Breaking through treeline on a flank of Mount Massive, Colorado’s second-highest peak, I could see the clouds building from the west — cold wind and the threat of a mid-summer pounding was in the air. Hours before, I had started the ascent comfortably with shorts in 70-degree weather. The approaching storm was driving temps down rapidly — time to zip the legs back onto my convertible pants. Time to push fast for the summit.
The Paramount Convertible Pant from The North Face was designed for these scenarios. Like similar convertible models, the Paramounts have mid-thigh zip-off legs, Velcro cargo pockets, and extended side-leg zippers to provide easy off-and-on.
The $65 pants are made with a rugged nylon fabric and coated with a water-repellent finish. They come with a low-profile belt. I have found them to be comfortable equally in the heat of the desert, where they serve as protection against the sun, or in brisk air on an alpine peak.
I’ve worn the pants for dozens of adventures over the past year — from the snowy summits of multiple 14ers, to heat in Great Sand Dunes National Park. I wore them on a muggy trek in the jungle of Costa Rica.
In all these situations, the Paramounts did not disappoint. It is easy to switch from pants to shorts. And with the side zips there is no need to take off your boots to remove the pant legs. Accessibility to the two front-facing cargo pockets makes storing and grabbing small necessities a breeze.
The most notable difference between the Paramount and other popular convertible pants I have tried, including the Columbia Silver Ridge, is the shorter inseam on the shorts. The Paramount inseam is 8 inches, and the inseam on a pant like the Silver Ridge is about 10 inches. I have found this shorter inseam can cause some binding issues when trying to step over objects such as a fallen tree or other debris.
The North Face (www.thenorthface.com) should have designed these pants to be a little roomier in the thigh area to allow greater freedom of movement. However, the shorter inseam makes them fit like normal shorts as opposed to over-the-knee knickers.
Overall, the Paramounts are worth the money. You can expect to get years of use out of these rugged pants. They make my go-to gear list as reliable, rugged, and well-performing apparel — in the desert, mountains, or anywhere in between.
—Steve Hitchcock is a Colorado-based writer, teacher, organic farmer, and outdoors guide. He blogs at www.UpaDowna.com.