Thunderbolt Original Jeans – Mark II Alloy
Review by Coy Starnes
The Thunderbolt Original Mark II are a Jack of all Trades in the jean world but the master of none does not apply. Think of a pair of jeans equally at home hiking, rock climbing, biking, kayaking, or just wearing to town. And not only that, they are as comfortably as a pair of sweat pants. I know it might sound like I’m exaggerating but after just a couple of times wearing them I do believe they will excel in all my outdoor activities and are well on their way to becoming my favorite jeans. The secret ingredient that makes the jeans so special is the Schoeller Dryskin fabric. The content is printed on the inside of the jeans as 9% Spandex, 18% Polyester and 73% Nylon. They also benefit from NanoSphere which causes water to roll right off and keeps oils and dirt from sticking, however, it is not a DWR coating but rather has to do with how the fabric is shaped. But first, a little about what the manufacture has to say about the Thunderbolts.
“This is the pant that started it all. Now, we’ve improved its fit and quality, resulting in a high-performance, yet understated jean that does it all.”
Schoeller® Dryskin soft-shell with NanoSphere® treatment.
Double woven blend of nylon, polyester, & spandex manufactured in accordance with Bluesign
Hidden zipper on right rear pocket creates a secure place for stuff you can’t afford to lose, sized just right for a passport.
Reinforced ‘no-stretch’ waistband.
Imported Swiss fabric.
Average weight is 16 ounces.
Breathable, quick drying, wind and water resistant, with full four way stretch.
Straight leg fit – not baggy, not skinny.
Designed and sewn in Portland, Oregon USA
90 Day No Hassle Guarantee
I’m not all that familiar with Scholler Dryskin so I looked it up. After finding the English version I read how it is specifically designed for pants and jackets used in sports with high movement. They say it is durable, fast drying, breathable, and wind and water resistant, all while maintaining a high level of comfort. In other words, all properties that are important in a garment that can excel in just about any activity.
The style of the Thunderbolts is pretty much your basic straight leg blue jean. They are not skinny jeans either. They have 2 slash pockets in the front and 2 wallet pockets in the back. One of theses has a hidden zipper so securing valuable is a cinch. The front pockets are not real deep but I found my over-sized iPhone 6+ fits nicely but there is not much room for anything else. There is also a small watch pocket over the right front pocket. The jeans fasten with a button and have a YKK metal zipper. The jeans are sewn on the USA (Portland Or. To be exact).
Since the Thunderbolt Mark II jeans are not sold in retail stores, ordering the right size is a gamble, but the return policy makes it a lot less worrisome. I requested a size 38 x30 since that’s the size I wear in most jeans. Turns out they fit just about perfect. I was sort of hoping they might even be a little snug so as to encourage me to lose a little more weight but I’m off the hook. I would describe the fit as athletic. They are not baggy for sure but the stretch built in makes them as comfortable as loose fit jeans. In fact, I tried to bend in every way imaginable to see if I could find the limit of these jeans and was unable too. I could do full squats with no problem. I can’t do splits but I think the Thundrebolts would be up to them. Here is a photo where I was stepping up on a rock ledge that was almost waist high and the jeans did not bind at all.
Performance so far
Fit has a lot to do with performance so it helps that they fit so good. However, good fit won’t make a pair of regular cotton jeans move with my body like these do and they sure wont dry as fast as the Thunderbolts did. I first wore them on a 14.3 mile ride on my ElliptiGo. It was 81 F and I worked up a pretty good sweat while climbing several hills on my ride. However, the constant breeze allowed the Thunderbolts to stay pretty dry throughout the ride. I never felt like my jeans were slowing me down either. A few days later I went on 3.5 hour day hike down to a creek near my house. I only ended up hiking about 4 miles because I stopped rest awhile at the creek and took lots of pictures. I actually didn’t sweat as much on the hike as I did on the ElliptiGo ride but got pretty warm hiking home which is all uphill. It was 83 F when I left home at 3 PM and 78 F by the time I got home at 6:20 PM. Again, the wicking ability seemed excellent. I had on a cotton tee and the shirt pretty much wetted out. The Thunderbolts were just a little damp at the waist but I couldn’t even see a sweat line. For the record, I would normally wear shorts in temperatures this warm so I’m curious to see how they feel when it gets colder.
A few more thoughts on the Thunderbolt Original Jeans. They are also available in black, blacktop and the alloy I’m testing. The blacktop is not jet black like the black. The alloy is a slate grey color, similar to what I’m used to seeing in dress slacks. I did not weigh the pants but they are much lighter than my other jeans. With an MSRP of $200 these jeans are not cheap. I was curious so I looked and found some other Schoeler Dryskin pants and the price is inline with those and were slightly cheaper then several I found. In other words, comparing them to normal jeans is not fair and to be honest, I’ve seen “designer” jeans that cost $100 or more. Another thing to consider is that the Thunderbolts are well suited for so many activities that my regular jeans are not.
