Adventure-Ready Denim

Jeans that play as nice as they look

Feb 24, 2015
Outside Magazine

The right cut and fabric make all the difference for jeans that move well.    Photo: Hannah McCaughey

Tough, good-looking denim that moves with you? It exists, and it's awesome. Presenting our five favorite pairs of high-performance jeans. 

Levi’s 511 Commuter ($88)

  Photo: Levi's

The purpose-made Commuters include smart features like reflective tape along the seams that’s visible only when you roll up the cuffs. But the main reason these became our go-to ride-to-work pants is the extra-tough gusseted crotch, which shows no sign of wear even after four months of stress-­testing.


Patagonia Straight ($89)

  Photo: Patagonia

With the Straights, Patagonia updated the cut of its pants from dad jeans to a trim but not-too-tight fit. And it did so without sacrificing commitment to function. A tiny bit of spandex blended into the organic cotton means they’re stretchy enough to wear to the climbing gym but won’t stand out at the pub afterward.

Outdoor Research Goldrush ($99)

Outdoor Research goldrush
  Photo: Outdoor Research

Crafted from a mix of cotton, nylon, and denim, and reinforced with Cordura, the Goldrushes are, according to Outdoor Research, four times more durable than standard denim jeans. We couldn’t verify that claim, but the pair we tried certainly didn’t flinch during a bushwhack in Colorado’s Indian Peaks wilderness.

Mountain Hardwear Stretchstone ($95)

  Photo: Mountain Hardwear

Cut from a blend of cotton, polyester, and Lycra, then coated with a water-repellent DWR finish, these jeans are tough enough to handle rainy commutes and stylish enough to wear to work. Though not as stretchy as the Goldrushes, they’re still plenty comfortable for everything from sitting to cycling to hiking. Note: We liked the straight cut of the Stretchstones but found them a bit snug in the waist, crotch, and thighs. If you have larger legs, size up.

Toad and Co.Drover Denim ($89)

  Photo: Toad and Co.

Like Goldilocks, Toad and Co. sought to get everything just right with the Drovers. These jeans are slim without being skinny, and they’re sufficiently stretchy for a quick rock scramble. The one exaggerated element: enormous front pockets, which can easily swallow an iPhone 6 Plus or a bag of trail mix.

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