There are six common pant materials available to guys for outdoor activity. Denim jeans remain a staple fashion item but are the worst apparel for outdoor activities of hiking or hunting. The thick material has no water repellence. It soaks up water like a sponge and takes a long time to air dry. Denim shrinks when wet, binding around the crotch restricts efficient movement. The tight fit of wet jeans exacerbates the conduction of heat from the body.
Cotton cargo pants are fashion and work apparel, constructed from 100% cotton. They often mimic they features of military fatigues. Different weights of fabric are available including lightweight vintage BDUs, medium weight fashion brands and heavy double skin work pants. The heavier the material, the longer it takes to dry. Drying time is the key issue with cotton pants. Having no natural water repellence; it soaks up moisture and traps it next to our skin. Water conducts heat twenty four times more efficiently than air. Over the years, 100% cotton has become associated with hypothermia. Hence the adage "cotton kills". Bushcraft would be one exception to the rule. It's often situated around a campfire. Most synthetic blends are vulnerable to sparks burning holes. Pure cotton doesn't have that problem.
Wool can be a practical choice of field trouser, particularly for day excursions in cool temperatures with sheltered surroundings. Many hunters swear by wool trousers because they feel comfortable in a wide temperature range, alleviating the need for layer adjustment. Filson's whipcords are dedicated hunting pants, engineered for durability. Thrift store rescued, 100% virgin wool dress pants work well too. East German military surplus were also favored. These pants are less suited to mountaineering, excursions or expeditions. Wool isn't windproof. It can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without losing its insulative performance; it presents a significant risk of hypothermia, beyond that threshold. Poly-cotton drys quickly when removed and hung in the wind but saturated wool can take several days.
Poly-cotton 65/35 in a ripstop weave has become the default material for three season field trousers, whether European premium brands like Fall Raven or cheaper military Battle Dress Uniforms. Poly-cotton twill weave is available but it's more of a winter weight with less resistance to rips. Poly-cot is a compromise between vapour breathing, durability, speed of drying and safety around camp fires. Nylon pants dry very quickly but are a major hazard around any flame. Pure cotton trousers are impervious to sparks but soak up and retain moisture like a sponge.
The term 'tactical pants' was applied to Royal Robbin's climbing trousers after they were adopted by tactical units of the FBI. They offered the same freedom of movement as BDUs with a low profile, tailored fit. The bellowed cargo pockets folded flat, drawing less attention. The pant legs had standard cuffs with no drawcords. The design became very popular with both armed citizens and the EDC community, gaining a reputation for durability and comfort. The pants would support the weight and friction of carrying gear like pocket knives, multi-tools, PDAs and smart phones.
However, the original 511 tactical pants were constructed from 100% cotton and subject to shrinking, creasing and fading. The company responded to demands for poly-cot and released the Taclites, blending the proven features and construction of the originals with the favored material for outdoor apparel. The pants shared the comfort and durability of modern BDUs but offered additional practicality and convenience for the contemporary user. These pants were smart enough for office wear yet their durability, fast drying and comfort were perfect for outdoor activity. Tundra is my preferred color for outdoor use. It's similar to the khaki of British WWII uniforms, a greenish brown that blends with rural backgrounds.
The belt loops are more roomy than most and support the new generation of nylon instructor belts. The cargo pockets on the legs will accept a lightweight poncho, bivy bag or snack. The stitching, bar tacked stress points, fasteners and zipper fly withstand hard use. The poly-cotton fabric is coated with Teflon to repel moisture and stains. The elasticated waist of the Taclites is thin enough not to be felt. That little bit of give in the waist is appreciated when bending, squatting or kneeling, particularly with weight on the belt.
The gusseted crotch has extra material in a diamond shape that eliminates the pinching and binding experienced with a jean cut. Almost every piece of handheld outdoor equipment has a hole or loop for the attachment of a paracord lanyard. This is so we can connect it to our body with a carabiner, making it impossible to leave behind. The pants have two lanyard connection points, a web strap at the rear and small D-ring on the front.
Internal pockets accommodate kneepads and re-enforce the material. This gives welcome comfort when using them in the field,
shooting competitions or working around the house. Have you ever knelt hard on a small solid object? It will make your eyes
water if it gets you in the right place! Most knee pads only come in one size and are usually on the small side. Larger
folks find the pad has so much play within the pocket that it completely misses their knee. Soft Knees' pads are large enough
to stay in place. Roll them up to ease insertion.
Questions & Feedback.
Well, that's about it guys. I hope you found this guide useful. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to contact me through the welcome page.
Ian ST John.
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