Gear Guy

Will convertible pants hold up in really nasty weather?

I was thinking about buying a pair of convertible pants following a trip to Mount Washington on which the weather went from warm to pretty cold. With a three-day trip planned to the Presidentials this summer, I thought convertible pants might be a good option for any varied weather. What are your thoughts? Scott Cbridge, Massachusetts

A: My thoughts? They look really dorky. For tourists, convertible pants are the equivalent of a neon sign that reads, "Mug me—I'm from outta town!" For hikers, they suggest you cut your toothbrush handle in half to save weight (not that there's anything wrong with that!) and have built and tested six different models of alcohol stove. But hey, who am I to judge?

More seriously, you might run into problems if the weather really turns nasty. Convertible pants—an example would be Columbia Sportswear's Trekker Convertible ($50;—are almost always made of a light nylon material. This fabric is best suited for a warm-to-cool transition, or vice versa, not warm-to-cold or cool-to-cold. In other words, if it's 35 degrees, blowing, and raining, they won't do a lot for you.

Myself, I can't shake the geek look of long underwear worn under hiking shorts. I've found tights such as Patagonia's Silkweight Bottoms ($32; to be comfortable across a surprisingly wide temperature range; warmth can be added very quickly by throwing on a pair of windproof or waterproof pants. Another good choice is a pair of pants using one of the new-generation fabrics like Schoeller Dryskin, such as L.L. Bean's Guide Pant ($90;; I've used a pair and they're really terrific. Cloudveil's Prospector Pant ($90; is similar—durable, wind and water resistant, and able to keep you comfortable from temps in the 60s down to freezing or below. These are one-piece pants, though.

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