Overtrousers, some people hate them, other people swear by them. When the heavens open, as seems to be the case every other day at the moment, I take a look at RAB’s Bergen trousers. They look good, but do they perform?
I seem to be going through a RAB clothing collection phase at the moment! It isn’t surprising really since RAB make incredibly high quality outdoor clothing and equipment. It is clear that the people who design RAB clothing actually participate in the activities in which they are designing their range for.
I’ve been through more waterproof trousers in my time than hot dinners, mainly through trying to find ones that a) fit well, b) able to withstand punishment, and c) able to actually breath well. I realise that some people absolutely hate them, either because of clammy condensation build up, or because they sometimes bind on any clothing worn underneath.
However I generally find overtrousers to be invaluable in the UK, especially in the last year or so when it seems to have been raining almost continuously! Cheap overtrousers can definitely be a pain. The cheaper styles often do not have any knee articulation which causes them to ride up during high steps. Often they have open waist pockets to allow you to access your main trouser pockets. The only thing this does of course invite water in, especially if, like me, you prefer a shorter jacket style.
Furthermore cheap overtrousers often do not have the ability to unzip enough at the hem to allow you to put them on easily over clumping great hiking boots in the field. Lastly cheap overtrousers are not exactly made from the most breathable material. In fact quite often they are not breathable at all. Lastly many people complain that they make too much noise. So all in all it is not surprising that overtrousers often have a bad reputation.
Now, unless you go out in a lot of really wet weather a lot, an expensive pair of overtrousers probably isn’t neccesary. Cheap ones will do just fine for the occasional downpour, as will a pair of dedicated hiking trousers treated with a water repellent coating.
But quite often I will spend prolonged periods in torrential downpours either due to my work, or because I find the hills to be rather emptier in bad weather! Indeed I am odd in that I actually prefer walking in that type of weather! There’s less people willing to go out so I find that I can escape more, especially since the area in which I live is a sort of mecca for Rambler types!
So I invested in a pair of RAB Bergen overtrousers. The reviews I had read previously for them were very good indeed so I was expecting a lot from them.
The Bergen pants are made from eVent, in my experience the only waterproof fabric worth bothering with. It actually does do what the manufacturer claims that it does, and the quality control for eVent garments is exceptionally high. I have taken my other eVent clothing through multiple washes and as long as I rinse them properly the water still beads right off, even if I don’t reproof with Nikiwax reproofer.
With the first generation Bergens I found them to feel a little tight, and the leg length was a little short. I tend to have a small waist, but a long inside leg. So for the 2010 version I bought a medium. The waist draws tight, and the leg length is much more suited to me. I do wish that Rab would make multiple lengths available.
The 2010 Bergens are slightly heavier and baggier than the first generation version, though not excessively so. There is a double articulation on the knee so they do not ride up as you lift your legs to climb over stiles etc. The knees sections are also now made of tougher material, so abrasion will not be a problem there.
As long as your main trousers are not too thick and baggy you will soon forget that you are wearing the Bergens. In fact even with thicker clothing I soon forgot that I was wearing them.
Putting the Bergens on is very easy. There is a waterproof zip that runs almost the full length of the legs. Not only is this zip sealed when done up, but internally there is also a protective flap just case any water does get in.
The leg zip has two zippers. One at the top and one that zips to the bottom of the leg to seal the trouser. The top zipper resides underneath a protective rain cover that stops any moisture from entering via any gaps in the zip. This can also be zipped down to provide ventilation.
Noise wise the Bergens are generally quieter than other overtrousers. But I have also found that the more I have used and washed them, the quieter they have become. In fact now they barely make much noise at all.
The Bergens do not have any pockets as this would compromise waterproofness. However you can easily access your main trouser pockets by using the top leg zip.
To conclude I would highly recommend the RAB Bergen overtrousers if you spend a lot of time in wet weather. They may be overkill if you only need them for occasional use, but personally I wouldn’t use anything less now unless I was doing really mucky work with my day job.
They work, and are so breathable I can wear them without discomfort all day, even if it only threatens to rain. On summers days when the rain sets in for most of the day they can easily be worn comfortably as a layer on their own because they breath so well. They don’t make much noise after a few washes, and with their more active fit they do not look like overt overtrousers either. In other words they look great and you can wear them without feeling that you look like you are wearing some bin liners over your legs. Recommended.