Whether you’re out on the trail in the winter and dependent on your baselayers for warmth, or train hopping through Europe on a shoestring budget wearing the same ratty flannel for days on end, your apparel is your most important gear. A good pair of travel or hiking pants means the difference between being comfortable on that all day hike through the Sierras or suffering dreaded chaffing while your better half drags you through the art museums of Amsterdam. We’ve been putting our favorite brands through some marathon testing this year to find the best all-around travel pants for every environment so you can pick what’s right for you.
lululemon ABC Pants: Urban to Trail
The ABC (anti-ball crushing) are our hands down favorites for office wear that doubles as serious trail wear. The modern slim cut is flattering with a dress shirt. However, these pants pack in some serious technical four-way stretch fabric that sheds moisture and stains – perfect for shrugging off spilled beer or trail mud. The gusseted crotch is roomy enough for scrambling on rough terrain (and maintaining a little extra comfort down there) without looking like a pair of baggy hiking pants. It’s time to ditch the slacks and embrace a little extra technology and comfort.
Black Diamond BDV: Harsh Weather
When you’re heading into cold, nasty weather, a typical pair of stretchy hiking pants designed for summer just won’t cut it. The BDV’s feature ultra burly Schoeller fabric with their Nanosphere treatment woven into the fibers. The result is an incredibly well built pair of soft shell pants that can stand up to serious punishment. From snowy hikes to wet photo shoots, these pants have handled the worst weather Mother Nature has thrown at us and kept us warm and dry through it all.
prAna Zion Stretch: Long Haul Trekking
We discovered the Zions at our local REI right before a big climbing trip last fall, and have loved them ever since. The nylon-spandex blend is forgiving when inching your way up a gnarly crack climb, and incredibly abrasion resistant. They really shine on long haul backpacking trips in the heat, as there are ventilation holes sewn into the crotch, and the Scotchgard DWR treatment aids in incredibly fast drying and stain shedding. Dirtbag van dwellers rejoice.
Ex Offico Mondano: World Traveler
This cotton-polyester ripstop pant has seen duty in airports all over the West Coast in the last few weeks without any problems. The fabric is soft against the skin, but tough enough to stand up to both city commutes and offroad duty. We especially like the zip pocket in back for security as well as the reinforced front pockets for a pocket knife clip (just please don’t fly with one).
We know what you’re thinking, performance and denim don’t go to together. However, DU/ER’s L2X fabric is made with Invista CoolMAX fibers and is 30% lighter and 30% stronger than traditional denim. We’ve ridden a long bike commute and hopped on a few boudering routes in ours and so far they definitely live up to the hype. They dried faster than some of our more high tech hiking pants after a bike ride in 90 degree heat, and stretch well enough to pull off a heel hook while climbing. Whatever the secret sauce to these jeans is, we want more of it.