As an avid backcountry skier, I’ve always sworn by hardshell attire. No matter what the conditions, you know a well-made hardshell is going to keep out all the elements. So when I was asked to review a pair of the Stio Skillet soft-shell pants, I was a bit hesitant. Sure, I’ll wear a soft-shell jacket while touring up and stash it or keep it on under my outer layer when going down but to have just one pair of soft-shell pants in the backcountry left me with questions. What if it gets really cold? What if the snow’s really wet or I spend the day tomahawking in the powder or sitting on my arse? How is a pair of soft-shell pants going to hold up under those conditions?
It’s only fitting that my new foray into the world of soft-shell pants should be via Stio, a relatively new company in the outdoor soft goods market. Founded in 2011 by long-time industry veteran and soft-shell pioneer Stephen Sullivan, the Jackson’s Hole-based company makes backcountry specific gear as well as a few urban hipster shirts and sweaters. I had the opportunity to review its Stio Environ hardshell jacket recently, which I really liked, but it was going to take something special to win me over to the Stio Skillet Pant.
Two metal snaps on the center front closure plus elastic binding finish on the interior waistband.
- Schoeller® stretch woven fabric: 91% Polyester, 9% Elastane, 259 g/m2 with eco-repel®
- 2 metal snaps at center front closure
- Zippered front fly
- Elastic binding finish at interior waistband
- Zippered hand, back and thigh pockets (6 total)
- Articulated knee darts
- Zippered cuff with adjustable snap closure
Zippered cuff with adjustable snap closure for pulling over ski boots and plenty of zippered pockets—hand, back and thigh (6 total).
Gone are the days of stumbling around at 5am trying to find my long underwear in the dark. Instead, I grab some boxers, slide into a pair of Stio Skillet Pants and head out into the freeze for a dawn patrol. Or an all-day backcountry mission. Or a slackcountry tour. I’ve been using these soft-shell pants for the past few months now and loving them. The first thing I have to say about the Skillet Pant is they’re incredibly comfortable. The Schoeller fabric is plush on the inside and waterproof (at least so far) on the outside and the four-way stretch of the fabric is amazingly liberating. It’s also very resistant to abrasion as I can attest to from a particularly spirited tree run that saw more than a few encounters with low-lying branches. Even during my slackcountry missions when I’d ride the chairlift up to avoid an hour of slog, I found the pants warm enough to sit on the chair with just boxers on underneath. (Although I wouldn’t do a full day in them at the resort.)
Most of my touring days were in mild temperatures that hovered around -5 and I found the fabric breathed really well. There were a few moments I longed for side vents but the feeling is probably a throwback to my experience with heavier hardshell bibs. At no point did I feel like I was sweating inside them. I can’t really attest to the warmth of the pants in really cold temps, however I can say that on one of our tours we got caught out on a ridge in 60km/hr winds that hammered us with buckshot snow and I was plenty warm.
The last thing I’ll say about the Schoeller® fabric of the Skillets is when we were setting up the photoshoot two months after I started using them, I noticed a small amount of pilling happening on the outer surface, especially in the waist area where my jacket tends to rub against it. I’ll be keeping a closer eye on this as the months pass and will report back about any further degradation.
Other favourite features of the Stio Skillet pants include the six zippered pockets, the articulated knees, the front zipper (way more convenient than my bibs when nature calls) and the zippered cuffs with snaps. Regarding the cuffs, it will again be interesting to see how the fabric holds up after a few more months of use. All my other pants have had reinforced patches to accommodate for boot rub but these do not so the durability of the Schoeller fabric is definitely going to be tested.
The last thing I’ll say about these pants is they have a tight fit and even if I wanted to wear long underwear underneath them, I probably couldn’t. This is something to consider if you have tree trunk thighs or a big bootie. Definitely try them on before you buy.
Overall, the Stio Skillet pants have won me over to the world of soft shell and I expect to enjoy many more seasons of back and slackcountry in them.
Excellent range of motion with the Schoeller stretch woven fabric and articulated knee darts allowing for flexibility.
Size: 30, 32, 33, 34, 36, 38
Colour: Eiffel Tower
Weight: 623g / 22oz
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