Just arrived for review is a pair of lightweight trekking pants - or asking trousers as we Brits call 'em - from The North Face. They're light at under 300g for our test mediums, stretchy and pack down impressively small which should make them a good option for travel and lightweight backpacking when they could be backed up with a pair of shorts for wear on hotter days.
You could argue that they're effectively 'soft shell' as well thanks to a DWR (durable water resistant treatment) and a reasonable level of wind resistance. All of which, on paper, should make them good mountain all-rounders.
- £85 / 295g
- 85% Nylon and 15% elastane stretch Apex Aerobic fabric
- Durable Water Repellent Treatment
- Elasticated waist and elasticated belt
- Zip-fly and press-stud closure
- Zippered hand pockets
- Zippered thigh pocket
- Articulated knees
- 30, 32, 34, 36 and 38" waist
- Shorts version also available
- Women's specific variant in both shorts and pants
Stretchy non-membrane soft shell trousers like this generally make for excellent outdoors all-rounders, but what's nice about these is that thanks to the use of TNF's lightest soft shell fabric, Apex Aerobic, the Speedlights are also decently light and pack nice and small too.
They're not spartan though, you still get a lined waistband and a proper zip-fly and press-stud closure backed up with an elasticated belt. There are two zipped hand pockets too backed up with one of the currently modish horizontal thigh pockets. And while the cuffs are simple enough non-adjustable affairs, the knees have been gently articulated for ease of use.
All that's pretty standard on paper, but where the Speedlight Pants really stand out is in their unusually close fit. The fabric's light, smooth and stretchy and TNF has taken of advantage of that to use a cut which is genuinely snug pretty much everywhere. Not quite stretch Lycra close, but definitely at the huggy and narrow end of the spectrum.
That should be great for some uses: narrow legs all the way down mean you can see what your feet are doing on rocky scrambles and there's minimal flapping and bagging plus the close fit should mean better wicking. Because the fabric's so stretchy, there's no restriction to movement at all. If you can do the splits, then so can the trousers...
Other stuff we like includes the wind and water resistance, ideal for UK summer use and a generally soft and comfortable feel against the skin. One thing we'd be aware of is that fabrics with high elastane content can feel a little clammy in hot conditions and we'll be looking out for that. In current early summer conditions though, they feel fine.
The zipped pockets seem secure - the thigh one's surprisingly deep by the way, it finishes just above the knee - and so far we've had no issues with the press-stud and belt fastening - plenty of stretch in both as well, so you tend to fasten and leave alone rather than messing with the tension on the fly. And speaking of flies, it's nice on a pair of lightweight trousers, to have a proper, convenient zip for calls of nature.
These days there are plenty of lightweight stretch soft-shell-type trousers around, but the North Face Speedlight Pants stand out because of their combination of that super-close, almost clingy cut combined with excellent mobility thanks to the generous stretch in the fabric.
Add in decent wind and water resistance, three secure pockets and a reliable closure and zip-fly and they look like a good call for those who prefer their legwear light and close fitting.
See the TNF website at www.thenorthface.co.uk.