Norrøna Dovre Heavy-Duty Hybrid Pants (long-term review)

The Norrøna Dovre pants, or the Dovre heavy-duty hybrid pants to give them their full title, fall within Norrøna’s limited select Dovre range aimed squarely at ‘mountain hunting’.  These trousers are identical to the ones found in Norrøna’s Svalbard (‘essential outdoor gear’) line, but in an outdoor green rather than other colours.  UPDATE [May 2016]: Although the Dovre line still exists, these trousers are no longer being made.  The new Svalbard version can be found here. For the purposes of this review, the trousers are identical except in colour and name.  Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here is what Norrøna have to say about them:

Durable all-terrain utility pants for all-purpose hunting. Breathable and tough woven polyamide 275 g/sqm fabric in these pants built for top tours, camping and hikes in the rough. Key to comfort is the soft ‘no-cling’ fabric, full thigh venting and flex™3 waterproof stretch in articulated knees and seat. Reinforced inside ankle panels. Fits suspenders.

Material

Norrøna specify two types of material used in this product: a 275 g/m² woven polyamide (which makes up the bulk of the garment) and their proprietary flex™3 (making up the black reinforced areas).  The polyamide fabric feels, in my opinion, very similar to cotton.  There is no fancy DWR treatment or 3-way stretch here, just plain fabric that feels pretty robust and comfortable without being too rough or thick.  The flex3 on the other hand is more involved.  This is what Norrøna say…

A 3-layer stretchy fabric that provides excellent wind, water and thermal protection. This 3-layer has a woven face, PU membrane and micro fleece backer. This specifically developed fabric provides all the attributes we consider to be a cold weather Soft Shell; stretch, water protection and wind protection.

…although in my opinion this is a bit misleading. We’ll start with the good bits: it’s nice and supple and isn’t simply stitched over the top of the polyamide, but rather stitched together (read, more breathable).  Having knelt in various muddy puddles whilst wearing them at work, I can attest to its waterproofness (and kneeling in puddles is a pretty good test of how waterproof something is), and the fabric definitely has a bit of ‘give’ in it.   The not so good: saying it has a microfleece backer is a bit  misleading.  The inside is softer than the outside, but in my view is nowhere near microfleece territory.  Similarly, the 3-layer claim is, in my view, a little ambitious – there is no semblance of a tricot lining, such as you might find in a high-end shell garment for instance.  The wind protection is largely marketing talk – yes, having a PU membrane is going to make it wind proof, but seeing as the reinforced areas cover a relatively small proportion of the total garment surface area, it is largely irrelevant. “My trousers are wet through, but thank-god my knees are out of the wind” is not a thought that commonly passes through my mind.  Finally, bearing in mind that this fabric is PU rather than one of the more advanced water-proof fabrics, can make for a rather sweaty bum if working hard on a hot day (but then this garment isn’t really designed for those weather conditions).  The DWR treatment is nothing special but perfectly fine, although the utility of the DWR is questionable as it has only been placed in the reinforced areas were it will quickly wear away.

In summary, the fabrics are good, just take the marketing talk with a pinch of salt.

Seams are stitched together rather than stitching fabric on top of each other.  Black material is the flex3 reinforcements.  Note the differing textures between the two types of material and the custom zipper pull.

Fit

The fit, as usual with these types of trousers, is pretty straight.  The knees are pre-curved, which is very apparent when you lay them out flat.

Detail of the stitching that pre-curves the knee reinforcements.

The waist is not particularly high, although they can apparently be used with suspenders.  One of the best features of these trousers are two velco tabs in the waist-band that function like a belt, to take in the waist.  In my experience they work very well with no slipping in the velcro.  For those people that like to wear a belt regardless, there are, of course, the usual belt loops available.

Velcro tabs on either side of the trouser opening, work to tighten the waist-band without the need of a belt.

Pockets

Close-up of one of the rear pockets. These pockets fall within the reinforced area on the seat of the pants. No zip docking here, and they didn’t come with any pull-tabs.

There are a total of 6 pockets on these trousers.  All are out-fitted with reversed metal YKK zips, though not all came with zip tabs when I bought mine.  This might have been simple human error, but the zipper pulls are very small and definitely need tabs/extenders – in a few pictures you might see black ones which I added myself.  If you’re  wearing gloves, you may well find yourself making your own big ones as the ones that do come with the trousers are fairly dainty.  The width of the pocket openings are also quite small.  It’s not particularly easy to slide an ungloved hand in, and with thick gloves/mitts its basically impossible.  Also the bits of fabric at the end of the zips that resemble zip docks do not, in fact, serve that function.  Other than that, the pockets are suitably deep, though not exceptionally and personally I find the hip pockets to be a bit shallow.  One of the hip pockets has a little bit of elasticated mesh inside…not sure what this is for… .  There is also a small hidden pocket on the inside of the waist-band (see below).  All the pockets are lined with a cotton-like material.

