Initial Report - Ibex Guide Lite Pants - Rebecca
- Ibex Guide Lite Pants
November 1, 2004
Name: Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd
Location: Los Altos, CA
Height: 5'5" (1.65 m)
Weight: 130 lb (59 kg)
I began backpacking in the summer of 2000 after moving to California. It
was something I had always wanted to do, but I had only car-camped with my
family while growing up in Michigan. My husband (then fiance) and I picked
up the hobby together, and the past three years have been a learning
experience for us both. Originally, we picked up most of our gear without
much knowledge about what was best for what we wanted. I am now in the
process of re-evaluating my entire backpacking setup to lower my pack
weight, make camp tasks more efficient, and be more comfortable in the
In addition to backpacking, we've become avid day hikers, snowshoers, snow
campers, and peak-baggers. I spend time outside during weekends year-round
in the deserts and mountains of California. Our weekend hikes are often
'spur-of-the-moment', and usually occur in and around Yosemite National
Park, Desolation Wilderness (near Lake Tahoe), and Sonora Pass in the Sierra
Nevada mountains, as well as Lassen National Park and Mt. Shasta area in the
Name: Guide Lite Pant
Manufacturer website: www.ibexwear.com
Year of Manufacture: 2004
Listed Weight: 18.2 oz (average)
Measured weight: 16.5 oz (womens small)
The Ibex Guide Lite pants are an elastic waisted pull-on pair of pants made
from Climawool, Ibex's proprietary softshell fabric. Softshell pants allow
me to get away with a single layer of clothing that provides what it
normally takes two layers to do - insulation and wind/water repellency.
Softshell is also remarkably more breathable than typical winter wear,
preventing the build up of clammy sweat. Although it doesn't provide 100%
water protection or extreme insulation, softshell technology is ideal while
active. It eliminates uncomfortable bulky and thick multiple layers,
allowing me to move more easily on skis and snowshoes.
The Guide Lites have a simple design with an elastic pull-on waist, two
zippered front pockets, and zippered expandable panels at the ankle to
accommodate bulky boots. Softshell pants like these have become my favorite
bottoms of choice for winter activates such as snowshoeing and skiing, and
the Guide Lite Pants fit the mold of my 'perfect winter activewear'. They
have a lot of expectation to live up to over the next six months!
Throughout the winter months in California I will be visiting the Sierra and
Cascade mountains regularly. I do many snowshoe and cross country ski day
trips, and also do a few snow camping overnighters. Some days are spent on
easy strolls/skis through the woods where barely a sweat is broken, and
other days are spent on strenuous treks to mountaintops. Sometimes the wind
is howling, the snow is blowing, and temperatures are subfreezing, and other
days the sun is shining and the temperature is warm and springlike.
Fortunately, here in California we're not stuck with snow all the time. I
also spend the winter months hiking in the local lower-altitude mountains
through drippy redwood forests and overgrown brush covered hillsides. I
love to visit the coastal parks in the winter, such as Point Reyes National
Seashore, where conditions can be foggy and damp or sunny and warm. The
winter also ushers in the desert hiking season, where it is common to do
off-trail treks through the brush and rocks while temperatures and
conditions aren't quite as miserable as they are in the dead of summer.
Description and Website
The Ibex Guide Lite pants arrived in a simple envelope and folded neatly in
a plastic bag. Attached were two hangtags detailing the features of the
Climawool material with which the pants are constructed. Climawool is
Ibex's proprietary softshell, made with a blend of cordura, lycra, and
merino wool. Like most softshells, this material is advertised as being
"extremely durable, highly breathable...designed to offer cold-weather
performance, while maintaining superior temperature regulation when skiing,
climbing, or backcountry touring." The exterior of the pants feels exactly
like all other softshell materials I own, but it differs significantly on
the inside. Ibex integrates merino wool into the otherwise typical nylon
softshell, giving the interior of the pants a softer feel than the exterior.
It is not a separate layer, but it feels different enough that upon first
feeling it I thought it was a separate layer entirely.
I found the Ibex website to be clean and professional in its presentation,
and had no problem navigating through it regardless of which browser I used.
There are different entry points to get to the Guide Lite pant information;
it can be accessed via the Climawool link or via the Shop link. By logically
navigating to Womens -> Pants, I see the Guide Lites listed on a page with
eight other models of Ibex womens pants. Clicking on the Guide Lite pants
brings up the info panel on these specific pants on the right side of the
page, while leaving a photo list of all nine pant designs on the left,
making it easy to click on another type to compare details. The small panel
contains a good amount of information - a photo (which I wish was clearer -
since the pants are black the details do not stand out too well), a sizing
chart link, and three tabs - one each for 'description', 'specs', and 'best
Upon inspecting these pants I saw that they were exactly as expected. Ibex
makes an obviously high quality product and the stitching and attention to
detail is fantastic. There is one location where the stitching is 'off',
with an extra row of stitching connecting nothing sewn into the pants (see
photo). One of my favorite small features are the pull tabs on the zippers.
They have little foam inserts sewn in for grip, hopefully making them easy
to operate with gloves. In addition, there is a panel of the Climawool
fabric behind the ankle zippers. This means there will be no cold zipper
against my skin, and snow can be kept out when adjusting boots and gaiters.
In fact, the only feature of these pants that I dislike is the belt buckle,
which I have discussed below in the 'Fit' section.
Ordering these pants sight unseen, I had to rely on Ibex's sizing charts in
order to figure out my size. Having not owned Ibex clothing in the past,
nor even tried their clothing on in stores, I couldn't make an assumption on
the fit as I might do if familiar with their clothing. Therefore I relied
100% on the sizing chart posted on the Ibex website.
