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Notes from the Field – Bushwacking Trousers
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Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
Notes from the Field – Bushwacking Trousers on 10/30/2007 20:08:00 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Notes from the Field – Bushwacking Trousers

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Notes from the Field – Bushwacking Trousers on 10/30/2007 21:19:46 MDT Print View

I might try to make a pair in the future.
Question for anyone who does a lot of bushwacking-
Have you ever worn any kind of shin guards?

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
bushwacking trousers on 10/30/2007 21:48:06 MDT Print View

These arent bad Roger. I have thought of making a pair of trousers for SW Tasmania, from a 4oz oxford nylon...3/4 length. Ill still wear gaiters and Im not fussed about breathability-you get that wet its not funny anyway!

Not sure about my normal mainland bushwalking though...Im still too addicted to shorts and gaiters! I like battle scars!

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Re: Re: Notes from the Field – Bushwacking Trousers on 10/30/2007 21:55:08 MDT Print View


have considered shin guards, but have never gone through with using them. I use knee length gaiters, which have enough stiffness in the velcro strip on the front to provide plenty of protection...having said that I have cracked my shin into a few branches in the past and its hurt...temporarily, ie a few minutes. I play field hockey (none of this super padded ice stuff) so the odd wack into my shins really doesnt bother me.

If I was a professional paintballer, I reckon a pair of lightweight shinguards under my cams would be a good idea, as you are often running through scrub and concetrating on not getting shot.

Christopher Snow
(cmsnow) - F
Shin guards on 10/31/2007 00:23:38 MDT Print View

Done lots of bushwhacking in adventure races. Used simple shin guards in one expedition race in Newfoundland, Canada; where the bush was exceptionally thick. They certainly help. But that was the only race of many where I used them. I have painfully banged my shins many times, but unless you were doing a trip of exclusive thick bushwhacking, carrying the extra stuff (ie; weight, hassle, chafing, heat, one more thing to bother with) is not worth it for only the few times you really wish you had them.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Notes from the Field – Bushwacking Trousers on 10/31/2007 03:19:07 MDT Print View

> Have you ever worn any kind of shin guards?
Too right - we call them gaiters. See my article on them:
Bushwhacking gear
and a matching MYOG article:
MYOG Gaiters

OK, they aren't HARD shin guards, but they are quite adequate for our stuff.


Edited by rcaffin on 10/31/2007 03:22:19 MDT.

Paul Snyder
(snyderp1) - F
Tactical and Hunting Clothing for off-trail application on 10/31/2007 08:38:47 MDT Print View

Thanks for your obvious effort on the article.

I try to stay off-trail for most of my treks (so far as geography and regs allow). There seems to be a minor disconnect in your research in that there already exist industries dedicated to the design and fabrication of clothing that cruises through the worst brush, razor grass, concrete rubble, rebar, etc.

To start, take a look at any serious online hunting supply shop (Cabela's or STP for example). Granted, the hunt crowd used to be limited to "primitive" fabrics a decade back, but they've gotten wise and developed some tremendous fabrics that don't accumulate burrs, keep your skin intact, transports moisture, etc. Much of it you can routinely find on sale because genuine hunt users haven't found it to be quiet enough for their taste. You DO, personally, have to get past the whole aversion-to-camouflage thing, but... Can much of it classify as "ultra-light"? No, of course not, but it's rapidly approaching that realm. IMHO it's an acceptable trade off in weight-vs-utility if you're truly cutting through nasty stuff (Nevada brush, Iraq rubble, whatever).

Other sports and occupational specialties that have developed activity-specific brush wading gear (relatively lightweight, made from nylon or poly blends). Just to list a few: Paint-Ballers, Cavers, Canyoneers, Tactical, Rescue, etc. Heck, even the mainstream outdoor manufacturers (Patagonia, TNF, EMS, have been churning out abrasion resistant super-trousers for a decade or so (beyond the standard hiker's fare). Lest we forget the MTB crowd, they've had hardcore lightweight trousers and shorts for a long time. Buy some heavily discounted downhill shorts from the previous design season, cut the liner out, and you can slide down the worst weathered limestone on your rear with only minimal damage. AND, you can find tons of deeply discounted localized MTB armor on sites like Price-Point etc.

My primark point is that there is a bunch of stuff already out there that makes the anaylysis in this artcle seem a bit naive. A little cross-sport, cross-industry research might amaze BPL readers in regard to what is currently avaliable (and, most importantly, much of it is available without having to pay retail...).

Also, users may want to consider ditching the belt approach for bibs or suspenders. If you're really cutting through abrasive brush you've got an eternal tug on anything that's protecting your legs, combine that with a sweaty torso and a pack belt, and misery is inevitable. Well designed bibs are superior, though I've found (and/or manufactured) a few suspender rigs that actually work both in terms of holding up your pants and not interfering with hip-belts. Just FYI.

Thanks again for the article. Best of luck. Cheers.

