Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hiking pants, redux

I recently bought two pairs of "hiking pants."  Specifically, they are Cabela's brand "Lookout Peak Trail Pants."  They normally retail for $55 (about par for the course for hiking pants) but I kept my eyes open for a decent sale and bought they just under $30 each.  I've even seen them as low as $20 several months ago. is weird in that they frequently have short-lived sales that come and go.  I had some Cabela's gift cards to spend, and had been waiting for almost two months for a decent price before I hopped.

Be that as it may, what makes a good hiking pant, and why did I buy these?  Honestly, I bought them because I found them at just under $30.  I would have bought Railriders, or something by REI or Timberland or Patagonia or Columbia... or anyone else if they were the kind of trail pants I wanted at that same price.  And I had a gift card I could use.  Although I do admit that I prefer buying Cabela's when I can, and these pants are everything I want.  Namely:
  • 100% nylon shell and 100% polyester mesh (for pockets and such.)  Good hiking pants need to be made of a material that is lightweight, sufficiently rugged, and quick drying.  There is of course more than one material or blend of material that fits this bill, but this particular combination does the trick.
  • Loose enough to be comfortable to wear and move around in, but not so baggy that they constantly rub and snag on stuff as your walking.  On well manicured, wide trails, this may be less of an issue, but since I prefer to think that I'd go into the backcountry on trails that are narrow, possibly overgrown in meadows and whatnot, and otherwise of occasionally dubious condition, I want them to be loose, but slightly tapered.  Gusseted crotch for even better mobility.  Fits the bill.
  • By the same token, I don't want or care for shorts or zip-off pants.  Lots of hikers hike in shorts.  I've done it myself.  It's a good way to get your legs all scratched up, bitten by bugs, or at least extremely dirty.  Worse case, I've had my shoes and socks completely covered in prickly seed pods.  Smooth, long pants would have completely protected me.  The zip-off feature ends up being something that you pay extra for, but which I don't want.
  • In that case, of course, I want pants to be light enough that I'm not feeling really hot on summer days hiking.  These fit the bill.  In fact, since they keep the sun off of my skin, they may be better than shorts.  Although you don't get a lot of sunburn on your legs from walking anyway.
  • Since they're light, I need to be able to comfortably fit a base-layer underneath them when it isn't hot, which is anytime in the mountains not in the summer, and heck, you never even really know about the summer.  Last night, I had to get into the power distribution box of my car.  With a pair of these, and a base-layer bottom, I was kneeling in the snow working on it for about an hour, and felt comfortable.  Ka-ching!  They work.
  • A few pants come with a very expensive option: bug-resistance.  This seems like a silly frill to me.  Not that it's not a good idea, but paying all kinds of money for it is.  For $10 at Wal-Mart, I can buy a spray bottle of Permethrin, spray all of my clothes, my hat, my backpack, my sleeping bag, and maybe even my tent (or at least part of it) before it's empty and get months worth of bug-resistance.  Supplement that just a bit with a small container of bug-spray, and I should be good to go for an entire season of hiking, for just $10.  And a lot better to go than I would be with just bug-proof pants.
In all, I'm quite happy with this purchase.  This is way better than hiking in jeans or canvas cargos--or at least, I'm managed to avoid potential issues that those pants would carry with them.  And frankly, I didn't have to spend really any more money than I would have for those.

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