I’ve always been fascinated with the One Bag movement and while I am not entrenched in it, I have been watching from afar. It’s not difficult to see the romance of traveling light and efficient, so with that in mind I present to you a roundup of the best travel pants for One Bag travel.
What exactly are ‘travel pants?‘
Well, these are performance pants specifically designed for travel. Think quick dry, hidden pockets, fabrics with stretch and spill resistance, and a hardiness and versatility that speaks to frequent long-haul use.
I know the community can be finicky and there are certainly many industry darlings and favorites. So, I won’t say this is a definitive best guide, but just a starting point where you might launch your apparel research for your next adventure.
What makes for a great pair of travel pants?
Versatility. The focus is to have these pants be your sole or secondary pair of pants on a trip.
To me, that means it should be able to hit the trails for a morning hike but also look passable at a nice dinner in the evenings. When I say passable, I mean look good, not like you just came off the trail and switched to a pair of hemp shoes for the steakhouse.
Next, look for a good cut and performance.
You want pants to be more than just leg coverings. They need a good cut, to be comfortable in hot and cold weather, and to have some features that nod towards travel, convenience, or technology. Things like hidden pockets (for your documents), key loops, and anti-stain coatings.
Lastly, quality materials and construction.
This commands a higher price, but if this is literally your only pair of pants for your trip, it’s a must.
Disclaimer: I bought many of these pants myself and in cases where I was sent a review sample, it’ll be noted.
Here’s a list of pants I’d recommend; at the bottom of the article you’ll find other options that might suit your needs better.
These were a sleeper pant that took me by surprise. I requested a pair of their most versatile all-around pants and this is what they sent me. It’s a cotton (75%) nylon blend with just a bit (2%) of elastane for stretch. It also rocks a front cell phone storage, zipped security pockets, snap closure roll up cuffs, and more. These pants are probably in my top three on this list.
What I Liked:
The comfort of these pants is topnotch. It’s very difficult to find the perfect balance between stretch, temperature regulation, and abrasion resistance and durability but the team from Mountain Hardwear really have this all dialed in. The fit is slim but not restrictive and the primarily cotton makeup means it’s not noisy or too plasticky.
What I Didn’t Like:
If I had to be really picky, I would say the stitching across the upper thigh is the only (small) con for me and that’s simply because I feel it breaks up the silhouette of the pants.
– Great comfort
– Useful pockets
– Upper thigh stitching detracts from the silhouette
“These pants are probably in my top three on this list.”
Wow, another surprise for me. I had a hard time figuring out if any of the prAna pants would really fit the bill here. I have used prAna products in the past but never really was sure I could define them as being very focused on one category. I reached out and the Stretch Zion pants were suggested. They are constructed of 97% Nylon with 3% spandex. They are coated in DWR so some rain or mud, or the spill of wine, isn’t a worry. Again, roll up cuffs with snap closures, and a variety of pockets.
What I Liked:
I really loved the fit here. Just a perfect true to size fit, variety of inseam options, and three different pocket type closures make a perfect pant. There’s a zippered cargo pocket, a regular open pocket, and rear pockets that have a flap closure without a permanent seal.
What I Didn’t Like:
What are really meant as two features slightly annoyed me. Personally, I don’t really want cargo pockets for travel pants because they make it harder to shed the image of coming off the trails when you are at a nice restaurant. Second, the adjustable built-in belt is nice but the fit is so good that it’s unnecessary and adds an extra floppy piece of fabric to deal with. It’s not like some trail pants that are sold as Small, Medium, or Large, where a belt could help dial in a wide range of sizes. Instead, it makes you wonder if you should have sized up to take advantage of the belt, and leave room for some weight gained during your travels.
– Great fit
– Choice of pocket types
– DWR coating to protect against rain or spills
– Cargo pockets can make the aesthetics a bit too outdoorsy for formal settings
– Built-in belt is unnecessary and adds extra fabric to deal with
*I actually don’t have a pair of these, but Mike our editor does. He’ll chime in for this one.
The guys at Outlier sent me this pair of Futureworks about a year ago now, and I’ve donned them on trips abroad and as an everyday work pant. If you’re not familiar with these guys, they’re NY-based, have a cult-like following, and are massive fabric geeks; always playing and experimenting with the newest tech blends and weaves, forever with a finger on the pulse. They’re awesome.
What I like
There’s a lot to like. You won’t find a better tailored pant. These look killer in casual, smart casual and formal settings. The F Cloth fabric (97% Nylon, 3% Elastane) is such a nice blend. It’s lightweight. It’s durable. And it’s DWR-coated but breathes well, so hot weather and spills are no problem. It has this really lovely matte look. And then there’s the 35% two-way stretch that – coupled with a knee-length gusset – keeps these super comfy on long transits, on short hikes, or legging it after a bus or train. They’re really nice. And to be honest, these are my favorite pair of pants right now.
