Mattia Conte has tested the Rafiki LEAD II Man shorts for over six months during his climbing road trip. Read about how the shorts have held up to the intensive demands of climbing.
"I TRY TO USE THE SHORTS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE UNTIL THE TEMPERATURE DROPS BELOW TEN DEGREES."
When I got my hands on the new Rafiki shorts LEAD II at the beginning of the summer, I was pretty stoked. I love climbing in shorts, I try to make the most use out of them until the temperature doesn’t drop below 10 °C and well, I’m just giving you my honest review after six months of intense and heavy use.
But let’s start slowly from the beginning…
LEAD II has been some of the best shorts I’ve worn for climbing. Right in the middle of the heat wave, where it was (more or less) possible to climb only in the shade and big overhanging caves, the LEAD II shorts were my ultimate offensive weapon!
First of all: they are extremely light and you will notice it as soon as you touch them. The mix of polyamide and elastane is just the right combination for having a lightweight pair of shorts that feels comfortable on the skin when the sweat comes in, and also in the climbing movements. No restrictions, no "pulling up" the shorts before you make a high step or move.
On the waist belt, there is a wide stripe mix of elastane and cotton that keeps the shorts in place all the time. And the simplicity of putting them on and not having to worry about buttons and zips is peace of mind, so you can just really focus on climbing instead.
"Not worrying about buttons and zips is peace of mind, so you can just focus on climbing instead."
So what else? Chalk, sweat, some dirt and in my case also some blood spots from scratches and tufa fighting here and there. They usually don't look good on any kind of clothing piece. But what I've noticed with the LEAD II is that they are absolutely easy to keep clean. Only some water and a gentle rub would make you pretty decent for the "beer-after-climb" at the bar. And they dry very quickly. But like really fast!
Since I've been travelling in my van for many months now, and also as my fellow van-life friends say, changing clothes it's not your top priority and you can abuse the Rafiki LEAD II shorts for many days in a row. Give them a quick handy clean and still climb in them the day after...before the "god-blessed washing machine day" finally comes! And please: don't dry them in a drying machine, there's absolutely no need for that.
"YOU CAN ABUSE SHORTS FOR DAYS in a row UNTIL THe GOD-BLESSED LAUNDRY DAy finally comes..."
What surprised me about the used synthetic material, it's the resistance of the product itself. The LEAD II have been my main climbing shorts during the last six months, with an average of four climbing days/week, and they still look pretty new! They resist well on daily use at the crag. During long approaches, they feel very comfortable and they also handle frequent contact with the rock itself featuring a lot of knee-bars. Still no cuts, no rips or any holes in the fabric.
"They can handle daily contact with rocks, even if you use knee-bars one after the other."
For sport climbing, they fit without any problems under your climbing harness, and the cotton elastic waist belt acts as good protection for your skin during the hang time and all the climbing movements, without irritating your skin if you climb shirtless.
When you go bouldering, the feeling is just super comfy. Simply cool shorts that keep you fresh and they don't limit your movements, no matter the high step or the heel you placed. So don't blame the trousers!
The LEAD II shorts also have two side pockets, one large rear pocket and a little loop on the back, which I found very useful when you need to dry them out in the air.
The pockets are deep enough and perfectly placed, so the access to them is pretty natural with the harness on when climbing or when you are belaying without any need of moving and squeezing.
"The small loop at the back was useful for drying my shorts outside in strong winds."
Maybe the only downside for me is that I don't like the rear pocket too much. It is a little bigger and I can't find any suitable use while I am climbing. But, that is my thing, because generally, I'm not fond of any back pockets on trousers.
Or maybe am I just finding an excuse for the extra weight of the shorts and not having sent my project?
Something surprising was the feeling when I put a climbing knee-pads on. You have to pull the shorts a bit upwards to make more space for the pad and usually, it's something that I hate to have that extra fabric wrinkled and squeezed on top of the pad. But the LEAD II fabric is so versatile and universal, that it doesn't feel like any kind of discomfort.
So yeah, if you are looking for a pair of shorts for a whole day of climbing in the crag and you want to feel fresh, comfortable and lightweight plus a practical thing that they dry very quickly, don't look around too much and take them on!
The LEAD II shorts will be your next favourite piece of climbing clothes to wear and pack with you on all of your climbing trips.
+ super lightweight
+ perfectly packable
+ quick drying
+ fast cleaning
+ fresh look, cool fabric
+ comfy on the skin (after a whole day of climbing)
– rear pocket is a little big (personal feeling)