If you’re a Brit, you’d be forgiven for any confusion around the name of this garment. “Atomic Pants” implies some sort of radioactive underwear. These are in fact “Waterproof Over-trousers” but Montane clearly thought this more accurate title wouldn’t get past the marketing team, so Montane Atomic Pants it is.
I’ve never been that excited by waterproof trousers. I’ve always bought cheap, ill-fitting pairs to tick the ‘carrying the right kit’ box only to be miserable when they feel clammy, flap around in the wind and make that annoying rhythmic wheesh, wheesh, wheesh sound as the fabric rubs together in time with your stride.
Our fickle British weather makes a pair of waterproof trousers an essential piece of kit for the vast majority of hill walks. I needed to change my attitude and the Montane Atomic Pants have been the answer.
I was initially attracted to the price of these trousers. £90 gets you a decent-enough spec without paying silly money and you may even be able to find them cheaper online. Next was the size and weight. Hoping they’ll spend more time in rucksack than out, I want to forget I am carrying them. My initial few walks were kind in terms of weather and the Atomic Pants passed this test with flying colours. They weigh nothing and scrunch up small. About the size of a large mango, or maybe an average-sized papaya.
Their lightness makes them comfortable to wear. They slide effortlessly over a pair of trousers and you don’t get that usual claustrophobic feeling from wearing multiple layers on your legs. Despite the athletic fit, they offer plenty of room and freedom of movement when clambering around in the mountains. I particularly like Montane’s description of a ‘diamond crotch gusset for ease of movement’. I don’t know what a diamond crotch gusset is but can vouch for the lack of snagging in this area.
There’s an elastic drawstring around the waist. It feels a little flimsy but holds the trousers in the right place. I am a little worried about breaking this but Montane back their products up with a lifetime guarantee, so hopefully it won’t ever be a problem. It would have been nice to see belt loops for additional support but the trousers don’t ride up (or fall down) so I’ve not missed this.
By far my favourite thing is the fit on the leg. You can adjust the volume of fabric on the lower leg with a handy velcro calf strap and there are a couple of press-studs at the base of the leg too. These trousers match your contours perfectly and don’t flap around in the wind or catch your muddy boot from the opposite foot as you walk.
The zips run pretty much all the way up the leg, making putting these on over muddy boots a doddle. You can also unzip from the top, giving you multiple options for venting as the rains ease. The vents also give you limited access to your trouser pockets beneath. This is useful, as the Montanes don’t have any pockets themselves. This doesn’t bother me but it could be something to think about.
On Winter walks, I’ve found myself keeping these trousers on for the duration of my outings, rather than using them only for wetter periods. They keep the chill off the legs and are useful when walking through wet grass. I’ve found the breathability to be more than acceptable for the price and, even on warmer days, the zips allow you to vent any sweatiness.
I wore these on a typically wet and windy Lakeland day in Winter and the water beaded nicely across the Pertex Shield fabric, keeping my clothes bone dry underneath. I suspect monsoon-like conditions in the Scottish Highlands might be more of a challenge for the Atomic Pants but to get adequate protection in those environments you’d be looking at a considerable weight (and price) penalty. For the average hill walker who expects to keep these in their pack more often than not, they are perfectly fine.
I’ve really enjoyed my first few trips with the Montane Atomic Pants and am now a convert to the merits of waterproof over-trousers. Montane as a company has been impressing me more and more. I bought mine directly from their website and everything arrived beautifully packaged with the paperwork sealed in a black, branded envelope. This gives an impression of a company that cares about its products, even if it is just a simple marketing trick.
I’d definitely recommend these waterproof trousers. They offer excellent performance at a sensible price and you can easily throw them into a rucksack without a second thought. The athletic style is perfect for a wide range of outdoor activities and there is enough adjustment to ensure a comfortable fit for all body shapes. Just a shame about the misleading name!