I’ll start with the Bear Grylls trousers because since the humiliation I suffered for wearing a pair of Kevin Keegan football boots at school, I have avoided celebrity-endorsed products like a plague of locusts. However, Our Lass thought they looked good and acquired me a pair for Christmas and so far, despite my celebrity prejudice, I’m a happy camper.
Now, while I doubt they’d last long being dragged along the ground behind an aeroplane or sliding down a scree slope, they have not encouraged me to eat spiders or drink my own wee, which I have to admit was my biggest fear.
Their most obvious quality is lightness; they weigh next to nothing and appear very flimsy, almost like tissue paper. Despite this, I haven’t managed to rip them yet (and no, I’m not going to get myself dragged along behind an aeroplane) and all seams are double-stitched and holding up well.
The lightness does make them dry much quicker than a sturdier pair of trousers would, though. At least, it seems that way. Since I’ve had them, the temperature has mostly been well below zero, so they’ve mostly only encountered snow and ice. However, the other day was a balmy five degrees above freezing and the world turned into a swamp. When I got home, caked in mud, I hung the trousers up and about four hours later they were pretty much dry. Our Lass has since dragged them kicking and screaming to the washing machine, after which they dried a bit faster, without all the mud holding the water in. They are also slightly less wind-resistant than a pair of wet jeans, so if you’re going to take them out in cold wind, I would recommend some long-johns underneath. I’ve been wearing them like this quite happily in a wind chill of minus ten Centigrade but I made sure they stayed dry!
They are also cut quite slim, obviously tailored to the sort of lean physique which comes from a diet of spiders and one’s own wee, so if, like me, you carry a few emergency calories around your waist or backside, you could end up having to buy them far too long so that they fit. They are comparatively stretchy though, so unless you really are built like a keg of lard they are comfortable to wear.
The waist is lined with soft material which covers the seams, so that they don’t chafe when wet or carrying a rucksack and the belt loops are all doubled up in pairs which will certainly give them extra strength when using them to abseil down a mountain or drag a putrid sheep carcass out of a bog for lunch. At the bottoms of the legs, the rear hem is reinforced to stop it fraying so easily on your boot-heels if a) you haven’t already been forced to eat your boots, or b) you had to buy them extra long in order to get your fat backside in them.
Most pocket fans should be satisfied too. There are the standard six; two on each leg, two on the hips and two on the back, with a concealed and zipped pocket behind the right hip and left leg pockets. The hip pockets are deep and generous enough that you can fill them with a couple of days’ worth of worms or have a wallet and change far enough down that picking the pocket would be harder than average. The other main pockets are baggy and secured with two buttons on tape loops, making them much harder to break off when wriggling through restrictive cave systems and much simpler to sew back on if you can find them in all the bat guano you’ve been wriggling through. Thankfully, the pocket flaps are all made from multi-layered fabric and the buttons themselves are covered when the pockets are done up so the whole bat-guano and sewing-kit scenario should remain firmly in TV-survivalist fantasy land!
What about down-sides? Well, it’s got ‘Bear Grylls by Craghoppers’ written on the left leg pocket in bright orange, for starters. While not actually a physical defect, this could lead to anything from a bit of mickey-taking if you are a grown-up to social ostracism or a slap if you are a kid. Mind you, virtually anything can lead to social ostracism or a slap if you are a kid and walking round with no trousers on at all is definitely on the list! Take a black magic-marker to them if it bothers you that much and create your own Stealth Bear logo. Be the envy of all your friends, etc.
My biggest gripe is the leg pockets. I don’t know if all clothing manufacturers are in the employ of the satnav companies but what’s wrong with having a pocket big enough to put a map in? I love maps because they don’t rely on batteries (and I can’t afford satnav) and at the very best, batteries have a habit of running out just when you really need them. It seems that if you want map pockets, you have to shop at Armani and Navy and wander round the hills looking like an unemployed partisan. Also, I feel that the Head Scout ought to spare a thought for all the Boy Scouts hiking around windy Britain with plastic map-cases lacerating their faces but maybe I’m just old-fashioned. It’s also possible that as a commissioned officer, albeit honorary, he has to have a grown-up read his maps for him.
My second, and final, gripe is the label. It’s all about the label these days and this one clearly says ‘Made In China’. If they’re made in China, I doubt the production costs are very high and given what they generally retail for, you should at least get a free needle and thread included because so far, the stitching on the seat and one of the buttons has failed.
As I’ve mentioned, if you live off high-protein foods like insects and arachnids, the cut of the cloth is adequate. But I am by no means fat and I split the seam on the seat the first time I sat down in them. As for the button, there were two on the fly, one on a loop like the pocket buttons and a second internal one for strength (presumably) which I had never used, so it irked me when that one fell off, simply because of cheap stitching on a pair of not at all cheap trousers.
So, over-priced in my humble opinion but Our Lass got them for significantly less than the asking price in the shops by putting in some time on the internet. The two very minor things which have broken would take me about half an hour to repair and now I’ve lost a bit of excess weight, they fit nicely too! I reckon they will come into their own during the summer, when trousers would be nice to keep ticks off your legs but everything is too hot to wear without getting chafed to pieces. In the evening they’d be perfect for keeping the bugs off you as well, so finally a pair of trousers which I can wear all day! They also look like they’d be perfect with one leg filled with sand and charcoal for use as a water-filter but Our Lass would have a few strong words to say about that, so I haven’t tried it yet. We have taps in the Czech Republic, Bear.