Update: January 4, 2017
After wearing the Thunderbolt pants on a pretty regular basis for the past two months I have to say they are awesome. I know this is an often overused cliche but let me explain. They feel just as comfortable as my favorite sweatpants. However the pockets are much more useful and they did not tend to pull down when I had my pockets full. I did wear a belt with them occasionally but even without one on they stayed up nicely. I will say that when I was conceal carrying they did print a little more than most of my jeans but I never felt like anyone was going to guess I had my Ruger LCP in a sticky holster in my front pocket. They also look much better then sweats. Or maybe more presentable would be a better description. I wore them in the woods more than anywhere but I also wore them to town several times and even to church a few times.
I also loved the fact that these pants are almost waterproof. I wore them while paddling my kayak and the splash from my paddle would just run off. I wore them outdoors in the rain several times and my legs never got wet from rain. To be fair, I never was out for long in the rain but the only time I felt dampness was when sitting on a wet rock down by the creek.
The Thunderbolt jeans are also fairly warm for such lightweight pants. I wore them biking in temperatures as cool as 50 F and wore them day hiking on much colder days. As long as I was moving I never felt cold in the pants. I wore them on a couple of chilly mornings while deer hunting and I did notice the chill a little. I could have used a warmer pair of pants but I was sitting still in 35 F weather. I was in a blind so wind was not an issue. A slightly heavier version in camo would be sweet though. I wore them while doing an overnighter and slept in them. It was nice to not need to change into more comfortable sleeping gear and they are probably as warm as my wool underwear.
I really liked that the Thunderbolt jeans are easy to care for. For starters, I only washed them three times even though I wore them more than a dozen times. I know I went at least four wearings before each washing. This means the pants are pretty good at eliminating sweat odor. I did hang them out in the sun for a few hours after each time wearing them. I washed them using the “Casuals” setting on my washing machine. This is basically a warm setting. I would then hang them up on my deck railing for an hour or so and they would be completely dry. I even wore them once right out of the washer and they felt pretty dry. My machine has a high spin cycle that gets most of the water out before even removing them from the washer.
Final Update: February 20, 2017
I have now worn the Thunderbolt jeans enough to realize they are my favorite pants. I have worn them while day hiking, riding my bike and Elliptigo, backpacking, kayaking, hunting, to town and even to church several times. I have worn them in temperatures ranging from the mid 20s F to the mid 80s F. I have worn them in both wet and dry conditions and on very windy days. The most severe testing was on a 3 day 2 night backpacking trip along the Pinhoti Trail in east central Alabama when I wore the pants for the entire trip including sleeping in them. This trip turned out to be mild temperature wise with highs near 70 F and lows around 50 F. However I did end up hiking in pouring rain for about an hour and it sure was nice to not need to dig out rain pants. It also saved me some weight since I didn’t have to pack rain pants.
If I had to rank the features of the Thunderbolt jeans I’d have to put comfort at the top of the list. They fit nicely, which helps, but the stretchy material is definitely playing a big role in making them superbly comfortable. I noticed the comfort most when climbing steep terrain. Normally if I’m wearing jeans I notice that they seem to restrict my stride when going uphill. The Thunderbolt jeans are pretty snug on my thighs but I never felt like they were holding me back.
Next would be the water shedding ability of the Thunderbolts. I noticed that water just seemed to roll of them when I was kayaking. On the day I hiked an hour in a steady rain I halfway expected the pants to eventually wet out but they felt dry when arrived at my truck. It is hard to believe a pair of pants as comfortable on warm dry days could also work as rain pants.
The ability to not show dirt was also appreciated. My hiking pants are usually pretty muddy and stained looking after a wet weekend of camping but I was surprised at how clean the Thunderbolt jeans looked after 3 days of hiking. I was also surprised that they did not stink all that much but I did wash them after the trip.
Next would be the durability of the Thunderbolt jeans. After several months of hard use I can’t find any nicks or picks in the material. Perhaps they think they are a Timex, they take a licking and keep on ticking. Seriously, they are very durable for a stretch material article of clothing.
One other aspect of the Thunderbolt jeans that was really nice was being able to pack them for dress clothes. I just rolled them up and crammed them in my suitcase. When it was time to wear them they always came out of my suitcase wrinkle free.
I don’t know of a better way to put it other than I really like these pants. Put it this way, if I had to pick just one pair of pants to wear everyday for the rest of my life these would have to be it.
This concludes my testing of the Thunderbolt Origional jeans. I would like to thank 4alloutdoors and Thunderbolt Sportswear for this test opportunity.