What I don’t like
I’m still trying to find something…but price might be an issue for some. And if you’re more driven by function and less by fashion, there’s a bunch of other pants here that might better suit. For instance, there’s no bells and whistles like security pockets or innovative waist bands. But that’s kinda why I like them so much.
– Smart aesthetics suit formal and informal settings alike
– Comfortable, breathable fit accommodates for a range of activities
– DWR coating to protect against rain and spills
– Lacks added features such as security pockets
“These look killer in casual, smart casual and formal settings.”
Bluffworks was founded on one product – the travel pant, and that is still their bread and butter. In fact, when you shop on their site, you silently read their pant models followed by the word “travel”. The Original (Travel) pant is what started it all on Kickstarter, so that’s what I ordered. I went with navy and it was perfect for my trip to New York last Christmas. It held up great exploring the city, while enduring light showers. The next evening I wore it to a Michelin restaurant for dinner, paired with their blazer and received compliments.
What I Liked:
The thing I like most about the Original is the cut. They are slim without being too restricting and not at all baggy. They also have great construction and many thoughtful features such as zippered rear pockets, a loop for an ID or keys and they are extremely quick drying. Moisture practically runs off the pants.
What I Didn’t Like:
While the all-polyester material is great for drying, it’s a plastic and doesn’t absorb moisture. That means on a hot day there’s nowhere for your sweaty legs and arms to vent. I think the Original is perfect for cooler or cold climates but probably not ideal for really hot or humid times of the year.
– Slim but not restrictive cut
– Useful storage for small valuables
– Quick drying
– Not very breathable; better suited to cooler climates than hot or humid ones.
Best for Outdoors
This company hails from where else but Colorado, a city that is neck and neck in competition with Portland as the outdoor industry base of choice. Founded by husband and wife duo Will and Kelly Watters, the company is producing some really interesting apparel that speaks to the casual outdoor aesthetic while boasting some killer features. Revision 2 of their Camp Pants are some of the nicest pants I’ve ever worn. They are made of Nylon with about 10% Elastane for stretch (a trend you’ll see I dig). They are coated in a DWR finish for moisture and stain resistance and have a laundry list of practical features for everyone from an urban EDC-er to a bike commuter.
What I Liked:
First off, the construction of the Granite Pants is topnotch. The fit and finish are amazing and they are extremely comfortable to wear. Then there are all the features I’ve been mentioning. I won’t go into all of them here but I’ll touch on a few points. First, the waist has a rubber printed waistband. This might sound foreign but you can probably get a feel for what this is like just by looking at the combination of words. It does a great job of keeping your pants from sliding up and down your waist. Things just stay put. I also really appreciate the Cordura knife wedge on the front right pocket. This is a simple piece of nylon that’s sewn into the edge of the pocket, giving you a convenient place to clip your folder. The clip slides in nice and smooth and it protects the pocket’s edge from repeated deployments. You can roll up and cinch the cuffs for climbing, wading or cycling, with a reflective strip exposed for the latter. Both back pockets have magnetic closures which is a feature I wish was more in use in apparel. It’s just so much easier than buttonholes or snaps.
What I Didn’t Like:
My biggest complaint about the Camp Pants is the fit. They are quite large and there is no fooling anyone that they are anything but hiking/camp pants. The leg measures 16.5″ on my pair of 34W and even cinched, they look large. Also, they come in just one inseam length and due to how the cuffs work, it’s impossible to tailor them. This is really limiting and feels frustrating, like a take it or leave it situation. Some of the features like the cell phone pocket just didn’t work for me. First, it’s supposed to fit an iPhone 6S which is a good move, but it didn’t fit my Galaxy S6 very well. But the bigger issue is that it is the same pocket that the knife wedge is on. You can see the problem here, right? Your clipped knife gets very intimate with your smartphone.
Luckily, Will was very receptive to a lot of these questions and concerns and said they are already working on a v3.0 of the pants. As of this article, the 2.0 pants are on discount so catch them while you can.
– Rubber printed waistband for added comfort
– Cordura knife wedge
– Magnetic closures on back pockets
– Quite a large fit with an outdoorsy aesthetic that doesn’t work as well in formal settings
– Phone pocket may be too small for your device
– Cordura knife wedge is on the phone pocket
“They are coated in a DWR finish for moisture and stain resistance and have a laundry list of practical features for everyone from an urban EDC-er to a bike commuter.”
