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 the response might mention a tech-y fabric or maybe a modular feature (or nothing unique whatsoever). The riddle is particularly true of pants. What makes a good pair of travel pants? Is it comfort? Durability? The number of pockets? All those elements matter, yes, provided they add up to a blend of form and function that lets you step off a plane and onto all sorts of adventures. In their own ways, the following options each fit the bill.
Backcountry’s house brand has been stepping up its game of late, and these pants are the latest example. Though intended for weekend projects, they’re perfect for camping and travel as well. The cotton/synthetic blend fabric is tough like canvas but more breathable and stretchy, with articulated knees adding to the ease of movement. In addition to hand and back pockets, there’s plenty of storage for travel items: a discrete zippered pocket and sleeve on the right, plus a slim cargo pocket with an added zippered pocket on the left. All that plus understated style and a price tag under $100 make this pair a winner.
Our former Outdoors & Fitness staff writer was kind of obsessed with the original Brise pants, and their successors are even better. Stretchy, moisture-wicking Schoeller fabric and a DWR finish keep them dry, while a stretch waistband and cuff, knee articulation and a crotch gusset keep them comfortable, whether you're hanging on a rock face or standing in a security line. The zippered thigh pocket, which Foehn made to provide access to items while wearing a climbing harness, is ideal for stashing a passport. The looks pass muster as an everyday work pant, whether your office is indoors or out.
Best Bang for Your Buck
Some of the simplest and lightest pants on this list also happen to be some of the more quietly technical ones. REI made these Sahara Path pants with a stretchy but tough, nylon/spandex blend fabric that repels water, wicks moisture and dries quickly, so they’re ideal for any trips that include outdoor activities like hiking and climbing. Activity-friendly features include a crotch gusset, articulated knees, an adjustable drawcord waist and a zippered thigh pocket for travel or trail essentials. It all adds up to a heck of a lot of value for less than seventy bucks.
The Global 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 durable, comfortable cotton/nylon/spandex blend fabric. There are plenty of smartly placed pockets, including two zippered ones, plus internal cords you can use to cinch the ankle cuffs for climbing, hiking or biking. They come in three colors and, like many of the others on this list, are stylish enough to wear in any cities you might visit.
Roark’s entire brand is travel; each of the company’s seasonal collections emerges from trips to places like Jamaica, the Falkland Islands and Hong Kong. Inspired by Morocco, the Layover 2.0 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, while the back pockets button shut, leaving you with plenty of reliabl, secure storage options when you're on the go.
These unassuming Patagonia pants are sneakily packed with features that boost both comfort and functionality. The organic cotton/polyester blend fabric is light and moisture-wicking, with a 3xdry finish that rides out the raindrops. A drawstring waistband and jogger-esque ankle cuffs add to a relaxed fit suitable for everything from a plane ride to a journey through the jungle — concrete or otherwise. Meanwhile, four traditional pockets plus a zippered thigh pocket keep the things you need, like wallet, keys and phone, within easy reach.
Best Cargo Style
“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, a card pocket, pen pocket, zippered leg pockets, phone pocket, belt loop stash pocket and, oh yeah, two back pockets. Even with all that storage though, the Anything Multi Cargo Pants don’t appear bulky. They’re made of a stretchy, water-resistant fabric that’s fine to hike in but doesn’t look overtly technical.
Best for Trail to Bar
Yes, these pants are really, really, really ridiculously good-looking. A slim fit and Arc'teryx's trademark knack for cool, clean aesthetics will do that. But with a lightweight, breathable, stretchy cotton/nylon/elastene blend fabric and a pull-on elastic waist with a concealed adjuster, they're super comfortable too. Meanwhile, hand pockets, a rear pocket that slanted for easy access and a super low-pro thigh zip pocket provide just enough handy storage for strolls in the woods and sashays down plane, train and bus aisles.
Best for Work
We’ve been fans of Colorado-based Western Rise’s versatile everyday pant for some time now. “I own — and constantly wear — two pairs of these suckers," one of our staffers once wrote. "The fit is excellent, like modern chinos or jeans. The colors are just unique enough to stand out. But what I like most is how tough they are.” Stretch nylon and air-texturized fibers make them feel like regular pants while repelling water, drying quickly... and leaning strongly into a style appropriate for modern workplaces, making them perfect for stepping off a plane and into, say, your company's Amsterdam office.