Thigh pockets, the openings of which I find just a bit too restrictive.  They don’t run the full width of the pocket either…

Small hidden pocket in the waist-band of the trousers.

Other Features

Hook on the bottom hem of the trousers for attaching to boots. The hem also contains a ‘button-hole’, perhaps for adding your own elastication to the hem, or maybe to tuck to the hook into if your not using it…?

Velcro on the bottom on the trouser leg. As you can see, the velcro tab is nice and big with plenty of grip and there is enough velcro on the trousers to adjust things as tight as you like. There is also a small patch of velcro to keep the tab in place if you don’t want to tighten the end.  You can also see the hook peeping out from under the hem in this picture.

Long thigh vents run a good distance down your leg, but they lack some of the finesse of execution seen in other brands. There is no mesh on the inside so if they’re fully open there is plenty of opportunity for ‘unwanteds’ to find their way inside.

Conclusion

These trousers are something of a mixed bag.  There is no doubt that they perform solidly at what they do – they are comfortable to wear and definitely hard wearing.  The lack of certain details and the existence of some basic, but correctable, mistakes prevent these from being a stand-out trouser. The Norrøna brand is definitely worth a look whenever you’re considering an outdoor clothing purchase, but in this case have a look around and see what else is on offer first.

Would I buy this again: Hmm…not sure

(This review is based on trousers bought in mid-2010.  If you get the chance, always view products first hand, as some features may have been updated or modified.)

Availability

In the UK a good stock of Norrøna clothing can be found at Tamarack Outdoors (http://www.tamarackoutdoors.co.uk), or you can order direct from the Norrøna website.

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2 comments

  1. Simon

    First of all: Good Review!

    I’ve bought the Norröna Svalbard Heavy-Duty Hybrid Pants (2014 or 2015 years model) and it doesn’t seem like they’ve changed that much or anything at all actually. I agree with you on mostly everything, both pros and cons. For me the biggest disadvantage is that the trousers are a little bit limiting when i comes to move-ability. Imagine taking a huge step upwards, lets say up on a rock, in that movement the trousers are limiting the body’s natural movement and it’s a rather frustrating feeling. They could have added little extra stretch-panel for the purpose…

    Over the years I have tried lots of different outdoor trousers: Fjällräven, Lundhags, Houdini, (other) Norröna trousers, Marmot, Klättermusen, Pfanner, Zip Protection, Bergans and probably some other ones that I forgot. I was mostly wondering if you have found any outdoor trousers that you’ve found better than these ones??

    I have already tried Klättermusen Gere Pants but they are just not for me (too lose fit, no better than than the Svalbard Heavy-Duty when it comes to move-ability, very expensive, didn’t really like the pockets or the zips and I was not so impressed with the other details either).

    Thank you!
    / Simon

    • hedsoutdoor

      Thanks for your comments – I agree that there is surprisingly little give to the fabric of the Dovre/Svalbard Heavy-Duty Hybrid Pants but I suspect they prioritised fabric strength over stretch. With regards the Klättermusen Gere, for me at least, the pockets are the stand-out feature, particularly compared to the Dovre/Svalbard.

      It looks like you’ve tried an impressive list of brands already – I suspect the quest to find the “ultimate” outdoor trousers is likely to be never-ending. Even if the manufacturers could get the fit (for you/me) perfect, there are simply to many other variations of pockets, zips, fabric etc. that they could choose for it to be at all likely to find a perfect pair. In that way, I think it is always a case of compromising some aspect in favour of another.

      In terms of other trousers to try, I guess the most notable omission from your list are the Rugged II Mountain Pants from Haglöfs. I think these are probably the nearest competitor to the Dovre/Svalbards and although I haven’t tried them, they would be next on my list. Otherwise you could try looking at some of the British brands: Rab, Montane (most folk seem very positive about the Terra range), Mountain Equipment or Craghoppers and Rohan (who both provide good value for money alternative to the other brands, albeit with not such technical details). From Mainland Europe, i’ve heard good things about Trangoworld from Spain. They seem to have a good range of styles and fabrics. For another Nordic/Scandinavian brand, you could try Sasta (although I’m not sure I’ve ever seen these outside of Finland). Unfortunately I can’t really give any advice on any of the above (I’ve reviewed what I own!), but would always be interested to hear back if you find your perfect pair.

      Happy searching!

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