All You Need To Know About Quick Dry Pants
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One thing I’ve noticed is that veterans in the outdoor industry will sometimes underestimate the steep learning curve for those just starting out. What I consider to be “common sense” is only due to knowledge gained from experience, and a novice will possess neither.
For example, many people new to outdoor activities and sports don’t know what type of apparel is appropriate for which activity and don’t realize how detrimental to their experience the wrong attire can be or the consequences for going out ill-prepared. Or that there is outdoor clothing for kids.
When I hike with my daughter, I always get stopped and asked where to buy quick dry pants for girls, and some people seem genuinely astonished that performance apparel for kids exists.
Two common questions I get when I introduce a friend to my outdoor lifestyle is first about the difference between doing outdoor activities in jeans – typically what they are wearing, versus something like a more expensive quick dry pant – the hiking gear I am wearing.
And these questions are usually followed up with them asking about the best KUHL pants for hiking since they know I’m a major KÜHL fan. In this article, I will cover the construction and material of typical quick dry pants, why they are the preferred choice for many outdoor activities such as hiking, travel, and fishing, and how to dry pants quick when on a trail.
What are quick dry pants?
As the name suggests, these are pants that dry relatively quickly.
That’s one of the most important factors that makes them a better choice than jeans or other cotton pants. Many outdoor activities involve getting wet in some capacity. It’s almost inevitable. As cotton gets wet, it stays wet and pulls heat away from the body.
This is not only uncomfortable (chafing is the worst) but can be extremely dangerous in the wrong situation. That’s why so many experienced people choose quick dry pants as a go-to option for hiking pants, trekking pants, and backpacking pants.
Another benefit this type of pant provides over something like jeans is that they are moisture wicking. This means that as they dry, they pull moisture away from the body, making it easier for your body to self-regulate.
So, what are they made of that gives them these superpowers? I’m glad you asked.
What are quick dry pants made of?
Basically, you are looking at a combination of three different fabrics: spandex, nylon, and polyester. These synthetic materials are what gives your pants their moisture wicking, breathability, and quick drying properties. Now, there are factors, such as activity, durability, and cost, that determine the percentage of each material in the composition of the pant.
You may find some that are 100% polyester and others that are solely made of nylon and spandex. Women typically prefer pants that are a more flattering fit closer to their legs so quick dry women’s hiking pants, (for example, Hörizn™ Skinny) may contain more spandex than men’s hiking pants. In the case of nylon vs. polyester, nylon tends to be more durable and weather-resistant but also more expensive.
Also, if you are looking for quick-drying pants that are also water-resistant hiking pants, then you should look for pants that have a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) finish. Your pants won’t be waterproof but the DWR does make them shed water easier and be less absorbent to outside moisture (light rain, walking through vegetation).
Now that you know what are quick dry pants made of, let's see what's the difference between the two fabrics.
Nylon vs Polyester
These materials have many properties in common. For example, easy care, wrinkle resistance, stretch and shrink resistance, quick drying, and moisture wicking. But as I mentioned earlier, nylon is more expensive so you know which fabric (and price point) is right for you.
Nylon is softer than polyester but also stronger. Originally intended as a substitute for silk, nylon is going to be softer than cotton. On the other hand, polyester is going to dry faster than nylon because it expels water where nylon is slightly absorptive.
Recent improvements in technology and manufacturing have made polyester softer than cotton and competitive with nylon. In conclusion, the nylon vs polyester pants debate is still ongoing - both have their pros and cons, and depending on trail conditions, one can outclass the other.
Where can you buy quick dry pants?
There are many places where you can find a large variety of pants for a large variety of activities.
As you start to browse, keep in mind a few things: where you are going, when you are going, and what kinds of activities you’ll be doing. For example, if I’m buying quick dry pants for kayaking, I’m probably going to look for different things than if I were going fishing. And how many pairs of quick dry pants to bring backpacking, for example, is dependent on the season and how long you'll be on a trail.
Once you have identified the type of pant you want, it is time to start shopping. There are many different features to keep in mind as you look for the right pair of pants. Some features, like cargo pockets, won’t affect performance but others, like articulated knees or gusseted crotch are more important considerations.
Again, the type of quick dry pant you buy will depend on the type of activity you are doing and the temperature/weather. Here are a few features to keep in mind as you shop:
- Convertible pants: Convertible pants are great quick dry pants for kayaking or fishing, well, actually they are great for everything. They zip off at the knee giving you quick dry shorts and then as the temperature changes you can just zip the pant legs back on.
- Articulated knees: facilitate freedom of movement for increased comfort. Great for anything that requires a lot of bending. (So, everything.)
- UPF: Built-in sunscreen is great for those of us that never remember to pack it. Some lightweight hiking pants intended for summer hiking have sun protection factor as a fabrics feature.
- Reinforced sections: Places like the seat, cuff, and knees tend to take a lot of abuse. You can tell a pant is going to hold up if these sections are reinforced.
- Versatility: Many good quick dry pants also perform well off trail. Providing comfort and durability, they’re a stylish choice for the office or an evening with friends in your favorite bar.
To wrap things up, I can’t stress enough the importance of having the right gear for the right activity. I woke up from a nightmare where I was hiking in jeans that somehow got wet and then I had to camp out overnight unexpectedly.
Ok, I didn’t actually have that dream, but many people do head out unprepared. Not only are quick dry pants for men extremely comfortable, but they are functional and practical as well. Also, check out KÜHL for a large assortment of women’s and kid’s quick dry pants.
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