This Vancouver-based company is the result of two founders who came from stints at Levi’s and Under Armor, who wanted to tackle the challenge of taking the comfort of denim jeans and applying technology to overcome their shortcomings. Their innovations are focused on the fabric. Their L2X Performance Stretch Denim material offers COOLMAX technology for moisture wicking and is impregnated with SILVADUR for anti-microbial properties. Normally I wouldn’t recommend denim for a one bag all-around pant but these are the bees knees. This is my current pair of denim on rotation, even when I am just going to work or out on the weekends.
What I Liked:
They claim their L2X material is 30% lighter than denim and I believe it. It is awesome to wear denim pants that are lightweight, with great mobility. I knew women’s clothing often blended in Lycra or other stretch fabrics to allow for some give, but I never realized just what a game changer this is. You’ll see that many of the pants on this list have some degree of stretch. It feels liberating and makes you wonder why you’ve never worn stretch pants before. I also like that the jeans wick moisture so your legs feel cooler on warm days.
What I Didn’t Like:
These pants absorb water (rain) more readily than the other pants. This is not surprising since denim/cotton is not exactly a softshell material, but I felt like these got moist especially quick. Maybe I’ve noticed it more since I am often wearing these pants during the recent rains. The second part is a very specific nitpick but I had a lot of issues with sizing on these pants and the fact that they ship from Canada just makes everything a lot more stressful and delayed. Their customer service were very patient and friendly about the whole ordeal but it took weeks of back and forth to fix everything and I couldn’t help but think if they were US based, things would have been much quicker to resolve.
– Great mobility
– Absorbs water more readily than the other pants
– Getting the sizing right can be tricky
“Normally I wouldn’t recommend denim for a one bag all-around pant but these are the bees knees.”
Best Looser Fit
Founded by Joe Teno, with a background at TravelSmith and Athleta, QOR merges the worlds of gym life and everyday life together. With that premise, I was happy to test out their Gym Trousers. It’s one of their most popular models and features an 88%/12% polyester/spandex blend, DWR treatment, reflective rollable cuff, and light reflective hits in the rear. I took these pants to Joshua Tree and ended up stress testing it unexpectedly. I went on a gnarly off-trail, rock scrambling adventure with the founder of Juniper Ridge, Hall Newbegin. My heart was racing the whole time, both due to the heat but also worried that these super light pants wouldn’t hold up.
What I Liked:
Well I was wrong. Like I said, I was sliding down giant rocks, and squeezing through sharp branches and leaves and the pants held up. They are comfortable, have some of the nicest zipper pulls on an everyday pant (I know, they are just zipper pulls, but they are very satisfying), and can take a beating. The DWR works great; I know because I spilled water on myself a bunch of times trying to drink too quickly while hiking. I also love the elastic waistband which makes things a little bit easier around the midsection.
What I Didn’t Like:
I have a few small complaints about the Gym Trousers. First, the shortest inseam is 32 and that’s a problem for me since I prefer a 29 or 30. This, coupled with the nature of polyester, makes these pants a little more “flowy” and baggy than I’d prefer. They also have pretty wide leg openings – again, great for hikes, not great for more toned down activities. Lastly, I found the fit around the seat and hips to be really tight, more than any other pants, even with the same size. I know this could totally be related to my specific body, but I didn’t have this issue with any other pants.
– Hard-wearing construction
– DWR coating to protect against spills and rain
– Elastic waistband for improved comfort
– The pants can be too baggy to suit a range of settings
– Fit around the seat and hips may be tight
Best Security Conscious
This cut & sew team from Taiwan prides themselves on taking technical fabrics and turning them into garments that offer protection, comfort, sustainability, and versatility. It took some finagling but they sent me a few items to try out, including their Verflex Pants. These are a 60% Cotton, 26% Nylon blend with the remaining 14% filled by Spandex for that stretch I love. It checks all the prerequisite boxes: four-way stretch, DWR treatment, and invisible zippered pockets.
What I Liked:
The fit was just so on point. Super comfortable! At first I thought the legs would be too slim but they aren’t at all. They are just right. The stretch in the waist is much appreciated and the button hardware is more dress trousers than hiking pant, which I like for these pants. The pant is minimalistic and similar to how Tesla door handles retract for an unbroken line; all the pockets are closed with hidden zippers so the look is seamless.
What I didn’t Like:
The only small niggle I have is those zippers I was just praising above. If you are like me and fiddle with a phone in your pocket or jiggle your keys a lot, having the zippers closed gets in your way. And if you leave the zippers open, your fingers kind of rub against the teeth which isn’t painful but it’s an unusual feeling. The pulls are also really small, which is necessary to stay discreet, but they are hard to get a grip on.
