As with many gear categories, the basis of this review is hands-on field testing. We put each pair through its paces in a few different phases. First, we wore each model to get an initial impression of the comfort, fit, and features of each. We then took to the trail to test these pants more rigorously on a variety of terrains and in different weather conditions. We ventured into the Cascades and High Desert of central Oregon, in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the deserts of Southern Utah. Our final step was a series of controlled tests.
Comfort and Mobility
The majority of the testing for this metric came during our field testing while hiking. We also conducted some side-by-side stretching and running tests to further compare the comfort and mobility of one pant directly to another. Aspects we assessed are the feel of the fabric against the skin at different contact points (e.g., knees, waist), as well as fit and whether or not a model is tighter or looser relative to others. We paid particular attention to the fit around the pelvis, upper legs, and crotch.
Venting and Breathability
Once again, we noted on each hike how useful the pant was at keeping us cool throughout the excursion. To further compare, we took every pair of pants to a long hill and tested them one after the other by running up the mountain in the sun after having already worked up a sweat. We also paid particular attention to features that allowed for excellent ventilation and how effective they were.
To test for this metric, we wore each pair in a variety of settings, such as work, camping, rock climbing, and traveling. We also tested each pair of pants while hiking in different weather conditions, such as hot, cold, windy, and wet and graded models based on how well they were capable of handling all of these different situations while keeping us comfortable.
Though the models were tested in truly wet weather, many of our regular stomping grounds are in dry climates that don't receive much precipitation. However, water resistance is a critical aspect of the performance of a hiking pant. For this reason, we decided to conduct a shower test to get a better idea of how each pant, and its durable water repellent (DWR) coating, handled light sprinkles and heavy downpours. We began by spraying each pant with a misting water bottle to get an idea of the DWR effectiveness in light rain, and then moved into the shower, where we could certainly see whether a pant could shed water, and how absorptive it was. We then hung up each wet pair up on a hanger and timed how long it took for each pair to dry. We conducted these tests after the pants had been heavily worn and washed to more closely simulate real-life conditions.
To assess for this metric, we first identified all the various features on each pair of pants - pockets, buttons, zippers, convertibility, materials, belts, etc. We then put them to the test on our hikes and other adventures, focusing first on the functionality of each feature, and second on the total number of features included.