Here in Portland, we like clothing that’s as functional as it is fashionable. Enter Thunderbolt Sportswear, a homegrown, Oregon-based company that has been selling its high-end softshell jeans since 2010 and perfecting and developing that concept since 2008. These guys know the ins and outs of variable weather conditions, and the result is a high-functioning, well-thought-out style piece that can double as an everyday pant.
Thunderbolt jeans are made with Schoeller Dryskin, which is imported from Switzerland and considered to be the best softshell fabric on the market today. The fabric is treated with Nanosphere, a durable water repellent (DWR). It doesn’t make the Thunderbolt jeans quite waterproof but will ensure that you stay much drier than if you were wearing denim if caught out in the rain.
The first time that I put the jeans on I was surprised at how nice the cut was. Most softshell pants I’d used seemed square cut and suffered from a baggy crotch area, which resulted in me feeling that I always had to be pulling my pants up—especially if I was hiking with a pack. Thunderbolt jeans fit snuggly, like a tailored pair of dress pants. I was also surprised at how comfortable the brushed interior felt against my legs. So far the Thunderbolts proved to be a good fit but I was eager to put them to the real test.
First, I made them my daily riding pants for the week. My bike commute is a little over six miles one way, so I was able to get a good sense of how the pants felt under the saddle. The week started off with beautiful sunny skies and chilly temps that deteriorated to driving rain by mid-week. In all conditions, the jeans performed well, blocking wind and rain, keeping my legs warm, but allowing moisture to move through the fabric and preventing me from overheating as I warmed up. As an extra bonus, I was able to transition directly from the bike to the office without changing clothes. Thunderbolts really do look that good.
Next on the agenda was climbing in Central Oregon. Due to the dry, cold and usually windy conditions, bouldering in the high desert during the winter months is perfect for testing softshell fabrics. The four-way stretch of the fabric and its ability to block the wind made these pants the perfect tool for the job. I will definitely be adding these pants to my climbing quiver and would even consider wearing them for larger alpine objectives. (Stay tuned for an El Cap report!)
Thunderbolt jeans can handle just about anything that you can throw at them. The only situation that I encountered where they might not be ideal was commuting in the downpour. There is definitely a chance that rain could seep in during an extended ride in those conditions. That being said, I still stayed warm, and the jeans dried almost instantly. When comparing these jeans to the denim alternative, and considering an active, urban lifestyle, I have to say, they rock!