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Lower Body Clothing System
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Sean Monahan
(Zvolen) - F

Locale: CA Central Valley
Lower Body Clothing System on 04/11/2013 16:59:42 MDT Print View

To narrow down the amount of different clothing pieces I need to purchase and provide the most versatility I am trying to determine my lower body clothing system. My main questions is which would be better traditional hiking convertible pants which I could use as shorts in the summer and pants in the shoulder season as well as minimal wind/rain pants during those same seasons since most provide that now. Or if it would be better to have a different system for most warm/hot weather like shorts and or windpants/rain pants but during the shoulder seasons and cooler weather use a softshell pant, would they be resistant enough in continual rain and be all I need in the shoulder season? I just don’t want to purchase a redundant piece of gear where I would rather have piece that can be integrated into all weather ranges, if possible. Any ideas or thoughts?

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Zip-Offs are Gimmicky on 04/11/2013 17:43:11 MDT Print View

My system:

Running shorts (lightweight Mountain hardwear 4oz) for summer. When it's above 60ºF, this is all I need or want.

Wind Pants (currently Mountain Hardwear Mesa, probably replacing with something lighter. Likely Montane Featherlight Pants.) Wind pants get me down to about 40ºF.

Merino Wool Midweight Tights- These can go under the shorts or wind pants. With these tights plus the wind pants, I'm comfortable moving down to 0ºF and stopping down to 20ºF.

Gore-Tex Paclite Rain Pants- used in rain below 60ºF

So, I would go with cheap, light running shorts all summer. Zip-off shorts will be overkill. Then, for colder days, have a pair of wind pants. The Patagonia Houdini pants (if they still make them) would be another choice. For rain, a decent pair of gore-tex pants do the trick and the merino wool tights let you fine-tune the system for warmth.

If I were backpacking right now, I would bring all 4 items.

(I also carry Smartwool Briefs since I cut the liner out of my shorts)

Edited by mdilthey on 04/11/2013 17:46:21 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Zip-Offs are Gimmicky on 04/11/2013 18:10:27 MDT Print View

I agree with Max - zip-offs gimmicky, but maybe that's just my bias, lot's of people like them

I take nylon pants and nylon shorts. I wear one and the other is spare in case the worn one gets dirty or damaged.

If they get wet from rain, they quickly dry. I have lots of experience getting wet from rain.

Good down to 25 F or so.

My coat is long so covers most of my shorts.

I always wear light gaiters that cover calf.

Sometimes I'll wear shorts during day and put pants on evening if I get cold.

In summer I have a pair of pants that are light colored and a little looser.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Lower Body Clothing System on 04/11/2013 18:29:42 MDT Print View

You are going to find that a lot of people wear regular pants because they hike in high alpine areas where the risk of sunburn is much higher.
I wear shorts most of the time. I carry a pair of golite running tights for warmth. The tights fit better and are much more durable than regular long underwear, so I prefer them for hiking in. Windproof tights are great as well. If you don't want to show off your ass, you can wear shorts over them (i rarely do).

The only time I wear pants is for bushwacking, but I can usually handle a little bushwacking in shorts. However, on some off trail trips I always bring pants, and sometimes I don't use them. I don't want to be stranded somewhere and unable to proceed because there is sharp, dead manzanita that will literally lacerate my bare legs.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Lower Body Clothing System on 04/11/2013 18:39:37 MDT Print View

Well put me in the zip off camp. the bottoms are lighter than an extra pair of wind pants, more breathable and comfortable than rain pants(which i do carry for extended trips). the bottoms also fit in the cargo pockets so i can keep my pack on and keep moving.

the problem with shorts and tights is that you have to take off the shorts and shoes to put on the tights and vise versa.. zip off bottoms go over without removing anything.

multi use, lightweight and less stop time.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Lower Body Clothing System on 04/11/2013 19:09:49 MDT Print View

+1 for lightweight zipoffs.

In summer, I can zip off bottoms if its hot and put them back on for bugs or dropping night temps. If my pants get dirty, its always from the knees down. I can zip off the legs to wash them and let them dry.

