After two full seasons and a start of a third with the Fargo Cargo, I can remember only a couple of times where I have soaked the pants through, and those instances were in very wet, heavy snowfall, about halfway through the second season. Other than that, the pants have worked flawlessly day in and day out, including the entire first season at Alta, which saw more than 700 inches of snow.
One caveat to my waterproof testing at Alta, however, is that although it snows a lot, it is usually pretty cold when it snows, and our snow is very dry, so I can’t say how well the Fargo Cargo will do in PNW or Sierra cement.
Now that I’m into my third season, I’m overdue to give these a waterproof washing treatment to rejuvenate the DWR coating, which generally should be done about once a season.
This ought to help keep the nylon from saturating when it’s warm and snowing or sunny and slushy (though currently the only place this happens on the pant are atop my knees or around the cuff when conditions are super slushy).
Breathability / Venting
As I mentioned earlier, one potential issue with PU laminates/coating such as the HyVent used on the Fargo Cargo is that breathability can be limited by the thickness of the coating.
I personally seem to be much more sensitive to heat and sweating in my upper body than I am with my legs, so I’ve only noticed a difference in PU’s breathability in jackets.
(I’ve used several PU membrane jackets from EMS, Helly Hansen, Burton, Trew, and TNF, including the HyVent Gonzo jacket. Compared to the Oakley Unification Pro jacket with Gore-Tex Pro Shell I’ve been using recently, if I get hot enough to sweat in the Gore-Tex jacket, the fabric stays dry, whereas the PU lining becomes soaked. But this also means that the PU jacket is much warmer, even though both are non-insulated.)
With the Fargo Cargos, I have never had an issue with overheating or sweating while layering in the same manner as I did with my Burton AK series Gore-Tex XCR pants (i.e., with light fleece pants as my base layer.)
Given that my legs don’t usual get hot or sweat as much as my core, if they do get that warm, I usually rely on a pant’s venting system rather the fabric’s breathability anyway, and the Chimney Venting system on the Fargo Cargos works very well. The large 10-inch inner thigh vents combined with the highly breathable portion of the gators allow for excellent air circulation within the pant while the zippers are open.
One reason I continually grab my Fargo Cargo’s every day is because I know that no matter the temperature, I will be perfectly comfortable. I typically wear light fleece pants as my base layer in temperatures just below 0 degrees F, up to around 35. Once temps are warmer than 35 F, I drop down to boxers and rely on the thin thermal lining to keep my body warm when activity levels are low, and open up the vents if/when I get too warm. It’s literally that easy for me. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I’m perfectly comfortable with my fleece pants under the Fargo Cargo, and I use the vents as necessary to keep my temp perfect.
Additionally, if the mercury plummets well below 0 F (as it has done a lot lately) I can throw on my thin wool long underwear (IceBreaker Sprint Legless 200g) for a bit of additional warmth. To date, however, it has always been another part of my body getting cold that forces me to run inside, not my legs.
Any pair of go-to ski pants that survive into their third season gets a nod of approval from me. That isn’t to say however, that there are zero hiccups in this department.
The first piece to fail on my Fargo Cargo pant was the small metal “boot hooks,” attached to the gripper portion of the gator. I’m not sure exactly when or where they pulled through, but nonetheless they disappeared quite quickly. This didn’t overly sadden me, though, as I found them annoying anyway, and the gator stays in place with the silicon gripper without a problem. It also didn’t deteriorate the integrity of the gripper, so no harm done in my book.
The next piece to go missing turned out to be the little button on one of the cargo pocket flaps. The button is purely for aesthetic purposes, and it is glued in place. It fell off with no harm to the nylon it was attached to, so, again, nothing to cry about other than starting to feel like a litterbug.
All three of those pieces disappeared in the first couple of months of use, and since then, there hasn’t been anything to talk about as far as pieces going missing.
As for the fabric’s integrity, I have been very impressed. I’ll be the first to admit I ski with my feet pretty close together, and have a decent habit of tearing pants up quickly. After 175+ days of use, the cuffs are definitely starting to show their age. But even with the numerous small edge cuts that have shown up over the last half season or so, there hasn’t been a large catastrophic tear yet, which has impressed me the most. The very bottom of the pant is also holding up well, showing no signs of blowing out any time soon.
The most detrimental issue I am facing happened just recently. A small portion of the nylon-to-mesh interface that holds the left gator to the pant has torn apart. I assume tugging the pants on and off some 300+ times has something to do with that, and now I’m just very careful putting my leg into that side.
The North Face Fargo Cargo pant has kept me very comfortable for years now in everything from the frigid cold and pounding snow of Niseko, Japan, to hot, spring touring days in the Wasatch. They’ve definitely shown they can handle serious use and abuse, and although they might not breath quite as well as the most expensive Gore-Tex shells—especially if you run hot—the results have been more than satisfactory for my needs, and certainly offer a great value at $170, USD.
If you’re looking for a pant that is affordable, comfortable, durable, with a fit that allows freedom of movement, you should take a serious look at The North Face Fargo Cargo.