Friday 30 September 2011

Craghoppers Ridge II Trousers £50 - 25/12/10

I was very interested when I first heard about the Ridge II trousers from Craghoppers as they seemed to be the answer to a question I had been pondering for some while: was it possible to buy waterproof walking trousers? Not waterproof overtrousers – they are ten-a-penny (if only!) – but proper walking trousers made from waterproof materials that are intended for all day use. Such was the claim made for the Ridge II.

Although I do use waterproof overtrousers on occasion, I’m really no fan of them at all, finding them hot, sweaty and very awkward to get on and off easily and cleanly over muddy walking boots, especially during a deluge. So much so, I’d often rather just get wet.

And, as a side issue, surely part of the purpose of waterproof overtrousers is to protect your under trousers from getting dirty as well as from getting wet, which is not easy to achieve when wrestling them on over mucky boots and dragging the mud with them.

But I digress.

The merits of what is actually meant by manufacturers when they use the term “waterproof” could be debated all day, and would probably elicit a different definition depending on whether you asked the manufacturer or the user of the product.

In the case of users this is normally assumed to mean a garment that will keep even quite heavy rain at bay for a prolonged period. But in the case of manufacturers it has a more technical definition and one that manages to subdivide the meaning into “waterproof”, “very waterproof” and “highly waterproof”. Right.

The recent spate of softshell trousers appearing on the market have, by and large, professed only to water resistance as opposed to being fully waterproof – a small but significant difference. In the case of softshell products, water repellence is usually attained by the application of a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) treatment to the fabric that claims to be able to shed light rain or snow. I’m sure they are all capable of this, but I was looking for something to do a slightly different job.

Again, I digress.

The Ridge II are made from a tough, canvass-like polyamide fabric with an AquaDry membrane, and come with the following spec: 
  • 2 waterproof zipped front pockets.
  • A part-elasticated, adjustable waistband with velcro tabs.
  • Breathable fabric.
  • Taped seams.
  • Reinforced heel.
  • Lifetime guarantee.
In use, they proved pretty comfortable. Weighing in at 458g for a size L they are not the lightest of garments, but they do have a bombproof feel about them and should be able to cope with anything that can be thrown at them.

Once on, they are certainly much more comfortable than a traditional trouser-and-overtrouser combination, feeling much less sweaty than overtrousers and with no untidy bunching of layers. A taffeta-style lining helps in this regard, increasing their next-to-skin comfort and making them pleasant enough to wear when its not raining - which is a real boon. Breathability, if nowhere near as good as softshell pants, is at least reasonable in comparison with traditional overtrousers, and they seem much quieter and rustle-free than any overtrousers I have come across before.

The fit is quite roomy so they can easily be teamed with thermal leggings in really cold conditions, but the waistband (which is part-elasticated and with velcro tabs) is sufficiently adjustable to get the right fit.

I’ve worn them a few times now, most notably during a very wet weekend in the Peak District in June where, in tough conditions, they performed admirably. Keeping me dry and not becoming too sweaty during 5 hours or more of hard walking in warm rain each day was a stiff challenge, and in this respect the Ridge II certainly lived up to their waterproof, breathable billing. I only threw them in as an afterthought after a final check of the forecast – and I’m very glad I did!

Because of the weight and nature of the product they are probably best suited to use during autumn, winter and spring, although, as mentioned, a summer outing is not out of the question As such, I have not used them a lot lately, but, based on the limited number of occasions I’ve worn them so far, they seem an excellent piece of kit and great value for money.

Early indications are that they certainly do what I had hoped of them, and the coming months may provide ample opportunities for further testing.

Comfort: 7/10
Performance: 9/10
Value: 8/10
Overall: 24/30

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