One of my all-time favourite comedies is Jack Black in Nacho Libre where, as a monastery cook, he covertly wrestles undercover in a spandex suit. When caught in his bedroom trying on his wrestling suit by orphan Chancho, one of the most famous lines in the movie emerges; “Chancho, when you are a man, sometimes you wear stretchy pants in your room. Just for fun.”
Nacho knew that stretch was essential to performance and fun and it seems Apricoat know this too. Apricoat’s Adventure Pants are definitely not to be confined indoors, rather they are an outdoor-pant with serious stretch that make bombing around in the bush a whole lot of fun. I recently tested these pants up and down Mount George in the north of Tasmania and in the rain at Port Sorell to test water resistance.
Design, Comfort & Durability (Rating: 90%)
Apricoat, founded in 2017 as an adventure clothing and based in Delaware boast sustainability, certified fair labour and carbon neutral shipping among their values and claims to use a community of over 30,000 members to obtain feedback for their products. The Adventure Pants are the result of a Kickstarter project launched nine months ago and shipped in July of this year so they’re hot off the press.
I’ve tried numerous types of hiking pants. In the early days, lightweight poly-cotton blends with zip legs were all the rage. I went away from these and veered more towards nylon eventually, for their ability to dry faster and their durability. More recently I’ve stopped wearing pants altogether and just worn leggings that are essentially a polyamide/elastane blend giving it the ability to wick, be extremely durable and have plenty of stretch for leg movement. Polyamide is in fact nylon. This fabric is pretty much my go-to in almost all weather conditions while moving with a pack. I do don pants at the end of the day in camp however for warmth and mosquito protection. It is precisely this blend that Apricoat has used to manufacture what seems to be close to the ultimate hiking pant. The 92% polyamide is sourced from recycled plastic bottles (give them a big green thumbs up) and the remainder is elastane (aka spandex), resulting in a high four-way stretch fabric.
In terms of design, the 32” pants were true to size and had sufficient length for my 6’2” frame and a straight cut. There is no need for excess material in the leg to provide the wearer freedom of movement because the stretch achieves this. The days of baggy hiking pants are over. I know this is going to be hard to believe but there are actually 11 integrated pockets five of which are zippered. I know, it’s mental. The zips ensure keys and phones don’t fall out on uneven terrain. The insides of the waist pockets are an extremely soft flocked fabric. There are all kinds of sized pockets ranging from standard large waist pockets, thigh pockets and right down to a pen slot. The only criticism is the zip pulls. Two of them are tiny metal teardrop pulls and the other three are larger smooth rectangular plastic pulls but none of them would be easy to work with very cold fingers or gloves. Larger textured and contoured zip pulls would have been better for cold conditions.
The pants have an elasticated waist with press stud fastening and come with belt loops and a drawstring if you don’t wish to use a belt. The drawstring makes what is quite a -stylish garment somewhat track pant-like and I’m not a fan but even this has been well thought out because the drawstring is made from a textured cord which creates a friction bow that is difficult for it to come undone unintentionally. For those who prefer belts, they can pull it out.
The comfort level is something else. When wearing traditional pants with no stretch, one gets used to the pants grabbing on the knee, bunching at the hip flexor or tightening across the quads when making any movement more significant than a short stride, and it’s not until you eliminate that by wearing say shorts, leggings or a stretch pant like these that you notice how restrictive they are – the reason I no longer hike in pants. It’s all about freedom and movement – sometimes large movements. You barely notice these pants are there, given their lightweight and incredible stretch.
Heading up Mt George was a piece of cake and hardly challenging but it was a day walk we wanted to do to check out the historic semaphore that relayed messages from George Town – the oldest town in Australia – to Launceston by the use of flags in the early 1800s prior to the invention of the telegraph. In order to really stress the pants, I decided to bush bash 2km down through the she-oak scrub to see if I could put any holes or tears in the pants. I decided not to wear gaiters for protection. Essentially I took an almost completely direct route from the top of the hill, back to the car park which meant I had to do a little vertical climb at the end – perfect for testing the degree of articulation available in the pants. They passed with flying colours. They afforded really good protection from the scrub that I pushed through and tree fall that I walked over and there was no damage on the fabric. The only damage that I did manage to do was a couple of days later when I fired up my charcoal forge to heat treat some knives and a spark put a neat round pin head hole straight through them. Bottom line, don’t wear these pants around a campfire – do bush bash if that floats your boat.
