We bought and wore every pair in our review for several months while hiking, climbing, and camping in the desert southwest and through the Sierra and Blue Ridge Mountains. We also had a bunch of friends try them on to see how they fit a variety of women's shapes and wore them in a range of temperatures and weather conditions. Here's how we tested them each scoring metric.
Comfort and Mobility
We hiked a lot of miles in every pair, with and without a heavy pack, and also scrambled through tight canyons and rock climbed in them. Throughout, we took notes on how comfortable the various pairs felt, and if there were any annoying features or seams. We noted the stretch of the material, and whether the fit and cut allowing natural movement. We also took note of anything that annoyed or impeded us on the trail.
Wearing these pants out in the hot desert surroundings of Southern Utah, gave us a great idea of how breathable each pair is. We wore these pants out in similar conditions and noted how well the material vented our perspiration. We also assessed the heaviness of the material and the ability to increase airflow. We also ran through some sun salutations in each pair, for due diligence.
We researched the water-repelling features of each of the pants to see if they were made of water-resistant fabric or had a durable water repellant (DWR) coating. We sprayed each model repeatedly with a water bottle and noted how long it took for the water to soak through the material (or not). We also stood in the shower for 5 minutes to get a sense of how they handled a rainstorm. Then we dunked each pair, wrung them out, and set them out to dry on a sunny day, timing how long it took each one to dry.
While out and about, we noted how well the pants blocked the wind. Then we switched them out in quick succession on the same windy day to compare them side-by-side. We also checked to see which include an official UPF rating.
We made a list of the features found on each pant when we unpacked them. As we used the pants in the field, we noted how useful the various features were in real life and graded them accordingly.
We assessed how versatile each pair is based on their ability to handle hikes ranging from a casual stroll to a 3-month thru-hike. We also wore them around town and to work to see how well each pair blends into daily life.
While it's not an official scoring metric, we always pay attention to how well the gear we test holds up to wear and tear. After testing the pants in the field for several months, we scrutinized each pair for any signs of wear or weak points. We also paid attention to construction details and material thickness and strength. We then compared them to well-used pairs in our closets and also read up on other users' reviews to see any durability issues turned up.