Mountain Equipment Makalu Waterproof Trousers | Review - Outdoors Magic

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Mountain Equipment Makalu Waterproof Trousers | Review

These protective overtrousers are some of the first on the market to feature Gore’s new ePE waterproof-breathable membrane, which is free from harmful PFCs

Let’s face it, waterproof overtrousers are not the world’s most exciting bit of outdoor kit. They do an important job, namely, to keep your lower half dry in the hills and mountains or out on the trail – but few people rave about how good their rain pants are.

True to form, Mountain Equipment’s Makalu trousers are typically understated. They come in one colour, black, the standard hue for most walking overtrousers. They look practical, sturdy and reliable – but not that exciting. Or are they? Because as it happens, they are made from a pretty nifty fabric. It’s standard three-layer Gore-Tex in a sturdy 75D fabric. But it also has an important USP when it comes to sustainability…


The headline here is that, just like the latest version of the Mountain Equipment Makalu  waterproof shell, these trousers now use Gore-Tex’s new, more sustainable ePE fabric, along with a PFC-free durable water repellent finish that ensures reliable performance with less environmental impact. To explain this innovation, we need to get a bit science-y.

OM editor Will wearing the trousers in size M reg. Will is 5 foot 10 and has a 32-inch waist. Photos: Dave Macfarlane

Gore-Tex is a waterproof-breathable membrane made from a very thin layer of ePTFE, or expanded polytetrafluoroethylene. This is then bonded or laminated to a face fabric, usually made of nylon or polyester, finished with a DWR (durable water-repellent) treatment to help rain bead and roll off the surface of the fabric. On the reverse of the membrane, another layer is applied to protect the membrane from abrasion and contamination. There are various different types of Gore-Tex fabrics on the market, which differ slightly in their layered constructions, but up until now all have been made from ePTFE.

This is an issue because ePTFE contains PFCs – perfluorinated compounds, sometimes called fluorocarbons. These are long-chain polymers that bio-accumulate in the environment and in organisms. In other words, they never break down, which has led to them being dubbed ‘forever chemicals’.

The outdoor industry is now slowly phasing out PFCs. The problem is that since they are so effective at making garments repel water, it has been challenging to find non-environmentally harmful alternatives that work as well. The first step was to find DWR treatments that did not reply on PFCs. This has now been largely achieved. The next aim was to eliminate PFCs from the waterproof membranes themselves. As a result, many brands have turned to or developed alternative PU-based waterproof-breathable membranes, since these can easily be manufactured without PFCs.

But Gore-Tex has been the market leader in waterproof fabrics for nearly half a century, and it’s not about to give that position up without a fight. Since Gore’s core technology is built on ePTFE-based membranes, they have been working very hard to find a new and different solution.

The result is Gore-Tex ePE, made from expanded polyethylene. It is completely free from what Gore refers to as PFCECs, or ‘PFCs of environmental concern’. Otherwise, it’s been designed to be just as durable, waterproof and breathable as standard Gore-Tex, whilst being lighter and more pliable, with a lower carbon footprint.

“An excellent choice for environmentally conscious outdoorsy types.”

Gore aims to roll this new technology out in the coming years. You can expect to see it throughout product lines from 2024 onwards. But so far, only a few brands have been able to get their hands on Gore-Tex ePE for AW23 – and Mountain Equipment is one of them.

The Makalu trousers are one of the British brand’s first Gore-Tex ePE products. They are three-layer Gore-Tex overtrousers with a 75D face fabric – plenty tough enough for winter use, yet comfortable enough for year-round wear too. They weigh just over 350g and are packable enough to stuff in a hillwalking backpack when not required.


Three-layer Gore-Tex ensures these trousers are far less clingy than 2- or 2.5-layer alternatives. As well as superior comfort, they should also offer improved performance in terms of breathability. That means you should feel less sweaty, which is always a good thing when you’re forced to don overtrousers.

The Makalu trousers also use a 75-denier face fabric, which is tough enough for all-season use without feeling overly thick or heavy. In fact, these trousers weigh just 360g, which ensures they’re light and packable.

They have an active fit with articulated knees and a gusseted crotch for better freedom of movement. An integrated elasticated waistband with a drawcord keeps them where they should be.

When it comes to practicality, they also feature 2-way ¾ length YKK water-resistant zips with an internal storm flap. This not only ensures you can pull them on quickly – vital if the heavens are about to open – but also gives you versatile ventilation on the hill.

All in all, the Makalu trousers make an excellent choice for environmentally conscious outdoorsy types, whether you’re a hillwalker, a mountaineer or a climber.

Mountain Equipment Makalu Gore-Tex Trousers

Selected for the Outdoor 100 Winter 23/24
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