Saturday, May 19, 2007

Essential Travel Gear - Convertible Pants

Yeah, I know, these pants that convert to shorts after an unzipping may not get you onto any fashion show spots and they immediately label you as someone who "does not live here" (no matter where you are). But sometimes you have to choose function over form and suck it up. The bottom line is, they perform double duty and help you pack lighter and smarter.

It's a simple concept: you've got a pair of pants with legs that zip off. So if you're on a hike where it's 45 degrees F in the morning and hits 80 degrees F in the afternoon, as it was on my Inca Trail trip in Peru, you're set. You set off in the morning hiking in pants, then unzip the bottoms in the afternoon and you're in shorts. When it cools down at night, you're in pants again. No need to find a place to change or to carry two pieces of clothing instead of one.
There are good non-weather reasons to have something like this too. It may be perfectly fine to wear shorts in a beach area of some countries, but you'll look like a freak if you're wearing shorts around in the city a half hour away. In many developing countries, exposing that much skin is just not done in a non-vacation setting.

I twice bought a pair of these pants for under $8, but that was in Thailand and Nepal. If you're heading to one of those places, or many other backpacker magnets where there are a lot of people manning chattering sewing machines, you can wait until you arrive and save some bucks.

Otherwise, you'll pay anywhere from $30 to $70 for a pair at your local gear store or online (less for the kids version, which is also great to pack if traveling with children). Wait for a sale if you've got some time: I just got a pair from REI than normally goes for $55 and I paid $38. If you're in the U.S., check for deals on sites like Sierra Trading Post and

And now, I'm wearing them through the jungles of Costa Rica, so no posting for a while...

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