This is a review update* of the Outdoor Tactical Pants VersaStretch Lite by Helikon-Tex, a manufacturer of a whole range of quality gear for adventures who like spending a great time outdoors. It’s been more than one and a half years since we published the original review of these pants by Helikon-Tex and we feel it is time to write a detailed update.
These trousers are advertised as an improved version of the original Outdoor Tactical Pants with lightweight and more breathable VersaStretch Lite fabric and lots of features typical for premium hiking/tactical pants. Their best use is for warm days yet the fabric is treated with a DWR finish that provides protection from wind, drizzle, and light rain.
Table of Contents
Quick specs: Helikon OTP (Outdoor Tactical Pants) – VersaStretch Lite
Weight: 300 g (10.6 oz)
Inseam: 32 (regular), 34 (long)
Material: 93% Nylon, 7% elastane
Where to get it: Military1st
- Abrasion-resistant 4-way elastic VersaStretch Lite fabric with Teflon finish (DWR coating) for added wind, water, and stain resistance
- Great pocket configuration with several good-sized pockets (ten in total) allow distributing the load close to the center mass and around the hips and waist
- Partial elastic waist with hook-and-loop fastener, which allows the wearer to tighten or loosen the fit
- Lightweight construction with excellent moisture-wicking and quick-drying abilities
- The abrasion, wind, water, and stain-resistant fabric breathes well during the heat of the day
- Fit well and feel extremely comfortable in various conditions thanks to the anatomic cut, stretchy fabric, and knees with articulated patterning for great mobility
- The hook-and-loop waist fastener is a reliable solution that does a great job
- Plenty of storage space distributed among ten pockets – two hand pockets with edges reinforced for knife/flashlight clip, two back pockets with a narrow pocket inside each of them, four thigh pockets including a zippered pouch pocket (with a sturdy YKK zipper with pull) and a pocket with hook-and-loop flap for smartphone or AR/AK magazine on each side. All ten pockets are mesh-lined for added ventilation.
- Come little on the baggy side (the part in the crotch area), whereas the legs are tapered, which makes them look much more utilitarian than stylish
- Make some swishy sound as you walk, which we don’t consider a big problem; some people who’re used to wearing quieter pants might find it annoying though
- The light rain resistance can be sustained only through regular maintenance and restoration of the DWR coating
These trousers have been worn for about two months short of two years so we’ve had plenty of opportunities to test them and see how they behave in certain situations including:
- Changing temperatures – from less than -6°C to 32°C (approximately 20-90°F)
- A multitude of terrains – from hiking on an even and not-so-rugged terrain to walking through a blanket of fallen leaves and branches to negotiating rough and steep mountainous terrain (up to 2630 m a.s.l.) as well as for walks and trips around the city
- Hiking through thick forest with very dense and lush vegetation or the so-called bushwhacking
The Helikon OTP (Outdoor Tactical Pants) Lite is a high-quality pair of pants that combine the functionality of combat pants and the stretch and comfort of hiking pants. These trousers are super lightweight and very comfortable. They also provide sufficient ventilation for warm weather hiking and all kinds of outdoor activities.
Material and construction
A nylon-spandex blend is probably the most typical fabric for versatile, hot weather hiking or tactical pants because when in the right proportions, the end result is a great material that can keep the wearer cool, dry, and comfortable during a wide variety of (high-intensity) outdoor activities.
The fabric is a very nice blend of nylon (93%) and elastane (7%). It’s treated with Teflon repellent finish (essentially, a durable water repellent) for added wind and water protection. The design is wind-resistant but cannot say if it can ward off high winds or not. You won’t have any problem in light wind, that’s for sure. Additionally, the water beads on the outside of the garment so you shouldn’t have problems in light rain (while the Teflon finish provides sufficient water resistance). However, if heavy or driving rain is expected, you’ll need a pair of good rain pants instead.
It’s certain that the material holds up well under most conditions. For example, it doesn’t have a scratch on it after several hours of bushwhacking. It’s a remarkable fact considering the following two things: 1) how thin the VersaStretch Lite material is; 2) that encounters with prickly vegetation (mostly briar) caused some damage to three different tops and spared the trousers. Apparently, the pants are well-made and fairly abrasion-resistant for such a lightweight construction. There have been no durability issues though it’s a bit too early to judge the durability of the trousers. Anyway, we’d recommend you avoid bushwhacking unless it’s unavoidable. Generally, it isn’t hard to snag and tear a pair of pants especially when they are really thin.
The OTP Lite weigh a mere 300 g (10.6 oz), which is comparable to the weight of other lightweight models for active lifestyles such as the Fjallraven Abisko Midsummer and Arc’teryx Palisade. Such a low weight is highly beneficial for those who prefer to travel lightweight (where each ounce counts) and when the temperatures rise. In the case of the OTP Lite, they feel so light and comfortable that you’d hardly notice them if it wasn’t for the swishy sound they make when walking. Actually, it isn’t that bad. You may not even notice the strange sound unless it’s really quiet all around you.
Fit & Comfort
The size pictured here is XXL (or W38-L32). At 186 cm (6’1″) height, the person wearing it weighs approximately 95 kg (210 lbs). The color shown is ‘Taiga Green’, which is a really beautiful greenish color. There are two more colors available – ‘Black’ and ‘Shadow Grey’. The trousers seem true to size. They’re stretchy, which helps a lot with getting a perfect fit. The partial elastic waist and the hook-and-loop fly allow for an individual fit that complies with the body of the wearer. We were not huge fans of the non-standard fly front as we believed that it wouldn’t wear as well as a classic fly front. We were wrong. It turned out that the hook-and-loop adjustment is more versatile than a button or snap closure as it allows to adjust the fit according to the user’s preferences. Of course, this means that you can add or lose up to several kilos and the VersaStretch Lite will still fit perfectly. Moreover, the high-quality hook-and-loop fly still works as if it is brand new even after some serious use and abuse.
