Climbing pants, from Ferrata to Constantia

Climbing pants, from Ferrata to Constantia

A long time ago, preparing for one of my first trips to the mountains, I bought a pair of MEC Ferrata Pants. At the time, I didn’t know much about anything. Truthfully, I bought the pants because they looked cute. It wasn’t until an expedition to India, Pakistan and Peru that I realized there was something unusually tough about their Schoeller soft shell fabric. My Ferrata Pants wore me into the ground before I came close to wearing them out. The only drawback? A tendency to bag out over time. By the end of a trip, they didn’t have the same shape and fit they started with, and they held moisture. So along with having a baggy bottom, the pants got heavier and more restrictive as I sweated. Not ideal.

Fast-forward to today and I’ve got a much improved pair of Schoeller Dynamic pants in my quiver: The MEC Constantia – the brainchild of my good friends Spring Harrison (MEC Designer) and Katy Holm (MEC Product Line Manager). Understanding the strengths and limitations of the fabric, Spring and Katy did a masterful job of designing pants as durable as the Ferratas while solving issues of breathability and fit. The Constantia doesn’t bag out and it doesn’t hold moisture. Not even a bit. The durability of Schoeller means you can bash your knees against granite, dirt, tree branches, bricks, and whatever else without catching or tearing. Beyond that, they do a compelling job of combining urban style with lightweight alpine function.

Climbing pants

So, what will I do with these pants this summer? The Constantia’s skinny silhouette and 4-way stretch, means I’ll be using them around home in Squamish for days bouldering, sport climbing, and long routes on the Chief (and some espresso sipping at the Adventure Centre). The low-profile means I won’t be wearing them over long johns or mountain boots, but for fast and light alpine missions they’re going to be my not-so-secret weapon.

Thanks Sarah, you inspired us to put together a brief visual guide to the last 40-or-so years of MEC climbing pant excellence.  – MEC editors.

The Constantia/Highpoint

Climbing pants

Ridiculously durable with good looks to boot, the Constantia and Highpoint might be the most high-performing and bombproof soft shell pants we’ve ever produced. Plus, the simple design means you can maintain a low-profile in the city, too.

Climbing pants

MEC Constantia Pant

Climbing pants

MEC Highpoint Pant

The Arque/Sanchali (summer 2016)

Climbing pants

With the Arque and Sanchali, MEC designers sought to create a casual looking pant with serious cragging potential. Between the stellar colour offerings and grade-pushing technical details, they manage to hit the sweet spot between heel-hooking flexibility and micro-brewery aestheticism (heck, the Arque managed to sneak it’s way into MEC Climbing Ambassador Joshua Lavigne‘s heart last year).

Climbing pants

MEC Sanchali Knicker

Climbing pants

MEC Arque Pants

The Ferrata Pant (2001 – still going strong)

Climbing pants

MEC Ferrata Pants (Women’s)

Climbing pants

MEC Ferrata Pants (Men’s)

The older sibling of the Constantia/Highpoint, the Ferrata have reached cult status thanks to their insane durability and activity-to-activity versatility. Expect to see them at the crag, on bicycles or high in the alpine.

The Rad Pant (1989 – whenever they finally wear out)

Climbing pants

Ah, The Rad Pant. Originally deemed “the ultimate movement pant,” Rad Pants can still be spotted in the wild today. Having spanned every jewel tone and earthy shade imaginable, Rad Pants featured a built-in belt, elasticized cuffs and harness-compatible thigh pockets for stashing PowerBars and your Disc-Man.

Rainbow Neon Lycra (so big in 1984)

Climbing pants

The year is 1989, and Lycra has been the go-to climbing choice (for sport climbers at least) for nearly a decade. Now available in such stellar colours as Zebra, Neon Pink and Slithery Snake Skin, the MEC-brand Lycra Tight manages to unlock previously unheard of climbing grades and abilities in extreme high-stepping.

Homemade, patched or thrifted (timeless)

Climbing pants

It was the 70s. It was a different time. Climbing pants weren’t really readily available, so the best option was to create your own, find some white painter’s pants or wear some thick nylon track suit bottoms. Tight-fitting wool knickers were also acceptable.

Climbing pants
Sarah Hart
Sarah Hart

MEC Ambassador and former staffer originally from the GTA. Lover of all things climbing, she now calls Squamish home.