Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pants
$89, 11 oz. (men’s 32)
Sizes: men’s 32-38, women’s 2-14
For most summer and fall backpacking trips, unless I expect really wet conditions, I wear zip-off, nylon trail pants because they’re lightweight, dry fairly quickly, durable, and inexpensive. But when I’m heading to a place where I could face a wide range of weather, including wet and cold, I want pants that repel water better and dry faster than run-of-the-mill nylon pants. And waterproof-breathable rain pants are so hot to hike in that I rarely wear them. For me, the solution is a zip-off, soft-shell pant that’s light enough for summer. On a seven-day, hut-to-hut trek through Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, where almost daily we encountered on-and-off rain, wind, even some hail and wet snow, and temperatures ranging from the high 30s to around 60° F., the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pants shined.
The stretch-woven, nylon and spandex fabric repelled light rain, and although steady rain eventually dampened the pants, they still kept me warm when wet, and didn’t saturate or cling to my legs. And once the rain abated, they dried quickly as I hiked—much faster than standard nylon pants would. While many soft-shell pants are made for either climbing or winter in the mountains—thus, are warmer—the Ferrosi are light enough for backpacking in temps in the 50s. These pants come in a version without zip-off legs, but I prefer the zip-offs for the versatility of converting to shorts on warmer days, as I did several times when the sun came out in the Dolomites. The fabric also resists snagging in the leg zippers, making these the easiest pant legs to zip off and on that I’ve ever used.
The two hand pockets aren’t super large or zippered, but adequate for a few small items; at times, I stuck a glove in each to keep them in reach. One zippered thigh pocket holds a small map—I kept a digital voice recorder and some cash in it on our hut trek—and there are two zippered back pockets. The leg bottoms are wide enough to fit over a low gaiter but not so baggy that they catch a lot of water and mud, and the fabric repels dirt well.
As an aside, given that hiking in rain pants can stir up an internal storm of sweat except in cold temps, I’ve wondered why outdoor-apparel designers haven’t come out with hybrid pants. After all, we’ve seen many hybrid jackets that blend water-resistant, soft-shell fabric with waterproof-breathable fabric. I’d like to see a gaiter-like, waterproof-breathable fabric below the knee and lightweight, highly breathable, soft-shell fabric from the knees up. If you could optionally secure the pant cuffs to boots, gaiter-style, that might even preclude the need to carry gaiters.
But until those pants hit the market, I’ll wear my Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pants for three-season backpacking when I expect a full range of summer mountain weather. For soft-shell pants with this level of performance, this price is hard to beat.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.