Comfort is probably the word that best describes the OTP Lite as these are among the most comfortable pants we’ve ever worn. We’ve assured ourselves that they are comfortable to wear on an all-day hiking trip through thick brush and trees. The lightweight, stretchable design and articulated cut allow for unrestricted mobility when traveling over different terrain. The thin, breathable fabric makes them perfect for the summer but they’re equally comfortable during spring and fall. We’ve tested these pants as shell pants over a performance base layer numerous times in cold weather. The combo works well in dry weather and not so well in wet weather (what a surprise!) Still, no problems in light rain while the Teflon finish still holds. Unfortunately, the DWRs are no permanent solutions and the Teflon finish is no exception. To keep the water resistance of your pants, apply a waterproofing spray regularly.
We’d like to wear them all the time and that says it all.
The functionality, fit, and comfort are interrelated thus it won’t be enough for a pair of pants to be just comfortable or great fitting or very functional. No, you need a combination of functionality, fit, and comfort and it is exactly what you get with the OTP Lite. In addition, you get a nice, stretchy fabric and a great range of movement making these pants suitable for a wide range of outdoor activities such as hiking and backpacking, climbing, bouldering, casual wear or work.
The only negative thing that needs to be mentioned is the tapered legs that won’t allow fitting the pant legs over boots easily.
The overall functionality is highly dependent on the technical features so here’s what you can expect from the most important ones:
Pockets: a great pocket configuration with ten mesh-lined pockets as eight of them are deep pockets where you could store a hell of a lot of stuff – from tools and equipment to wallets, smartphones, keys, and anything else you can think of. The two front hand pockets and two back pockets are deep and convenient. The configuration of the four tight pockets is as follows: there’s one zippered pocket and one pocket with a hook-and-loop flap on each leg. Interestingly, the two secure non-zippered (hook-and-loop) pockets look relatively small but they can fit a big smartphone or something similar in size. The last two, narrow pockets are placed inside the back pockets and can be used for storing small items.
Waist: as mentioned above, the pants have a partial elastic waist with a hook-and-loop fastener that allows you to adjust the fit if necessary with up to about 1 cm (measured manually so it might be a bit more or a bit less than that). There are also large belt loops for belt with up to 50 mm (2”) width. The loops are robust and can easily fit a tactical belt. Carrying a phone holster like the OneTigris ARMOR ONE is easy and comfortable given that you wear a more substantial belt. You’ll find two loops for D-rings and carabiners just below two of these belt loops.
Articulation: articulated cut with pre-shaped knees and profiled back of the knee promotes ease of movement and mobility. The stretchy fabric also helps make the pants move with the wearer.
Ankle hem-cinch cords: no drawstring bottom cuffs but there are channels on the bottom of the legs for ribbon or drawcord to be installed to get adjustable cuffs. If you need to tighten or loosen the fit, these channels might come in handy.
Breathability and ventilation
Well-ventilated trousers are a must for summer and warm weather hiking. At temperatures around 30-32°C (86-90°F), the VersaStretch Lite Pants breathe well even when walking in the sun. There are several factors for this: the light, thin, and airy fabric; the mesh-lined pockets; and the comfortable, non-restrictive cut. In such temperatures, we usually pass on pants and prefer wearing shorts as they provide excellent ventilation. However, the OTP Lite are extremely breathable and comfortable even when worn for prolonged time on a sunny summer day. Nevertheless, hiking in really hot weather is more enjoyable when walking through forests, mountains, and all sorts of places where shade is available.
Moisture management and drying speed
The ability to wick moisture from the body and transport it to the outer surface of the garment so that it could evaporate quickly from there is among the main requirements of hiking clothing. Luckily, the Helikon OTP Lite offer great wicking ability as they wick sweat away from the skin even during some intense work. The moisture is then spread all over the surface and evaporates through the weave so that the skin feels cool, dry, and comfortable. The whole process is super-fast so you won’t even have time to feel damp for more than a few moments.
Excellent drying speed allows using these pants in a range of conditions and environments. While wearing these pants on the trail, we’ve never felt them wet in spite of the all-day summer hiking trip on primarily rough terrain. The drying time after washing them at the end of the day was less than two hours (in the evening, so no sun included, which is even more impressive). In sunny weather, it takes around 40-50 minutes to get them dry. Not sure how many other designs can dry as fast as this one but the VersaStretch Lite pants really have lightning-fast drying properties.
The Helikon OTP (Outdoor Tactical Pants) Lite is definitely a high-quality pair of pants that combines the functionality of combat pants and the stretch and comfort of hiking pants. These trousers are super lightweight, very comfortable, and perform well in a range of conditions and environments. They also provide sufficient ventilation for warm weather hiking and all kinds of outdoor activities.
As to our final verdict (it’s easy this time): in spite of some minor weaknesses, the OTP Lite Pants are amazing and we highly recommend them for everyone who wants to hit the trail with confidence.
Disclaimer: Valentin Shekerov (Camotrek.com) received a pair of Helikon OTP Lite Pants for this review.
* The original post was published in September 2020
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