Ever since I married I have abdicated the lion’s share of my clothing purchases to my dear wife. As a bachelor, I was never a fashion icon. I typically bought clothing when what I had became dysfunctional. I was even known to wear shirt’s I’d made for myself from time to time. These days Trail does the shopping while I retain the right to rubber stamp or veto any given selection. Trail has good tastes and my main interest in dressing up is look good in her eyes so the arrangement works well.
Time for a change… of pants
When traveling, the qualities you look for in clothing change somewhat. A typical day can include crawling through a wet cave tunnel, sliding down a sand dune on your butt, or working with a greasy trailer hitch. Durability and stain resistance are key, as is being comfortable in a wide range of weather conditions. Of course, you also want to be comfortable in a wide range of challenging situations and still look respectable if you go out for dinner after an adventure.
Recently, it came time to replace some of my old pants which had run the gauntlet of travel challenges and failed. One pair split wide open while sliding down sand dunes, another was badly shredded by rocks and cactus after a trek in the badlands. My jeans were declared a money sink as they took twice as long to machine dry as every other article of clothing. Trail decided some serious research was needed to find the perfect pair of trousers for me and my new adventuring ways.
Her search turned up the Duluth Trading Company and their Dry on the Fly Nylon Cargo Pants. They are designed to be tough and comfortable and to look decent as casual wear and they succeed on all accounts. The material is nylon that has been treated to be water and sunshine-resistant and both features work very nicely helping you stay cool and dry. Unlike my cotton jeans, they dry fast both when worn and when being cleaned. The material is woven in such a way that it is flexible in the diagonal but firm vertically and horizontally. As a result, they look fairly crisp but flex nicely when you are moving around.
A feature common to nearly all fo the Duluth pants lines is their “crotch gusset.” This is a somewhat stretchy wedge of fabric in the inseam of the pants that gives them a lot more range of motion without pulling or pinching. Not only does it mean no pinching in sensitive areas, it prevents the pants from stress on the inseam and ripping up the middle. It’s an event that not only destroys your pants but makes for an awkward day on the trails. I speak from personal experience on this account. The end result is that they flow near as well as a pair of sweat pants but look a whole lot nicer.
Since they are meant as work or adventure pants, they have a wide range of pockets and super wide belt loops. This means you can pack a lot of gear into the pants and on your belt. The pants come with a belt, but I found it to be too thin for practical use and substituted my usual simple wide leather belt for it. It accommodated the hefty leather strap quite nicely. One nice feature on the cargo pockets is a side zipper. It is arranged such that it is easy to access while sitting, which makes them great for keeping a phone or wallet on long drives, much easier to access than a traditional pocket.
Style wise, they are not the sleekest pants ever, but the lightweight material keeps them from looking bulky and awkward. Different models run the gamut from casual slacks to fairly utilitarian. Mine are on the utilitarian end but they don’t look out of place with a casual collared shirt. Unsurprisingly, they go very well with typical outdoor clothing. Colors can be limited depending on the specific model. During the sale, they were out of my preferred color, Black. Most of the colors are browns and greens, classic fall colors.
The “bottom” line
The only downside is that these pants don’t come cheap. Full price they range from $65 to $80 depending on the specific size and style. The do go on sale and that is how we bought ours, closer to $50 a pair. I think in the long run the durability and quick wash times will make that a good investment compared to cheaper pants, all the while enjoying a lot more comfort and utility.
All in all, I highly recommend them for anyone who wants a rugged, comfortable, and decent looking pair of pants that can handle some serious adventure.