Robin Joy
(robinlhood) - F
pants on 10/31/2007 13:54:24 MDT Print View

Check out this site for iron clad trail pants

Tony Beasley
(tbeasley) - MLife

Locale: Pigeon House Mt from the Castle
Re: Re: Notes from the Field – Bushwacking Trousers on 10/31/2007 17:33:48 MDT Print View

I use pair of very tightly woven nylon travel trousers that I picked up on sale about five years from Katmandu. I love them because they are cool in summer, they are warm in winter, wind proof, they dry fast, I have used them for countless hours of bushwacking through all types of bush and abrasive rocks, they are just starting to show some wear.
I also wear gaiters while bushwacking.

What I also like about them is that they have the added bonus that mosquitoes have trouble biting through them. Many times I have watched mosquitoes try to put their barb through them on my leg only to give up and try somewhere else.


Andrew :-)
(terra) - F

Locale: Sydney, Australia.
Boardshorts work well. on 10/31/2007 20:14:08 MDT Print View

Thanks for the article Roger.

Most of the year it's too hot for me to hike here in long pants.
I have a couple of pairs of boardshorts. One pair is just long enough to cover my knees and another pair is shorter.
Both are are a synthetic fabric, the longer pair are actually quite thick fabric and have a slippery feel which slides well through scrub. The shorter pair are quicker drying. I can decide on which to wear according to terrain.
For the phashion phobics, most boardies can be bought in plain colours (both mine are black). Check your local surfshop discount bin for treasure.
The above suggestion of MTB pants should offer some options as will looking at climbing pants. The climbing pants are often 3/4 lenth tough synthetic material, without many pockets.

Roger, your comment about your pants dragging on your knees when climbing could perhaps be overcome by including articulated knees into your next design. This doesn't look like too much extra work, just make the leg front panel longer and cutout/sew triangles at the sides of the knees.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Notes from the Field – Bushwacking Trousers on 10/31/2007 22:21:02 MDT Print View

Hey guys

Lots of good ideas here which could be worth pursuing. Keep them coming!

Camo? Hum... :-) We don't have a lot of that here in Oz as the whole gun lobby and hunting scene is largely non-existent outside America.

Other specialities, like Paintball - dunno, not big here either. Caving - usually done in poly-cotton overalls. NOT suitable for bushwalking.

Mossies - yeah, Taslan is mossie-proof.

Weight - lighter than Cordura for sure.


darren stephens
(darren5576) - F

Locale: Down Under
tough pants on 11/01/2007 21:08:45 MDT Print View

G'Day Rodger
Disposal stores sell army pants in a poly cotton blend that is lighter than the old style. They dry reasonably quickly and are very strong when it comes to sliding your but over rocks etc. I cut them off at knee high and turn them into a cargo short as I prefer shorts. But in summer when I go cascading in the rivers running off the Barrington’s i just wear the good old footy shorts and my short Spinifex gaiters. No protection I know but your wet half the time, and pushing through waist high stinging nettles in footy shorts soon toughens you up.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: tough pants on 11/02/2007 03:24:20 MDT Print View

Hi Darren

> No protection I know but your wet half the time, and pushing through waist high stinging nettles in footy shorts soon toughens you up.
Er ... yeah ...
Pass. :-)


Paul Tree
(Paul_Tree) - F

Locale: Wowwww
might work.. on 11/04/2007 15:02:12 MST Print View

sew plastic coffee-tin lids onto socks with foot cut off?

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
REALLY tough pants on 11/08/2007 16:44:35 MST Print View

I suggest you go online to the <> site and look at their 5.11 nylon canvas Tactical Pants.

I own these pants and find they are great here in the Mojave Desert as well as in wetter Yosemite, California. They have double seat and double knees. The knees have an inside vertical opening into which one can insert 5.11's purpose-made neoprene/knit backed 1/8" thick pads. Great for scrambling or caveing. Al;so the cuffs are prepared for ties. You could insert some Taslan laces or elastic cord and tighten them up to keep out bugs.

These pants are, in my experience, a better pant then Rail Riders and have a lot of reinforcements at critical areas. Plus they are less expensive than Rail Riders. An identically cut cotton version is also available.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: REALLY tough pants on 11/08/2007 19:01:24 MST Print View

Hi Eric

> <> site
They won't talk to Firefox. Well, stuff them.
Talk about how to promote good customer relations!

> look at their 5.11 nylon canvas Tactical Pants.
Weight? Sound a little heavy and hot?

David Passey
(davidpassey) - F

Locale: New York City
Railriders on 11/08/2007 19:41:05 MST Print View

I have the railriders versatec light pant, which I have found to be a tremendously well thought-out pair of trousers, except for the rubber buttons.

The entire versatec mid is made out of the same material as the knee and seat reinforcement patches on the versatec light. This is a midweight nylon canvass and, although I don't won the mid, it is difficult for me to imagine a better engineered tougher pair of pants that is practical for hiking, except for the rubber buttons.

Steve .
(pappekak) - F

Locale: Tralfamadore
Re: Re: REALLY tough pants on 11/08/2007 21:11:00 MST Print View works with my FoxFire browser.

Frank Ramos
(frprovis) - F
bushwacking trousers on 11/14/2007 14:14:35 MST Print View

I've long been a great fan of taslan/supplex. People say nylon is uncomfortable against the skin, but I find taslan/supplex to be just as comfortable as cotton in dry condition and much better in wet conditions since it absorbs less moisture and dries faster.

