People wearing MEC Rad Pants and styled like a 1990s MEC catalogue

The legend of MEC Rad Pants

Let’s face it: there are few other MEC products as iconic as the Rad Pants. Over the Co-op’s 49-year history, Rad Pants have become pretty legendary and have a bit of an infamous backstory.

They first hit the MEC catalogue in 1989, and we never expected to be carrying them for decades. We ended up discontinuing the Rad Pants in 2001, only to bring them back a season later because so many members were asking for them. Eventually, they dropped out of our assortment and seemed destined to become part of MEC folklore or relegated to a lucky thrift-store find.

Until now. Because Rad Pants are back – again.

Wait – they’re really back again?

Climber, hiker and cyclist wearing MEC Rad Pants, styled to look like the 90s

This year, we’ve replaced the Bluespruce colour shown above with another classic hue: Desert Red.

Yes. Last year, we opened the design vault to unleash a special limited run of Rad Pants, and were blown away by the response. Members scooped up nearly the entire run of MEC Rad Pants in about a day and a half.

With a response that huge, we decided to give members another chance to own a slice of Co-op history. It’s another limited run, and we’re mixing things up with a new heritage colour option: Desert Red.

Rad Pants styled like a 90s MEC catalogue

Committed to real Rads

For decades, Rad Pants have helped Canadians climb, hike, paddle, travel, bike and bask in the glory of bellowed thigh pockets. When they were discontinued, they caused tearful outpourings of love and broken hearts at Annual General Meetings, spawned online obituaries and poetry, and caused heated debates over the merits and failings of different (non-Rad) reincarnations.

When we decided to bring back Rad Pants, the MEC Label design team was committed to recreating them in their true shape, material and even with the original MEC woven label. This year’s limited run of Rad Pants is just as true to form.

There’ve been so many iterations of Rad Pants over the years that they had to dig deep into our archives to revive them. “We looked up the original pattern specs of the last incarnation of the Rad Pants in our system,” said James Brittain, MEC Design Manager, “and sent them over to the factory – without a single change to the pattern – to create our limited runs of Rad.”

After the patterns were locked down, the next challenge was to faithfully recreate the fabric. The only issue? “No one who owned old Rad Pants would let us cut up their heritage pair to send a physical sample to the fabric mill for them to recreate the raw material,” said James.

Rad Pants styled like a 1990s MEC catalogue

Problem-solving mode engaged, MEC designers turned to our friends at @vintage_mec. They were able to find us a pair of old MEC Rad Pants that we could chop up to give fabric samples to the mill. The new Rad Pants have the exact same fabric spec as the original versions, and the material is bluesign® approved for a reduced environmental footprint.

The design hasn’t changed at all from the Rad Pants you remember – even down to the old MEC logo. Plus the fabric is now bluesign-approved®.

Finally, as a finishing touch for these Rad Pants, the original MEC logo is back. To make sure we stayed true to the heritage label design, we tracked down the retired couple who used to own the now-closed factory that manufactured our woven labels. It turns out they had dusty boxes of original MEC woven labels tucked in the corner of their attic, which our new factory could use to recreate the design for the pants they were destined for.

Rad Pants styled like a 1990s catalogue

Bottom line about these bottoms

They’re back (again), but it’s a limited run (again). If you retired your old pair of Rad Pants decades ago, if you want to own a piece of your Co-op’s history, or if you’ve always wondered what all the Rad Pants hype is about, you’ve got another chance to snap up a pair.

We’d say that these new Rad Pants are radder than ever… but really, they’re just as rad as they’ve always been.

Bonus facts for true Rad Pant connoisseurs

Aching for more nostalgic radness? We’ve scoured the archives for bonus Rad Pants facts and all the cheesy 90s catalogue poses you could possibly imagine.

90s MEC catalogue image showing climbers on a fake wall wearing Rad Pants and other pants

Rad Pants make their 1989 debut (third from left) in Electric Blue, flanked by tights in slithery Snake Skin and neon Green.

The pocket was perfect for 1989 tech

One of the main features of the original Rad Pants were the roomy thigh pockets. These were prime spots to keep a topo map, energy bars… or a 1980s music player. It’s true, the original pockets were sized so they’d fit a Sony Discman.

Only downside? The low pockets were near the knee, which sent your Discman ricocheting with each step (and electronic anti-skip technology wasn’t invented until 1995).

They came in no less than 27 colours

Basic black? Sure. But Rad Pants also came in a knock-out colour palette over the years, including:

Atlantic Blue, Cinnamon Red Curry, Crimson, Black, Blue, BlueSpruce/Bluespruce, Deep Blue, Desert Red, Driftwood, Eggplant, Electric Blue, Green, Honey Beige, Jade, Marine Blue, Midnight Purple, Navy, Plum, Purple, Red, Royal, Royal Blue, Sage, Sea Green, Taupe, Teal and Turquoise.

Classic Rad Pants shot showing 6 people wearing 6 different colours of Rad Pants

They came in every colour of the Rad-bow

There was a whole “Rad program”

Rad Pants were just the beginning. There were also:

Rad Shorts, which hit the catalogue as A short built for radical action!”

Rad Shirts with features like, “a long front zip eases pulling over head gear and fuzz… and a lower kanga pocket for your roo.”

90s MEC catalogue images showing Rad Shorts and Rad Shirts

Coiling a climbing rope was a popular pose for Rad Shirt catalogue models.

Cotton Rad Pants with a “double bum, knit cuff, slash side pockets and wallet pocket all add up to a great, robust summer pants.” Note: we are still hazy on the benefits of a “double bum” feature.

Radfans I, II and III fanny packs. “These fannies are state-of-the-art,” was the cheeky catalogue caption. The Radfan III had a whopping 10.5L capacity (for context, that’s 3.5L larger than our current MEC 8-hr Sling).

90s MEC catalogue images showing the Radfans and cotton Rad Pants

The full Radfan family and cotton Rad Pants in Eggplant.

A story of tragic Rad Pant loss was immortalized

In the 1996 catalogue, we ran a story about a member and his Rad Pants:

“Rick is a high school science teacher and Head of the Marine Adventure Program at a school in Victoria. He’s been a MEC member for 22 years and paddles a Solander kayak from the Co-op, in which he carries numerous pairs of Rad Pants. He suffered a tragic loss in the summer of 1995 when he left a favourite pair of three-year-old Purple Rad Pants on a log in the Bowron Lakes. If you found them, please call his school at (604) 598-####. Rick really misses his pants.”

Early 90s MEC catalogue images showing MEC Rad Pants

1991 Rad Pants in Red (far left) and Green (far right).

They have many nicknames

They were originally launched as “the ultimate movement pant,” and have been called many things over the years – some by us, some by other people. A few stand-outs:

  • Baggier than a Shar-Pei puppy
  • Indestructible and relentlessly unisex
  • The Canadian national uniform (source)
  • High fashion in the Rockies (source)
  • The trousers of my heart (source)
  • MEC legend

#radpants is a thing

Rad Pants hit the scene 30 years ago and have transcended time. Browse the #radpants hashtag and there are some gems.

They’re true to their roots

View this post on Instagram

MEC Rad Pants in one of their natural habitats.

A post shared by Sarah Underhill (@saunderhill) on

… and great for being outside

… and will be with you for a long time.

Thanks for the memories, Rad Pant fans. We’re looking forward to many more.

Jumping people on a dock
MEC Staffer

A Canada-wide crew of adventurers, thinkers, doers, writers, photographers and people who love the outdoors.