Stormy Kromer Wool Pants

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

As recently as five years ago, Army-Surplus wool pants were a stalwart piece in my winter outerwear getup. I’d pair the coarse, jungle-green trousers, which were purchased for $20 to $30 at secondhand shops, with a GORE-TEX shell jacket for ice climbing and head outdoors into the chill air of northern Minnesota or Ontario’s Orient Bay area, where ice axes and tall, cold cliffs afforded a venue for the ascent of frozen icefalls as high as apartment buildings.

Kick a crampon through the tough matte of wool above the ankle cuff and, oh well, the pants didn’t set you back all that much. They were warm, too. And, unlike hard-shell pants I’d paid hundreds of dollars for, the cheapo woolies breathed so well you could feel subzero air seeping in and out just slightly with the wind.

This winter, wool pants are back. Though the price has shot up, the Bunkhouse Trousers from Michigan-based Stormy Kromer hold true to my vision of a solid pair of winter pants. They are made with a thick and plush — but tough — wool blend.

Stormy Kromer Wool Pants.jpg

Stormy Kromer Bunkhouse Trousers

The traditional pants, which include nearly no modern touches, do add a dose of nylon fibers to the sheep-fuzz fabric blend. It takes some of the coarseness down and might add to durability.

Made in Ironwood, Mich., the Bunkhouse Trousers hail from a forest town on the state’s Upper Peninsula that knows deep snow and long winters. They come in dark gray and olive green and cost $129.95 — a lot more than the Army-Surplus variety, but more refined and better fitting in my test so far.

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Posted by Beau - 11/24/2009 10:10 AM

I really liked the German Army wool pants, because they had something (probably some kind of plastic) on the knees and seat so you could kneel and not worry about soaking through.

But what the pants have really gotten me to love is cargo pockets… Cargo pockets are really hard to find in WW shell pants – either the side zip precludes a cargo pocket or you wear snowboarder pants which are a often a little too baggy if your snowshoeing or a little more active.

Can you recommend any shell pants, that won’t break the bank, with cargo pocket(s) and ventilation? I like to carry my map, GORP and maybe stuff my hat and gaiter in there when I don’t need them…

Posted by Dave - 11/24/2009 04:09 PM

The classic army surplus wool pants are a staple in my winter camping wardrobe on any trip where I don’t care about weight. I’m with Beau, I love the cargo pockets and the plastic layer at the knees. The pockets can hold big mittens, a wool cap, and a snack with ease. The plastic at the knees is essential for snow caving season. I’ve worn mine so much that all of the buttons at the fly have fallen off.

Make a pair of wool pants with those specs and I’ll comtemplate spending more then $50 on them. Until then, I’ll just keep using safety pins and suspenders.

Posted by Paul - 11/24/2009 05:25 PM

I too love my old German Army wool pants. I have had them patched several time and my buttons on the fly are also coming off. Great for cross country skiing. I have had mine for at least 20 years.

Posted by Van Goodwin - 11/25/2009 02:12 PM

I spend every weekend and evening I can snowshoeing. I own 4 pairs of Army Woolies and the only other gear that’s better is my canvas anorak! I cold camp and hot tent camp and wool never bothers me. I didn’t see the price for these pants, but I was going to turn two pairs into one this season as they are getting thin. But I still use them! When I fell through the ice in Alaska years ago I was wearing polypros and Gortex pants. Once I was recovered and thawed out I wore my woolies and was warmer and more comfortable than polypro/gortex combo! I know what I want for Christmas

Posted by nursecarmen - 12/01/2009 11:43 AM

I go even one step further in the surplus route. Wool pants under Austrian surplus goretex bibs. Not only are they waterproof, they add to the wind protection. They have an elastic waist, so getting to pockets isn’t a problem, and they don’t restrict movement because they just slide independently over the wool. I can kneel in snow forever. Throw in some silk long undies and cheap gators and Minnesota winters are nuthin.

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