REI Co-op Sahara Convertible - Women's Review
Cons: Doesn't block the wind, not a great style around town
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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REI Co-op Sahara Convertible - Women's
$79.95 at REI
|$88.95 at Backcountry|
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|Check Price at Backcountry|
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|$41.99 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Mobile, wide range of fit options, vents and breaths wonderfully, good pockets||Very comfortable, versatile, wind and water resilient||Incredible fit, soft and flexible fabric that doesn’t sag, dries quickly||Incredibly light, soft with endless stretch, breathable, DWR finish||Lightweight, easy to move in, breathable|
|Cons||Doesn't block the wind, not a great style around town||Fit can be hard to perfect, not as breathable as the previous version||Does not block wind, no secure smartphone pocket||Not the most flattering, low rise can be uncomfortable||Material pills, front pockets are small, sizing is off|
|Bottom Line||These 2-in-1 convertible hiking pants work wonderfully, providing great breathability and excellent value||With their endless mobility, comfortable details, and technical abilities, these are our favorite overall women's hiking pants||These comfortable and thoughtfully constructed pants fit and feel like a dream and work wonderfully on and off-trail||Incredibly soft, flowy, and stretchy, these pants are comfortable, except for the low rise, which can make the crotch feel tight||A lightweight, breathable, and weather resistant pair of pants that perform adequately to get you out on the trails without spending a ton|
|Rating Categories||REI Co-op Sahara Co...||Outdoor Research Fe...||Kuhl Freeflex Roll-Up||Mountain Hardwear D...||Columbia Saturday T...|
|Comfort and Mobility (35%)|
|Venting And Breathability (20%)|
|Weather Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||REI Co-op Sahara Co...||Outdoor Research Fe...||Kuhl Freeflex Roll-Up||Mountain Hardwear D...||Columbia Saturday T...|
|Measured Weight, Size Regular||12 oz||9.5 oz||11.9 oz||4.1 oz||9.2 oz|
|Size options and versions||0 to 26w, Petitie, Regular, Plus, Tall||0 to 14||0 to 16, Plus||XS - XL||2 to 24w Short, Regular, Plus, Long|
|Fabric||96% recycled nylon/4% spandex||86% bluesign nylon (46% recylce), 14% spandex 90D stretch woven ripstop||50% polyester/50% new polyester||94% Nylon, 6% Elastane||Omni-Shield Summiteer Lite 96% Nylon, 4% Elastane|
|Fabric Features||Quick dry||Quick-dry||FreeFlex||Ultralight||Omni-Shield advanced repellency|
|UPF?||UPF 50+||UPF 50+||UPF 50+||No rating||UPF 50|
|Pockets||2 hand, 2 back, 2 cargo||2 hip, 2 back, 1 cargo||2 hand, 2 back (snap), 2 thigh (snap)||2 side, 1 rear, 1 zippered thigh||2 hand, 1 side (zip), 2 back (Velcro)|
|Zip-Off or Roll-Up?||Zip-off||Roll-up cinch cuffs||Roll-Up||Roll-up||Roll-up|
|Integrated Belt?||Yes, internal drawcord||Yes||Yes, internal drawcord||No||No|
|Fit Features||Mid rise, convert to shorts, relaxed fit, straight leg, 2 inseam lengths||Gusseted crotch, articulated knees, drawstring at waist, stretch fabric, harness-compatible waist||Wide waistband with internal drawcord, mid rise, relaxed fit, straight leg||Three inseam length options, elastic waist, stretch fabric||Gusseted crotch, mid rise, straight leg, convertible to capris|
|Social or Environmental Certifications||Contains materials that meet the bluesign® criteria
Contains recycled materials
|86% is bluesign approved nylon (46% is recycled)||None known|
Our Analysis and Test Results
One of our favorite aspects of the Sahara Convertible pants is REI’s wide range of sizing options. REI makes them in plus, regular, and petite sizes ranging from 0 to 26w. The shorts range from 6.75 inches to 7 inches in length, which is a little shorter than the others we tested. A 96% recycled nylon and 4% bluesign-approved spandex blend gives these Best Buy winners a light, stretchy feel. But, at times, the nylon blend is a bit too thin, allowing cold breezes to bring goosebumps. Then again, they are named after a famous desert. These are great pants to work up a sweat in.
Comfort and Mobility
The photos on REI's website don't do these pants justice. We thought they'd look frumpy on but were pleasantly surprised. The legs are slightly baggy, but they still have a relatively sleek look. The relaxed fit works well for a range of body types. While these aren't the coziest pair of pants we tested and the lack of little luxuries resulted in a slightly lower score, we never found anything irksome on the trail.
