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Patagonia's Iron Forge Hemp Canvas Double Knee Pants

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Patagonia is best known for making technical mountain clothing from materials like nylon, wool, Gore-Tex, and down. Starting this August, however, the company is launching a whole line of work clothing based around hemp, an easy-to-grow and durable alternative to cotton. Imagine the sort of garb Yvon Chouinard would have worn to bang out those very first climbing pitons.

Tested: Patagonia's Iron Forge Hemp Canvas Double Knee Pants

I got my hands on a pair earlier this month and immediately handed them over to Saylor Flett for ten days .

Flett noticed the cut almost immediately. Unlike Patagonia’s other clothes, which are svelte and efficient (so you don’t have extra material flapping around when you’re climbing or skiing), the work pants are almost baggy. The lower legs are cut to fit over work boots, and the knees and thighs leave plenty of room to move, even when you’re wrapped in this heavier, more-durable fabric blend.

The other feature Flett noticed right away was the lack of a break-in time. These pants were comfortable right out of the box and didn’t stiffen after a wash. “They’re really soft and supple and have a good hand on them,” Flett said.

He did say, though, that filling his pockets was only practical when he was working while standing. His wallet tended to fall out when he was lying down under the Airstream.

Finally, there was durability. Flett said he’s used to the tough-as-nails feel of Carhartts and was worried the softer Patagonia material might not hold up. Over the ten-day test, however, he did his best to scrape and abuse the pants, and they never tore or seemed to wear out. Flett is going to continue putting the Iron Forge pants through the wringer, but knowing Patagonia,we both feel confident that the pants will live up to the claims.