Before I start any adventure, I think about the gear I will need. If I am planning a long expedition it could take months of actual research and purchasing before my kit is complete! However, no gear inventory is complete without a solid pair of convertible pants.
THE REI CLASSIC SAHARA CONVERTIBLE
THE NORTH FACE PARAMOUNT PEAK II CONVERTIBLE PANTS
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THE COLUMBIA SILVER RIDGE CONVERTIBLE HIKING PANT
THE KUHL RENEGADE CONVERTIBLE PANTS
THE PRANA MEN’S STRETCH ZION CONVERTIBLE PANT
Planning a trip to Patagonia – How will this all fit in my backpack?!?
Convertible pants come in several varieties:
1. Zip-Off Hiking Pants: These are the standard hiking pants with the zip-off legs. One thing to look for when purchasing a pair of zip-off hiking pants is to check the inseam of the shorts when the pant legs are off. If this falls too short or to long for your comfort the versatility of your new pants will be lost! A good rule of thumb for convertible pants is to have the inseam end above your kneecap, so that the heavy hem of the sort (remember, it has an inflexible zipper in there) does not catch on your knee as you hike. Some zip-off pants also come in Capri-length.
2. Roll-Up Hiking Pants: There are pants with an included cinch part way up the pant leg. They usually come in regular of relaxed fit, and the hiker simply rolls the bottom cuff over several times and secures it with the cinch.
3. Combo Convertible Pants: These incorporate a cinch as well as a zip-off pant leg, so you get the best of both worlds!
On my trip to Patagonia (featured above in the planning stages), space in my backpack was severely limited. Convertible pants were a must in order to save weight. The idea of carrying an extra pair of shorts being intolerable might seem silly, but when long-distance hiking and mountaineering every ounce counts! In order to get views like this one you have to be willing to make some sacrifices!
Glacier Viedma, Patagonian Argentina. The Southern Ice Fields are in the background.
Of course, saving weight is not the only reason you might want to purchase a pair of men’s convertible pants!
The freedom of being able to adjust your clothing is key to being an efficient backpacker. Many hikes begin fully insulated; as the day wears on, layers are shed; by nighttime the layers are back on and the next morning the process begins again. Especially when hiking in mixed-gender groups it is nice not to have to strip every time you switch between pants and shorts!
I almost always hike with a sturdy pair of gaiters, like the OR Crocs here.
One of the main benefits of a gaiter is that it saves those expensive wool or synthetic hiking socks. A pebble entering your shoe or boot can wreak havoc on your socks within a few steps and everyone knows how annoying it is to stop, pull off your shoe, and dig around for that pesky pebble or stick!
My favorite hiking configuration is a pair of good men’s convertible pants with high gaiters because this gives me the most options when trying to cool off or warm up. Unless I am on an ultralight thru-hike, I generally wear boots, so there is no chance to drop my zip-off pant legs without taking the bulky boot off (although there are some models that allow you to fully remove the pant leg without taking off your shoe – check out my #1 Top Pick!). What I do is roll up the pant leg and stash it around my ankle inside the gaiter. I can do this while my backpack is on and within about 30 seconds I am from pants to shorts and still hiking!
INSIDER TIP: When using the above configuration, high gaiters can be hot. What I like to do is fold them down over themselves to cool off and up again on the uphill parts of my hike (when my calves are pumping and generating lots of heat) and pull them up at the summit or pass, to retain that heat in the smaller muscles of the lower leg. My thighs generally stay hot throughout the hike and so I start with the convertible pants up, drop the pant legs 30-45 minutes into the hike when I am sufficiently warm, and pull them up again when I take lunch or a long break.
My REI Sahara convertible pants I have from Colorado along the Canejos River
THE NUTS AND BOLTS: WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A GREAT PAIR OF MEN’S CONVERTIBLE PANTS
There are some key points that are easy to go over when you are in the market for a pair of convertible hiking pants. I like to ignore specific brands until the end of my decision making process and focus on the actual qualities of the clothing.
- Are the knees articulated and is the crotch well gusseted? I have a long stride and generally look for a 8-10” gusset.
- What does the fabric feel like? Is it heavy and firm or flexible and light? What material is it constructed from?
- How do the zippers (both crotch and for the pant legs) work? These are generally smaller zippers but they should still slide easily up and down.
- How do the buttons and Velcro® accessories feel? Do the buttons feel as if they are seated properly or do they feel like they move within the fabric?
- How does the clothing fit? When I lift my knee to my chest several times, are the pants constrictive in any way? Where does the short inseam fall on my thigh? (Above the knee or this will chafe your kneecaps!)
If you have been reading convertible hiking pants reviews, you know there are many great options available. I am going to go over my Top Picks to share what I dig and what I don’t like in each of the major models and brands!
