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Thread: Lightweight Breathable Hiking Pants

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Lightweight Breathable Hiking Pants

    Been reading a lot of the blog posts of Andrew Skurka of late as I transition my mind back to fair weather hiking. In particular, I've been reading the posts on his Core 13 clothing system. One particular aspect of it that I'd like to adopt this year is going to a running short as opposed to hiking shorts or convertible pants, which seem heavier and less breathable. As far as pants go though even he seems a bit disappointed for what is on the market (at least at time of his article which I think was 2015 - one of reasons I am asking the below question. Lot of fabric changes since then).

    What I would ideally like to do is find a pair of pants light enough to simply slip over the running shorts if it got too chilly for my liking or the bugs were out as opposed to making a change over to underwear/pants or vice versa as it got warmer or bug free (like above treeline in a breeze after a morning of climbing). Seems like a lot of people do this with rain pants but that is kind of a crappy option on warm or humid days and most rain pants have a baggy/annoying fit with a simple elastic waistband as opposed to belt loops, etc. Curious to get any feedback on what people here are using for brand of pants, style, does anyone do the running short thing in combo with other pants, etc? Historically I have always worn a convertible pair of pants but I'm hoping to backpack more this year so I'm looking at options to be more breathable or multipurpose (i.e hot days but cool evenings, swimming in the running shorts, fording streams, etc and the related quick dry/reduced funk benefits of a highly breathable and washable item).

    Appreciate any comments on the topic, especially from people who do a lot of multi-day trips.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

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    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    My go to pants for the summer and shoulder seasons are Patagonia R-1 fleece. Not to hot, very comfortable and they regulate in a variety of conditions. The R-1 line was designed using a waffle technology, allowing air to be trapped between the waffles taking it off the skin. I also use the R-1 pullover. I also carry midweight long underwear that I can use under these pants to get to colder temps but still keeping the system lightweight. I also sometimes use my long underwear under my hiking shorts, if its drizzling out to keep my fleece pants from getting wet. I also carry Marmot precip pants for pure rain, they are effective and pack into a small sack half the size of a burrito. By the way for shorts, I swear by Patagonia baggies, the best backcountry shorts you can buy, imo.

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    Senior Member Brambor's Avatar
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    to piggyback on the recommendation of Patagonia Baggies shorts ... there are also Patagonia Baggies Pants that are great for hiking. Not heavy, reasonably wind protective, reasonable supplex nylon to give the bugs extra work.

    Also something to go over shorts ... Patagonia houdini pants. Extremely light, breathable and wind protective.

    Both pairs have elastic waist...not sure Skurka would approve of extra weight in belt loops :-) lol ... just kidding ... I don't really follow him.





    Quote Originally Posted by sierra View Post
    My go to pants for the summer and shoulder seasons are Patagonia R-1 fleece. Not to hot, very comfortable and they regulate in a variety of conditions. The R-1 line was designed using a waffle technology, allowing air to be trapped between the waffles taking it off the skin. I also use the R-1 pullover. I also carry midweight long underwear that I can use under these pants to get to colder temps but still keeping the system lightweight. I also sometimes use my long underwear under my hiking shorts, if its drizzling out to keep my fleece pants from getting wet. I also carry Marmot precip pants for pure rain, they are effective and pack into a small sack half the size of a burrito. By the way for shorts, I swear by Patagonia baggies, the best backcountry shorts you can buy, imo.
    Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sierra View Post
    My go to pants for the summer and shoulder seasons are Patagonia R-1 fleece. Not to hot, very comfortable and they regulate in a variety of conditions. The R-1 line was designed using a waffle technology, allowing air to be trapped between the waffles taking it off the skin. I also use the R-1 pullover. I also carry midweight long underwear that I can use under these pants to get to colder temps but still keeping the system lightweight. I also sometimes use my long underwear under my hiking shorts, if its drizzling out to keep my fleece pants from getting wet. I also carry Marmot precip pants for pure rain, they are effective and pack into a small sack half the size of a burrito. By the way for shorts, I swear by Patagonia baggies, the best backcountry shorts you can buy, imo.
    I have a pair of fleece pants but they're heavier than those R-1's look. Doesn't the fleece get filthy hiking - mud, water, etc? Was looking for a more traditional material for the pants. I have Precip pants and shirts and definitely like for wetter or cooler weather but I don't like that "rain gear" feel on my legs. Not horrible just not what I am shooting for.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

