Gear Review: Travel Pants

When I travel, I tend to only bring one (or maybe two) pairs of pants so I need pants which are durable, easy to wash/dry, comfortable, and which can be used in a variety of situations from the train station to the trekking trail to the meeting. Here are a few of my recent purchases and my recommendation for your next pair of travel pants.

Bluffworks Original

 Bluffworks Original Travel Pants (USD $98)

Bluffworks Original Travel Pants (USD $98)

These are easily the best travel pants I’ve ever purchased. When you first pick them up, they feel terrible but when worn they are surprisingly comfortable. Even more importantly, they take a beating. Get them wet. They dry in an hour. Even less if you’re wearing them. Stuff them in your backpack, pull them out, and put them on and they still look good enough to wear to a meeting or to nice bar or restaurant. They are also remarkable stain resistant which is a plus for me as I spend a lot of time on the road squatting down slurping noodles over my lap. They have just the right number of “hidden” pockets including a zipper-accessed section inside each hip pocket which is just right for a wallet or money clip. Fit is essential for me – I’m a large mammal – but even moving, stretching, squatting, climbing, and stepping through the day the pants stay where they should around the waist and move comfortably as I do. At $98 they are pricey, but while I’ve only had them a few months I suspect durability won’t be a problem. One other caveat is that I’ve noticed a few stray threads around the seams which appear to be more of a cosmetic rather than a structural problem. Worth keeping an eye on though.

USD $98 from Bluffworks

 

SCOTTeVEST Hidden Cargo Pants 2.0

 SCOTTeVEST Hidden Cargo Pants 2.0 (USD $95)

SCOTTeVEST Hidden Cargo Pants 2.0 (USD $95)

I like my SCOTTeVEST. I even have two. Come at me, they work. I love pockets and my SCOTTe RFID vest is my go-to outerwear when traveling or leading a tour. In love with the vest, I took a chance on their travel pants. I’m not a huge fan. First the positives: They fit very well. They have a relaxed waist which is useful for guys like me. The Fiesta Waistband

never bunches and feels just as comfortable at 9:00 pm as it did when I put them on 12 hours earlier. The fabric (100% Cotton) feels soft in a way that the Columbia pants or, especially, the Bluffworks Originals do not. The pockets – the Hidden Cargo Pants feature eight of them – are not as useful as you would think coming from the minds at SCOTTeVEST. The back pockets are too deep to carry anything you might need. Think of your car keys in your back pocket but hanging down around your ass crack. The front pockets have the same problem. They no doubt are secure, but again do we really need to stash something halfway down my leg? Maybe. If you’re paranoid about your wallet or trying to smuggle a pair of nunchaku onto the train then having a hip pocket that reaches down to your knees might come in handy. Other than that? No. The fit, at least on me, is a little baggy meaning these pants don’t look quite as nice in all social situations. They might do okay at the dumpling stand but I’m not sure I’d wear them into the Executive Lounge. They are water- and wrinkle-resistant although not to the same extent as the Bluffworks Originals. If you pull them out from the bottom of your backpack, you’ll need to hang them up a bit if you want to wear them without wrinkles. In terms of water resistance, they shed water okay for pants but the problem is they tend to hold sweat in as well. This can make them a little uncomfortable to wear in South and Southeast Asia trips.

USD $95 from SCOTTeVEST

 

Columbia Men's Royce Peak™ Pant

 Columbia Men's Royce Peak™ Pant (USD $45)

Columbia Men's Royce Peak™ Pant (USD $45)

These (and their ancestors) have long been my go-to travel pants dating back to my time hiking the Long Trail in Vermont. The Royce Peak Pants provide UPF 50 sun protection and the 96% nylon/4% elastane fabric is reasonably water-repellant. They are lightweight, wear well, dry quickly and pack tight. This makes them perfect for outdoor hiking trips but as I get older and my travel plans include fewer “let’s get horizontally drunk at the local hawker stalls” and “Let’s do drinks at the nice restaurant” or “Can you give a lecture tomorrow at 7?” the style of my Columbia pants just isn’t adaptable enough to go from the road to the function. It will always look like I’m wearing hiking pants. While they dry very well, they are not particularly stain-resistant. My most recent pairs have also had durability issues. I’m a big guy and when I move, the pants need to move with me. I’ve had a few seams start to bust their threads while I was scrambling on the Great Wall. The back pocket on two pairs has also worn through, a development I only noticed when I stuck a pair of headphones there only to feel them a few minutes later wrapped around my ankle. I still use them for hiking trips (Great Wall, trekking, etc.) because of their weight and breathability but I’ve retired them as my go-to travel pant in favor of the Bluffworks Originals.

USD $45 from Columbia Sports

 

Final Verdict

I have pairs of all three brands in my rotation but the Bluffwork Originals, despite the price tag, are my new go-to pants for most travel and tour leading activities. In fact, I just ordered three more pairs to ship to me here in China.