Functionality & Ease of Use (Rating: 95%)
As already alluded to, the functionality of these pants is cutting edge. There are simply no downsides to having pants with stretch. This is the new benchmark in outdoor pants – something that is durable, wicking, fast drying, water resistant, lightweight and with enough stretch for a full range of movement. This is such a clever combination of fabric selection and design to obtain a final product that I cannot find a feature that I would want that is lacking.
Tasmania’s walking, particularly search and rescue, often involves clambering up rock faces, boulder hopping and scrambling over downed trees, all of which demand a wide range of movement. Normal pants are restrictive and problematic resulting in many walkers using poly prop leggings (not durable) with shorts, or in my case, compression tights. The Adventure Pants solve this problem and are completely unrestrictive as I demonstrated by climbing a short rock face and stepping over logs.
Apricoat have the pants treated with BIONIC-FINISH® ECO. A tag on the pants (with a QR code linked to a German company called Rudolf Group, which unfortunately takes you to a 404 page) explains that this special technology ensures highly durable, water-resistant materials without using chemicals that are harmful to the environment. To test this I walked for half an hour in steady drizzling rain on the beach at Port Sorell in Tasmania’s north-west. Small droplets did bead on the lower leg of the pants. However, on the thighs, the pants quickly wet out and soaked through. Polyamide is naturally a hydrophobic material anyway but in my mind, the stretch factor over the quads facing into the rain would probably make it unlikely that any form of DWR would stop it from wetting out in short order. After getting out of the rain, I left the pants on and timed how long they took to dry whilst wearing them and it was 90 minutes. I don’t think any experienced hiker is going to expect that their pants are going to resist water. That’s what waterproof pants are for.
One aspect of the pants that I didn’t like was that they rode up over my boots and stayed up. It’s normal for pants to rise and fall at the cuff, but there was not enough clearance to allow them to fall back down over the boot, so after taking a few steps, they hitched up over the collar of my boots and stayed up there. Ideally, your pants sit neatly over the ankle of your boots. They would work well with trail running shoes and low-cut walking footwear as opposed to my high-ankle Scarpa Kailash boots.
What I Like
- I loved that I could step over logs or climb up a short vertical pinch without any restriction on my movement. They almost felt like they weren’t even there at times.
- We all hate plastic bottles, so why not buy clothing that turns them into something awesome?
- The polyamide/Elastane blend is possibly the best fabric for hiking pants there is currently on the market due to its stretch for movement, moisture wicking, quick drying, durability and lightweight.
- Not only are these great in the bush they make an excellent go-anywhere, do-anything travel-pant because they’re stylish enough to wear on a plane or even in a café, not something I can do in my ripped up leggings.
What I Don’t Like
- The drawstring done up in a bow makes them look a little like track pant meets pyjama pants. Rip it out and whack a belt through the loops and you have an easy fix.
- I reviewed a “navy” pair but they’re not what I’d call navy. My SES search and rescue pants are navy and this shade of blue is positively lairy. You can tell from the photos they are more like royal blue on steroids. Unless you are a larger-than-life character that enjoys things like Hawaiian shirts paired with salmon shorts, the navy version of the Adventure Pant is not for you. Get beige (they’re cheaper) or black.
- The pants don’t sit well over high-ankle (and most likely mid-ankle) hiking boots. You’ll be adjusting them over your boots every so often. Obviously, you won’t care if you wear gaiters. The cut is probably suited more toward trail running or hiking shoes.
- Don’t expect much in the way of water resistance. Do expect them to dry fast even if they wet out.
Disclaimer: Apricoat provided the reviewer a pair of Adventure Pants for testing. This has no influence on the opinions presented in the above article.