Field Tested: Patagonia’s Venga Rock Pants
Patagonia’s Venga Rock Pants are climbing pants—pure and simple. They’re not the sort of fancy hybrid jeans that will serve you equally well at the gym and some overpriced gastropub.
Designed for bouldering, sport climbing, trad climbing, or gym climbing, the Venga is durable, stretchy, lightweight, and comfortable under a harness.
Flexible fabric and adjustable ankle cuffs // Comfortable beneath harness // Light, breathable, and comfortable // Resisted tears and abrasions // Fair trade certified // Made with organic cotton
Because of flexible waistband I NEEDED to wear a belt when carrying a phone & wallet // The color faded relatively quickly and cotton micro-pilled // Pants looked rather old and schlubby long before they actually began degrading // Expensive
The Vengas are hands down my favorite climbing pants right now. But if I think I’ll be heading to the pub after the crag, I certainly pack a spare pair of jeans.
417 g (14.7 oz)
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Patagonia’s Venga Rock Pants are climbing pants—pure and simple. They’re not the sort of fancy hybrid jeans that will serve you equally well at the gym and some overpriced gastropub. They’re rock pants, designed with mobility in mind, and they look like it—borrowing, as the name suggests,* from Europe’s colorful sport-pant tradition.
* “Venga, Chris! Venga!”
Designed to maximize lightness and flexibility without sacrificing durability, the Venga has roomy, articulated knees (accomplished thanks to a “dart” sewn into the medial pant leg) and a partially elastic waistband; they’re delightful beneath a harness; the gusseted crotch and spandex-cotton blend keep them from splitting a seam when you try to highstep or stem widely; I recommend them highly.
Features I especially liked
The Waistband: I like a lot about these pants, but my favorite feature (though it’s not without its drawbacks) is probably the partially elasticated waistband. The elastic in the waist snugs the pants around your waist–but not too tightly, since only part of the pants waistline is elastic. The elastic also lends flexibility to the waist and hip, which does two things. First, it allows you to step or high-step without resistance from your pants. Second, it takes pressure off the snap closure, which means that your pants won’t come unsnapped mid ascent. (There exists a video, which you will never see, of me doing a boulder problem in Red Rock, Nevada, and having my cragging pants—not made by Patagonia—come unsnapped mid-problem; I still sent, but the topout wasn’t pretty.) The one downside of the elastic waistband is that, well, my pants fall down when I’ve got wallet, keys, and cell phone in the pockets, so I have to wear a belt, though I ditch it (with the wallet, keys, and phone) before climbing.
The adjustable cuffs: The Venga has adjustable cuffs which allow you to climb without rolling up the hem of your pants, and, more crucially, make you at least look like a fashionable European climber—Stefano Ghisolfi, perhaps, or Nicky Ceria.
Another note on fashion: once I tightened my cuffs, the pants always seemed a bit crinkly at the bottom, as if the cuffs’ drawstrings were still drawn, regardless of whether they were drawn or not. Again, this isn’t gastropub attire; but if you don’t like that bloused-pant look, I’d recommend against the Venga.
Quad cell phone pocket: I almost never climb with a cell phone in my pocket, but I do do quite a bit of hiking and mountain scrambling that way, and I liked that the Venga has a zip-up pocket on the front right pant leg. The pocket situates the cell phone (or keys, or sandwich… you do you) below the hip-flexor’s crease-line, which allows you to high-step in steep terrain without feeling like your phone is resisting your movements—something I find seriously annoying. (Note: the four other pockets are also explicitly designed to lie flat and be comfortable underneath a harness.) Based on Patagonia’s photos, the quad pocket seems designed to hold a phone even when you’re wearing a harness, but my harness falls directly onto the phone and I would never climb with it in there.
I am one of those short-legged, wide-thighed guys who struggle with pants. In some (but not all) brands, size 30 pants fit my waist but are uncomfortably tight in the quad—while size 31 feels too big, too baggy, too long. In the Venga, a size 30 fits me perfectly. As a reference point, size 30 Black Diamond jeans also fit me perfectly, whereas Prana’s pants tend to be hit or miss. Make of that what you will. As noted above, I do have to wear a belt, but that’s largely thanks to the elastic.
As I’ve already noted, the Venga is designed for function first, looks second. But I was a little dismayed by how quickly the pants aged. This aging was purely visual: I’ve been climbing in my Vengas consistently since April, and in that time I have not had any sort of malfunction or fabric tear… which is kind of remarkable since northern New Mexico—with its fields of cholla and prickly pear, its forests of Juniper, its razor-sharp basalt crags—is hell on clothes. But my Vengas, a rich navy blue out of the box, started fading almost immediately, especially at the seams. Even when newly washed, they look as though they’ve been beer-battered with chalk. They also micro-pill like a fleece (albeit with smaller pills), which gives them a kind of hazy, old-clothes look.
Again, I personally don’t care. The Vengas are hands down my favorite climbing pants right now. But if I think I’ll be heading to the pub after the crag, I now pack a spare pair of jeans.