For many, many years, I've been a fan of wearing a soft, well-worn pair of jeans as casual pants. I prefer carpenter style jeans, but that may also reflect a growing migration on my part towards cargo pants.
The big problem with jeans or canvas cargos (as most are) is that they're made of cotton. Cotton, as the saying goes, is DEATH! If you get wet in a pair of blue-jeans, you will DIE from hypothermia.
This is, of course, nonsense--or at least highly exaggerated. If you hike when the weather is cold or even cool, then it's nice to have quick-drying clothes. It's nice anyway. And a change of clothes is important. But I did plenty of mountain hikes in the summers (San Juans Chicago Basin, High Uintas, etc.) wearing mostly blue jeans and having cotton sweatshirts as my "warm clothes" backup. Many non-cotton alternatives are fairly reasonably priced--you can get a fleece jacket at a place like Old Navy or Kohls (or heck, even Target or something like that) for about the same price as a cotton sweatshirt. Merino wool hiking socks aren't terribly expensive--granted, I got mine on sale, but I got four pair of midweight merino wool hiking socks for about $10--$5 each for a set of two pair.
Now, a good pair of hiking pants on the other hand, seems to be a different kettle of fish altogether. Now, you can get a pair of nylon track pants (or workout pants, basically) at a place like Target or Old Navy for about $20--about the same as a pair of jeans or cotton sweatpants, roughly--but is that really what you want to hike in? If you trawl for deals and sales, you can probably get a pair of good, canvas cargo pants for $20-40 or so--but they're 100% cotton, so are they really any better than jeans? I've had a look at specifically designed hiking pants, and they tend to run more on the order of $50-100 and don't often go on sale. For that kind of money, you can probably be forgiven for questioning the recieved groupthink wisdom that cotton is the fabric that's lurking around the bend waiting to ambush you and kill you, but if you've ever had to walk very far in a wet pair of jeans, on the other hand, you can see why that might not be ideal.
The following pants are on my "short list" of desired hiking pants. Some of them are still mostly cotton, so many in the hiking community balk at them as bad news. But the alternative that they offer up are either too fragile, or too expensive. And frankly, even these include some pretty expensive options--the Rail Riders are $100! That's an awful lot for a pair of pants that are designed to be taken outside and beaten up (as far as I'm concerned, it's a lot for any kind of pants, but I'm a confirmed cheapskate anyway. I think any article of clothing that costs more than $50 better be something really special, or a suit. And I've only got one or two suits that fit me at a time because I hate wearing them anyway.)
1) These so-called Ultimate Outdoors Pants are mostly cotton. Does a 2% spandex component really allow them to dry better or faster? Doubtful. Cabela's themselves don't consider them a fast-drying pant. I like the look, and I like the price relative to the alternatives. And I prefer shopping at Cabelas to REI, because I guess at heart I'm more of a redneck than a hippy (even though my preferred outdoor activities are hiking and camping, not hunting and fishing.) I'm sure they're great as long as you don't get caught in the rain, or can put on some Frogg Toggs rainpants over top of this before they got soaked, at least. Heck, I'd wear these around town as a casual alternative to jeans in a heartbeat. But I don't know if they really provide what I need.
2) The outgoing model of Ultimate Outdoor Pants on the other hand, is 70/30 cotton/nylon. While that sounds like a better solution, is it really any different? Again, I don't know. Other than the change in fabric (and a switch from a snap to a button fly) the new and old versions of these pants are nearly identical both in style and in fabric composition.
3) REI, on the other hand, is a distributor for Kühl, and these Revolvr "jeans" are supposed to be quick-drying. As outdoor pants manufactured by a Seattle-based company, where it rains a lot, that claim should mean something. I like the look of them, but honestly, they're not much different than the Cabela's pants. Except that they cost more.
4) Rail Riders Weatherpants are extremely popular with the outdoor set, but are pricey. And I don't love the look of them, really. I'd rather have their Extreme Adventure Pants for looks, but they're the priciest of the models listed here.
Anybody (right, like anyone reads this blog...) have any favorites or comments? I admit to being a little baffled by the options. I'll most likely just end up picking up a couple pairs of the Cabelas and REI pants, because I can actually physically get them in person easily enough, being located fairly close to one of each of their stores (and because I like them) but I'm not convinced that they're really the "best" option for my hiking needs.