At the time of this writing, Ibex has nine different pairs of women's pants
on their website, and the sizing chart is the same for all of them. In
other words, the sizing chart is exactly the same for their tight base
layers as it is for loose fitting pants. The Guide Lites are described as
having a semi-fit cut, so I was comfortable choosing my size based on the
sizing chart, assuming that semi-fit would be a nice middle between tight
and loose. If I were choosing sizes for a tight or loose fitting pant I may
have been more uncomfortable with this 'one-size-fits-all' type sizing
With respect to pants, there are four measurement categories that I needed
to measure: Normal Size, Waist, Hip, and Inseam. In this order, my
measurements are: 4-6, 28 in, 36.5 in, 30.5 in. My normal size, hip, and
inseam all fall squarely within the middle of the size small. However, my
waist is right in the middle of the medium range. Knowing that the waist of
these pants is elasticized, and therefore would be the most flexible of the
four measurements, I felt comfortable choosing a size small. However, I
expected that if there were any troubles with the fit, it would likely be in
the waist measurement.
Of course, the first thing I did when receiving the pants was try them on.
Details could be saved until later. The first thing I noticed was that
there is no fly to these pants and they pull on much like a pair of
sweatpants - the waist is entirely elastic and there is a webbing belt to
tighten them as needed (providing the same function as a drawstring on
sweatpants). The elastic in the waist is rather stiff and the webbing length
for the belt does not provide a lot of wiggle room. The problem with this is
that although my hip measurement is right in the middle of their small
range, it is very difficult to pull the pants over my hips. The elastic in
the waist will only stretch so far, and right now the elastic barely
stretches to the width of the hip measurement. This led to some hilarious
wiggling and writhing the first time I tried to put them on. Perhaps this
will change as the elastic waist is broken in, but right now it is very
The main cause of the wiggling was the belt - the elastic waist stretches a
sufficient amount to pull the pants on (just barely), but the webbing for
the belt is way too short. If I have the belt at its loosest, it is still
much smaller than the maximum stretch for the elastic and much, much smaller
than the hips. My hip measurement is 36.5". The integrated webbing belt, at
its loosest, is 31". I have to unstring the webbing from the belt buckle,
pull the pants up, then restring the belt. This is already frustrating, and
I've only worn them around for a few hours (after drinking a few bottles of
water, meaning many bathroom trips). Just another inch or two of length
would save me this trouble. Or, ideally it would be a different type of
buckle mechanism. Below are three photos - the first shows the belt on the
Guide Lites, and the second two show the type of buckle that I would like to
see on these pants as it would make putting them on and taking them off
much, much easier! Every time I put them on or take them off I have to
restring the buckle - I wish it were a clip!
Given the struggle it took to pull them over my hips the first time I made
the reactionary judgment that they were too small. However, once they were
on they fit like a glove. The waist, though snug, is not too tight and I
have a couple of extra inches available in the webbing belt. The hips and
legs fit like they were made just for my body. The length is just right -
they hit just below my ankles - short enough that I won't be walking on
them, but long enough that they cover the top of my boots. I find it odd
that I have a difficult time putting on a pair of pants that fit so well
once they are in place. I will save the layering experiment for my Field
I considered exchanging these for a Medium, but I don't want to sacrifice
the great fit once they are on in the interest of making them a bit easier
to pull on. To me, the great fit once they are on is the most important part
of the experience. And, I expect the pants to 'break in' and not be too much
of a problem in the long run - much like putting on a pair of freshly washed
vs worn and softened jeans. I will definitely explore this in the Field and
Long Term reports.
I will be keeping the following questions in my mind as the test period
Comfort and Functionality -
Comfort of elastic waist band and built in belt - does it pinch? How does
it feel under a pack belt with a large snowcamping weight in the pack?
I like my winter activewear pants to be sleek without unnecessary bulk,
but at the same time I should be able to add a base layer for really cold
days. How comfortable are these with another layer?
I intend to be active in these - do they restrict movement? Under what
conditions are they too warm? Too cool? How do they cut wind and
precipitation? How well do they breathe? I don't want pants soaked with
sweat when stopping for a break in the snow - otherwise I will chill too
Are they good in and around camp once I'm not moving, or do I need
additional and immediate insulation?
How does the Climawool material feel against my skin? Wool can be itchy,
but so far this material feels quite soft and nice.
Ankle zips - can I take off the pants over boots/shoes/down booties to help
keep me dry and warm in camp (preventing unnecessary exposure)?
Zippered hand warmer pockets - will they interfere with a pack belt?
I won't always be wearing these in the snow - cool and rainy conditions
exist down here out of the mountains, so these would be worn as regular old
hiking pants too. How durable are they in the brush?
Crampons/snowshoes can lead to accidental damage. I'm tough on pants -
both with dirt and with my gear. Not that I'd do that to the Guide Lite
pants on purpose, but I'm klutzy enough that it could easily happen during
the test period.
Ease of ownership -
How well do these wash? Will I notice a diminished quality in these pants
the more often I wash them?
Do they stink? Wool can smell when it gets wet...am I going to stink up
the car on the long drive home after getting soaked with wet snow on an
afternoon ski trip (I admit it - I fall down a lot)?
The snow is starting to fall in the Sierra, and I am really excited for the
start of the ski and snowshoe season. I expect to put these pants through a
lot this winter and should be able to report thoroughly on their
performance, comfort, and durability. They have already taken up a regular
place in my wardrobe and I haven't even made it out to the snow yet!