The real downside to taslan/supplex is that it melts easily. So watch out if you spent a lot of time around fire. Stevenson warmlite ( used to sell Nomex fiber, which is nylon which is somewhat fire-retardant. If I'm not mistaken, the fire-retardance of Nomex is built into the design of the polymer, as opposed to being a treatment. Nomex is expensive and heavier than regular taslan. I don't know how comfortable it is since I've never used it.

Another downside to all nylon is that nylon degrades rapidly in ultraviolet light, much more rapidly than polyester and most other synthetics. Roger says something about cotton degrading in UV, but I'm not sure I agree. I definitely know nylon is worse than cotton with respect to UV degradation, and I thought cotton, hemp and wool were all pretty good at resisting UV degradation. Silk, of course, is one natural fiber which is very sensistive to UV, but then no one would think of using silk for bushwacking pants. However, at least for pants, this is a moot point, because pants are not exposed to the full force of the sun like shirts, backpacks and hats. My own policy is too replace my gear every 150 days of outdoor use, which is about a year's worth of hiking for me. What I have found is that taslan/supplex will easily last 150 days outdoors for pants, but will be approaching end-of-life at this point for shirts made of the same weight taslan/supplex, especially in the shoulder area. My hat is fur felt, which appears to be immune to UV degradation. My pack is of heavier weight nylon, which appears to be capable of lasting at least 150 days, though I still plan to replace it at this point.

For long-term travelers, taslan/supplex has tremendous advantages over all other fabrics because of easy of cleaning. Polyester, polypropylene and the other synthetics do not absorb water, and hence it is difficult to get body oils out of these fabrics since the soapy water can't get in to dissolve the oil. The only way to clean most synthetics effectively is with hot water and a washing machine. Whereas nylon (polyamide) absorbs just enough water to allow easy cleaning, but not nearly so much as the natural fibers, and thus nylon also dries quickly after cleaning. Also, because nylon, like the natural fibers, absorbs water, it also absorbs odors for a while, so you can usually wear a nylon shirt as many days in succession as you could wear a cotton shirt, though perhaps not as many days as a wool shirt. Whereas polyester and polypropylene tend to stink after just a few hours in my experience.

My pants are similar in design to Rogers. However I put the pockets on the side seam for ease of construction (I started from Kwik-sew pattern 3070). I use an elastic waist like Roger when hiking (1" elastic), but I also have belt loops so I can wear a belt in the city. This is important because it allows me to hang my wallet down the inside of the pants to foil pickpockets. I once tried sewing hidden pockets to the inside of the pants, but these are not nearly as comfortable as just hanging the wallet by a cord from the belt. Also, the weight of the wallet tended to drag the pants down when used with just elastic and no belt.

The elastic waist is a weak point with respect to moisture absorbtion. On a day when the pants legs might dry in 10 minutes, the elastic often takes an hour or more to dry. Partly this is because the elastic lies on top of my fat deposits, where there is little body heat. Partly this is because the tunnel for the elastic adds an extra layer of fabric at that area. And finally, elastic just plain absorbs a lot of water. At first I was worried that the wet elastic might cause chafing, but as it turns out that isn't a problem. I just resigned myself to having a wet band around my hips much of the time and eventually quit noticing it. I also worried at first about the durability of elastic (I use the standard non-roll elasic from but it appears to be industructible, at least the way I use it.

90% of the time I wear just shorts, even when bushwacking in thorns. Human skin is leather, after all, and quite tough. You get a few scratches now and then, but they heal quickly enough. My shorts use a similar pattern as the long pants, but have no pockets, no belt loops, 3/4" elastic at the waist instead of 1" elastic, and of course only go down to near the knee instead of to the ankles. Also, the shorts do not have a side seam--I combined the two leg pieces into a single piece. Result is that the shorts weigh about 120 grams (4 oz) while the longs weigh about twice this. Because they lack a side seam, the shorts are comfortable to sleep in, so I typically wear them 24 hours a day for days on end. The shorts also function as my underwear since I don't wear anything under them. This means they are also very cool in hot weather. Also, because the shorts have no side seam, no pockets and no belt loops, I can wear the long pants over the shorts. This gives a little extra warmth and also allows me to easily switch from long to shorts and back again without undressing completely. This is a similar feature to having pants with zip-off legs, except my approach is far less likely to break and more functional.

Because I don't wear underwear under the shorts, they are quite revealing when wet. In fact, even the combination of shorts and longs is revealing when wet, given how thin taslan/supplex is. So I normally use darker colors for the fabric. Also, I normally wear my shirt out in warm weather, or my top shirt out in case I am wearing two shirts because of the cold, and the shirt hangs low enough to partially cover me up. This is mainly a consideration in towns.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
Tough Chaps and Gaiters on 11/29/2007 07:33:28 MST Print View

You might consider making chaps.At Cabela's under hunting look up chaps and gaiters. They make chaps made to ward off briars, and lighter weight gaiters for snake bite protection.