REI Sahara Convertible Pants boys

REI Sahara Convertible Pants boys

Kids Hiking Pants
REI Sahara Convertible Pants
$45, 9 oz. (boys medium)
Sizes: boys and girls XXS (4-5) to XL (18)

We parents face a conundrum regarding kids’ gear and outdoor clothing: We want our kids to have the same high-quality stuff we have—it’s worth it to help them enjoy the experience—but, well, they do outgrow it fast. These zip-off hiking pants soften the financial pain of outfitting your children without sacrificing quality. Moderately priced, they are made with the same fabric and features (six pockets!) as the adult version, with the added value of an adjustable waistband to help keep your son or daughter from busting out of them sooner than you’re ready to lay down plastic for another pair.

My 11-year-old son wore these pants last summer on a weeklong, July hut trek in Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park, a five-day, August backpacking trip in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness, and in early spring dayhiking and backpacking in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and Bryce National Park. The weather in Jotunheimen was so wintry—temperatures in the 30s for more than half the week, with strong winds and periodic cold rain—I was worried about him getting too wet and cold. Fortunately, while these pants aren’t intended for winter conditions, the nylon fabric dries fairly quickly and cuts some wind, so he never got cold. In the Eagle Cap, we saw mostly hot, dry days, where the quick-drying ability of the pants again kept him comfortable by wicking away perspiration; but the pants also dried fast after getting wet in an afternoon thunderstorm. The southern Utah weather was very spring-like, ranging from the 20s to the 60s, with strong winds at times.

The fabric is also tough enough to show no tears or much wear yet. Besides the legs that zip off smoothly, the pants sport two hand pockets, two rear pockets, and a pocket on each thigh, one of them zippered. My son will get two full hiking seasons out of these pants, and probably outgrow them because he’ll turn 13 and may start sprouting up; but with luck, your child could get three seasons in them.



See all of my reviews of kids’ outdoor gear.

NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.

—Michael Lanza