Surviving the great outdoors is based on weather conditions and more importantly, how prepared you are for the weather. Outer layers normally comprise of a hard shell or similar garment which focuses on repelling the elements and keeping the body dry. Another element which is normally neglected about hard shell trousers are that they are also designed to be windproof and help contain warm air within the layers of clothing being worn.
BE-X has been designing clothing with a focus on breath-ability and water repellent properties which do not require excessive maintenance or waterproofing. With a military focus, these products have been tried and tested alongside the military market, but also very relevant for civilians who hunt, hike and work in wet environments.
One of these many products is the BE-X FronTier One Hardshell Trousers which is designed for military and civilian use in all season use. The trousers are part of a combination of products which use the same technologies and are designed to be used together.
The hard shell trousers are only available in Alpha Green and use a very high quality laminate to address both the requirements of water resistance and breathability. Unlike most general laminates, the laminate used by BE-X is more breathable and provides good heat insulation without creating sweat build up on the body.
As previously mentioned, the hard shell trousers are made out of a polyester laminate which is designed to 10,000 MVP which is double what most generic laminates value at 5000. This is mostly evident during long weather situations where high rain and low temperatures can lead to the body sweating where as other laminates would generally circum to causing the body to sweat due to reduced breathability in the laminate.
The trousers are designed to cover the inner trouser which provides protection for the lower half of the body, from the belt down to the boot. The style cut of the legs are slightly baggy to accommodate for different trousers of varying thickness. These trousers are supposed to be worn as over pants however they can be worn as regular trousers.
The waistline of the trousers are adjustable with velcro fasteners on either side of the waist. The front zipper is water repellent YKK and is closed at the top with a button, and there are 5 belt loops across the waist of the trousers. There are two side pockets which are quite shallow and accessible from side angles. The trousers have 2 back pockets which are secured by velcro and have a flat profile when not laden. There are also two large leg cargo pockets with both velcro and poppers on either side of the overlapping flaps. None of these pockets have a drainage system to filter out water if there is a leak in any of the pockets. All seams in the trousers are welded with PTFE and somewhat reinforced by this action.
There is substantial light knee padding from the top of the knee down to the shins on both legs which is non accessible and sewn into the lining. As is with the knee padding, there is also reinforced material across the heel of the trousers to deal with any shoe bite that may occur during use. There are water repellent YKK zips across the sides which include velcro adjustment straps at the boot and elastic boot retainers which can be worn on the inside or outside of the shoe. The hard shell trousers are very streamlined and are designed to be easily stored when not being used. The colour is the same throughout the outside with both sets of pockets over flapped with zips that are also flapped with the same colour overall.
It is unfortunate that the trousers are only available in one colour, however it is nice to see that the colour chosen is the best colour variant for use in most environments and is accepted by most military outfits. It would be nice to see more colour variants appear on the market as it’s sure to attract more interest in black, white and khaki.
The inside of the trousers are focused on helping with the insulation of the outside so there’s little comfort padding or soft material for bare skin. This is not an issue as this is the outer layer and is designed to be worn over mid layers and base layers. We do not recommend wearing shorts as it negates insulation effectiveness and may not be as comfortable on the legs after prolonged use.
Overall the trousers look very practical and functional and the material is streamlined to reduce weight, however the creases of the material don’t make the trousers as visually appealing. The trousers are not overly form fitting due to a lack of elastics which lead to baggy areas around the body. The trousers seem to have been designed more for function and somewhat ignore what other brands would sacrifice for visual appeal.
The main function of these hard shell trousers are to provide a water repellent outer layer with protection for all seasons against the elements. This is supposed to be a solution for long term skirmishes in extreme environments and is focused on being very lightweight. The male velcro on the waist feels to be done wrong when it comes to securing the adjustment straps as it tends to catch and fray on other clothing that could overlap it. Simple swapping the velcro to be on the fasteners instead of the waist would remedy what would potentially ruin other garments being worn.
Focusing on water repellent properties, the trousers are able to repel heavy downpour of rain and sleet for extended periods of time. The seams across the trousers hold very well as they are welded from the inside with PTFE. The knee padding is also quite well designed as the padding covers most of the knee cap regardless of the positioning of the body. We have tested to see what a leak in the trousers will do, most of the water does end up at the bottom of the leg but some water retains in little areas such as the PTFE seams and the zipper linings. A good mid layer should soak up these leaks and use the insulated heat to evaporate it alongside the body’s sweat.
The next focus is on the breathability of the fabric during prolonged use. Initially there were issues with overheating in the trousers when in a warm climate as the trousers do too good a job at insulating body heat. This issue was ill founded as the trousers do not need to be worn fully closed where there is no rain or wind force. This scenario was retested in rain and was less of an issue due to the increased humidity of the environment.
Testing the trousers in a more obvious scenario such as cold and wet climates, has allowed them to prove themselves as a very capable hard shell outer layer. The trousers keeps the body warm and prevents as much of the outside as possible from the inner layers of clothing. As tested with the rain, the hard shell is also very good in contact with snow and with small streams of water.
Other elements of the trousers’ functions are also the storage capability of the product and maintenance. The hard shell trousers packages already packed in a sack to demonstrate its storage capabilities. The trousers weigh 564 g (dry or wet) and when packed with the 28 g sack weighs fully at 592 g stored. The overall stored package is quite compact and can be stored on the inside or outside of a backpack.
The trousers are recommended to be washed in luke warm water (no higher than 30c) with a mild soap as to not damage the laminate with cleaning chemicals. The garment is to then dry naturally with only gentle heating (no tumble dryer) having been cleansed of any and all chemicals or soap residue. This cleaning process may include the administering of a DWR coating from time to time to retain effective breathability.
The trousers have been tested in many scenarios over a long period of time and has only faltered when forced. The laminate is very robust as it has a light stretch to prevent tear and has not frayed after testing in the different environments. The zips have also not shown any wear from use and have not damaged the laminate.
The elastics have stayed the same as when first tested and the velcro panels have not frayed from repeated use. We tested quite a few different velcro patches to see how tough the velcro adjustment panels were and found that even the most aggressive hook and loop patches have only slightly frayed the panels when repeatedly attached and unattached. Overall, the trousers have retained a relatively new appearance from beginning to end of the test period.
This trousers costs in average of just over £100~ which brings it to a mid tier cost item amongst competitors. The cheaper brands such as North Face Resolve Trousers at £40~ being form fitting but more focused on light exposure to the elements and aesthetics. The more expensive brands sitting at over £500 such as Arc’teryx which are a mixture of performance, design and branding to the cost of sale.
The BE-X FronTier Hard Shell Trousers are a good compromise which sits in the lower mid tier of hard shell trousers with a very strong functional element which caters to the military and more practical enthusiasts than those who want style over functional design. If you are looking for a pair of trousers to wear on a gentle walk, these trousers are more than qualified and may be more expensive than required. However, if your office is the great outdoors and you care little for style and aesthetics, these trousers are a very affordable option with a proven background in military use. For those who want to show off their brand and look good wearing it, the more expensive variety of hard shells may be the best option.