We are also impressed by how well these pants move. Extra tucks of fabric around the knee give you enough range of motion for scrambly hikes or rock climbs. We didn't encounter any restrictions when chimneying through the canyons of southern Utah while wearing the Sahara. Although the waistband doesn't have a fancy felt lining, we didn't run into any chaffing issues while wearing these pants for long days with a heavy pack.
A lot of stretchy fabrics that move well also stretch out over time. And there is nothing worse than pulling on hiking pants only to have them stretch out after a mile or so. The Sahara maintains its shape mile after mile.
Venting and Breathability
We appreciate that these pants breathe exceptionally well and let air pass through to cool your legs. But they're almost too good at it. A few times during testing, our legs got chilly. If you're primarily hiking in hot climates, these are an excellent option for you. If not, you will likely need a baselayer beneath these pants
The ability to convert these pants into shorts is obviously a plus here. And if you're someone who hates long shorts, the shorter, breezier inseam of the Sahara is likely to be much more up your alley.
REI also added a side zipper on the zip-off portion of the pants. This lets you easily remove the lower panel without taking off your boots. Though it seems like it would be way too much zipper to deal with and could lead to chaffing, neither concern was founded. We appreciate how easy it is to turn these pants into shorts. Putting the panels back on is slower, and kind of annoying. We think it’s worth it.
The Sahara’s durable water repellant (DWR) finish does an admirable job of keeping splashes and sprinkles from soaking your pants. On misty, drizzly hikes, sea kayaking trips, and wet dog walks in the northeast, these pants shook off light dousings with ease. When we stood in the downpour of a shower, however, they wet through quickly. They were among the first pants in the test to dry out after a good soaking though. All told, we think these are excellent pants for wet weather, as long as it’s warm out.
They do well in the sun too, with UPF 50+ protection. We knocked them down a touch in the score for this category due to their poor wind resistance. The thin material doesn't cut the breeze as well as other pants in this review. After standing on top of a breezy ridgeline our legs were a bit chilled. Luckily, the looser fit means adding a base layer under the Sahara isn't a problem.
One of the biggest reasons that the Sahara Convertible is worth a few extra bucks when compared to the pared-down, least expensive models is that REI did not skimp on features.
One of our favorite features is the zips on their hems, which let you convert them to shorts without taking your boots off, a rare feat. They also allow you to unzip the bottoms to catch a breeze. If you unzip them too much, though, the flopping fabric gets in the way.
The other feature that makes these pants more user-friendly is color-coding on the zippers that turn them into shorts. They help you re-assemble the pants without having to guess which side is which. We love this.
The pockets also work well. You can fit your hands fully into the front pockets, a shockingly rare feat for hiking pants. But, while a previous version of these pants had an angled entrance to the pockets that let your arms relax, the new version’s hand pockets are more vertical. This makes them less comfortable to use, unfortunately. Still, they work better than most.
The two cargo pockets can hold most phones, and one has a zip to keep important items secure. These pants also have a built-in drawcord belt, which is super handy if you are planning on a longer adventure where your weight might fluctuate. An earlier version of the pants featured a belt on the outside, which was more comfortable than the internal drawstring. Still, it works. There are belt loops too, but belts don't work well with backpacks.
Convertible pants get high marks for versatility on the trail. As shorts, the Sahara's range from a 6.75-inch to 7-inch inseam, which is one the shorter side for convertible hiking pants. We still feel covered and protected despite the shorter length, and the shorts are loose around our thighs, so we don’t worry about the zipper chaffing. We appreciate the feminine look with the function you need to hit the trail.
With excellent water-repelling technology and quick-drying fabric, the Sahara pants are also a good option for a kayaking trip or activities around the water. Their exceptional mobility also lends them to be useful at the crag, though we aren't sure how the thinner fabric will hold up to abrasive surfaces over time. When we tested the hem on rough granite, we can see some scraping after 20 or so passes.
Where they aren't as versatile, is in the rest of your life. They work great for outdoorsy pursuits but don't transition well to the office, a quick dinner with friends, or running errands around town. They’re a look and it's outdoorsy.
These aren't the least expensive pants in our lineup, but the Sahara Convertible out-performs most of the other models in this review, and is a pair of hiking pants and shorts wrapped in one. Their full range of features, comfortable fit, and superb mobility make them worth a few extra dollars.
We'd also expect these pants to last a while, but the material is thin, so it may not hold up as well as thicker options. These pants included recycled materials and materials that meet bluesign environmental standards. If you value environmental sustainability, that could sweeten the deal.
The REI Co-op Sahara Convertible has many useful features and excellent comfort and mobility, giving you everything you could ask for in a reasonably priced pair of pants. That's why they get our thumbs up and the Best Buy Award.
— Clark Tate
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