Mountain Hardwear Argon Ice 2010

Aimed at climbers and alpinists, in terms of design the Mountain Hardwear Argon Ice is also ideal for hill-walkers in many ways. It benefits from a curved rear zip so that loo stops can be made without having to drop the trousers. There is also stretch in the gusset and knee. Add in the lowest weight of those tested, and on paper these look ideal for scramblers and adventurous hill-walkers.

Design
As the name suggests the Mountain Hardwear Argon Ice trousers are designed with the ice-climber and alpinist in mind. To that end they are made to be light, comfortable and practical when you are strapped into a harness all day. The key feature is that drop-down seat, which allows rapid loo stops without having to remove much of your gear. The fly has a double zip too, to permit a rapid wee (if you’re a fella!) without stripping off your gear. But that stretch fabric also allows these to have a closer fit than average without restricting movement. There’s no gaiter in the ankle, but most alpinists and winter climbers will be wearing those anyway.

On the hill
The Mountain Hardwear Argon Ice overtrousers were very comfortable and fitted me really well. They were a slightly closer fit than some others and that little bit of stretch in them definitely helped them retain comfort when sitting for example. They don’t have braces to help keep them up though, which is surprising for such a technical pant. But there is a waistbelt that works well, although like some trousers if this ever comes unthreaded from its sleeve it will be quite hard to feed back though as these feature a belt tunnel rather than loops. There is some adjustment at the ankle cuff, which is useful, but as there is no internal gaiter these need to be worn with normal gaiters. I also appreciated the laminated areas around the inside of the ankle cuff to protect this area from crampon spikes. Generally I did find these a great overtrouser to walk in, and of course as they are lighter than the others they are better suited to carrying in a rucksack too. The price is high for the features offered by these trousers, which means you really need to want that drop seat coupled with the lighter weight to warrant paying the extra cash.

How waterproof?
Like the other trousers that have exposed water-resistant zips, the Mountain Hardwear Argon Ice overtrousers leaked at the knee flex point of the zip. (Some trousers have an internal stormflap and others have an external stormflap to prevent leaks here).

Outer Gore-Tex Pro Shell
Inner none
Fabric waterproofness extremely waterproof
Fabric breathability extremely breathable
Sizes S-XXL
Weight 412g (size L)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 11
Stockist details – tel. (01572) 724499; www.mountainhardwear.com

Verdict
The Mountain Hardwear Argon Ice overtrousers were the lightest in our test; drop seat; stretch fabric. But they were the highest price here; no internal gaiter; no braces; no women’s version. In summary, they are excellent trousers for alpinists and mountaineers, where light weight and only the essential features are required.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine February 2010