Zip-off pants

Do you like them for canoeing, kayaking or related boat camping?

I like one model, not others
I went through 3 pairs that I did NOT like for paddling because the shorts were too short and the zipper pressing into my thighs in the kayak or canoe was uncomfortable. I am now in love with my 4th pair, from Mountain Hard Wear, which are a slightly heavier but very stretchy version and the woman’s model has knee length shorts. I can roll them up if I want them shorter (this rolling also pads the zipper) or leave them to the knee which protects the tops of my thighs from sun in the canoe and doesn’t interfere with the thigh hooks in the kayaks. The lower legs are also not as floppy as the Columbia, REI and L.L. Bean versions I bought before and I like that too. The waistband is high in the back and lined with absorbent poly knit so it is comfortable for sitting. The tight weave is more windproof than the other models I had but still comfortable in hot weather. I highly recommend them for paddling.

Love them.
I have one pair that came from a bargain supplier. The zippers on that one are rather annoying - I think partly because the are shorter than I like and partly because the zipper isn’t covered well.

Two other pairs of better quality that are great (one cotton and one synthetic - the synthetic is my favorite). I like to wear them on those days of changing weather - or when I may transition from cool morning to hot afternoon, or then to cool evening.

Make sure the zippers are completely covered by fabric flaps against your skin - that zipper backing material (and the zipper itself, of course) can be harsh. I haven’t found any with re-enforced knees for kneeling yet, but it’s not like I kneel on a rough surface for long.

Buyer beware
Attempt to try them on whenever possible before

you make the purchase for your intended usage.

Some are quite lousy and some are pretty decent.

I’ve used Gorilla Tape and a warm iron to repair some

that had holes worn into them over the years of use.

I thought you meant the ones with
a zipper all the way up the inseam and across the crotch. Now, that’s dropping your pants. Have seen motorcycle pants like that.

Seriously, though, I use Ex-Officio aqua whatever, and they’ve been tough and long lasting. I think my older pair goes back to '98.

Nylon ones from REI
These I found to be quite decent, either as shorts or as pants. Obviously they convert between the two on the fly (forgive the unintended pun). Nylon dries rapidly, but provides warmth, and mine do breath. So for warm weather, or variable in the warm range they’re quite fine. I even wear the shorts under my FJ wetsuit in cold weather, just to have something on when I peel off the neoprene skin. This is for kayaking.

If seams hit you in the wrong places in your chosen seating/paddling position, then don’t use these.

Biking clothing can work just as well, and those usually have good seams (not irritating), breath, wick and can keep you warm as needed.

Very fond of 'em, looking for non-convrt
I like these pants a lot and wear them all the time in the summer. I rarely zip off the pants and would like to find the same pants without the convertible feature, since the zippers can be kind of uncomfortable.

I sometimes see nylon pants that are not convertibles, but for some reason they drop the cargo pockets when they eliminate the zippers, and I really like the cargo pockets.

On longer paddling trips, when the pants get grungy, I can jump in the water with the pants on, and they drip dry while I am wearing them.

Warm up pants
I have some of those “warm up” pants - the ones with buttons all the way up the side. I cut them off into shorts and wear them when I want to be able to take them off while seated in the boat. It’s also nice to unbutton the sides for added ventilation.

Regarding zip-offs, I’m a fan. But as others have mentioned you have to choose carefully. If you plan to take the legs on and off with shoes on, be sure to get ones that zip open at the bottom (and that you can get your foot & shoe through the opening). For hiking I like ones with gathers & snaps at the ankles.

Love 'em
Dear Glen,

I can’t remember the last time I wore anything but convertible pants while outdoors boating, canoeing, camping, or fishing.

I’ve had good luck with pants from Columbia and Cabela’s. The Columbia ones, Aruba is the model name, have the inner mesh brief which I prefer but they are both good quality.

Check Sierra Trading Post for sales and closeouts on them. I’ve gotten some good deals on the Columbia convertible pants from them though they mostly come in the Winter.

That doesn’t bother me though for they are the best pants for wearing under waders while fishing that I have ever seen.


Goobs AKA Tim Murphy

Yup. Columbia for me.

I don’t usually like them for paddling in, but I used them a lot in AK during a bizarre heat wave. They offered the advantages of quick drying, breathability, bug protection, and versatility.

But most of these benefits would be present in non-convertible pants, too. I have some whose legs can be rolled up to be like capris or shorts. They’re lighter than convertibles.

Yes, I do…
like them for camping and boating. They dry fast, I can have leg protection or not as the conditions change, and they roll up very light and small to pack.

When new(er) they can even look decent going into town. Never had a problem with zipper comfort, but we’re all built differently.

I own two pair of the Bass Pro line, World Wide Sportsman or some such, one pair I like the other not so much. One pair of Columbia that is my favorite.

Try 'em and see how you like them.


Not really
twice now in the middle of long trips I have had one zipper break or lose a tooth.

And having one leg off and one leg on is useless. I only carry one extra pair pants on three week camping trip due to space issue in drybags and portage packs.

I favor nylon pants without zip off legs but with vertical zippers to get on over shoe.

Love them. Columbia makes some good ones. They save wieght and space on a long trip.

hey Chip
Check out these.

White Sierra
brand has a useful feature that I’d look for; they attach a ribbon with a letter, R or L, to the zipper pull on the pant leg. I also own some that do not have this feature and I waste time sorting out which leg goes where when it is time to “dress for dinner”.

I like the whole idea and use them a lot.


Pictures, we need pictures!
Deedle deede dumpling my son John

went to bed with his stockings on.

One shoe off and one shoe on.

Deedle deedle dumpling my son John.

Sorry Kim.

I’m laughing at the thought of you wearing one leg short and one leg long.

I like the convertable pants and use them often paddling and camping. I really like the Northface ones. The REI are OK. The Campmor are unuseable. All of the above have to do with fit and zipper quality.

I don’t see the point of them.
If I wear shorts, then I have to apply sun screen and worry about bugs and scrapes and all the things I need pants to do. If I wear long pants my legs do not get burned, cut, scraped, or bitten as much.

So I wear neoprene shorts only in the spring and late fall when it is cool, there are few bugs and less sun.

The one pair of zip offs I do have are excellent cargo pants that dry in a flash.

Columbia Titanium
I bought two pair from REI in 09.

They were great.

A year or two later the Columbia REI sold weren’t The Titaniums any longer and the pants didn’t fit as well and lost a couple pockets.

They still dry quickly and I wear them three seasons but not boating.

This year @ CanoecopiaI asked Cliff Jacobsen (Camper extrordinaire) what he wears on trip and he said Kuhls.

I asked him about the cotton content and he said," They still dry quickly but you don’t have to worry about a campfire spark lighting them up.

I bought a pair of Kuhl Liberators (zip-offs) and they look and feel great.

They have a cotton exterior with nylon inside.

Padded knees? Hmm. I think I’ll
look at mine to see if I could sew on a pocket w/velcro closure flap in the area needed, then put some type of padding in the pocket when I wish to kneel. I might have or be able to find a potholder to fit into the pocket. It could even do double duty. Knee padding and potholder. :slight_smile: It’s a thought, I like to sew and some fabric shops have some nice ripstop nylon. Me? If the colors don’t exactly match, doesn’t bother me. It’s for my comfort. Don’t like it? Look the other way. I can be very inovative.

Thanks for the original post. Now I’m thinkin’ and that could be good or it could be bad. :slight_smile: