I readily admit that I tend to beat the crap out of my outdoor gear. As I’ve mentioned before, I look at my outdoor gear as previous generations of my family looked at work clothes: I need functional clothing that will last, is not expensive, and I expect them to get dirty, beat up, and dinged. I’ll save the “nice clothes” for the (increasingly rare) night out.
So I tend to purchase clothes that are on the inexpensive side but work as well as their more expensive alternatives.
Or so I claim.
But while I do not mind paying good money for something such as a quilt, I find such consumables as fleece or beanies to not be worth the price.
However, because of my inclinations, I rarely put the more expensive items to the test vs. my budget-minded alternatives.
So, when Kuhl offered me a chance to test out one of their pants. I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and test out the Kuhl Renegade pants. The 95% nylon / 5% spandex mix closely resembles both the prAna Zion pants that are the main competitors for the Kuhls (and about the same price at $89) and the UBTech budget version I enjoy so much over the many days in the backcountry.
Also, I find polyester hiking pants do not last as long out here or for the kind of hiking I do. And though polyester pants are more quick drying, that is not as important a factor for me out on the Colorado Plateau.
I’ve had the pants for two months now. I’ve been guiding in them regularly in addition to my day hikes, backpacking trips, and all around outdoor use here in the Moab area.
So, what do I think?
First, I have to comment on the fit. I found the waist to be true to size; the waist fitted just right. However, the shape of the pants is for a body type that is not mine. Though they fitted perfectly in the waist, I found the seat, legs, and calves to be, well, on the more restrictive side. Though I am in good shape overall, as I’ve said before, I tend to look like Gimli’s distant Mediterranean cousin more so than the stereotype of a hip, trendy, #vanlifer.
Which brings up my second observation: How practical are these pants? The fit is on the more stylish side vs. a baggier cut. Or, as a friend called them “Skinny jeans for outdoors people.” I should note, that the older version of these pants did have a more traditional cut and not the “hipster hiking pants” look. Besides the more “athletic” fit of the current version of these pants, the pant cuffs are tapered and allow little ventilation compared to baggier pants with their more open ankle cuffs
I found the pants do not work well for any temps that are on the warmer side. The fact that the label prominently mentioned a “cell phone” pocket, and the type of photos on the Kuhl website, tell me what I need to know about the pants. They are “lifestyle” pants; marketed as outdoor gear but the consumer base tends to wear them in the trendier places in Boulder, Moab, or for your #liveauthentically photos perhaps.
All snark aside, these pants did last and worked well enough hiking (if with the ventilation problem I mentioned). After two months of active use, they show no sign of visible wear and tear.
But you know what? Neither did the UBTech pants after many months on the road and hiking, too.
So, it comes down to personal preference and sense of style. If you prefer something on the hipper side of the outdoor equation, and perhaps do more day use (cragging, parking your van at an overlook, and then hanging out in the trendy town while Instagramming), by all means, get these pants. You might like the fit, look, and function better than me.
However, since I tend to beat on my pants, scuff them up, get mud on them, and wear them in all kinds of weather, I could not see the difference between the sub-$30 specials I’ve used so much since the Fall of 2017 over many days and miles and the $90 cool, er Kuhl, version. YMMV.
And since I do like pants that I reserve for less abusive use, I’ve been rocking $25 Wrangler nylon-spandex pants that are mostly the basic pants that have been in style for men since, well, forever. I’ll never be hip, but I’ll be comfortable and presentable enough while traveling. And that’s more important to me in the long run than wearing pants that might be worn sometime thirty years from now when recreating the wacky and fun “Twenty-teens” during a corporate “Company Spirit Week.”
Bottom line: Stylish pants that work well enough outdoors with the caveats I mentioned. But if you aren’t interested in an outdoor fashion show, other alternatives might work better for your needs, outdoor activities of choice, and perhaps body type. And some of these choices are even less expensive, too. Remember, bell bottoms, acid washed jeans, and leotards were once fashionable, also. 😉
Disclosure: Kukl provided these pants to me at no cost for my review.