I’m a man who has spent a fair amount of time out there on the trails and in the mountains. Maybe not as much as I’d like, mind you, but a fair amount to be sure.
One thing I and anyone who has done his or her share of trekking can tell you is that when afield, using the right gear and wearing the right garments matters. Every ounce adds up on a long hike or a climb and things you normally don’t much think about — like sock thickness or waist band material — take on dramatic new levels of importance. (The reasoning there pertains to blisters and chafing, FYI.)
Take a look at this (rather awesome) picture of me from a few years back. Beyond the ice axe, the snowy field, and the cerulean blue sky, what else do you notice? Yep, those pants. Those, dear reader, are Vietnam War era surplus pants that weighed in at about five pounds when dry, and soaked up every bit of moisture that goddamn mountain had to offer. I figured: “Hey, these are thick, durable pants with cargo pockets, they’re perfect for mountaineering!” Why did I think that? Inexperience. Ah, young fool…
Now see this next picture. This is from another mountaineering expedition a few years later. And, yes, I’m wearing blue jeans. Blue jeans! Yep, good old denim. Denim is tough and durable and can be quite comfortable. It’s a great material for wearing while you work or while you’re out on the town. But when you’re on a mountain, jeans are too stiff, heavy, and prone to soak up liquid. They are, in short, a bad choice for the outdoorsman.
But then look… a revelation! That’s right, after a few years of trial and error, I finally figured it out. The best pants to wear while hiking are… HIKING PANTS! There’s a reason dozens of brands offer all sorts of purpose-built breeches, it turns out. So there I am, wearing lightweight, wind-breaking, water-wicking pants that are just perfect for a hike. But they’re not exactly… fashionable, right? Normally I couldn’t care less about what my pants look like when I’m in the woods or on a mountain. (Ask me if I cared about hiking down from the summit of the Grand Teton with a huge assflap hanging off of my pants after they got snagged on a rock. Or don’t, I’ll just tell you: I didn’t. Much.) But if you’re traveling long distances in order to climb or hike, or if you’re backpacking through foreign lands (or America, why not?) and you need pants that can be used both in the woodlands and in civilization, you chose to spend time both in the woodlands and in civilization in the right era of history.
Yes, these days you can find pants that are both fashionable and more than adequate for a serious outdoor adventure. Or for walking your dog or something — whenever you need pants, basically.
COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR – Silver Ridge Cargo Pant
I like the look of the Silver Ridge cargo pants from Columbia mainly because the cargo pockets are so minimally visible. Cargo pockets aren’t exactly hip anymore, but the outdoorsman still need places to store things on his person. When empty, the pockets blend into the fabric, and overall the pants look like casual khakis that could be worn under a t-shirt or a button down and over hiking boots, sandals, or loafers. The provide plenty of sun protection, they wick sweat, and they have a slim, straight cut to the leg. Fine pants, overall, from a trusted brand.
ROCKY SUN – Convertible Climbing Pants
It’s hard to look cool in a pair of pants that can zipped down into shorts. On the other hand, it’s much easier to physically stay cool in such pants, and your body temperature matters more than your sartorial style when you’re trekking. These pants, however, manage to actually look pretty good whether zipped into their full length or with the lower legs removed. They embrace the unique seam pattern convertible pants create by featuring myriad other seams at varied angles and through yellow accents on the zippers and legs. They may well catch someone’s attention on a city street, but likely not because they look pastoral, but more because they actually look pretty hip. And they’re priced to sell, baby.
FJALLRAVEN – Vidda Pro Pant
These are good looking pants, it’s as simple as that. Most men could pull these off at the bar, at a workplace with a casual dress policy, at a club, or when out on the trail. They have a relaxed cut that’s still not baggy, they come in deep, masculine colors, and they feature enough pockets to seem stylish and interesting rather than… let’s say… dweeby. The Vidda Pro pants allow for excellent range of motion, they resist scratches and repel water, and they will last you for years. Which is good, because a pair usually costs around $150.
(And no, I’m sorry, you’ll never look as hip as John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt did standing atop that mountain in what would soon be Yosemite Park all those many decades ago. No pants can provide that level of cool.)