A chance to try out the First Lite Obsidian Merino Pants has given me a new favorite pair. And I'm not just saying that.
I don't know if it's entirely true, but I'm betting I'm right about this assumption I've had for a while. The idea is that hunting apparel consumers look at a badass camo jacket as the beginning and end of their required outerwear. The bottom half is an afterthought, and there are too many mismatched jacket and pants combos in the woods to count.
Now, that's not to say mismatching camo patterns or earth tones is necessarily a bad thing, and I'm not trying to tell people where and how to spend their money. Sometimes a nice jacket, an expensive rifle, or some other piece of high-end hunting equipment sets you back, and you're forced to be budget minded as you complete the collection.
But in my own personal search for a great pair of hunting pants, I've always thought I'm giving them more attention than the average consumer. I don't know if I'm 100% right on this, but I've got a hunch.
I'm also someone who's affected by the cold a little more than others, and my long legs seem to be the difference makers: if they're cold, I'm freezing, but if my legs are kept warm, I can generally handle it.
That's why a pair of wool pants had been on my radar for a long time, and prior to a Wyoming antelope hunt this past season I got a some First Lite Obsidian Merino Pants.
And dang, I'm glad I did.
I can honestly say they're the best pair of pants I've found for my needs, and I'm probably wearing them more often than I actually should.
The proof's in the performance
The First Lite Obsidian Pants are the best all-around outdoor pants, in my opinion, and I've learned since getting them that there are perfectly good reasons why.
A few respectfully cold days wearing the Obsidian Pants in the field convinced me they're going to be terribly tough to beat, and now I'm finding myself slipping them on before heading to the office, prior to a trip to the park with my dog, and even for a bank fishing session.
We can start with the basic specs of the wool: it's an odor resistant, silent fabric, breathable, and First Lite blends it with stretch nylon, giving the pants a nice amount of give. I haven't gotten close to ripping a knee or a seam, and I don't anticipate the merino-nylon material tearing easily any time soon.
The suspenders caught my eye right away, and though I used and appreciated them while out in the field, I found it pretty cool that I could detach them easily if I wanted. I've done that for everyday use, and the suspender loops have a low enough profile that it looks perfectly natural with or without them attached.
There's also a strictly-nylon fabric panel just below the back of the waistline, and I've found that extra amount of stretch is super helpful. If you want to talk about range of motion, picture me crouching, bending, and ducking through thick East Texas timber on a public land deer hunt, trying my best to move steadily and quietly. I never had to reach back to pull up the back of my britches, which I can't say for most of the other hunting pants I've worn over the years.
The rip-stop nylon panels are found on the bottom of the pant legs as well, meaning those spots that always seems to wear out quickly are reinforced.
The fit is ideal, with an ergonomic design built for people on the move. There's no restrictive feeling; the pants have plenty of room without feeling baggy. The front pockets are web mesh-lined and won't let things easily slip out, and there is a series of cargo pockets that add up to more than enough space. I've carried shotgun shell boxes and electronic earmuffs in them, if that gives you any idea of their generous size.
There's also a zippered and non-zippered pocket incorporated into each cargo pocket, giving you options between quick access or promising security. They're also reinforced with nylon panels at the bottom of the pockets.
The pants can be rolled up and buttoned to create long shorts, which I found extremely useful on a couple occasions already. Most notably, I rolled them up while bank fishing and didn't hesitate to take a few steps into the water when I needed to.
Adding to the experience
While I was hunting, I paired the Obsidian Pants with the Catalyst Softshell Jacket and, when it was extra chilly out, the Fuse Long John baselayer. The First Lite layering system is top notch, with a ton of choices catered to different applications. Like I said, it was these moments that I got a really good idea of the power of wool.
I was warm through a misty mid-40-degree duck hunt, and didn't give my legs a second thought the entire time. The interesting thing about where we were hunting in Wyoming is that, despite sub-freezing temps at night, things would warm up to nearly 60 degrees by midday. I was comfortable in both conditions, and considering they were within a few hours of each other, I believe the performance of the Obsidian Pants set a new standard for me.
Most cold weather gear I've used in the past has been insulated, and it was a marvel to see how well the Obsidian Pants handled wetness, wind, and a little of the scum and crud that ends up on you after a hike through the woods or a sit near the marsh. Blood, mud, and even a good grass stain from a belly crawl have all come out after one round in the wash.
For most active hunts, these are going to be my pants of choice from now on.
High-tech wool pants, of course, aren't going to feature a budget price. But at $180, I feel like you're getting your money's worth if you invest in these. You splurge on one thing, and make up for it by tightening the budget on others. The Obsidian Pants are worthy of a splurge.
You can choose between two of First Lite's camo patterns, a brown "Dry Earth," or a green "Conifer." Even if you went with a solid color, there's no UV signature or shine on wool, so they're just as great as legit hunting pants than the camo. If you look at it that way, you're not just spending that money on hunting gear, you're spending it on clothes you should wear for a lot of different things.
Just don't try to wear them to church, or your wife will give you a look like the one I got from mine.
I've come to learn that the Obsidian Pants were modeled after First Lite's Kanab 2.0 and Gila Pants, which sort of helped put them, and the advanced side of merino wool, on the map in the hunting space. It's cool to think First Lite isn't resting on their laurels and instead continuing to innovate with great pants like these.
I've developed my opinion on First Lite's Obsidian Pants, and now it's your turn. If there's versatility and utility needed in your hunting pants of choice, then you can't go wrong with these.
Images via FirstLite.com