By Isaac Orth
Growing up hunting in Montana winters meant being cold. We would hike and trudge until we were too wet and cold to go any farther. That’s when the requisite mountainside fire would start to crackle. It was an endless cycle of hiking from one pine tree fire to the next in 50-year-old, olive drab, military surplus “woolies” bought at the Rescue Mission.
Those woolies were the technical pant of the day. I remember walking into the hardware store and seeing some plaid overall woolies on display and thinking “Now, those would be practical and stylish.” The reality was that they were only slightly warmer than the buckskins that hunters 100 years prior had used. Technical? Yeah, I mean they had belt loops and pockets, what more do you want? Quiet? Yup. Insulating? A little. Waterproof? Decidedly not. Great at collecting large snowballs? You bet!
Fast forward to 2022 A.D. For the past three seasons, I have practically lived in my Stone Glacier (SG) De Havilland LITE Pant, and they have yet to fail. With the abundant snow this year, however, I gravitated to the more robust M7 Series. While I had sporadically used them in the past, I finally committed some serious time to wearing them. They now rank at the absolute top when it comes to winter pants.
What sets the M7 Series apart?
Waterproof – Let’s get this part out of the way first. Winter pants should be waterproof, full stop. With the materials and technology we have at our disposal, there is no need to compromise on warmth vs. waterproofness when speaking of a devoted cold-weather pant. The M7s have you covered; they are completely waterproof thanks to a HydraShield™ textile that blocks water droplets from entering while allowing sweat vapor to escape, keeping you dry from the inside out.
Versatile weather protection – I was mountain goat hunting in late September with my father-in-law at 11k feet in 15- to 40-degree weather where sun, wind, rain, sleet, and snow were all factors. The M7s were versatile in every situation. Sunny and warm: run that ¾ zip down and dump heat. Moisture coming from any direction: not an issue with the HydraShield holding it at bay. I stayed dry and warm or cool and ventilated as needed through 10 days of mountain weather swings.
Accessory pockets – November found me chasing mule deer with temps in the negative teens on days that never found a positive digit. Unlike their cousin the M5, the M7s are not a zip-on, zip-off garment; they are meant to be a “stay on” pant. As such, they are equipped with oversized pockets and storage that come in clutch in these frigid scenarios when removing your gloves to rifle through your pack to find something is a painful proposition. Easy access to necessities in your pockets and careful placement of the pockets is a huge plus.
Fleece backer – By Thanksgiving weekend, the temps had risen slightly but the chill was still present. Highs in the 20s and strong wind were constant, making hikes and tree stand sits less than appealing. When mobile, I gravitated towards a simple merino (Chinook) base layer and the M7s. When sitting in the stand waiting on whiteys, I sported a thicker fleece (Helio) mid layer and the M7s. I was comfortable in either scenario. The level of heat provided by that small layer of fleece in the M7s is astounding.
*Bonus: Durability – From September through December, the whole gambit of terrain and ground materials were encountered. Scree fields and shale above tree line, cacti and mud in the prairies, and deadfall for days on end in the mountains. I truly put my M7s through the ringer and they performed admirably in every environment.
About the author: Isaac Orth is a born-and-raised Montanan who resides in Billings with his wife and four boys. In his free time he chases any critter that's in season.