Prana trousers (or ‘pants’ if you must) have become a staple part of the climber’s wardrobe over the last 20 years. They may have ditched the little diamond logo on the leg, but right now they seem as popular as ever. I’ve had various different models and tend to go back to Prana rather than other brands like E9 or Moon because I find they fit me better. Here, I’m going to give you a detailed run down of one of my current go-to climbing trousers – the Stretch Zion. I’m not going to pretend that your choice of legwear will have the kind of dramatic effect on your climbing that, say, a different pair of shoes might. There are definitely more important bits of kit and you can of course go climbing in any old trousers. Yet a well-designed pair will make a noticeable difference and give you the freedom and confidence to move well.
This isn’t true of some of the heavier drill cotton trousers which look great but tend to restrict on high steps or wide heel and toe hooks. The great thing about the Stretch Zion pant is hinted at in the name. These are not just a bit stretchy, they’re really stretchy – and this combined with their low weight makes for a trouser that you barely notice. They feature the classic Prana diamond crotch, which enhances freedom of movement, but this is less of an issue given how much the stretch gives you anyway. The fabric feels good against the skin and, crucially, doesn’t look shiny or make you sweat like some polyester mix fabrics can. The cut is about right too, being fairly slim fitting and allowing the stretch to do the work in more challenging positions. Baggier models usually make it harder to see your feet, which is obviously something you want to avoid.
The Stretch Zion features handy snap closure poppers on the bottom of the legs, which make it easy to roll them up neatly and keeps them securely hitched up. This is one of many really well thought out features, which have evidently been honed over the several years and various incarnations of this model. Right: The author testing the Prana Stretch Zion Pants. There is one cargo pocket on the left leg, which is accessible from above and the side meaning you can get into it easily when sitting in the car. Older versions had one on each leg, but since you only need two if you are going on an army mission I’m glad Prana have cut it down to one! There is also a zip pocket and an open pocket on the rear, as well as the standard hand pockets. The belt is un-intrusive and feels fine under a harness (an important point since some belts can feel clunky and get in the way).
All in all, I recommend the Stretch Zion very highly. They are especially suited to route climbing due to their light weight and the fact they feel great under a harness. I’ve also used them a lot bouldering, although you might want to consider a more beefy option for bouldering on grit or granite, as I doubt the fabric will stand up to harsh abrasions quite as well as drill cotton or the stretch denim of Prana’s Axiom Jeans. The Stretch Zion is not cheap, but considering their many advantages I think they are well worth investing in.