Click here for a great selection of belts to pair with these pants.
FROM THE WAIST UP, most people know how to dress for activity in the outdoors, be it a wicking shirt or a fleece. But you probably give pants far less emphasis than the upper half of the outfit when you’re dressing for an adventure outside.
Some focus on your leg-wear can net comfort, weather protection, and performance gains as you step and stride up a mountain or along a trail.
From flannel-lined trousers to zip-off “convertible” pants, the outdoors industry offers a lot of options for the legs. Denim blue jeans are a no-no for any serious activity. So look to nylon-based pants, softshell fabrics, and canvas for better performance with wind, rain, and the steady motion of hiking.
These five pants picks represent a span of options. Pull in one leg at a time, and button up. With any of these products, your lower half will thank you for the upgrade.
1. Bargain Buy: REI Sahara Convertible
These normal-looking nylon pants feature zip-off legs to allow for a quick conversion to shorts when the weather is warm. A two-zipper system (one up the side, one around the thigh) lets you take the legs off without sitting down. And color-coded zippers make it child’s play to tell the right leg from the left when you’re putting your “pants” back on. Fabric is rated to UPF 50+ for sun protection.
2. Warm-Weather Pants: Rail Riders Eco-Mesh
Rail Riders promotes these nylon pants as made for “the desert, jungle, or backcountry.” Sporting a neat design—the pants include zip-open vents along the outside of each leg—they’re made of thin, breathable nylon, and they dry quickly if soaked on a hike. The lightweight fabric and extra airflow allow explorers to wear the Eco-Mesh pants in hot climates instead of shorts. Bonus: Every pair features an embedded Insect Shield treatment to discourage mosquitoes, flies, and ticks.
3. High-End: Thunderbolt Softshell Jeans
Sewn one by one in an Oregon factory—and made of a pricey Schoeller softshell fabric—Thunderbolt Sportswear’s namesake pants mask their technical properties with a handsome design. At a glance, they appear to be made of black denim. But they boast a stretchy, water-resistant fabric embedded with special “nano-size particles” that eschew dirt and are touted to “self-clean.”
4. Built tough: Carhartt Duck Zip-To-Thigh Bib Overalls
With hammer loops, a ruler pocket, and an aesthetic that screams “utility,” the Duck Zip-To-Thigh Bib Overalls might seem odd for the outdoors. But Carhartt has grabbed a toehold with a certain demographic that loves the company’s tough, versatile line. These bibs swap the flair of some outdoors fashion for functionality that includes built-in suspenders, tough, chap-style legs, and ankle-to-thigh zippers for easy on and off over boots.
5. Canvas Pants: Mountain Khakis mountain pant
Reinforced seat panels, triple-stitched seams, and a tough yet buttery-soft flannel lining on the legs give the Mountain Pant extra durability and warmth. Though somewhat heavy and stiff compared to their nylon brethren, the pants’ freedom of movement hasn’t been fully compromised. Mountain Khakis’ diamond-shape gusset in the crotch will let you step high or swing a leg up over a horse.
Stephen Regenold is editor and founder of GearJunkie.com.
Belts for the backcountry (and beyond)
Teton Belt by Mountain Khaki
This belt adds a hint of adventure to your casual, out-on-the-town clothing. The Grand Teton-embossed, pewter buckle pairs well with rich brown leather.
Philmont Leather Belt by the Tooth of Time Traders
$25 belt; toothoftimetraders.com
Celebrate your Philmont memories with a traditional Philmont belt, made for three generations by the Bowen family. Add your favorite buckle to give it your own personal style; we’ve picked the bold and bronze Tooth of Time buckle ($20).
Multi Stitch Belt by Dockers
The extra stitching in this belt helps it go the extra mile—from the office to the outdoors, that is. It’s got style and functionality, making it a perfect fit for busy Scouters who need to change quickly between business and Scout meetings.
Millennium Belt by Bison Designs
Climber or not, you’ll appreciate the no-flex, sturdy squeeze of this webbing belt. Shown in the Rattan Sand style, the Millennium Belt features a strong aluminum buckle to cinch your waist.
Paracord Belt by Survivor Geek
Made by a former Scout and current Scouter, the Paracord belt contains 550-pound test paracord that unravels with a pull and can be used in survival situations.