Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Comfortable, versatile for sports or casual wear, great pocket options, great fit.
Cons: Stitching gives way over time, slightly baggy on some.
Best Uses: Everything outdoors from yoga to climbing to hiking and travel (except extreme weather).
The Prana Stretch Zion Convertible Pants win the Editors' Choice award as the go-to pair of pants for just about every sport, activity or social affair while traveling or adventuring outdoors. These pants offer an extremely comfortable fit with a stretchy material (nylon with a touch of spandex) allowing one to practice yoga or rock climb in them with no noticeable resistance. They keep you warm during cold fronts (long underwear fits comfortably underneath) and can be turned into shorts when the temperature bubbles up. They endure wear and tear in the roughest of conditions. These pants are practical and offer multi-access zipper security pockets as well as well sized and positioned front and rear pockets. The waist tightens up with a simple tug on the adjustable waistband. These pants breathe, resist water and in general meet an outdoor enthusiast's every need. They are by no means waterproof, but fit well enough so that a waterproof shell will easily fit over them.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Prana has many amazing products, and many different types and styles of pants to choose from, but when looking for a general purpose outdoor/travel pant, the Stretch Zion Convertible Pants offer a uniquely versatile, general purpose solution to all of your outdoor needs that not only outperform other Prana products, but blow competitor products out of the water.
Comfort / Fit
From the standpoint of comfort, there's simply nothing bad that can be said about these pants. The material is soft and comfortable, they fit your body well; not too tight, not too loose (except for the very skinny frame) to accommodate all body types and situations. They stretch for yoga, climbing, or other more intense activities, and they simply look and feel great. The convertible pant legs make it an easy conversion to shorts if you'd like to go for a swim, and not the short shorts of the 80s but an actual full-length pair of shorts. We don't feel claustrophobic or constrained when sitting for long periods of time. In hotter and colder climates these pants do a great job with temperature acclimation allowing us to focus our energy on our surroundings rather than our clothing.
If we absolutely have to make a complaint about these pants we can say that they are a little bit baggy for climbing, especially for thinner individuals, and when you tighten up the adjustable waistband they develop awkward creases in the front and often become loose again soon. Note that they also run a little bit short in the legs, which actually works well for climbing but may be undesirable for some in general. However, the six different waist sizes and three lengths available should render this point moot if you purchase the right pair in the right fit.
Hands down these are the top pants from the perspective of versatility. They perform while hiking to the top of snow covered peaks, becoming saturated in white water, stretching to the limit in some uncomfortable yoga poses, scraping against sharp granite on the boulders of Joshua Tree, and looking like "normal" pants when grabbing a drink in town. There is rarely a situation where throwing these on and heading out the door is a bad idea (the one exception being a recent job interview where I don't think the cargo pants look impressed the interviewer). There are of course many better solutions for specific activities. We prefer to climb in a tighter fitting pant. We prefer to do yoga in stretchy yoga pants or shorts. We prefer to swim in a bathing suit. And of course we prefer to go out dancing in something a bit more stylish. But for a general purpose solution, especially when looking for an all purpose pair of versatile pants to take with you into the jungles of Asia or the far reaches of the world, we honestly can't recommend a better pair.
Sitting in my Zion's as I write this, I must say I am quite impressed with how well these pants stand up to wear and tear. After six months of bushwacking through jungle, farming in the heat of the tropics and adventuring through caves and across mountain peaks, the pants that I wore the most, the Zion Convertibles, can take a beating and, as they say, keep on ticking. Aside from a stain or two that won't come out and some stitching that has come undone (which hasn't caused any real problems yet), these pants are in great shape and likely to last at least another six months to a year of intense general use. They don't exactly look new any more, but we can't honestly expect any pair of pants to hold up against six months in the tropics living in the elements. And while not a direct test of weatherproofing, we were happy to see that the weatherproof coating also served to resist the absorption of some spilled red wine, keeping these pants clean from stains in many cases.
In general the Zion Convertible Pants held up across a range of weather conditions. In light rain they did a great job of keeping us dry, although in the tropics we also got to experience saturating rain where nothing but full waterproofing would have sufficed. Unless saturated they also dried relatively quickly both on and off the body, a nice feature when you get pretty tired of being wet all of the time.
At high elevations at near freezing temperatures they functioned pretty well to keep us warm, although long underwear is a must have for those not acclimated to very cold climates. For the most part they were effective as well against cold winds, although some holes in the crotch which serve well to ventilate hot air also become a spot for cold frigid air to enter, sometimes quite uncomfortably. In hotter climates they offered some breathability through these ventilation holes, but still became quite warm, pushing us to take advantage of the zip-off legs at the risk of high sun exposure.
The Zion Convertible Pants offer four front and two rear pockets, a tightening waist strap, zip-off pant legs (convertible), and functional ventilation holes. The open front and rear pockets are well designed to be easily accessible, deep enough to hold ample material without risk of falling out, and offer mesh netting increasing the overall breathability of the pants. The two lower front zipper pockets are extremely useful for securing valuables and important items when on the move, and offer two zippers for top or side access, something we felt at first was overkill but later came to appreciate when accessing these pockets sitting down or while in a harness. The waist tightening system was functional, although often loosened up during activity and hangs awkwardly down the front of the pants as there is no place to tuck the fabric away.
The stretch Zion Convertible Pants are offered in six waist sizes and three lengths, and come in three different color options, providing enough variety to meet your style preference (note: we do wish a few more color options were available).
The Stretch Zion Convertible Pants are absolutely perfect for hiking, general outdoor activities and especially multi-faceted travel. They are uniquely suitable for higher intensity activities like yoga, rock climbing, slacklining, dancing and general play. They are sufficient for both warmer and cooler climates, although specialized excursions call for specialized equipment.
The Stretch Zion Convertible Pants provide excellent value. These pants are priced in the middle range of those we tested and provide an all-purpose multi-faceted solution to looking and feeling good at home or on whatever adventure you undertake. In general they are not cheap pants, but they are also not cheaply made. We did have some frustration with the stitching coming loose, which directly degrades their overall value and longevity. However, we love Prana as a company and we especially love their policy of providing a full refund at any time if you are unhappy with their product.
The Prana Stretch Zion Convertible Pants win Editors' Choice award because they provide everything we want, and more, in a general purpose hiking/outdoor pant. Having travelled for six months with these and four other pairs of top hiking pants, we found that no matter what we were doing, regardless of the conditions, we were well served by these pants.
— Brian Blum
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Most recent review: January 13, 2014
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