For the last few months I've been using the Exodus, bomb-proof winter-oriented women's softshell trousers from Rab. The active cut is great, and they are certainly warm and windproof. But are they perfect?
In size 12 these trousers are a snug fit on me (I can sometimes fit a 14 depending on the cut). They have a neat high waist to keep your kidneys cosy, and fit well all round. I have pretty 'strong' thighs and would only manage a very thin base-layer underneath the size 12 when going out in colder weather.
Tailoring is 'active', with an articulated knee for freedom of movement.
The ankle cuffs have a very low profile hem for neatness, with a laminated, reinforced band around the bottom that helps the hem hold its shape. These ankles are sized to accommodate large winter boots. You might call them 'boot cut' but I would go so far as to say 'flared', and this has an obvious downside. There is no zipped gusset or other means of volume adjustment, so though they are fine when wearing bulky footwear, the leg begins to feel a bit flappy if you're wearing only summer boots or shoes. This is not ideal when scrambling, and even less so for cragging.
An inbuilt internal gaiter provides an elasticated fit around the neck of your boots to help keep out snow and other debris, but instead of a lace hook to hold it in position you get only little loops onto which you could fix your own under-foot strap. I think lace hooks would have been simpler and more effective. The gaiter is a really good addition for snowy conditions, but since it's not removable it does rather limit the Matrix's seasonal use: I imagine it being hot and sticky around the ankles in summer for instance. Then again, you're unlikely to be wearing these in July anyway.
Rab's Matrix fabric has inbuilt stretch for freedom of movement. Combined with the tailored cut and articulated, shaped knee, this means you can get your leg up nice and high unhindered when climbing or scrambling. Its smooth outer face resists scuffing and feels generally really tough, while cordura kick patches down at the ankle protect against crampon points. I like these from a practical point of view, but the (small) fashionista inside me thinks they do accentuate the already flared ankle line.
The waistband has a lovely soft fleece lining which makes it very cosy against the skin, and a belt with a simple and indestructible metal hook for fastening. In addition you get elastic loops for fitting braces (though you'd have to supply your own).
Windproofing is good - I've felt perfecty comfy on cold windy summits not far above freezing level for instance; the DWR finish makes them pretty shower proof too, and water still pills happily on my pair after several months of use. I've found them quick drying too.
At a hefty 572g (size 12, my measure) the Matrix is very much a cold season, burly pair of trousers designed to keep you warm and protected in the winter months.
The Exodus pants have a massive double-zippered vent on each thigh to help keep you cool on warmer days. These are really effective when you're working up a sweat plodding uphill. The fine mesh has a tendency to get caught in the zip when closing the vents, but this may not be an issue for someone with skinnier legs than me!
They have two large front pockets which have glove-friendly zips, and another single pocket located unusually towards the back of the right thigh. I find the front pockets too deep, and with the snugness of the trousers it would become quite uncomfortable to walk with anything of size in them. Slightly smaller pockets might actually have been more useful.
Overall these are great trousers for UK winter hillwalking and climbing, with obvious crossover into chilly spring and autumn weather and summer alpinism too. However if, like me, your outdoor gear sometimes doubles up as wear for family walks and days at the beach, then the Matrix may not completely cross that divide. The price seems high for a pair of softshell trousers, but you are getting quite a lot of legwear for your money - warm, windproof, durable and well cut for movement. The only real downsides for me are pockets which are too deep to be useful, and the lack of ankle adjustment which rather limits their use for chilly weather rock climbing.
The Women’s Exodus Pants are highly durable, weather-resistant softshell pants, designed for technical mountain use in harsh and rough environments.
A highly technical piece, the Women’s Exodus Pants feature a tricot fleece lined waistband and an integrated, removable webbing belt with offset aluminium buckle. The Matrix DWS™ fabric is extremely tough and durable, and key wear areas are reinforced with Cordura® fabrics and knee articulations improve freedom of movement when undertaking technical moves in the mountains.
For more info see: rab.equipment
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