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Convertible / Zip-Off Pants ?
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John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Convertible / Zip-Off Pants ? on 12/07/2007 14:14:25 MST Print View

For late spring and early fall backpacking: Are convertible / zip-off pants (like the REI Sahara) the way to go - or are separate shorts and wind pants a better way to go ?

In terms of fabric weights - I want something sturdy enough for scrambling up boulders, and some off-trail use. Any recommendations ?


Russell Swanson
(rswanson) - F

Locale: Midatlantic
Re: Convertible / Zip-Off Pants ? on 12/07/2007 14:37:32 MST Print View

I'm in Maryland too, so I can comment on what works for me around those times of the year. For early spring/late fall I wear convertible pants (REI Sahara, in fact) but the bottoms seem to almost always stay in my pack. I often will never even look at them for the whole trip and they just end up being extra pillow stuffing. I wear Patagonia Capilene long baselayers under the shorts when necessary. Cap 2 works for me unless its really cold and I'm stationary.

For warmer weather (May-Sept) I will usually just wear cheap running or workout shorts. If it looks like it might be chilly in the evenings, I might bring the Cap 2 long johns or MH Hyperdry tights along. I've never seen the need for wind pants around here. Its rarely cold and nasty enough to justify them outside of winter months here. Instead, I use Dropstoppers rain gear which is light but not very durable. If I were off trail in that type of weather (not a likely scenario), I'd bring RailRiders Weatherpants and the Paty Capilene.

FYI, I've had a zipper failure one a fairly new pair of Sahara's. The thigh pocket zip got jammed and I had to slice the top of the pocket open to get at the contents. I've heard other people have quality issues with the fly zip.

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Re: Re: Convertible / Zip-Off Pants ? on 12/07/2007 15:18:42 MST Print View

I'm really found of the new BSA Switchback pants...

Chad Ellertson
(NorthernLights) - F

Locale: Superior Hiking Trail
Yes on 12/07/2007 17:18:08 MST Print View

I wear zip offs most of the time when I'm backpacking or canoing. I think for me its a personal preference though. The pair I use mostly are highly water resistant and dry quickly, but are heavy. They're from gander mountain and were about 20 bucks. I think its worth just keeping volume down (cost as well) in my pack because I don't bring wind pants. My poncho comes far enough down that if my calves get soaked I can zip the bottom of my pants of and dry them. The system works for me.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Shorts, Pants, Convertibles on 12/07/2007 17:43:35 MST Print View

I rarely hike in shorts. But I like the versatility of convertibles. Often, esp. when hiking over wet grass and whatnots, the pant legs getreally filthy while the rest of the pants is still fine. With convertibles, it's an easy thing to zip off the legs and wash/dry them without needing to change out of the hiking pants entirely.

Kevin Clayton
(kclayton) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
zip off pants on 12/07/2007 17:44:32 MST Print View

If purchasing zip off pants I would say to get ones that are extremely easy to zip back on. I received a pair as a gift and found that the bottoms stayed in my pack because at night when they were maybe needed around camp, the effort of zipping on the legs was not worth it for a half hour or a hour of colder temps before going to bed. In summer storms I tend to just continue in shorts and I don't worry about my legs getting wet. I did find them great for working on a trail crew. We had to have pants for work, but could hike in shorts. I would say its personnel preferences.

Edited by kclayton on 12/07/2007 17:46:10 MST.

Greyson Howard

Locale: Sierra Nevada
Re: zip off pants on 12/07/2007 18:22:58 MST Print View

I have been using zip-ff convertibles for two years, and rarely turn them into shorts because I prefer the sun/brush/bug protection of pants, and don't find I overheat in them even in hot weather.
I have found on longer hikes (2 weeks on the Tahoe Rim Trail), that the zipper for the removable legs chaff, so I will likely be looking to switch to normal pants.
This doesn't really play into the weather considerations you are asking about, but the chaffing of the zipper line is worth considering.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
Convertibles on 12/07/2007 18:33:59 MST Print View

I have a pair of TNF Meridians that I have been using for over 6 years both camping and around town and they have held up quite well. I really don't see why you would need wind pants as long as you have a baselayer underneath for when it is cold. When it is above 80 they become shorts. I really have no idea what to use wind pants for.

Brian Barnes
(brianjbarnes) - M

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Re: Convertible / Zip-Off Pants ? on 12/08/2007 00:44:21 MST Print View

Hey Josh, How much do your BSA Switchback pants weight? I've seen them at the store and they do look more durable than my REI Sahara's (large ~13.4 oz). I too have had a zipper failure with the Sahara's. I discovered the problem tends to be related to the zipper stop coming loose or falling off. It's an easy fix - but a pain when it happens.

Ryan Corder
(demo) - MLife

Locale: Arkansan in Seattle
Re: Convertible / Zip-Off Pants ? on 12/08/2007 01:02:12 MST Print View

I hike in zip-off pants year around and have found that the particular ones I like best are the Mountain Hardware Convertible Pack pants. The are a bit pricy, but boy are they worth it. really durable, upper part is chamois line for extra abrasion resistance, and the legs both zip 3/4 up to the knee and a drawsting/built-in gaitor.

The REI Sahara, on the other hand are of a considerably thinner material and don't sport the same features. But with that also comes a lower price.

I've tried both in addition to a third brand and find nothing comes close to the Mountain Hardware pants.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Convertible / Zip-Off Pants ? on 12/08/2007 01:36:24 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/24/2015 00:14:52 MDT.

