these trousers, it’s all in the pants!