Convertile walking trousers (Shutterstock: see credit below)
Review Words : Phoebe Smith | 12 August

Traveller's guide to: convertible trousers

Come rain or shine, city stroll or hefty hike, convertible trousers will see you right. Here's what savvy buyers need to look out for - and six pairs that make the cut

1) Weight

Lightweight trousers are good for your luggage allowance, but check that the lightness isn’t at the cost of key features such as pockets or a more robust fabric.

2) Fabric

Look for fabric that is soft to the touch for maximum comfort, but also breathable and good at wicking (moving sweat away from your body). Most will offer sun protection and a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor – UPF) rating. 15 is good but 50+ is better.

3) Seams

Convertibles usually have a join where the legs zip o# (unless they roll up). Manufacturers are usually good at ensuring the seams and zips are well-placed and covered to keep you comfortable but try trousers on before buying them, to check they suit you.

4) Ease of use

Look for zip colour-coding at the detachable part of the trousers – this will help you quickly reattach the right leg to the right bottom. Also, wear your walking boots/ shoes when trying on the trousers to check that you can easily unzip and remove the lower legs without having to remove your boots. Some trousers have additional zips/ poppers on the bottom of the leg to help with this.

5) Pockets

Different styles offer varying numbers of pockets. Consider how many you might need, and look for pockets that are a good size and mesh-lined to help with ventilation. A discreet security pocket can be handy.

6) Insect protection

Some convertible trousers are impregnated with insect repellent (which may be guaranteed for only a limited number of washes). However, it’s easy to treat clothing with repellent yourself. Remember: only the parts of your body covered by the trousers will be protected – if you zip o# the bottoms, you’ll need to use repellent on your exposed legs.

7) Versatility

Most convertible trousers can be worn in two ways: as full-length pants or as shorts. Some models can also be rolled up and fastened at capri-length, giving a third option. This increases the versatility but additional zips/buttons may increase the weight.

 

Keela: Rio/Paraguay Zip Off, £45  

*Wanderlust Value Buy*

THE TEST: These smart-looking trousers are the heaviest on test (413g, UK women’s size 12), but are made from robust, breathable fabric. They offer some stretch (useful for active travellers) and an impressive sun protection factor of UPF40. They’re not impregnated with insect repellent so would need treating if this was a priority.

The trousers have a belt and four pockets, including a zipped back one and a wellplaced zipped security one, hidden inside a front pocket. None are mesh-lined. The zips are covered internally by soft fabric. Zipping off the legs is easy but the legs are not identified by different colour zips so reattaching can be a bit of a faff. They would also benefit from having zips or poppers at the base of the legs, to make them easier to remove over walking boots.

THE VERDICT: A good price for a stretchy pant with high factor sun protection, though lacking some more user-friendly features.

IN BRIEF

Features: ★★★✩✩

Design: ★★★★✩

Comfort: ★★★★★

Protection: ★★★★✩

Value: ★★★★✩

Overall: ★★★★✩

keela.co.uk

The North Face: Horizon Convertible, £55

THE TEST: For an extra tenner you can pick up a pant with a few more handy features. The Horizons not only offer a different colour zip on both legs (to help with quick reattachment), but also feature a series of poppers at the bottom so that removing them over walking boots is a breeze. They are made from a durable, rip-stop fabric that is UPF50 and very comfortable against the skin. They are not treated with bug repellent.

The weight is an impressive 285g (UK women’s size 12), making them the second-lightest on test. There are five pockets: two buttoned ones on the back, two open ones on the front, and a smaller zipped front pocket that is good for securing your cash. Most of the pockets are mesh-lined, so offer good breathability in hot countries.

THE VERDICT: A comfy trouser that zips off easily into shorts and offers some handy features for the price.

IN BRIEF

Features: ★★★★✩

Design: ★★★★★

Comfort: ★★★★★

Protection: ★★★★✩

Value: ★★★★✩

Overall: ★★★★✩

thenorthface.co.uk

Páramo: Atca Trousers/Maui II Cargo Trousers, £60

THE TEST: If zip-off trousers don’t appeal (worried about losing the detached pieces?), then Páramo offers an alternative. The legs of the Atcas roll up and are secured via a button, so there’s no risk of rubbing at the seams. The resulting shorts are quite long. Lack of zips keeps the weight low – at 279g (UK women’s size 12) these are the lightest on test.

