Branching off into new territory for reviews, Woods Monkey got the chance to take a look at a few offerings from Mountain Khakis’ line of products. Today, we start with Simon’s review of MK’s Alpine Utility Shorts.
Pants are not the sort of thing many Woods Monkeys dwell on. Many people wear the same thing in the woods that they wear in their everyday lives. I have a few pair of pants that I mostly just wear in the woods, but I usually don’t stress over what I’m wearing for a dayhike or quick bushcraft trip out back. When I was offered the opportunity to test out a pair of Mountain Khakis shorts, I was not really sure what I should think. I decided to go for it, though, and I’m glad I did.
Normally, I am not really a shorts person. I wear shorts when I plan on getting hot and sweaty, but for just wearing around town, I only have one pair of what I call “city shorts”. I have been wishing for more, though, with the warm weather fast approaching. I decided that trying out the Mountain Khakis Alpine Utility Shorts would give me a perspective on some tougher shorts that could pull double duty as city shorts and woods shorts. I received the shorts from Mountain Khakis in a double-layer waterproof envelope, neatly folded and pressed. They included the typical list of contents as well as informational tags attached to the shorts. I immediately tried them on, and noticed that the shorts are a bit stiff at first (as with all new clothing), felt very sturdy, and that there seemed to be an awful lot of material in the crotch area. I then remembered that these shorts have a crotch gusset, a very useful feature that will be discussed more later.
Sizing of clothing can be very tricky to get right when ordering on the internet. My father is an “off the rack” guy–things just fit him perfectly straight off the rack, and he can always buy the same size regardless of where he shops. Unfortunately, I did not inherit this useful ability, so shopping online can be a bit of a hassle for me. Many companies use what is known as “vanity sizing”, where they make a pair of pants in one size, and mark them a size smaller to make the shopper feel better. It seems as though this should not be happening in the world of men’s fashion, where sizes are measured in inches, but it does. For this reason, I can wear a pair of 31” waist pants from one major clothing line, but I wear 32” waist pants from another. When I measure my waist with a cloth tape measure, I come out at almost exactly 32”. When I requested 32” waist shorts from Mountain Khakis, I had my belt ready to hold them up, but when I received them, I discovered that they were a perfect fit. I was pleased to discover that Mountain Khakis does not appear to participate in vanity sizing. When ordering Mountain Khakis online, be sure to use your true waist measurement, not necessarily your typical pants size.
The actual cut of the shorts is a tad high-waist, bringing the top of the short nearly to my navel. I prefer my pants’ waist line to fall about two to three inches below my navel, but I was able to get used to the slightly higher waist with no real issues. The crotch gusset is a great feature of these shorts. Many heavy-duty pants have a crotch gusset sewn into them, but this is my first pair of pants that has a gusset. A crotch gusset, for those that have never experienced it before, is an extra panel of fabric that is sewn into the crotch where the normal seam would take place. The purpose of it is to give increased range of motion without the danger of pinching in the crotch. I have also heard of it referred to as “riding style” pants or shorts-because the extra movement allowed by the gusset makes it easier to mount a saddle. I have a pair of mainstream pants that have a small gusset in them, but it is ineffective because of its size. The gusset on the Mountain Khakis shorts is generous and at first a bit unusual feeling. When simply standing with the shorts on, the extra material of the gusset is folded up against the space in between the legs, where, with normal pants, there would be no contact. The gusset has made it much easier to step over things, crouch, and ride my bike around town without dealing with restricted movement in the seat of the shorts.
The Mountain Khakis brand boasts very robust construction that I expect to last for years to come. All of the seams are triple stitched-that means that every seam has three lines of stitching running down it. An average pair of jeans is single stitched. All of the stress points on the pants-areas that would suffer extra pulling or tugging-are reinforced with what is called a bar tack. A bar tack is a line of close-set zig-zag or whip stitches that provide extra holding power at places like pocket corners and the ends of zippers. The Mountain Khaki shorts feature a large heavy-duty YKK brand zipper and sturdy rivet button (like most jeans feature). I think that it would be great if these shorts were offered in button fly (a line of buttons instead of a zipper), but they are great as-is too. The belt loops easily accommodate my 1.5” wide belt, and can fit up to a 1.75” wide belt.
I have worn these shorts for almost a week straight and have been very pleased with them. They are always comfortable sitting, walking, bicycling and hiking. The style of the shorts is easily dressed up or down with the addition of an appropriate shirt. I have worn the shorts with a button down shirt for a semi-formal dinner, as well as with a T-shirt around town. The first day that I wore the shorts I received a few compliments on their good looks, an affirmation of my suspicions that they are, indeed, stylish. Style is heavily based on an individual’s taste, so of course these shorts are not for everyone, but it seems that they would fit into a very wide range of personal styles.
The pocket layout of the Mountain Khakis is well thought out. There are two slash hip pockets on the right, one of which is advertised as a hidden pocket. It doesn’t seem to me that the second pocket is really hidden, but that does not reduce its use. In the first few days of wearing the shorts, I found that I often stuck my hand into the wrong pocket when reaching for things. I quickly became acclimated to the placement of the pockets and came to appreciate them for separating different things so that I could keep them easily organized. The two rear pockets have small patches of velcro on them to keep them closed, and are very deep. On the right side there is a secondary pocket just above the opening of the larger back pocket, handy for separating one’s wallet from the rest of the things that may be stuck into a back pocket, if that’s where you like to keep your wallet. I found the secondary back pocket useful for sticking my (sheathed) hatchet-I simply stick the edge face into the pocket with the handle sticking out , and it hangs in there quite handily. There is also a small pocket on the bottom of the right leg. Since I’ve had them, I’ve used the pocket for a folding saw, screwdriver, wrench, knife, tent stakes, a small Gorilla tripod, and a pencil (not all at once, of course). The pockets won’t stand to be too fully loaded because the legs of the shorts are somewhat fitted. The pockets can be stuffed about as full as straight leg jeans, so they will comfortably carry my EDC load consisting of a knife, wallet, Bic lighter, as well as carry a few things that I pick up throughout the day.
The shorts come professionally pre-washed for the sake of preventing shrinkage in your own washing machine, and this treatment seems to have worked wonderfully. Out of the wash (including machine drying) the shorts fit exactly as they did new, which is excellent. The color is also unchanged after washing, a quality that can be attributed to Mountain Khaki’s dying method. Mountain Khakis uses their own proprietary 10.4 oz cotton canvas to make their products, and the quality really shows. The fabric is made with thick yarns, and is woven with double ply for both the warp and the weft–to which is what Mountain Khakis attributes the excellent qualities of this fabric. The fabric seems very abrasion resistant after sitting on rocks and showing no wear at all. The fact that these shorts are made from cotton means that they are relatively heavy and take a while to dry. This has resulted in soggy shorts once or twice. It is worth it for the toughness and comfort these shorts offer, but I am excited to see what Mountain Khakis does with their new line of synthetic shorts planned for release in spring of 2010. If they do what they did with the cotton, then they will have the best combination of qualities: toughness and comfort as well as quick drying and light weight.
A line on their website states “Casual comfort with a rugged mountain style”, and it is hard to find a truer statement about Mountain Khakis products. Searching for any flaws in construction is futile with these shorts, and the fit is perfect. I think that these may be one of the items of clothing that I have been happiest with straight out of the package.