During the 2015/16 Scottish Winter season I have been using Patagonia’s flagship waterproof pant the Super Alpine Bib. They are made in the recently updated 40 denier Goretex Pro fabric with DWR finish and distinct micro grid interior that they describe as ‘optimizing breathability’. I haven’t felt the slightest bit sweaty whilst wearing the bibs even when working hard in mild conditions. As I haven’t even thought about this issue which we often suffer from in Scotland (warm & wet) the fabric has obviously done its job without me noticing – a good thing. Some of this success is down to using a strip of stretchy softshell material around the lower back, the area most likely to work up a sweat carrying a pack. This small attention to detail also allows that little bit more dexterity whilst climbing and doesn’t compromise the products weather resistance as it sits high underneath a jacket. Does the grid type interior make a significant difference; I am not sure. Greater benefits of this feature might be experienced in a warmer Alpine environment.
Despite the fact Patagonia managed to decrease the overall weight (572g) from the current version of the Super Alpine Bibs, they still have a very protective feel about them. They handle wet conditions well and are still beading after many days in the wet Scottish mountains. I have managed to put a hole in one of the knees whist direct belaying against a sharp rock. I don’t think many fabrics would have fared differently, but thankfully Patagonia offer an exceptional repair service which I will take advantage of once the season has finished.
The crampon kick strips are constructed of a thicker 210 denier fabric and rise higher up the inside of the leg than my previous Patagonia waterproof pants. I’m a big fan of this and would like to see it even higher on future models, possibly to the inside of the knee. The lower leg is also well tapered decreasing the amount of excess fabric around the ankle area, making it less likely to catch a crampon or ski edge. The lower legs also sport internal gaiters, shock-cord adjustments and tie-down loops.
Knees are articulated and the upper leg allows room for a winter baselayer underneath. The two thigh pockets are superb, big enough to house a mobile phone, cut down map, compass or energy bars and constructed to sit flush whilst not in use. Full length watertight zips, drop seat configuration and stretchy adjustable suspenders complete the package.
As with many outdoor products we pay more for less these days. A few years ago a price tag of £450 would be eye watering but today this figure sits in and around various brands top spec garments. The fabric is well designed and used thoughtfully in the construction of the Super Aline Bib. They are cut for climbing and skiing which makes a versatile piece of equipment that somewhat softens the pricetag as they can be used for a variety of adventures. If I was to improve the Bib specifically for UK use, they would have a higher kickstrip on the inside leg and heavier denier fabric on the knee’s and seat due to the amount of time spent sitting and kneeling whilst winter mountaineering in the UK. However, the Super Alpine Bibs are designed as a do anything, anywhere garment. You are as likely to see them skiing off Himalayan summits to thrashing up a wet ice around Scotland!