In elementary school, few status symbols reigned supreme like a pair of coveted convertible pants. Okay, maybe Heelys (never could quite figure those things out). And also anything Lisa Frank—those rainbow unicorn folders and spiral notebooks were a guaranteed way to wow your classmates. But the convertible pants... if you could zip your pants into shorts in the middle of gym class?! Cool points galore.
While Limited Too graphic T-shirts and Juicy Tubes might have gone out of style, we're here to tell you convertible pants most certainly have not. Especially if you're an avid hiker or adventurer, zip-off pants might just be the underrated piece your pack is missing. Their convenience and ability to adapt to different conditions is simply unmatched, giving you a 2-for-1 (in some cases, a 3-for-1) style on a budget. Not to mention, gone are the days when zip-off pants came in a few, unflattering styles and lackluster colors. The zip-off pants of today are vibrant, stylish, and technical—and you'll be a "convert" soon enough.
Picking a convertible pant
Before you zip off go to pick out a pair of these transformative pants, a few things to keep in mind, particularly if you're using them in the great outdoors. First and foremost, how much zip are you looking for? Most styles feature the classic pants-to-shorts design with one zipper below or above the knee. However, a few brands have gotten creative, incorporating a second zipper to give three styles in one: pants, capris, and shorts. Others are foregoing the zipper with less obvious designs to get the capri pant look, like bungee drawstrings, zippers, and roll-up snaps. Do your research and look closely at the technical specifications before you going adding to cart.
Speaking of tech specs, think about your hiking style. Are you a casual hiker, who just wants to stay comfortable when the temperatures fluctuate? Technical features might not be as big of a concern. Now, are you an expert hiker who's down to scramble rocks, skip through switchbacks, and cross flowing rivers? You'll want to consider the following:
Durability and stretch
You want your pants to hold up over time while still allowing you to move. Enter: four-way stretch. This means your fabric can stretch in all four directions (up, down, left, and right) opposed to only two. The stretchier the fabric, the less chance there is you'll be left with an ill-placed tear when you're climbing up a crag.
Fishing, paddling, wading, puddle jumping—all of these require waterproofness, or at the very least, water resistance. When you're shopping, look for something called Durable Water Resistance, or DWR. This is a coating manufacturers design their products with to wick moisture and give materials protection against the elements.
In addition to ample sunscreen (which you'd never hit the trails without, right?!), your clothing can protect you from the sun's harmful rays, too. Clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor, or UPF, rating is your best bet for keeping you safe on hot, summer days. That, and sunscreen.
Without further ado...
The 11 best convertible pants to wear on your next trek
Best women's convertible pants
Comes in: Black or gray floral
Sizes: 0-26, with petite, tall, and regular lengths
If you want to rock a zip-off pant, Athleta has got you covered. The Trekkie Convertible Hike Pant can be worn three different ways, all lightweight and breezier than the next. They’re made from a recycled nylon blend that’s durable yet flexible, and lightweight to boot.
As for tech specs, there’s everything you want in a hiking pant, including zippered pants, a drawstring waist, bungee cord leg openings, and a UPF 50+ material rating. The only downside? They’re a little expensive. But we think they’re worth it.
Comes in: Black, violet, or green
Stoic released its zip-off pants earlier this summer, and they’re the real deal. They’re extremely comfortable and durable, designed from a stretchy poly-spandex blend that’s moisture-wicking and dirt friendly.
While there’s only one convertible zipper option, the pants feature bungee drawstrings on the ankles that can be scrunched up to capri joggers. Other thoughtful details include an adjustable belt, a waistband loop for carabiners and packs, and a zippered pockets. Just note, they are a bit on the heavier side, but those shorts zip to a cool five inches, making them easy and breezy in no time.
Comes in: Black, charcoal, and flint
Sizes: 0-12, in regular and short lengths
While arguably not as vibrant as the other options, these pants by Outdoor Research are technical as hell. Look closely, because you won’t even realize they’re convertible pants—the zipper is hidden under a barely-there seam, so you don’t get that boxy, disjointed feel. And the waistband screams “legging or yoga pant!” over traditional hiking pant.
And, of course, they’re loaded with everything you need to scramble boulders, swiftly tackle switchbacks, and maybe even get a little wet. For just $99, we recommend getting a pair, no matter your technical ability on the trail.
