How To Buy Travel & Expedition Pants

Intro: Your pants will tell sto­ries; they will don patch­es, stains and stich­es – per­haps even the occa­sion­al blood stain. They must be durable enough to defend legs from rocks and thorns, yet com­fort­able enough to be worn many times on a sin­gle wash. This guide on how to choose the best trav­el and expe­di­tion pants will help you dis­cov­er what salty explor­ers the world over already know: Good pants are the cor­ner­stone of any respectable mobile wardrobe.

Pock­ets: There are two types of front and back pock­et for both men and women: stitched and patched. While space depends on how the man­u­fac­tur­er designs the pock­et, patched pock­ets are typ­i­cal­ly more con­ve­nient and secure when mov­ing from sit­ting to stand­ing or dur­ing ath­let­ic motions like rock climb­ing. A FOB pock­et (for your keys) typ­i­cal­ly makes for a handy “5th” pock­et that’s also good for secur­ing big bills.

Car­go, car­pen­ter, and oth­er zip or mesh pock­ets below the crotch are par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful for back­pack­ers, campers, and oth­er wan­der­ers who have a need to sep­a­rate numer­ous small trin­kets. There are no stan­dards here as man­u­fac­tur­ers con­tin­ue to inno­vate with water drain­ing pock­ets, pick-pock­et-proof pock­ets, and even dry-bag pock­ets for water sports.

Fit: Man­u­fac­tur­er tend to size pants a bit dif­fer­ent­ly from one anoth­er and some­times dif­fer­ent­ly even with­in their own lines. When shop­ping online, always look for the brand’s fit guide to see if the pants will run big or small. You can always tai­lor crotch to ankle and waist; belt to crotch, not so much. Key words to pay atten­tion to are

Rise: Where the belt loop is in com­par­i­son to your bel­ly but­ton
Fit: Refers to how tight­ly each pant wraps around your leg.
Artic­u­lat­ed knees: Knees are slight­ly bent
Gus­set­ed crotch: Refers to an extra piece of fab­ric under the crotch so the pants don’t rip when you pull a mid-air splits move to cel­e­brate your most recent­ly accom­plished feat.

Cot­ton and cot­ton can­vas can shrink with heat so wash cold and line-dry unless you’ve lost weight. Nylon doesn’t stretch in its purest state, but is typ­i­cal­ly blend­ed with cot­ton or Span­dex to add some give. Even the small­est blend of Span­dex mate­ri­als (Lycra, Estane, Elas­tane) will add elas­tic­i­ty and com­fort to your pants.

Dura­bil­i­ty: There are two num­bers to pay atten­tion to here:

Num­ber of lay­ers (1‑ply or 2‑ply): Lay­ers can be patch­es or sec­ondary lay­ers over the knees or through­out the entire gar­ment. Look for words like “rein­forced” or “lay­ered.”

Ounces per square yard: The high­er the num­ber, the tougher the pants, but also the heav­ier and slow­er to dry.

Fab­ric: For the most part, trav­el and expe­di­tion pants are cot­ton (and cot­ton can­vas), nylon, or some com­bi­na­tion of the two. Many times they are blend­ed with some vari­ant of Span­dex (Lycra, Estane, etc.) for added stretch. Poly­ester is com­mon in soft-shell pants. Many pants will include a lay­er of DWR for water resis­tance. Look for tech­nolo­gies such as GORE-Tex, eVent, and even Rip-Stop Nylon for full water­proof­ing. Abra­sion resis­tance refers to material—mostly pro­pri­etary soft-shell type materials—that fends off gash­es and cuts from rocks. UPF, which stands for Ultra­vi­o­let Pro­tec­tion Fac­tor, is a rat­ing sim­i­lar to the SPF of sun­screen. The high­er the num­ber, the more sun it blocks. One more thing to look for is Per­me­thrin treat­ed cloth­ing (the most pop­u­lar being Insect Shield) that keeps away bit­ing bugs.

Style: Dress codes in restau­rants and clubs around the coun­try are becom­ing more accep­tant to casu­al cloth­ing (although fight­ing your way through brush and scram­bling up boul­ders is hard­ly casu­al). While out­doorsy pants are accept­able in pub­lic, they may or may not be suit­ed for for­mal occa­sions in more rur­al or tra­di­tion­al areas. When trav­el­ing it is often a good idea to buy a style that is tough as nails but that could also pass as go-out pants should the need arise.

Con­verta­bil­i­ty: Today’s adven­ture leg­wear offer a wide vari­ety of ver­sa­til­i­ty. Per­haps the most pop­u­lar of these is zip-off pants and side-zip pants. Zip-off pants allow your pants to eas­i­ly con­vert into shorts. The extra fab­ric can be zipped back on lat­er. Size zip pants allow less breath­able, water­proof pants (no mat­ter how breath­able the mate­r­i­al claims to be, if it is water­proof, it will not breathe as well as say, cot­ton) to breathe.