This year’s Soggy Bottom 100 made a couple of things very clear. 1) Bears are scarier in the dark, and 2) my rain pants were trashed. Those suckers became so waterlogged, they were about as useful as a pair of cotton jeans.
So when the folks at Appalachian Outdoors contacted me a couple of weeks later to ask if I might be interested in reviewing any of their gear, I checked out their site and homed in on a pair of North Face Venture rain paints that I picked up at a discounted price.
My requirements for rain pants are pretty simple. I want something breathable that will keep me reasonably dry, stand up to some muddy abuse, block wind and, ideally, have a few venting options. I also like the price to be low, because I’m reasonably frugal or a cheapskate, depending on who you talk to.
At 89 bucks, I kept my expectations modest. I know you get what you pay for, and I’m not the kind of guy who buys high-tech, $300 pants. Still, North Face seems to have come up with the basics I need, and the pants are reasonably breathable. The HyVent ripstop nylon is not as nice as some other materials I’ve used, but I can generally manage to avoid working up too much of a sweat in it, especially when I use the pants for their main purpose for much of the year: shedding snow and blocking wind on winter rides and snowshoe hikes
I got the side-zip version of the pants, which should be nice for Alaska’s dry, snowy conditions. Opening the side vents to stay cool in a warm rain might not work out so well, but that’s not a situation I have to deal with. During a windy, snowy hike fairly high up in the Chugach Range, I kept the side zippers up and felt no draft, which makes me optimistic about the Venture’s prospects as a snow-biking pant -- despite the lack of articulated knees.
My biggest complaint is the lack of waistband adjustment. I always err on the side of ordering clothes a bit too large, and that definitely happened with these pants. Appalachian’s page says the pants have a draw string, but mine don’t. The only adjustment option is a velcro tab on each side, and that provides a pretty limited range for customizing the fit. Hence, my pants are so baggy I end up daydreaming about suspenders, which aren’t terribly practical -- especially for pants with no front opening. And that’s another feature North Face should consider. If you need to take a wiz beside the trail, you’ve got to pull these things down quite a bit. Not fun or convenient in bad weather.
I’m still wondering how these things will hold up over a winter of fat-biking, but we’ll see. Overall, this seems like a nice pair of rain paints for less than a hundred bucks, but make sure you buy the right size.
As for the question of whether these things could survive a Soggy Bottom with conditions as horrendous as what we had this year, well, I hope I never find out.