When Arc’teryx released the Lithic Comp pant (well actually they’re technically bibs) last fall I was a bit skeptical as I’m not a big fan of bibs; I find that they tend to be hot on the up-track. However the promise offered by the combination of hardshell and shoftshell fabrics drew me in. The idea behind the pants is simple, waterproof breathable fabric where you need it and a thin softshell fabric where you don’t. What this means is that a proprietary softshell fabric (Trusaro) is used behind the knees and above the thigh pockets and a 3-layer Gore-tex fabric (N150p) is used everywhere else. This works great for ski touring as the softshell fabric helps shed a lot of moisture and heat while the hardshell protects against wet snow. Water will soak through the softshell fabric if it’s raining or you’re sitting on a wet chair lift though and is not very wind resistant which can be quite noticeable on windy ridges.
The pants have a total of three pockets. There are two cargo style pockets with a flap, one on each thigh, that are nicely sized for a map, logbook and other larger items. Above the right hand cargo pocket is a smaller zippered pocket which seems awkwardly placed given the cargo pocket it sits on top of. Unfortunately there is no transceiver pocket in the pants, a feature I like as it allows easier access to my transceiver for instructing or buddy checks and keeps the separation distance from my cell and radio. There are also no hip pockets which would be nice.
I really like the fit of these pants, they are not too baggy while allowing great freedom of movement.
There are two ventilation zippers on the outside of each thigh, each starts just above the knee. The top of the right hand side vent ends at the waist of the pants while the left hand side one continues up through the bib and facilitates putting the pants on and taking them off.
The bib is made of softshell fabric and held up by some thin suspenders. There are also some belt loops which would allow the suspenders to be removed or at least dropped down for a hot up track. One great feature of the pant is that the suspenders are easy to disconnect from the bib. This facilitates squatting for a shit in the bush by allowing the pants to be pulled down without taking off a bunch of jackets to get the suspenders off. The down side of this set-up is that the suspenders can come undone by themselves if not kept snug.
The fly for the Lithic Comp pants does not extend up into the bib. As the fly zipper does not have a pull cord and is hidden behind a flap of fabric it can be hard to find and typically requires two hands.
The pants have a small Keprotec instep patch to protect this high wear area that extends up the pant leg about 20cm. However, I found that folds would form above the patch, at the perfect height for it to catch on my crampons. While this is not a huge issue for people ski touring it can be problematic for ski mountaineers.
While I was a bit skeptical of the Lithic Comp pants at the start of the season because of the bib’s I quickly came around. The pants impressed me with how well they shed heat on the up-track while still keeping me dry in wet snow conditions. They’re also quite comfortable to wear and I found that I wasn’t in a hurry to take them off at the end of a day and so could be seen running errands in them after returning from a ski tour every once in a while. The pants quickly became my Go-To for ski touring in all but the wettest conditions though I do miss having a transceiver pocket. I favored pants with a better fitting ankle cuff when ski mountaineering.
Pros: Great fit, comfortable to wear, very breathable, well thought out.
Cons: No transceiver or hip pockets, crotch zipper is hard to find and grab & instep patch can catch on crampons… and it would be great if it came in grey, I like grey.
Overall: A fantastic ski touring pant with the breath-ability and comfort of a soft shell but with hardshell protection against wet snow. Great for ski touring in all kinds of conditions but not ideal for the ski hill or for ski mountaineering where boot crampons are needed for extended periods of time.
Note: The 2014-15 version of this pant had a seam allowance issue in the crotch that was easily warrantied (I had to warranty mine which is why I ended up with a blue pair). I’ve been told by Arc’teryx that this was corrected in the Spring of 2015 and so should no longer be an issue.
Photos by Bonny McIntyre.