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Gear Guy

What backpacking pants would you recommend for milder temps?

I've bought the upper-body clothing in preparation for some winter backpacking near the SoCal beaches, followed by Yosemite next summer. But what should I get by way of pants? Would The North Face's Apex's or Arc'Teryx's Gma LTs be too warm? Or should I just pick up some plain or convertible nylon pants? Matthew Claremont, California

A: You have lots of choices for leg wear, Matthew, though I must confess I'm still partial to that unfortunate fashion statement: Tights worn under baggy shorts. It's a comfortable setup, can be tweaked with different-weight tights for different conditions (my faves are Patagonia's Capilene Silkweights: $32;, and is versatile in the event of a sudden squall. Just slip on a pair of waterproof-breathable pants, such as Marmot PreCips ($89; or Mountain Hardwear FTX Ultra Pants (price-wise living up to their ultra billing at $295;, if the weather does turn.

Capilene Silkweights

Still, in the interest of looking more like a Normal Human Being, I have experimented with several "traditional" pants and own nylon pairs from the likes of Ex Officio, such as their Amphi Pants ($59; They're certainly a good all-around option, and can be worn over extra bottoms in cold weather. But, they're made of nylon, which even though treated for moisture repellency can still soak up a surprising amount of water.

Better still are pants using one of several new wonder fabrics from Schoeller and other companies, materials that wear well, look pretty sharp, and are comfortable across an astonishingly wide range of conditions. L.L. Bean has in recent years sold a pant called the Guide Pant, made with stretchy Schoeller Dryskin. They were $125. Note the tense, though. Bean decided not to carry them again this year, a real loss by my reckoning. Cloudveil makes a similar pair of pants called the Switchback that also uses a stretchable Schoeller fabric. Alas, the Switchbacks cost $165 ( But, they'd be very nice pants indeed.

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Lead Photo: courtesy, Patagonia