Today’s review comes to us from Katie Boué, travel blogger, climbing buff, adventure junkie, and road trip aficionado. Katie is getting ready to head out on a year-long roadtrip across the entire length of the US, living out of a giant yellow retrofit Dodge Sprinter van along the way. She will be documenting her adventure over on her blog, The Morning Fresh.
The very first reaction I received after showing off my newly acquired Mammut Refine Climbing Skort would be echoed relentlessly during my testing period: “If a woman wears that, she better be able to crush if she wants to be taken seriously.”
A self-proclaimed world first from Mammut, this soft skirt aims to combine feminine styling with climbing technology to create a piece that can easily transition from dainty daily musings to a gnarly session on sandstone. With thoughtful features like antibacterial properties and integrated fitted shorts, Mammut’s Refine skort speaks of the outdoor industry’s long-awaited realization that women are a largely untapped audience in the climbing realm –- and I applaud Mammut for stepping up to the challenge of addressing our needs.
But exactly whose needs does it speak to?
One of the first rationales I concocted for needing a climbing skort is the easy transition from stocking up on apple chips at Trader Joe’s to hopping over to your local crag — just slip on your harness, and go. No changing, no problems, right?
Wrong. Assembling yourself into the skort requires a few minutes worth of fumbling with leg straps and juggling the waist. After slipping each leg strap under the skirt and over the stretchy shorts, you must feed the clasps up through a hidden slot centered on the skort’s posterior; and then re-clip. After ensuring that the Velcro pieces on the front side’s flap are effectively “hiding” the leg loops, and your front Velcro flap is slipped through the right spot on your harness, you are finally functional. Honestly, it was no less of a hassle than sliding into some spandex shorts instead.
When I wore the Refine skort to Tallahassee Rock Gym to get some action shots, the bright teal garment drew attention from every climber at the warehouse. From a thirty-something single mother of two to a fashionable graduate school student – and the usual gaggle of dirtbag dudes milling about – a collective sentiment agreed that I stuck out like a sore thumb. Not only did I draw immediate attention from every climber at the gym; they were all quick to admit that, well, I didn’t look cute.
One of the first reactions was that my rear end looked rather lumpy. While the leg straps from my harness were hidden beneath the skort’s teal fabric, their shape was still nearly entirely visible. For a sleeker look, women would need to be wearing a much more minimalistic harness than mine – but I guess I’m a little old school, rocking the admittedly bulky Black Diamond. I hear all the new gear is impossibly lightweight, so that would likely solve the chunky butt issue.
While climbing, I was pleasantly surprised by how much movement the skort allowed for, and how little I noticed the bunchy fabric gathered around my knees while I was throwing heel hooks and cranking off high feet. Regardless, I still felt a slight blow to my ego each time I heard a snigger drift up the wall from the crash pad spectators. I was no longer the chick respected for her tenacity to hang with the fellas; I was just a girl, climbing in a skirt.
To add a little salt to the esteem wounds, reviewing photos of me tying in delivered a startlingly new outlook on my body type. Where I am usually impressed by the masculine tone of my muscles against my dirtbag attire, the ultra feminine look of the skort made my manly shoulders look out of place. (We’ll skip over the hilarity that ensued when folks realized the faux up-skirt view created when I climbed above head-level.)
It quickly became clear that the skort is not appropriate for the type of climber lady who owns a wardrobe comprised largely of old tank tops and cut-off jeans – so who could pull this off?
I reasoned that it could fly for the working gal in Boulder, eager to hit the cliffs for a few laps on a lunch break. Most unanimously, it was decided that the skort would be a hit amongst crag moms; the soccer moms of climbing, if you will. She spends her Saturdays slaving over ropes and providing belays for her enthusiastic youth team climber – and this skort makes her feel feminine while doing it.
The bottom line? With a price tag of $89, this climbing skort feels hard to justify as a worthy investment – at least for my demographic. While I, and my fellow lady climbers, appreciate the effort to specifically target the female audience in the climbing community, we really only have one question for Mammut: When are you going to design us a women’s version of the Realization Shorts?
That’s what we really want.