In winter, I find they work well with an appropriate base layer underneath.

They are Columbia Titanium zip offs, and are the one piece of gear/clothing that I've not replaced since I really got into lightweight backpacking. They're been on every single trip I've taken.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Zip-offs are Heavy on 04/11/2013 19:13:52 MDT Print View

They might be multi-use, but a pair of zip-offs, in my experience, is always overkill. Surely a thru-hiker like you, Jake, knows better than to carry a half-pound of dead weight? (joke)

The shorts come down to the knees, which is hotter and less ventilated than running shorts. -1 point.

The zip-offs have about 2 feet of extra metal zippers, which by themselves probably weigh as much as a pair of running shorts. -1 point.

The zip-off bottoms are useless when not on, so it's like carrying an extra pair of shorts. -1 point.

Cargo pockets are mostly useless. Maybe some people like them, but I prefer to save weight and use something else to carry things- like a backpack! -1 point.

Finally, I have yet to see a pair of zip-offs made in a material even close to as lightweight as a pair of wind pants. -5 points.

For me, it's a no-brainer.

Running Shorts- 3.5oz
Wind Pants- 4oz

REI Sahara Zip-Offs- 15oz.

Zip-offs are about 2x the weight.

HOWEVER, for some people I think the ease of switching on the road (you still have to take off your shoes) is worth the weight? I prefer to be chilly in the morning in my shorts- it'll make me hike faster.

Edited by mdilthey on 04/11/2013 19:39:49 MDT.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Lower Body Clothing System on 04/11/2013 19:20:09 MDT Print View

My current set of clothes is similar as those above; I do think it helps to consider the top and bottom clothing in two systems (like a "sleep system" or "shelter system").

1. Underwear: I like separate underwear instead of a built-in liner. Caveat: I might wear running shorts with a liner on an overnighter.

2A. Shorts (Patagonia Wavefarer), tights (Indie wool or Powerstretch) and wind pants (Montbell Dynamo). The windpants are new, so I haven't put them to any test. I'm leaning to this system for this upcoming PNW/3-season summer. The power stretch tights are more durable, the wool less bulky. I'll have to see.


2B. Hiking pants (ArcTeryx Rampart) and Indie tights. I like rolling the pants up to capris (manpris?) length if needed and I don't seem to miss shorts at that length. I don't care for zip-off pants but there is certainly nothing wrong with them. To each their own! The tights are for sleeping mostly or warmth in camp. At2.5oz, I might throw the windpants in with this.

3. Rain shell: unfortunately, a reality in the PNW. Depending on length of trip and time of year, I would take either just the windpants, a ZPacks rain skirt or MH Paclite shell pants. I think I would just hike in either the wind pants or the hiking pants in the rain until I got too cold or into a shelter.

How to choose between the options? I'm hoping that I'll alternate between them until one becomes the clear(er) choice!

Chad "Stick" Poindexter
(Stick) - F

Locale: Wet & Humid Southeast....
Another in the zip-off camp... on 04/11/2013 19:31:25 MDT Print View

Count me in the zip-off camp. About 4 years ago now, I went shopping for my hiking pants. I tried on pants by REI, Ex Officio, Mountain Hardware, TNF, and Columbia. Of all of these, the Columbia pants fit me the best, were the most comfortable, and felt the lightest. (Not to mention, they were the least expensive!)

These are the Columbia Silver Ridge II Zip Off pants, and at only 12.6 oz for the pants and the belt, I consider that pretty lightweight. Since getting them, they have been the only pants I have worn, and I have no desire to replace them, unless of course something eventually happens to these. Also, I noticed a few weeks ago that these same model are still for sale in stores, and for the same price... so that must mean something...

They are made from a lightweight nylon, so as mentioned above, they dry very fast, and are also lightweight. The zippers still work well, although, to be fair, it is not too often that I remove the lower sections. I hike in the southeast, and will wear long pants while hiking in 95 degree weather. They are actually a little cool and comfortable. On occasion though, I have unzipped the bottoms to either cool off more, or to remove the dirty portion of the pants. For this reason alone, zip offs are a smart idea, at least for me. BY doing this, I can remove the bottoms to sleep in them as shorts, which is still clean (for the most part).

