One of my earliest influences in the mountains was an Outward Bound instructor named Miles Becker. He took me to the North Cascades as an immature 13 year old and then again the following summer. They were some of the most significant experiences of my life. Over the next few years we became friends and partners on a few other outings and he got further into my head.
Miles had a strict wilderness ethic that he ingrained in all his students. I eagerly adopted it. He was also a student of classic mountaineering literature and lore and an avid photographer. But most significant was his futuristic vision of fast and light even though the concept was barely understood at the time. I remember him waxing romantically about the virtues of spinnaker cloth - an extremely light, tightly woven fabric from which boat sails are made. He fashioned a frameless touring pack out of the stuff which weighed one, yes, 1, pound and fit into the palm of his hand. Try and find something like that today. We toured for 7 days in the high Sierras and his pack weighed 25 lbs at the trail head.
Ever since then I knew that if my gear was to be just as I wanted it, I'd need to learn to sew. Well, a few years back I got a sewing machine and have been slowly tinkering away, making little adjustments here and there, correcting the design flaws in gear as I see them ever since. And when I chicken out, I find someone more skilled to make the changes for me.
When it comes to outdoor pants, I'm usually disappointed, mainly because I've a 35 inch inseam and a 32 inch waist. No one makes pants to fit that combo. I used to curse Yvon Chouinard and his stubby legs, saying that Patagonia used his body dimensions for the pattern of their pants. Probably not true but he's still a stubby fellow.
Anyway, with my new tailoring chops, I can finally have pants that fit better. And while I'm at it, I can add other features that make sense and might be handy to readers.
Dynafit Movement Pants
As you know, I favor ski touring clothes that breathe well and fit closely, inspiring non-stop aerobic travel through the mountains on skis. In this country, we don't have many choices and sampling offerings from European catalogs is expensive and a bit of a crap shoot. Dynafit makes a classic Euro-style touring pant that fits my needs. Well, almost. Actually, they need a fair amount of help but the basic idea is there.
The fit is snug but not Lycra tight. There're some wind panels around the knees that are nice. They have stirrups at the bottom and ready-to-be-cut-out openings at the cuff to accomodate TLT or Scarpa race-style cuff levers. All good. But that's where the designers stopped.
My issues with them are as follows:
- Draw string waist which doesn't really snug up that well. Need a belt here.
- No fly. Really? Are these women's pants? Go ahead, flame away!
- Too short inseam, of course.
- Cuff is a bit tight to get over bigger touring boots. I added a Intuition liner to my TLT 5's and the cuff was a struggle to pull over the boot.
- Only one side hand pocket.
Making Them Right
The first task of adding a belt with cool sewn openings and putting a fly in is an advanced manuever that I don't feel competent to take on. The pants are $200 and don't want to trash them with a hack job. So, I easily found a tailor up to the task. Turned out great.
The stuff at the cuff was more straight forward. First, I wanted to add about 3 inches to the inseam. Simple enough. Adding some width to the cuff circumference was trickier but I managed. The results are nice. Pretty much exactly what I wanted.
This area sees a lot of abuse so you can see lots of Seam Grip in use down there.
One mod I adopted from skimo racing involves keeping the cuff buckle openings in place. There's nothing more panic inducing during a race than failing to get your boots to lock into downhill mode at a transition. I've seen lots of Duct tape used to fix this issue. Never seemed that elegant to me.
My solution is to Seam Grip some Velcro strips to my boots at key places and then mate them with the same on the inside of the buckle openings. This keeps the fabric right where it needs to be, ensuring a seamless transition. Pretty slick.
So, if you've ever cursed some aspect of your gear and wished you could change it. You can. You're gonna wish you took Home Economics afterall. - Brian