Comes in: Black, olive, and light beige
Sizes: 00-16 in short, regular, and long lengths
On the hunt for a practical convertible pant to take you places? The North Face has got you covered. Its Paramount Mid-Rise Pant features zip-off legs right above the knee, so when the sun gets high and you’re ready to convert to shorts, you’re golden.
Like the others, they’re packed with all the technical features you want out on a summery hike, like fast-drying fabric, UPF 50 protection, a belt, and pockets. But it’s the size range we’re really swooning over. These pants come in sizes 00-16 in three different lengths, so if you’re petite or tall, there’s a pair for you. For $79, they’re a no brainer.
Best men's convertible pants
Comes in: Black, navy blue, and green colorblock
Gentlemen, look no further than Outdoor Voices. (Ladies, they make a women’s convertible pant that’s equally good, just good luck getting it before it flies off the shelves…)
These play-ready pants feature two zippers, allowing them to be zipped down into capris and shorts. Fun fact: When you do zip ’em off, there’s a stashable cargo pocket the pieces can be folded into, so you won’t have to worry about losing parts. They’re comfortable, durable, and made from a hardy, sustainable fabric that’s better for the environment. Our only complaint is that they don’t feature some of the technical features as the others, like a DWR finish or UPF rating, however, they still hold up great.
Comes in: Dark gray, green, and sand beige
Sizes: 27-28″- 41-42″ waists in two inseam lengths
Summer stacked with outdoor adventures? Get these light-as-a-feather convertible pants by Fjallraven. Don’t be fooled by the slim fit—they’re built with 4-way stretch, designed to move with on all your adventures, be it as a pant or as a short.
Their light feel makes them super fast-drying, so if they get wet or sweaty, you won’t be uncomfortable for long, if at all. Just be sure to save your pennies—these pants are not cheap.
Comes in: Khaki and gray
Sizes: 30×32 – 38-34
Another great option comes from Kuhl. The Renegade Cargos offer a classic look with a variety of trail and travel-ready ready features. They only convert into two lengths (pants and shorts), however, the ankle openings feature zips and snaps, letting air in or fitting over boots in a pinch. Other features include water-repellant and sun-friendly material, articulated knees, and closed pockets.
Just note: reviews say they run small, so if you’re shopping, maybe get a size up.
Comes in: Gray or beige
Sizes: 28-40 waists, in regular and short lengths
Whether you’re heading out to the backcountry, boarding a plane, or gearing up for a road trip, these lightweight pants will keep you cool and comfortable. They feature one zipper in the thigh that allows them to be zipped off into shorts if need be, while the tabbed sides can be rolled up to capris.
What makes them so travel friendly? They’re ultra lightweight, so they pack down to virtually nothing (and feel like nothing is on). Since they’re coated in a water-resistant finish, spills and stains are no problem, while the zippered cargo pockets allow you to store valuables safely. Enjoy them on the trail or wherever you roam. Also available in women’s styles.
Colors: Eight neutral colors
On a budget? Check out these zip-off pants from Amazon. They have more than 1,000 reviews praising them for their durability, tech specs, and of course, the price.
As for the zip-offs, they zip down from pants to shorts, with bungee ankles in case you want to change them to joggers. And they’re loaded with details, with everything from four-way stretch to five different spacious pockets. Hello, hands-free storage.
According to reviews, they run true to size. But some reviews claim that the sizing is a little off, especially in the lengths. If you’re tall, consider going with another brand (or get really comfortable with your ankles out).
Comes in: Beige, gray, green, black, and light khaki
Or, check out this option from Toomett. Rather than zipping off at the thigh, these zip off right below the knee, cropping into a short capri style. The cargo design is durable, roomy, and loaded with pockets.
Similar to the other pants on Amazon, the sizing can vary. Some customers claim the sizing is dead-on, while others claim it runs large. Tl;dr—do your research (and don’t forget to keep the receipt).
Comes in: Beige and gray
L.L.Bean offers another budget-friendly pair of zip-off pants. The Tropicwear Zip-Leg Pant are specifically designed for warm weather activities where staying cool is a necessity. Made of a light, SunSmart fabric, they’re quick-drying and designed to block out 97.5 percent of the sun’s rays. Nice.
Since they are so light, you might want to consider a warmer option when the temps start to drop. Otherwise, you’ll stay cool whether they’re zipped off or on.
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