The Proof is in the Pants

Den­im Vs. Softshell

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.

Sun­shine and every­thing in between

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.

Look at that stretch!

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!