I sat shivering in my armchair carved out of snow, staring into the darkness as water heated in my Jetboil. It was only 5 p.m. Darkness and the imminent temperature plummet were putting a real damper on what had been a fun day of backcountry skiing in the sun.
Earlier, while packing all the winter camping essentials, I’d stuffed my pack too full to close. I had to make some gear cuts. And my gigantic belay pants, seemingly the size of a basketball, had been the first thing to go. But now that the sun was down, I was regretting that decision. That’s the problem with traditional belay pants — they’re often too bulky not to leave behind.
The Patagonia DAS Light Pants are the new puffy pants in town that aim to change that. I tested them extensively in the central mountains of Colorado. They’re packable, they’re warm, and I don’t hesitate to stuff them in my backpack.
In short: Patagonia’s DAS Light Pants ($299) are do-everything insulated pants. They are the missing link between being too chilly to have fun and lugging around cumbersome insulated belay pants. Their pack size, weight, and all-season functionality are unmatched by other synthetically insulated pants on the market. They might not fit perfectly over a ski boot. But besides that, I struggle to find a reason to leave the DAS Light pants behind on cold winter adventures.
Patagonia DAS Light Pants Review
When I eagerly ripped open the shipping package and pulled these pants out, I was concerned. They were tiny. Did I order a kid’s size? I anxiously stuffed my legs inside, pulled them up over my waist, and was relieved. They fit like an intensely warm version of my favorite sweatpants.
What I originally thought was a sizing flaw, I’ve come to realize is what makes these pants so versatile. My last pair of insulated belay style pants were overwhelmingly bulky. They lived in the bottom of my pack (when I could justify it) and I rarely took them out. They were simply overkill for anything I got up to in the lower 48. And when I did bring them along I was constantly annoyed at how much space they took up.
With a refined fit and minimal pack size, when I got a pair of the DAS Lights I began bringing them everywhere with the actual intention of using them.
Build and Features
In reality, 530 g isn’t a lot. But 312 g is a lot less. That’s the difference between a competing belay pant and Patagonia’s DAS Light. You get a lot of warmth at a negligible weight. The scant weight isn’t a miracle — it’s a result of calculated design decisions and the omission of features like durable kick steps, weather-resistant fabric, and waist adjustments.
An important feature Patagonia didn’t leave out is recycled materials — 98% of the DAS Lights, including the nylon face fabric and polyester insulation, is recycled.
I’ve tried a lot of pants with full side zips, and the functionality of the DAS Lights is top-shelf. Even in whipping wind with gloves on, connecting the DAS Lights’ zippers is easy. I had no trouble donning the pants in the dark in under 45 seconds. The large sliders and teeth were clearly selected for high durability.
There are no button snaps at the top of the zipper at the waistband. That led me to believe that the sliders might creep down with movement. But so far, it works as needed and you’ve got one less snap to fiddle with. It’s a decision that I’m sure Patagonia designers agonized over in their pursuit of simplicity.
In terms of warmth, the DAS Lights do everything I could ask of them. These aren’t the pants you’d take to Denali or K2. But they’ll handle leg-warming duties in winter in the lower 48 with aplomb.
Patagonia DAS Light Pants
- Sizes XXS-XXL
- Weight 312 g
- Shell 0.8oz. 10-denier Pertex Quantum Pro, 100% recycled nylon ripstop with a PU dry coating, and a PFC-free DWR finish
- Lining 0.8oz. 10-denier Pertex Quantum 100% recycled nylon ripstop with a PFC-free DWR finish
- Insulation 65g PlumaFill 100% recycled polyester
Ski Boot Compatibility
If there is one area where the DAS Lights (and most other belay pants) fall short, it’s their compatibility with alpine and alpine touring ski boots. The stretchy ankle cuffs fit perfectly around mountaineering boots like my La Sportiva G5 Evos. They also look and function great with low-rise footwear. The cuffs do not, however, fit over any ski boots, including lower-volume touring boots like the Scarpa F1.
It’s not that you need the insulation over your boots. The issue is more the annoyance of the excess fabric. You’re faced with three options: leave the lower leg unzipped a few inches, pull the closed cuff above the boot top, or roll the pant cuff above the boot top. The latter worked fine for layering under a shell for alpine skiing.
If ski boot compatibility is the critical function of your puffy pants needs, consider an insulated short or knicker.
I love when a product fits seamlessly into the kit of so many outdoor pursuits and seasons. These pants, created for winter activities, transition nicely to the full spectrum of camping in all seasons. Sleeping in a snow cave? A tent in a howling fall storm? Sitting around a campfire? Belaying in a cold canyon? The DAS Lights from Patagonia are there for you unless your significant other pulls them on first.
But they’ll go even further than that. Put them on under your ski shells or fishing waders, wear them in the bleachers, or just keep them in your car for when you’re waiting at the trailhead for that friend that’s always late. There isn’t much these pants can’t do. And with a weight and packed size this low, they there’s really no harm in always packing them just in case.
Patagonia DAS Light Pants Conclusion
Belay pants can be overkill for most winter adventurers in the lower 48 and can live in the bottom of a pack for seasons at a time. The Patagonia DAS Light Pants were designed to squash that paradigm. These pants are light, highly packable, plenty warm, and fit like your favorite sweatpants.
With the technical features you need and nothing you don’t, you’ll have no problem bringing them along — and actually wearing them — during all of your chilly to downright frigid outdoor endeavors.