A friend of mine also wears (a different brand of) zip offs and he will unzip them about half way while hiking. This allows his legs to still stay clean when hiking through overgrowth and still ventilate pretty well. Another great reason for using zip offs...

Back to my pants, they also have other features that suit my specific needs when hiking. There are cargo pockets on each leg, 3 front pockets, on of which zips closed and is great for putting my car key in while hiking, and 2 back pockets, again, one of which zips closed, so it is great for me to keep my wallet in.

I know it is not for everyone, but these pants work great for me in as many ways as I need them too. As well, zip offs are great options to have and I don't personally find them a waste, and by no means heavy. A great choice...

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Zipoffs on 04/11/2013 19:36:07 MDT Print View

I can't say that it's better or worse than Max's setup but they work for me. I have a lightweight pair of The North Face convertible pants which I like. They breathe well and dry quickly. The cargo pockets have a mesh inner so I use them as my socks dryer if I want to speed up the drying time (I'm a recent convert to lighter socks so this may have lost its benefit.) I appreciate that I can zip one of my two right pockets shut. I carry a small SHTF kit in that pocket.

I like the idea of running shorts/wind pants and wouldn't be opposed to that idea necessarily but for the time being I like how these function.

Off topic but I like wearing these when I'm traveling abroad. It's nice to wear them as shorts when I'm running around but I can quickly zip the lowers on when I need to go somewhere like a temple which requires long pants.

I'll eventually buy some rain pants but I'm not all that concerned with wet legs. I have a pair of OR Verglas gaiters for snow which I really like.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Zip-offs are Heavy on 04/11/2013 19:37:14 MDT Print View

Extra weight opposed to extra pants i don't need?

zip off portions of my REI pants weigh 4oz together. pants together weigh 12oz so i guess you are looking in the wrong places. the shorts never leave my body so that leaves 4oz of possible carried weight.

cargo pockets can carry many things you want to keep within reach without taking your pack off. My Long Trail map lived their for 2 weeks. I also stow gloves, overmitts, hat etc that i may want sooner than i put my pack down. mine are mesh lined so i doubt they add much.

taking your pack off takes time, time adds up and leads to lost miles, which adds weight to food bags.

These one pair of pants have been on every backpack trip i've been on including 500mi last year alone. I've never found the shorts section to be hot into 90s and they are a bit above the knee and never needed anything extra underneath down to mid 30s

that's just my Experience.... don't worry one day you'll get some.

Loren B

Locale: London UK, Greenville USA
Zip off pants suck ;) on 04/11/2013 19:42:06 MDT Print View

I guess it really depends on the climates you will be hiking in and the activities you plan to do. Some outdoor gear is just so crazily expensive so I always try and get clothes which I will wear in the city too to get double use. My system is based mostly around one pair of pants which does most things I need. I then add baselayers, rain shells, synthetic insulation as needed. Here is what I use.

-OR Ferrosi pants. Versatile rock climbing pants. Made from lightweight softshell. Very breathable, light, durable, water resistant, pretty windproof. Perfect for summer and winter. They have a simple little drawstring at each ankle which lets you pull them up and use them as shorts ,3/4 length pants also, or to cut out wind getting in from the ankles. I have also been complimented on them when wearing them in the city! That's right, non-backpacking types have told me how much they like my hiking pants. They are slim fitting, but the stretch means they do not restrict your movement at all. Ideal for hiking, but also backpacking or travelling. 10.7 ounces

-exofficio give n go boxers - 3 pairs. These are the only boxers I use. Whenever I shower I wash a pair and it is dry the next day.

-cheapo pair of generic nylon running shorts. I wear these if doing something especially active. These also double as swimming trunks if I decide to jump into a river or lake etc.

