On my recent trip to Bangladesh I wore a single pair of Patagonia Rock Guide Pants for nearly four weeks while in country. Every few days I would wash them in a sink in the evening, hang them up to dry, and in a few hours they would be as dry as anything gets in Bangladesh. After a month of hard traveling and three months of subsequent wear at home I feel confident saying that they are the best travel pants I have ever worn.
One of the reasons why they work so well is their simplicity. They are not overwhelmed with pockets. They have one zippered back pocket, two traditional side pockets, and a single low-profile zippered cargo pocket on the right thigh. The result is a minimalist but perfectly functional pair of travel pants with just enough pocket space. The zippered pockets mean that your belongings are kept secure (especially in pickpocket prone areas, or during bumpy epic bus rides), and the thigh pocket has the perfect amount of space for a passport, a wallet, and a few smaller items (memory cards, coinage, maps, etc). Unlike other travel pants I’ve tried, the Rock Guides don’t scream “adventure,” and are inconspicuous enough to be worn in a variety of environments while traveling (and even on a daily basis at home).
The pants are made out of a lightweight nylon and spandex blend that provides the perfect amount of stretchiness and flexibility. My pair weighs around 11-oz, and unlike every other pair of pants I own they don’t take up much space when packed. Despite being light, they also resist scrapes and scratches. I recently wore them during a long backwoods hike through thick thorns and brambles and they emerged unscathed (thorns are normally a critical weakness in pants I’ve tried in the past). I’ve had my current pair for five months, and they have withstood a lot of punishment while being no worse for wear.
In the past, I’ve tried zip-off convertible pants but always found them cumbersome and uncomfortable. A good idea on paper, but one that has never worked for me in the field. I was initially worried about the lack of flexibility the Rock Guide pants would provide, but quickly found that they were designed to be worn comfortably with pant legs rolled up. The lightweight stretchy material and wider hem allows the legs to be rolled up without risk of unrolling, and the stretchiness minimizes any uncomfortable binding. A recent testament to this came last week when I forgot my running shorts at home and I ended up wearing my Rock Guides on a five mile run. They performed great.
Other nylon pants I’ve worn used thicker fabric and bulkier designs which contributed to them feeling hot, heavy, and burdensome in the pack. This includes pants I’ve tried from REI, North Face, EMS, and Columbia. All had some critical flaw. The Rock Guides remain the best pair of pants I’ve owned. I recently ordered a second pair as I’ve started wearing them on a daily basis. As far as sizing goes, they run a tad large due to their stretchiness. Finally, the most significant criticism I’ve seen about them is due to the lack of different pant lengths. However, it seems Patagonia has incorporated extra fabric in the pant cuff for those who don’t mind re-hemming their pants on their own.
[Note: Patagonia has recently changed the name of the Rock Guide Pants to the Rock Craft Pants. They are nearly identical, and made of the same fabric with a slightly slimmer cut. --OH]