Every winter I spend in Utah, I seem to ski the resorts less and the backcountry more. It’s to the point that the only time I ride a chairlift is to access a backcountry gate. After years of touring and tinkering around with my gear, I’ve found that backcountry skiing requires a completely different set of gear and outerwear as compared to resort skiing. Skinning uphill creates a lot of heat, so backcountry outerwear needs to be able to breathe while, at the same time, providing enough warmth and protection for powdery descents—a tough task for any waterproof shell.
This winter, I needed new ski pants. My previous pants were a pair of breathable softshell pants that were amazing while skinning, but they left a lot to be desired during storm days. For their replacement, I was looking for pants that had a waterproof shell, generous thigh vents, a beacon pocket, no insulation, and a lightweight design. With those characteristics in mind, I went with the Arc’teryx Rush LT pant. The Rush LT has GORE-TEX fabric, large thigh zips, well-placed pockets, and a pocket designed specifically for an avalanche transceiver.
When I first got the Rush LT pant, I wore it around the house, despite it only being October and definitely not ski season yet. Needless to say, I was impressed—the GORE-TEX C-KNIT backer material is clearly a hardshell material, but the face fabric feels relatively soft and stretchy and is not nearly as loud and scratchy as other GORE-TEX products I’ve used in the past. I was excited to finally have a ski pant that would keep me dry during wet storms. I also was impressed with the reinforced cuffs, as I’d noticed my previous touring pants were showing quite a bit of wear on the cuffs from ski edges and boot buckles.
The thigh vents, which are an incredibly important feature for me, were clearly large enough to dump heat during warmer spring tours. I was worried about this because nothing is worse than touring uphill while sweating with no relief. The vent on the right side is actually very large and has a two-way zipper system, while the vent on the left side is definitely adequate. The zip pocket on the left thigh is big enough for a beacon, while the hook-and-loop pocket on the right actually is really useful for carrying light gloves, a small radio, or anything you need to access frequently. I went with the Thalassa colorway, which in Greek mythology is the primeval spirit of the sea. I think the name appropriately fits the color, as the blue is both deep and bright without being too aggressive. Finally, I thought the “mid bib” height was perfect for me. The Rush LT goes high enough up my torso to prevent snow from creeping in, but it is definitely not a true bib.
The Rush LT is part of Arc’teryx’s touring line, along with the Stinger and Sabre series. The LT is Arc’teryx-speak for lightweight and is defined as, “high performance, minimalist design that is durable for its weight.” Compared to the Rush FL pant, the Rush LT is slightly burlier and warmer due to its GORE-TEX shell construction. The FL, which has a softshell construction, is defined as Fast and Light “minimalist, high performance and lightweight, for rapid travel in variable conditions.” So between the Rush LT and FL, the LT has slightly better weather protection, while the FL is lighter and more breathable. Compared to the Stinger series, the Rush LT (575 grams) is lighter than the Stinger bib (655 grams); however, the Stinger pant is the lightest of the three at 495 grams. Ultimately, I would say the Rush LT pant falls somewhere towards the middle of Arc’teryx’s touring line in terms of warmth and protection while still being lightweight without sacrificing protection from the elements.
First and foremost, the Rush LT pant has generous side vents. That is the number one reason why I decided to buy the Rush LT. I’ve never had a ski pant that has different venting on the sides, but I like how the right side has a two-way zipper and a significantly larger vent than the left side. When fully unzipped on both sides, the vents provide significant relief from overheating.
The shell material is also one of the most notable features of the Rush LT pant. The C-KNIT backer technology is waterproof, but it feels flexible and soft while having no insulation or warming properties. I can’t stress enough how hard it is to find touring pants that have a hardshell construction with no insulation and big thigh vents. C-KNIT backer technology is a form of GORE-TEX that is softer and lighter than a traditional 3-layer GORE-TEX piece. Despite being lighter, C-KNIT technology is just as durable and waterproof as any traditional GORE-TEX garment. In my opinion, C-KNIT is more comfortable and quieter than any other GORE-TEX shell I’ve worn.
Lastly, the low bib is really unique and useful. Actually, the Rush LT is the first pant I’ve seen with this design. The low bib is high enough to prevent snow from creeping in during big powder days, but low enough to not add much heat on the uphill. The low bib also has a nice, secure zip pocket that adds crucial, secure storage.
Ideal Use and Field Testing
I bought the Rush LT pant for ski touring, which is what they are intended to be used for. Having no insulation, the Rush LT can get cold if you’re resort skiing and wearing a light baselayer underneath, but a heavier baselayer could easily solve that problem. Ideally, the Rush LT is for someone who primarily backcountry skis, but occasionally takes laps in a resort. The GORE-TEX material is durable and blocks wind, so it could definitely get the job done in the resort when paired with a heavier baselayer.
I’ve skied the Rush LT for over a month now, and overall I am happy with my purchase and believe they will last for years to come. They vent well during warm days and keep me dry during storm days. When the vents are fully zipped, they provide a solid amount of warmth for cold tours. I am able to fit my beacon in the zip thigh pocket, and the cuffs seem really durable and tough. I am 6’0’’ and 155 pounds, and the medium was definitely the right choice for me.
Drawbacks and Shortcomings
Overall, the Rush LT is one of the best ski touring pants on the market, but I’d like to see a few improvements on future iterations. The Rush LT fits baggier than I thought it would for a pant intended primarily for use in the backcountry. I like my touring pants to have a trim fit, and the Rush LT does not fit like most touring pants out there. As for how excited I was to have a pant that was supposedly waterproof and breathable? My expectations have been met. Last weekend it dumped 18 inches here in the Wasatch, and I was out skiing for the duration of the storm. I did not feel in the least bit wet until my last run, which is okay by me.
Pockets are an incredibly important feature on a ski touring pant. I like to keep my beacon in a pocket, and the Rush LT does have a nice beacon pocket, but it does leave a bit to be desired from the rest of the pockets. There are three pockets total—two on the thighs and one on the bib. My only complaint is that one of the thigh pockets has a hook-and-loop closure instead of a zipper. I don’t feel comfortable putting anything valuable in the hook-and-loop pocket, so I typically keep a Buff or light gloves in it. In the future, making this a zip pocket for a phone or wallet would be a big upgrade.
The Rush LT is comfortable, lightweight, and provides ample protection from the elements. The GORE C-KNIT backer is soft and quiet, while the small bib design adds just the right amount of protection and warmth. While not perfect, the Rush LT pant is pretty close. Its design is definitely catered to the backcountry ski enthusiast who ventures into the backcountry regardless of the weather. Despite the high price tag, the Rush LT is a solid value due to its durability and high-quality materials.
By: Cal Perfall, Content Writer