Gear Guy

What’s a good pair of light, durable travel pants?

I'll be going to England, Ireland, and Scotland soon and will spend most nights in my tent or in hostels. My question for you is: what kind of pants should I bring? I want them to look good (since I'll be touring museums and all that), but still be lightweight and durable, since I'll be using these on backpacking trips in the future. I think I've narrowed it down to two choices: Ex Officio Explorer Pants and Royal Robbins's Go Everywhere Pants, but I can be persuaded to change my mind. My girlfriend (who goes with me on many of my trips) thinks zip-off pants look completely dorky, so I'm not interested in those. Thanks for any information! Steve Bockhold Memphis, Tennessee

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I agree with your girlfriend-those zip-off pants are sure convenient, but they’re incredibly dorky. Plus, I gotta think every pickpocket, con artist, and crooked shop owner on the planet sees those as a bright neon sign that scream out, “I’m not from here! I’m helpless!!”

Both candidate pants are pretty good. Ex Officio’s Explorer Pants ($56) are made of a lightweight nylon that dries quickly and is pretty wrinkle-resistant. One nice feature is a gusseted inseam, which means an extra piece of fabric is stitched through the crotch area, allowing better freedom of movement. That helps make the Explorer a good adventure pant that also travels well in civilized society. Royal Robbins’ Go Everywhere Pants ($65) are very similar, differing mainly in the use of a branded nylon fabric (Supplex) versus the Explorer’s more generic fabric. Does that matter? Probably not a bit. I’d say that performance for the two would be very similar, so let fit be your guide.

You might also look at Patagonia’s Tropical Flats pants ($65). They’re made with a fabric that blends nylon and polyester for a little better performance than nylon alone. In particular, they’ll dry faster because polyester absorbs much less water than nylon, which actually is surprisingly hydrophilic for a synthetic.

So, take your girlfriend to the store with you and model some pants for her. Buy whatever she likes.

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