Christmas is just around the corner. I have a fresh $100 dollar bill in my pocket, courtesy of my Christmas bonus. The wind is tossing my VW bus all over the road, keeping my speed down to a crawl. It is very cold – my girlfriend is wrapped up in a blanket, but I have no such luxury. My heater is a joke and I know it is going to be a very cold, long weekend in Joshua Tree so I stop at the local climber-owned gear shop.

“I’m looking for a pair of pants that will keep me warm, dry, and comfortable. Something I can climb in; something that I can hike all day in. It has to be durable and look sharp. Something for cold, windy winter pitches in Joshua Tree,” I tell the sales rep behind the counter.

She looks up from a shop copy of Alpinist 14, fresh off the printing presses (you know, the one with the radical Howser Tower report)? “Mountain Hardwear Winter Wander, on the rack behind you,” she says without even blinking.

I find a pair and upon first inspection they look like just what I need. The price tag reads about $90 and with tax the total is just shy of $100. It is a sign from on high! Five minutes later I am putting them on in my bus.

That was over five years ago now and since then these pants have been a constant companion on all my adventures. From the deserts of Joshua Tree and Red Rock to the alpine climbing in the Wasatch Mountain range and High Sierra, even canoeing down the Snake River these pants have not failed to impress me.

One of the most important aspects of outdoor wear, for me, is that it needs to be durable. All of my hiking and rock climbing pants have lasted one or two seasons, while the Winter Wander pants still look as good as they did the day I bought them! This is due, in part, to the TufStretch fabric the Winter Wander is made from. There are some small tears (the chaparral in Southern California can be brutal) but no worn holes. There even is not any color fading despite long term UV exposure over many years of use. The Micro-Chamois lining is incredibly soft and warm. In fact, if it is going to be over 60 degrees you probably will want to wear something else.

These pants are built for moving – the full length inseam gusset coupled with the four-way stretch nylon fabric ensures that these pants will not hold you back, even if you are groveling up a crumbling off-width stemming corner at 13,000 feet. The low profile waistband is super comfy too, even under a heavy pack. I have carried 40-plus pounds cross-country for miles while wearing these pants and have experienced zero discomfort. And if you get caught out in some light precipitation the Durable Water Repellant (DWR) finish will repel the moisture, keeping you dry and happy. Now, if it is pouring rain or you are hiking through wet waist-high brush you will probably want to put on your rain pants. The Winter Wander is not water proof; it is water resistant.

These are truly an amazing pair of pants for outdoor enthusiasts that find themselves avoiding trails and crowds in search of solitude and peace in the great outdoors. They are light, pack down super small, and are just as at home on the trail as they are at the local watering hole. When my current pair wears out I will go out and purchase another pair, but at this rate I will have awhile to wait.

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