– Comfortable fit with four-way stretch
– DWR treatment
– Hidden pocket zippers for a cleaner look
– Small zipper pulls can be difficult to grasp
“It checks all the prerequisite boxes: four-way stretch, DWR treatment, and invisible zippered pockets.”
I know, this is supposed to be a pants article but I couldn’t resist. When I spotted the Olivers Apparel ad on my Instagram feed, I clicked through and spent a good 20 minutes on their site. Most of their initial offerings were geared towards athletics (think gym shorts), but the Capital Shorts really stood out to me. They sent me a sample to try out and they are by far the best pair of shorts I’ve ever worn. They are a mix of nylon and spandex with four-way stretch and are DWR treated for water resistance.
What I Liked:
The stretch is great – super comfortable. They are very cleanly designed shorts. There is not a lot of flair, no cargo pockets, very classy. The four-way stretch makes them super easy to move around in and the quick-drying fabric makes any spills during a meal, or light rain, nothing to worry about. Lastly, they are made in the USA, in downtown Los Angeles. I don’t put a lot of weight on the country of origin for products, but it’s a nice bonus. I brought these as my only pair of shorts to DC, earlier this summer. The mercury reached the high 90’s and these shorts were light as a feather.
What I Didn’t Like:
The pockets are super shallow! I am not looking to carry a tablet in my shorts but my smartphone sticks out of the front pockets so much that it feels like it’s going to fall out of the pants with just a few steps of regular walking. It’s really stressful and surprising since it’s not a common issue. I suppose you could treat these shorts as something you’d wear for quick errands where you’d only carry some bills and ID, but I think most of us are carrying our phones around, and that wouldn’t work well with these shorts.
– Clean, classy look suits a range of settings
– Quick drying
– Comfortable, four-way stretch construction
– Shallow pockets can put items at risk of falling out
Other Models to Consider
Quite simply, it’s impossible for me to cover all the pant options out there; it’s time consuming and quite frankly very expensive to review all these pants. I know some of you swear by certain models and brands and apologies if they weren’t included here. Hopefully this list of alternatives can help you in your search.
Dish & DU/ER No Sweat Pant – Their N2X pants are more of their chinos and non-denim pants. I have two pairs in different colors and they make a great alternative to jeans. They too have stretch, this time by way of spandex. There’s also a TENCEL fiber woven in that gives it anti-microbial properties, while being softer than silk and cooler than linen. I liked how comfortable they are, their great hand-feel. They are equally versed at light athletic endeavors as well as nightlife. I also like their breathability, odor resistance, and moisture management. My only con is their finicky sizing.
Bluffworks Chino – After trying the Originals and loving them so much, I reached out to Stefan at Bluffworks and asked about the Chinos. He sent over two pairs for me to try out. The Chinos have a different hand-feel (like cotton) than the Originals but are still made of the same great quick-drying polyester fabric. They are offered in a Tailored Fit, which means they are even more slim than the Originals. The material feels slightly lighter to me and the silhouette is definitely slimmer than the Originals.
The Chinos feature the same travel-centric features that Bluffworks is known for so you are not giving anything up by choosing them over the Originals. I like that the Chinos feel like a less technical pant and more like a natural pant. It still has the same quick-dry properties and hidden features that make them great to travel with. Small niggle: the slim cut of the Chinos are flattering but depending on your build can be a bit too restrictive. Make sure you check your sizing before ordering.
Outerboro Staple Pants – Incredible pants with DWR four-way stretch, reflective cuffs, and an elastic waist for comfort. This has a nod towards formal wear and would be perfect if you are traveling and need to spend time in the office or at a business dinner.
Betabrand Best Travel Pants – Honestly, I paid full price for these and was pretty disappointed. They just don’t feel like the $100 price point they are asking. Not super great fit, the fabric doesn’t lay particularly well, and the weight of the polyester isn’t very impressive. They seem really popular and a best-seller for them, so put it on your list to investigate.
Other Brands Doing Awesome Performance Apparel
What has this roundup taught us? First, versatile one-bag pants are not cheap. These pants averaged over $100 so keep an eye out for those sales or opportunities to grab last season’s styles. Second, the choice of fabric blends is key. You’ll want at least some stretch, especially in the waist, knees, and thighs. A dab of spandex or elastane makes a world of difference for comfort. Next, you’ll want pants that have some travel-specific features such as a DWR coating for harsh weather, some security pockets for valuables, and perhaps a reflective hit or rollable cuffs for crossing small streams. Lastly, you’ll want pants that are a slim but not restricting cut, with clean lines and solid colors for enjoying the nightlife.
I feel confident you’ll be able to find the one or two pairs of pants you’re looking for, to take on your next adventure. And if I’ve missed any gems, please let me know in the comments.