Most of my outdoors cohorts wear athletics tights for sports like mountain biking, backpacking and adventure racing. Though you’ll catch me in tights on occasion, I’m more comfortable — physically and narcissistically — in looser-fitting pants.
Over the past four months, I tested outdoors-oriented pants from five companies in the woods and around town. Here are my opinions, both from an athletic and aesthetic standpoint.
For serious bushwhacking and wilderness exploration, RailRiders’ Weatherpants ($75, www.railriders.com) were my favorite. The 11-ounce nylon Supplex pants, which are reinforced in the seat and knees with thicker Dupont Cordura nylon, provide simple, bomb-proof performance.
Nice touches include a removable belt, a strong rivet closure on the waist, Velcro ankle closures, and a zip pocket on back. The Weatherpants’ Supplex fabric is quick-drying and has adequate breathability. It is also tough and resistant to thorn snagging — a big plus for anyone with a penchant for treks into deep, thick woods.
Mountain Hardwear’s Canyon Pant ($65, www.mountainhardwear.com) was the other primary contender in my test. The nylon pant has a seamless waist, articulated knees, integrated belt, crotch and leg gussets, and deep pockets with mesh drain panels. Compared to RailRiders’ Weatherpants, the Canyon Pant is lighter weight and better suited for weather above 70 degrees. It has slightly better breathability than the Weatherpants but not as much reinforcement and durability.
The other three companies in this review — Arborwear, Cloudveil, and Mountain Khakis — sent pants models that’ll do double duty in the woods and in town, though they’re all cotton-based and thus not suited for extended trips or serious adventures.
Arborwear’s Original Tree Climber’s Pants ($55, www.arborwear.com), which were initially made for the niche market of the tree-trimming industry, have garnered an outdoors following. They are made of a sturdy 12-ounce cotton canvas but have a gusseted crotch to provide full movement and flexibility. I’ve worn these pants on many long rock climbs.
Mountain Khakis’ Alpine Utility Pant (www.mountainkhakis.com) is also a canvas-based piece with a gusseted crotch and sturdy construction similar to the Arborwear product. They are good-fitting, quality pants, but the $80 price tag seems high. In addition, the fabric tends to wrinkle easily after a washing.
Finally, Cloudveil’s Cord-o-let Pants ($75, www.cloudveil.com) are made of slightly stretchy corduroy that blends cotton and Spandex. While style outweighs function with this model, the Cord-o-let is loose-fitting and comfortable enough for climbing and moderate outdoor activities like a day hike in Yosemite or an urban trek from Central Park to Greenwich Village.