Any article of clothing that claims to be “perfect for travel” has an agenda. Like the word “natural” appearing on packaged food, a phrase like “travel-ready” is a vague and enticing smokescreen that can signify any number of qualities at the heart of which lies the question: What makes this thing better for wearing in places other than the place where I live? Pose the inquiry to any given brand, and a response might mention a techy material or maybe a hidden pocket (or nothing unique whatsoever). It’s particularly true of pants. What makes a good pair of travel pants? Is it material? The number of pockets? It isn’t, no matter what anyone tells you, legs that zip-off at the knee. We tested pair after pair on day trips, weekend trips and overseas trips to find out.
686 Anything Multi Cargo Pant
“Cargo pant” might have you thinking about thigh-mounted square pockets with flapping lids, but for these pants, all it means is that they have room to carry a lot of stuff. There are the two front pockets that we’re all familiar with, but then there’s a card pocket, pen pocket, zippered leg pockets, phone pocket, belt loop stash pocket and, oh yeah, two back pockets (and probably some others that we’re missing). Even with all that storage though, the Anything Multi Cargo Pants don’t appear bulky and gawky. They’re made of a stretchy, water-resistant fabric that’s fine to hike in but doesn’t look overtly technical.
Topo Designs Tech Pants
The Tech Pants, like much of what Topo Designs produces, are a blend of outdoor lifestyle and performance. It’s hard to say which of the two takes a larger share, though. They’re fully capable before, during and after mountain adventures with a lightweight and stretchy nylon fabric. Topo Designs built them with a gusseted crotch and articulated knees for extra mobility and cinchable ankle cuffs to move the material out of the way when you need to (when you’re rock climbing, hiking or bike riding, for instance). The pants also have a water-repellant finish and plenty of pockets, and, like many of the others on this list, are stylish enough to wear in any cities you might visit.
Roark Revival Layover Pant
Roark Revival’s entire brand is travel; each of the company’s seasonal collections is inspired directly by trips to places like Jamaica, the Falkland Islands and Hong Kong. These guys spend a lot of time in airports, cars, rickshaws — whatever it takes to get there — so it’s no wonder that they built a pant that prioritizes comfort and functionality. The Layover Stretch Travel Pant is made of a blended nylon and cotton fabric that’s stretchy and fastens with a drawstring instead of a button for a slightly adjustable fit. Its front pockets have oversized, zip openings to accommodate larger essentials like travel documents or sunglasses, and there’s also a hidden rear pocket that’s the perfect size for a phone. The material is soft and not too technical, and the fit is slim, qualities that make these pants good-looking enough to wear in cities (or every day back home).
Foehn Nelson Pant
You’d never know that Foehn made the Nelson for rock climbing. With a somewhat workwear-inspired look and feel and a slightly stretchy, hard-wearing fabric, the pants are well-suited to anything that requires rugged clothing. Like other dungaree-style pants, they have a roomy fit but are also trimmed and look good enough to be an everyday work pant, whether your office is indoors or out. In our testing, we also found that the zippered thigh pocket, which Foehn made to provide access to items while wearing a climbing harness, is also the perfect place to carry a passport and boarding pass.
REI Craglands Pant
The Craglands might be the most technical of the pants on this list. They’re also the simplest and lightest. REI built them with a stretchy ripstop nylon fabric that repels water, wicks moisture and dries quickly, so they’re ideal for any trips that include outdoor activities like hiking and climbing. That fabric, and an elastic waist and cuffs, do give these pants more of a technical appearance, but they also make them supremely comfortable.
Western Rise Slim Rivet Pant
We’ve been fans of Colorado-based Western Rise’s versatile everyday pant for some time now. One of our staff members once wrote, “I own — and constantly wear — two pairs of these suckers. The fit is excellent, like modern chinos or jeans. The colors are just unique enough to stand out. But what I like most about them is how tough they are.” The recipe for that magical combination includes stretch nylon and air-texturized fibers that make the pants feel like regular pants (as opposed to technical outdoor pants). They repel water, dry quickly, are plenty comfortable and lean strongly into a style that’s appropriate for everyday, urban and office environments, perhaps more than any other pair on this list.