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    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brambor View Post
    to piggyback on the recommendation of Patagonia Baggies shorts ... there are also Patagonia Baggies Pants that are great for hiking. Not heavy, reasonably wind protective, reasonable supplex nylon to give the bugs extra work.

    Also something to go over shorts ... Patagonia houdini pants. Extremely light, breathable and wind protective.

    Both pairs have elastic waist...not sure Skurka would approve of extra weight in belt loops :-) lol ... just kidding ... I don't really follow him.
    I'll check those pant styles out. Not a big fan of integrated belts. On all the pairs of pants I have owned they generally suck. Much prefer to add my own belt.

    I can't say I am a huge Skurka follower/disciple but he definitely has logged some serious miles and has a really practical, no nonsense approach to his gear philosophy based on tons of experience. He doesn't always promote Sierra Designs (his brand/sponsor) and feels very unbiased in his evaluations. He has softened somewhat from the "ultralight at all cost" mentality and I find a lot of his tips and advice very useful. His advice covers a very wide range of topics as well so he really is a good source of information for anything hiking related. When I am re-evaluating something I like to go through some of his blog entries for a "framework" to go on. I doubt I'll ever get to the point where I'd be considered ultralight but I must say I've started weighing all of my stuff over the past two or so years and it is quite astonishing how a couple of grams here and there really does add up to meaningful changes.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

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    Quote Originally Posted by DayTrip View Post
    I'll check those pant styles out. Not a big fan of integrated belts. On all the pairs of pants I have owned they generally suck. Much prefer to add my own belt.
    Agreed on the belts. The Arcade Ranger belt has become my goto for hiking. It never leaves my OR Equinox convertibles, even through the wash.

    All my trips are overnights and I prefer convertibles. I bring Precips with me but they never get used. Ever. Hate the feeling of them and rain gear on dirty/ sweaty skin doesn't hold up very long before it starts to fail and delam. IME, if my core is sufficiently warm my legs are a non issue in 3 season conditions. Worst case I throw on my lightweight baselayer bottoms in camp under the shorts. If that isn't enough then the pant legs go on. The pants dry quickly after rain or swimming and hold up to the waterslide on Shoal Pond Trail.

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    I have tried many over the years but keep ending up with the latest version of these. https://www.columbia.com/backcast-co...253501474.html. Note they have mesh briefs that some folks love and some hate. They dry quick and work fine for swimming. I usually can find them on sale off season. Beans used to sell a lookalike but the Columbia's seem to be more comfortable but only some years.

    The other major downside is no fly but most running shorts I have had are the same. The Beans lookalikes have a fly. I use them bushwhacking and hiking. The stitching usually wears out long before the leg zippers or fabric wear out. Long ago I used to get out the sewing machine and re-stich them but now that I am prosperous I buy two pairs every 3 or 4 years of hard core use. I buy two pairs and when on a long backpacking trip I usually only bring one pair of the legs. Note the design does vary over the years so occasionally the leg zipper from one vintage will not match up with a different vintage.

    BTW, this is the set up I hiked most of the AT with. I find I don't need much for warm pants as long as my core is warm. I make sure my fleece covers my butt.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 03-21-2019 at 04:21 PM.