The fabric may be light but robust and rip-stop, so should last well; it is also breathable and quick-drying, with a UPF of 50+. They are not treated with repellent. There is a light, fabric belt and two front pockets; the right one contains a secure zipped pocket – both are half mesh-lined, offering good breathability. The men’s Maui trousers have four extra pockets (at the back and on the leg) but note that they sadly do not convert to shorts like the women’s version.

THE VERDICT: A good alternative to zip-offs at a light weight and a reasonable price.

IN BRIEF

Features: ★★★★✩

Design: ★★★★★

Comfort: ★★★★★

Protection: ★★★★✩

Value: ★★★★✩

Overall: ★★★★✩

paramo.co.uk

Berghaus: Lonscale Zip-Off Pant, £60

THE TEST: If you’re looking for versatility look no further, the women’s version of the Lonscale pant not only zips off to shorts (note: zips aren’t colour coded), but can also be rolled up into capri-length trousers, secured with a strip of buttoned fabric (the men’s version only has the zip-off option).

All these choices does means extra weight – at 411g (women’s UK size 12) they are the second-heaviest on test. However, the fabric is soft, water-repellent and quick-drying, with a UPF of 50+; though is not treated with repellent. There are also no poppers/zips at the bottom to help remove the legs over boots. They do have a belt, and flocked waistband for comfort.

There are four well-sized pockets, two at the front and two zipped ones at the back; all half mesh-lined. There is no discreet security pocket. Men get an extra pocket.

THE VERDICT: A versatile trouser (especially for women) that offers good features, but a few niggles keep them from the top spot.

IN BRIEF

Features: ★★★★✩

Design: ★★★★★

Comfort: ★★★★★

Protection: ★★★★✩

Value: ★★★★✩

Overall: ★★★★✩

berghaus.com

Craghoppers: NosiLife Convertible Trousers, £65

*Wanderlust Best in Test*

THE TEST: If you need a user-friendly convertible trouser, you can’t go far wrong with these. The stand-out feature is the NosiLife fabric, which offers life-long insect repellency. The material is also quick-drying and durable, and boasts a UPF of 40+. They have a part-elasticated waist for a close fit. The leg zips are covered with soft fabric and colour-coded. There are also zips at the bottom of the legs for easy removal.

The women’s trousers have a zipped back pocket and four front pockets, including a discreet zipped one and a buttoned leg one (with removable drybag, perfect for a phone/ cash/passport). Apart from the leg pocket, all are mesh-lined. Men get nine pockets. The trousers weigh 294g (women’s UK size 12), making them third-lightest on test.

THE VERDICT: A comfortable pant with excellent sun and insect protection and all the features you need, for a reasonable price.

IN BRIEF

Features: ★★★★★

Design: ★★★★★

Comfort: ★★★★★

Protection: ★★★★★

Value: ★★★★★

Overall: ★★★★★

craghoppers.com

Rohan: Trailblazers Convertible, £90

THE TEST: These trousers are pricier, but packed with features. The fabric has an SPF of 40+ for a good level of sun protection and is impregnated with BiteGuard repellent (which lasts for around 40 washes). They are quick-drying, breathable and very comfortable, with a flocked waistband and soft fabric covering the zips. They also offer a good amount of stretch so are great for very active travellers.

The zips are colour coded by fabric tabs for easy reattachment; the resulting shorts on the women’s version are longer (below the knee), which some may prefer. There are no zips/poppers at the bottom of the legs, which would have eased removal over boots, though the stretch helps. The five pockets are all zipped for security and are all mesh-lined. They weigh 353g (women’s UK size 12), fourth-lightest on test.

THE VERDICT: Feature packed and comfy, with a longer-length short, though the higher price may put some people off.

IN BRIEF

Features: ★★★★✩

Design: ★★★★★

Comfort: ★★★★★

Protection: ★★★★★

Value: ★★★★✩

Overall: ★★★★✩

rohan.co.uk

How we did the test

We asked gear manufacturers to submit convertible trousers that they felt were most suitable for travellers: easy to use, lightweight, quick-drying and comfortable. We were sent 15 pairs and our editor, Phoebe Smith, took them out on the road to see which performed best.

The six here are all ‘Wanderlust Approved’, with a Value Buy and Best in Test (for the overall best buy) being indicated. All are available in men’s and women’s specific fits, with the different names and features indicated if applicable.


Main image: Man in cropped trousers (Shutterstock)

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