For the past several years I’ve depended on the Kuiu Attack pants for virtually all of my backcountry hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. I was convinced there wasn’t a better all-around mountain pant on the market. I bought my first pair in 2009 (they continue to go strong) but when I purchased a second pair in a different colour a few years later the durability wasn’t quite what I’d come to expect. I started researching my options. As a staunch proponent of merino, I was intrigued by the Kanab pants from First Lite but at the time I could not find a retailer where I could try them on and having been burned by unexpected customs and duty fees and returns with many of my Kuiu orders, I was a little gun shy about ordering a new product from a new brand and dealing with the same issues.
After the launch of the Journal, First Lite was one of the first companies to really give us the time of day and we quickly established a great working relationship. Needless to say I was excited to get my hands on some of their products. The team at First Lite truly walks the walk when it comes to Western hunting and if you don’t know much about them I strongly encourage you to read the Blazing Trail interview I did with co-founder Kenton Carruth back in February. Any company that has reloading benches and game hanging set-ups at the office is legit in my books.
This year the original Kanabs were replaced by the updated Kanab 2.0s and my new pants arrived just in time to for my archery black bear hunt this past June. As we all know, it has been an unseasonably hot summer and the weekend we headed into the mountains was no exception as we dealt with daytime highs close to 30 degrees (Celsius). I’ll admit that I brought my tried and true Attacks along just in case the merino outer layer didn’t perform as expected in the hot weather. I’ve worn merino tops and base layers for years now and absolutely swear by them but this would be my first experience with a merino outerwear piece.
On our second day in bear country we hiked into an area we’ve hunted successfully for mule deer in the past. It’s one of the highest points on the map for miles around and a fantastic, hard to reach series of basins, ridgelines and burns. It’s a steep climb up to the first ridgeline, and by early morning it had become hot enough to justify shorts so the Kanabs were certainly put to the hot weather test.
In my opinion, one of the most important characteristics of a good mountain pant is unrestricted mobility without added bulk or material that can get caught on anything you’re carrying in your hands or on brush and vegetation. And in this regard, I’ve always felt the Attacks truly excelled. Surprisingly, the Kanab 2.0s were a cut above. I say surprisingly as my initial impression was that they were a less streamlined or “athletic” fit than the Attacks, but on the steep climb the pants were incredibly comfortable and didn’t catch on anything or restrict my leg and hip movement in the least. The rip-stop Merino blend and the new stretch panels the First Lite team incorporated into the design of the Kanab 2.0s performed incredibly well. Even more surprising for me was how well the merino dissipated heat during high exertion. Again, my first impression of the pants was that they were a heavier material than the Attacks but I didn’t notice this at all on the climb or when we were hiking and glassing along the ridgelines. If anything, I’ve often found that my Attacks get a little “sticky” in the legs once you really start to sweat (without a base layer) and the Kanab 2.0s didn’t produce this effect at any point whatsoever and were incredibly effective at thermoregulation.
As we all know, designing an apparel piece that does one thing well isn’t that difficult. When it comes to mountain hunting however, we need versatility. Our clothes need to be capable of providing warmth, protection from the elements and vegetation and effective thermoregulation when you’re on the move – all in one piece. As hot as it was, when we stopped to glass the pants kept me cool and I could almost instantly feel the moisture from my sweat evaporating. In my experience, this is definitely not the case with the Attacks. As solid as they are, once they’re wet, whether from sweat and exertion or environmental moisture like dew or rain, you know it and it takes a while for that moisture to evaporate. Another really nice feature of the merino blend fabric was that as I covered ground I could tell the airflow created by movement was actually able to penetrate the material and keep my legs cool and expedite sweat evaporation. Now this may pose a problem in cooler temperatures and I’ll certainly put the pants to the test this fall in some snow and rain but suffice to say there didn’t seem to be any task the Kanab 2.0s couldn’t handle on this bear hunt.
All told, we spent more than 4 hours hiking and covering ground in the high country that day and the Kanab 2.0s performed flawlessly from the hike in and out to the ridge running and glassing. Now at this point, I obviously can’t speak to the durability or cold-weather performance of the pants but given the obvious quality in the stitching and materials I have no reason to believe they won’t perform beyond expectations.
My only beef with the pants is the sizing, at 6’1” and 180 lbs I needed a size large and although the inseam length was perfect I’ll need to alter the waist to get the perfect fit I’m looking for in a true go-to pant. This is one area where the Attacks nailed it right out of the gates so I’ll give Kuiu the nod for getting the “athletic” fit right from the beginning.
Regardless, given how well the Kanab 2.0s performed, this alteration cost will be well worth the investment in a pant that I now know will be a staple in my hunting wardrobe. Long live merino!!