I have been teaching wilderness survival skills since 2007 and have been an outdoors professional in various capacities since 1996. From guiding and instructing canoeing and kayaking to leading hiking and camping trips to holding week-long skill seminars, I have held a busy yearly schedule with a minimum 40 nights a year under the stars and numerous days in various weather conditions. My job takes me around the country and into harsh environments more so than the average person. I’m passionate about education and passionate about the gear I use and recommend.
My clothing and gear is therefore not only very personal but incredibly important to me. Clothing means more to me than just style; it is the first line of defense against the elements and the first layer of my sheltering system. I need to rely on it not to fail when tested. Finding adequate and durable clothing in particular has always been a problem. Freedom of movement is usually compromised for durability and comfort is usually compromised for strength. This all changed when I was sent a pair of Alpine Utility Pants by Mountain Khakis to test and evaluate. I now have a new standard to judge all other apparel by.
In addition to working outdoors, I spent over 5 years working at a popular outdoors equipment and clothing store. I learned the finer points to clothing design and construction. With this knowledge, I feel more than qualified to describe and test the Mountain Khaki clothing line including the Alpine Utility Pants sent to me. With ongoing instruction and demonstrations, I have the ability to truly test gear under real circumstances. Good or bad luck, fate or coincidence, during my product testing and evaluation, Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene hit home. Surveying the damage to my property and flood cleanup put my clothing through their first but not their last test. For the past few months, I have been recording my experiences as they pertain to product features of these pants and preparing this review in a deliberate and methodical manner.
Technical Specs (and my not so technical specs):
- Material: 10.4 oz 2 ply cotton canvas (A.K.A. tough as nails cotton)
- Reinforcement in knee and seat (Great for skooching and moving over sharp and abrasive boulders/rocks)
- Diamond shaped action gusset (For non technical folks, your crotch area)
- Brass YKK zipper (Won’t melt near a campfire but it will get pretty damn hot!)
- Reinforced heel area (Great for barefoot time around camp/cabin when non reinforced heels wear away)
- Triple stitched seams (3 layers of stitching instead of single or double stitch)
- 6 pockets including a folding knife/flashlight pocket slightly to the rear of the right side.
The package arrived to me right when Hurricane Irene had come and left her wrath of downed trees and debris behind. The Alpine Utility Pants were stiff at first, fit true to size and I could tell they were made to stand up to serious use. I wore the pants while surveying my family’s shoreline property when I literally had to wade through marsh water to access the front door. I don’t recommend wading unless properly protected as murky waters can conceal sharp debris but with the heft of these pants, I felt adequately protected using deliberate slow steps. From tree removal to moving debris blown into the yard to a neighborhood cleanup a week later, the pants held up great. I spent the greater portion of 48 hours wearing the pants and passed out in exhaustion from the entire cleanup done. This wasn’t my intended first test but I couldn’t stop the weather.
Part of my work as a Survival Instructor is producing articles for various magazines. One article I recently submitted involved trail awareness and safety. During my training, research and photo shoot for the article, I spent a lot of time on the ground in gravel, abrasive sand, on granite rocks. The contortionist positions for defense would split the crotch of lesser pants. Despite the ruggedness of the pants, they offered surprisingly great freedom of movement. I was actually able to perform stretches in these pants I wouldn’t dare tempt in anything but the loosest of sweats.
In early October, I taught an abbreviated survival course to a group in the White Mountains of Northern New Hampshire. Skills covered included navigation, fire starting, signaling, shelter craft and much more. In preparing the site and in moving around the property, I routinely had to make my way through brambles of black raspberry bushes. Had I worn a synthetic material, it would have been torn to shreds. The reinforced knees of the Alpine Utility Pants saved my skin from the punctures of the briars. The reinforced knees held up to kneeling next to students while they demonstrated skills on rugged terrain. The Alpine Utility Pants are perfect for the rigors of instructing wilderness survival courses.
I prefer natural materials like wool and cotton canvas for their tear resistance and their “silent” properties. They do not alert wildlife with a high pitch sound nylon makes when rubbed against itself. Obvious during these fire-starting demos is the flame resistance of cotton canvas compared to nylon. Nylon melts but cotton will singe before igniting. When making fires with sparking methods or blowing coals into flame, occasional embers will land on your sleeves and in your lap. The heavy duty cotton canvas didn’t melt and I was spared the Swiss cheese look some of my students were unfortunate to experience.
One of the most obvious features of the Alpine Utility Pant is the additional pocket on the right leg. While other manufacturers include a pocket in a similar placement, the Alpine Utility Pants have a shroud over the top. I tend not to carry a pocket knife in this location as the exposed clip tends to catch with more regularity than I’m comfortable with. Normally it isn’t a good idea to carry a pocket-clipped knife in this manner as losing a knife is gambling with your life in the outdoors. However, the Mountain Khakis Alpine Utility Pants shroud does provide some protection from loss. I do tend to carry a set of hand pruners or small shovel there on plant walks and foraging trips and found the covering a great place to tuck the butt of the handle or grip to prevent it from slipping out. The covering acts as a retention aid and is simply a nice feature with clear user feedback prompting the design.
Overall, the Alpine Utility Pants sent to me are now my “go to” set of pants I choose to wear for both work and play. Having washed them more than a few times, the olive drab color has faded ever so slightly on the raised points and the pants are starting to truly look and feel broken in. With repeated use, my pair has become softer in all the right spots, frayed in places that are more character than wear and I would really be upset if I lost them. The only drawback I predict some finicky users to argue is the weight. Then again, these pants are not meant for the ultra-light hiker or endurance athlete. Those folks can purchase easily ripped nylon pants if they prefer. One cannot expect Mountain Khakis to perform outside of their intended purpose of being hard use and heavy duty clothing.
Over the years of being involved in the outdoors community, I have reviewed and used gear I would sooner pass along or trash and some that I wholeheartedly stand behind. Mountain Khakis Alpine Utility Pants are apparel I wouldn’t want to trade the next time I suit up for the outdoors. I’m a firm believer in purchasing the best equipment you can afford and that when you buy quality you only cry once. Mountain Khakis is a quality brand and I know these pants will likely stand up to my use and real-world training for years to come. If you need a pair of dependable and rugged pair of pants, I highly suggest them as they will survive anything thrown at them.
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