Best Men's Convertible Pants for Hiking
TOP PICK #1 – MEN’S CONVERTIBLE HIKING PANTS – THE REI CLASSIC SAHARA CONVERTIBLE
OK, I know some of you consider the “REI” brand to be a sort of generic brand. When you walk into an REI store this is most likely the most economic option you find and even if you do not realize it, you have been inundated with advertising from the other brands on the shelves. That being said, the REI Classic Sahara is my hands down favorite convertible hiking pant of all time. I have quite literally spent years wearing pairs of these pants!
The newer models have a zip down the leg so you can pull them off without dealing with stashing them in your gaiter or tying them up! When hiking on a muddy trail, this can make a HUGE difference by not having to try to pull them off over muddy shoes!
- UPF 50+
- LOADED with pockets for everything you need on hand
- Reinforced cuffs at the heel to keep the pant from fraying
- Flat seams and relaxed fit for absolute comfort
- DWR finish
- Fabric of the newer models is thin – prone to tear in cross country excursions
TOP PICK #2 – MEN’S CONVERTIBLE HIKING PANTS – THE NORTH FACE PARAMOUNT PEAK II CONVERTIBLE PANTS
I like the North Face. I have seen many North Face Convertible Pants over the years and while I sometimes hesitate because for the price (a pair of Columbia convertible pants is half the price of a pair of North Face convertible pants) but when I do decide to purchase a piece of North Face clothing I am happy with the quality and attention to detail. The Paramount Peak II convertible pants are a great option for hiking!
The North Face cares about the environment as well and the materials they use are certainly green. The company uses BlueSign® approved fabric.
- 100% abrasion-resistant nylon
- Integrated webbing belt
- Converts to 10” inseam shorts
- DWR treatment
- Elastic waist at the back is super comfy!
- One of the only Top Picks made from environmentally approved materials!
- Belt buckle has been know to snap in cold weather
- If shopping online, be SURE you order the Paramount Peak II, not the I!
TOP PICK #3 – MENS CONVERTIBLE HIKING PANTS – THE COLUMBIA SILVER RIDGE CONVERTIBLE HIKING PANT
Columbia’s Silver Ridge convertible hiking pant wins my #1 spot for most economic zip-off pant! When you do some searching you can sometimes find these pants for under $40, and for a quality pair of convertible hiking pants that is a good price. I have on occasion found my #1 pick (The REI Sahara) on a clearance rack in a physical store for under $50, so if you are shopping in person always check out the options in the store. However, I usually shop online, and the Columbia Silver Ridge is a great option when I am on a budget and trying to get a good pair of convertible hiking pants!
- 100% Nylon
- OmniShade® 50 UPF sun protection
- Best priced QUALITY convertible pant on the market
- Cargo Pockets for everything you need on hand
- Check the stitching, on imported models some loose threads can ruin your day!
TOP PICK #4 – THE KUHL RENEGADE CONVERTIBLE PANTS
Kuhl might be a brand you have little experience with; they started small and while they do advertise, their marketing budget is not where the big names are. I was first introduced to Kuhl when picked up a standard hiking cap in a hiking store, to help with the sun on my forehead. I ended up using this cap for years!
The Kuhl Renegade convertible pants are an excellent option for those looking for a bit more durability. These are also technically classified as a soft shell, but being in the same price range (or a little higher) than my other Top Picks I wanted to include them in this list! If you are looking to invest a little more, pick up the Kuhl Renegades and you will get triple functionality in this piece of clothing!
- Kuhl Duralax® Fabric with DWR finish is one of the highest quality on the market!
- Compartmentalized cargo pockets – stay organized with these pants and don’t waste time digging around!
- Converts to 10” inseam shorts (industry standard)
- Gusseted fully
- Mesh pocket bags for ventilation on those large upper-leg muscles!
- Highest Price convertible pant I am reviewing - $$$
TOP PICK #5 – MENS CONVERTIBLE HIKING PANTS – THE PRANA MEN’S STRETCH ZION CONVERTIBLE PANT
Stretch Zion technology has been around for a little while now and I am starting to get on board. This production technique results in material that is both highly flexible and water resistant at the same time, no easy feat for a durable fabric! The prAna Men’s Stretch Zion is a great option for anyone looking to purchase a sleek pair of convertible pants that might soon dominate the market!
- Stretch Zion technology is awesome!
- 4-way stretch and still water resistant!
- Ventilated gusset is a very nice option to relieve heat!
- Thinner fabric, while durable, can tear
- Expensive - $$$
There are many other great options on the market but those are my Top Picks! Remember my advice in the beginning to find a quality pair of convertible hiking pants and good luck on your next adventure!