-Two pairs of Rab meco 120 baselayer pants (an amazing wool, synthetic blend which somehow manages to prevent you from stinking). I use one or both layers depending on how cold it is. 4 ounces each

-Montane atomic rain pants - These pants are just great. So lightweight for their durability and they breathe really well. They have an amazing bonus feature which is the sheer brilliance of the ankle and calf design (look here to see what I mean They are effectively a pair of rain pants and gaiters rolled into one pair of pants and mean you don't catch them on bushes etc. 6 ounces

-Montane Prism insulated pants - If it is extremely cold I will also bring these to wear in the day, around camp and to supplement my sleep system. Lots of people love down pants, but since it rains a lot where I live, these work better for me.

Hope this helps!

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

I have to argue against zips here... on 04/11/2013 19:48:09 MDT Print View


I respect your opinion. However, I feel like the extra weight you carry is impossible to ignore.

I do actually have a lot of hiking experience (it would be weird if I was on this forum and didn't).

If your pants weigh 8oz and you never take them off, and mine weigh 4oz and I never take them off, I'm carrying 4 less ounces than you. It doesn't matter how much your bottom parts weigh, weight is weight. Whether or not you choose to carry it is the only mitigating factor; those four ounces don't disappear just because you're wearing the short part.

If my pants combo weighs half as much as yours, I carry half as much. This is a simple relationship.

When you wear zip-offs, you are carrying a luxury. The warmth difference between shorts and long pants is minimal; I wear wind pants if it was windy, and shorts if it isn't. I can decide on one or the other when I wake up in the morning and those countless minutes you're spending taking off your pack are avoided.

The time it takes you to zip off both legs equals the time it takes me to open my pack. I'm really not seeing an upside; perhaps you can enlighten me.


Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: Lower Body Clothing System on 04/11/2013 19:54:20 MDT Print View

Fish net 3/4 length underwear and nylon wind pants will take me down to 20 degrees F while moving which is the lower limit of my system.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Thinking Critically on 04/11/2013 20:05:43 MDT Print View

I think something important to note with a LOT of things on this forum is that a normal hike includes time without your pack on for most people. Mine comes off about once every three hours for a snack break or airing out my feet. Perfect opportunities to stuff something away. I think the idea that taking off your pack to stow something is a huge time loss is a little bit of a myth in actual practice.

I would be really surprised if taking off a pack to stow a pair of wind pants amounted to more than 50 feet of lost progress on a dawn-dusk hiking day.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Lower Body Clothing System on 04/11/2013 20:05:51 MDT Print View

I wear full length fish net pants without underwear. Ultimate breathability and quick dry times.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Fishnet? on 04/11/2013 20:12:03 MDT Print View

What's the fish net made of? Synthetic? Cotton? Silk?

Curious- never heard of anyone using fishnet and not sure what the benefits/drawbacks are. Very curious!

Would love info, guys!


Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Re: Re: Re: Lower Body Clothing System on 04/11/2013 20:12:47 MDT Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/19/2015 12:22:55 MDT.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: I have to argue against zips here... on 04/11/2013 20:13:39 MDT Print View

can you fit your windpants on over your shoes?

long pants also provide extra warmth at night and bug protection (i don't carry DEET)

i carry a lot of luxury items for pure convenience. call my zip offs one of them if you want but I still don't exceed 25lb total packweight ever. you can nit pick 4oz if you want but in real life i don't sweat it.

other luxury items you can object to.. klymit static V, lightheart solo, Petzl tikka XP2, optimus crux stove, undehydrated toothpaste.

don't you carry an SLR camera? how heavy is that ;)

if we are going to count "all weight" then my body's "baseweight" is 124lb I'm guessing my "step on a scale with pack" weight is less than most folks body weight on here so i'm not overly concerned with 4oz you "beat" me by

as far as price, I got mine 17 years ago and are still going strong with no fabric or zipper issues. I only use them for hiking and that also helps their longevity.

Edited by JakeDatc on 04/11/2013 20:22:53 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Fishnet? on 04/11/2013 20:27:16 MDT Print View

Max, there was a BPL article on fish net base layers not too long ago.