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    Senior Member Brambor's Avatar
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    pants with belt loops that take belts:

    I am fond of Arcteryx Perimeter Pants and Klattermusen Misty pants and LaSportiva Solution Pants. Nothing totally special about these besides the fact they are comfortable and durable synthetic blend that is stretchy, quick drying and relatively wind proof. They have multiple pockets to put stuff in like a map or a cell phone. When it gets slightly colder or snowy I like using softshell pants. Everyone makes them. I particularly like my cloudveil as well as Core Concepts uncle bens pants. Both can take a belt.
    Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

  9. #9
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    BTW, this is the set up I hiked most of the AT with. I find I don't need much for warm pants as long as my core is warm. I make sure my fleece covers my butt.
    I tend to agree. I think it is just a psychological thing having full leg coverage when it's chilly. And of course there are the days with bugs where shorts are not a good option. In a "perfect" world I'd probably just go with compression shorts and throw fairly normal pants on top of them. Last year I did two hikes on hot, sweltering days in compression shorts and it was great - no chafing and sweating actually created a cooling effect which surprised me and they dry quickly. And of course they are extremely comfortable. But they seem like a bit of a creepy choice for the trail though considering they crush the "goods" so to speak and put them on display (at least the pairs I have owned). A more forgiving fit and more modest front panel might change my mind on that. The running shorts I've tried to this point have had really annoying fits for the mesh liner. It seems like if the shorts fit right the mesh is way too small and if the mesh fits right the shorts are so baggy that they bunch up and rub, defeating the whole purpose of wearing them in the first place. A lightweight pair of convertible pants with a mesh liner like you referenced may be the ideal set up. I've had back luck with the fit of Columbia pants though (among other brands).
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

  10. #10
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brambor View Post
    pants with belt loops that take belts:

    I am fond of Arcteryx Perimeter Pants and Klattermusen Misty pants and LaSportiva Solution Pants. Nothing totally special about these besides the fact they are comfortable and durable synthetic blend that is stretchy, quick drying and relatively wind proof. They have multiple pockets to put stuff in like a map or a cell phone. When it gets slightly colder or snowy I like using softshell pants. Everyone makes them. I particularly like my cloudveil as well as Core Concepts uncle bens pants. Both can take a belt.
    I really like Arc'Teryx stuff but have not had good luck with the fit of their pants. They have many models of warm weather pants but I'm assuming they are n ot going to fit right. On cool/cold days I have a pair of OR Cirque soft shell pants that are awesome and a good fit for me. I'm looking for more of a Summer pant for days in the upper 50's and warmer where the potential to switch to shorts is likely.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

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    I've been happy with my OR Ferrosi jacket. They also make Ferrosi pants and if I were looking for another pair of hiking pants, that's what I would try.

    https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/revie...search-ferrosi
    Last edited by jfb; 03-21-2019 at 05:47 PM.

  12. #12
    Senior Member DayTrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jfb View Post
    I've been happy with my OR Ferrosi jacket. They also make Ferrosi pants and if I were looking for another pair of hiking pants, that's what I would try.

    https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/revie...search-ferrosi
    One of the models I bookmarked. I have several models of OR pants for Winter that I really like and that fit well so hoping the Summer pants will have a similar fit.
    NH 48 4k: 48/48; NH W48k: 46/48; NY 46: 6/46

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    Moderator Peakbagr's Avatar
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    I've used the EMS convertibles for years but finding them in the correct size and tan color ( for tick spotting) has been difficult. Even the local stores don't know when or what stock they'll be receiving.
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    Senior Member iAmKrzys's Avatar
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    I have EMS Camp Cargo convertibles that I treat with permethrin to reduce risk of ticks attaching to me. When it gets really hot/humid I convert them into shorts but otherwise prefer to wear them as long pants. I find them durable enough for most bushwhacking. In fact I have several pairs and wear them pretty much all the time when not at work.

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    Senior Member JustJoe's Avatar
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    For a light weight summer pant I've never felt the need to spend big money on pants. I used to go with the basic EMS cargo but switched to White Sierra a few years ago. No complaints what so ever.

    https://www.kitterytradingpost.com/c...cgid=0#start=1
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