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I am about to start a long backpacking trip through South America, and I would like to take as little weight as possible. I have the rest of my stuff more or less sorted out, but I am a bit at a loss of what kind of pants I should get.

I would like to have versatile pants, that could be worn while traveling, but would also be suitable for hikes. As the trip will be long, pants should be quite durable, not too heavy, not too long drying, and suitable also for warm/damp climates.

For example, jeans would be durable, suitable for every day wearing, but they dry too long, weight too much, and are the last thing I want to put on in tropical countries.

I plan to travel in between Amazonian Jungle and Patagonia. I do not expect to find something perfect for all conditions, but I assume I could get some sort of pants that would be fine in hot weather, and could be used in colder weather when combined with e.g. underpants. I am not planning to use them on snow or as rain protection, but they should be fine for most of other conditions, I'm afraid.

When travelling in Asia I had simple cotton pants from EDC. Those were fitting almost all my requirements, except of durability. They faded within a couple weeks, and were completely broken in a couple of months. I guess this is because they were intended for being used in the city.

I do not, however, want to get hiking pants, as I am extremely sensitive to most kinds of synthetics that are used for making hiking pants. Some I might be able to tolerate just for a day on a hike, but would not want to wear every day. In addition to that, my legs are quite bulky, and I find most of the hiking pants are made to have quite a tight fit, and stretch weirdly over my thighs..

What I am considering now is climbing pants. I guess they could be durable enough, and would for sure be good for sporty activities. My only problem is that they are usually quite colorful, so might be not exactly perfect for wearing on the street.

Do I have any other/better options?

  • I just wanna point out that colorful clothes are certainly a look, and not a bad one. They might not be for you, but you can certainly make colorful climbing pants work with an outfit, even a practical outdoorsy hiking outfit, or a walking around town outfit. – Adonalsium Feb 7 at 20:19
  • How tall are you compared to people where you are going? If you’re their size you may want to consider buying locally. The hassle of finding them might be offset by the fun, you make whole-trip durability less of a criteria, and the lower cost means you can try a couple times. Plus you’re putting cash in the local economy. – mmcc Feb 8 at 3:10
  • What do you mean by climbing pants? Are these made from different kind of synthetics? – Usurer Feb 8 at 11:19
  • @mmcc I am tall for a female, so shopping locally might be a problem. Not sure how it is in South America, I guess depends on a country, but buying any kind of pants in Asia was out of the question. Besides, shopping is the last activity I would describe as fun, so would like to do it as little as possible (: – april rain Feb 9 at 21:49
  • @Usurer By climbing pants I mean pants that are made for rock climbing. They tend to me quite stretchy, and not to tear too easily. – april rain Feb 9 at 21:51
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When faced with many different conditions, the main requirement you need to fill is versatility.

My favorite pants, by far, are the ones from Fjällräven. They do what most good outdoors/trecking pants do these days: they dry very quickly, they are lightweight and comfortable to wear.

But, in addition, they come with some very useful perks that I have dearly missed in other trousers:

  • Most Fjällräven trousers come with a bunch of really useful pockets - something that seems to be going out of style on some other brands. There are always some pockets that can be closed by zip or button - while traveling I found this really useful to store valuables and other things you don't want to lose.
  • The Fjällräven G1000 fabric is mosquito proof. This is invaluable if your traveling in areas with many mosquitos - because they will sting right through most of the lightweight materials out there.
  • In my observation the Fjällräven trousers are really quite sturdy. I have worn mine for years over hundreds of kilometers of trecks.
  • In my experience the fabric is also light enough to be comfortable in warmer climates (I wore mine in Indonesia for example).

If you go to the homepage above you'll see that they come in many different forms. For example there are version that come with additional stretch fabric areas for added flexibility if that is your thing. Or ones with zip-off legs that can be transformed to shorts (I own a pair and these I can heartily recommend).

The rather obvious drawback with Fjällräven products is that your paying for the quality with a hefty price tag. In my eyes they're worth it, though.

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    I have a pair of Fjällräven Keb pants, and after having used Outdoor Research Cirque pants for years before they eventually disintegrated (glued pocket seams), I find them to be very stuffy and hot. I'm not one to complain usually, but the difference is very substantial. The G1000 is not very good in warm weather. As for the sturdiness, I do some pretty extensive bushwhacking, and even after one or two outings, the fabric is already plushing. I'm not that impressed, honestly, for 300$ pants. – Gabriel C. Feb 7 at 14:44
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There are some light polycotton travel/hiking trousers. Rohan Bags are the originals (as far as I know) but I've had something similar from Craghoppers as well. They don't feel nearly as synthetic as the lightest fully synthetic ones I've got, but dry much faster than pure cotton, and seem reasonably hard wearing. I tend to buy the zip-off versions so they can convert to shorts. I actually use them for non-hiking travel as well, because all the pockets (some zipped) are useful when you want to keep a few things on your person. Some even have internal pockets, effectively a money belt.

The fit tends towards relaxed, more like combats than something really fitted. As for colours, I've got a navy pair and a dark grey pair (Craghopper). The latter are several years old and are only now showing signs of fading after heavy use (they're comfortable enough for everyday wear when it's too warm for jeans and I don't want to be in shorts).

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You will need more than one pair of pants.

  1. Nylon hiking shorts. Dry fast. Cool in hot weather. I'm uncertain how culturally appropriate shorts are on adult males in SA. In touristy areas they are used to crazy gringos.
  2. Nylon wind pants. These cover you -- something you will want when there are bugs. I prefer ones with zips at the cuffs so I can either have them cinched down for wading leech infested water, or unzip a few inches to get better ventilation.
  3. BDU pants. These are commonly sold as military/paramedic/Police work pants. You can get them in cotton, and various blends. Often with reinforced knees and seat. Usually with a smoother finish than denim, and much better stain resistance. When new and clean the non-cargo pants can serve as casual slacks.
  4. If you are going to be high enough to be cold, a lightweight pair of synthetic sweat pants. These can be used both for sleeping wear to extend your bag's limit, or as long johns under your wind pants.

Darkish colours, but short of black seem to be best about not showing dirt. Very light colours are coolest.

For extended canoe trips in Canada I bring a pair of nylon running shorts, nylon wind pants, and polypro long johns. For tops I have a drywick tee, a middle weight fleece and a waterproof breathable jacket. I also bring a toque.

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