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Columbia zip offs on 12/08/2007 07:06:19 MST Print View

I've beat a pair of Columbia zip offs to death - and I still haven't found anything I like better. The fabric on mine is quite light - like the REI pants - but is holding up to lots of thorns from desert hiking. The zippers are holding up with no problems. Columbia has different weight fabrics so some heavier weight is probably available.
I wouldn't recommend Exofficio. I was on a trip with staffer Ken Knight and both zippers on his Exoffico pants gave out on his relatively new pants. Ouch! Those things are expensive!

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Is anyone wearing or worn Mountain Hardware Mesa Convertible Pants on 12/09/2007 13:08:58 MST Print View

Ryan, I went to Mountain Hardware web site and did a comparision between the "Mountain Hardware Convertible Pack pants mens" and the Mountain Hardware Mesa Convertible pants" and they both have the same features except the Mesa pants are $30 cheaper and 3 ounces lighter, the difference being the nylon in the pack pants being heavier dutier it appears. Have anybody tried the Mesa pants instead -- the advantage is that REI carries the Mesa but not the other. I'm not concerned about the price different but the ability to try on before buying appeals to me (nobody local have the more expensive pants Ryan talks of) and if the Mesa are durable enough for on-trail hiking, one saves 3 ounces which counts for something at BPL.

Ryan Corder
(demo) - MLife

Locale: Arkansan in Seattle
Re: Is anyone wearing or worn Mountain Hardware Mesa Convertible Pants on 12/10/2007 21:52:08 MST Print View

I checked into it as well. The Mesa pants are made of the same material as the Canyon shorts, which I also own. There is a definite difference in material, the Canyon cloth is meant for warm weather.

Canyon cloth = 170 x 90 thread count, 3.34 oz/yd
Hardware cloth = 105 x 60 thread count, 5.81 oz/yd.

as you can see from the specs, the Hardware cloth threads are a good bit bigger. I'm sure the thinner material is pretty rugged, but I've had mine slice on rocks.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Is anyone wearing or worn Mountain Hardware Mesa Convertible Pants on 12/11/2007 02:30:18 MST Print View

I don't have a Mesa convertible but I do have 2 pairs of the Convertible Fast Pack pant which was a lighter version of the Pack pant only made for the European market. It's made of the same material as the Mesa and I think it's pretty tough and feels much better to the skin in warm weather than the hardwear cloth used in the normal Pack pant (although it's not tough enough for a confrontation with barbed wire but I guess that counts for most fabrics).

Comparing the Pack pant with the Mesa, my opinion is that the Pack pant is a much better design: better pocket configuration, knee length zips, ... The Fast pack pant would be the ideal compromise between the two but for some reason it was never available in the US and it's possible that they stopped production entirely.

Edited by Woubeir on 12/11/2007 02:32:13 MST.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 12/11/2007 17:06:44 MST Print View


Edited by DaveT on 11/19/2014 21:39:07 MST.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Re: Columbia zip offs on 12/14/2007 18:06:57 MST Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/24/2015 00:20:31 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
To zip or not to zip on 12/16/2007 10:49:56 MST Print View

I've been through the same thing.

I haver used REI and Ex Officio zip-offs and like both. The only caveat with zip-offs is finding ones that don't have a lot of bulk in the zipper area and creating some chafing and drag on your leg, which I find annoying. Some models get a little detail crazy and get heavier-- typical UL gear challenge.

I just got some GoLite wind pants and they scare me a little-- really thin, but they are light. I wish they made them in lighter colors-- the black is too hot for summer sun and bug protection. My plan is to use them with running shorts with built in briefs as a height-of-summer set. Basically, the wind pants are CYA for cold mornings and light rain.

I have found running pants to be really great hiking pants. New Balance makes excellent ones as does Brooks, Nike, etc. I like the polyester models for the better feel and seem warmer on the skin than nylon. Of course I've found used ones for pennies.

The other alternative is to just carry light rain pants and wear short. A pair of Marmot Precip or similar rain pants are just a few ounces more than wind pants. There is that sun/bug protection thing with the rain pants option.

I have a round-to-it project to alter some long light pants with toggles so they can be rolled up to knicker length. They make lots of long sleeve shirts that way--- a cloth tab and a button to keep the sleeve rolled up. Pants may need two tabs per leg to keep them neat and even.

William Brokob
(Obiwan) - F
Convertible pants on 12/17/2007 15:08:42 MST Print View

I always thought they were silly....till I got a pair

Now I use them a LOT

I treat mine with premthrin

Eric Carlsen
(cooleric1234) - F
Opposing opinion on 12/17/2007 17:26:25 MST Print View

I have a pair of convertibles from Campmor, but I don't like them for a few reasons.

First, it's a long story, but I like my shorts knee length, I've yet to find ones that long. Second, I found that a pair of windpants and light shorts were lighter than the convertibles. Third, I like the idea of having separate shorts and pants in case I want to go swimming or get wet. Sure, convertibles can dry fast, but when there's no weight penalty for having both why bother? Fourth, it seems like most convertibles aren't wind resistant. Someone said that didn't matter to them, but I find that if it gets really windy then that makes a huge difference in keeping me warm, even with a pants length base or insulating layer. Most people here agree with the utility of a windshirt, it's the same for your legs. I find I need less insulation for my legs, but something that blocks wind gives a lot better warmth to weight ratio in windy conditions. Lastly, there is a privacy issue, but I find it takes me no more time to change my pants than it did to zip up my convertibles.