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Hands-on Gear Review
Cons: Stitching gives way over time, seam stitching not top notch, crotch zipper too short
We are proud to give the Prana Stretch Zion Convertible Pants our Editors' Choice Award as the go-to pair of pants for hiking. They were an excellent choice for just about every sport, activity or social affair while traveling or adventuring outdoors. These pants are extremely comfortable, and with a stretchy nylon/spandex weave, they allow for nearly unlimited range of movement, whether one is hiking or backpacking, or even practicing yoga or rock climbing.
They keep us 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 and are practical, offering multi-access zipper security pockets combined with perfectly 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. As the most comfortable and versatile pant that also has the best features, we are happy to award them our Editors' Choice for the second review in a row.
RELATED: Our complete review of hiking pants
OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
For the second review in a row, the Stretch Zion Convertible was our Editors' Choice Award winner. Not only was it the highest scoring pant in our review, but was the one that our testers enjoyed wearing the most. While we thought that the convertible option added greatly to its versatility (and that it was the best convertible option that we tested), we are aware of the fact that not everyone enjoys convertible pants. Whether one is concerned about the look of the zipper and seam, the feel of the material against the skin, or simply the added weight, there are plenty of reasons to want a normal pant instead. For those people, we recommend the Prana Stretch Zion.
In most ways, the Stretch Zion and Zion Convertible are the same, except for the convertible part, of course. But for those who aren't completely sure which pant they would like, we want to point out the differences. The Stretch Zion has slightly narrower legs than the Zion Convertible. While the narrowness never bothered us, we actually appreciated the looser fit of the Zion Convertible, although some might think they are a bit baggy. We also noticed that the legs are slightly shorter on the Stretch Zion than the convertible, and they feature the snap buttons to help with cuff roll-up, where the Zion Convertibles do not. With those exceptions, we found the pants to be exactly the same, and don't think you could go wrong with either one.
Comfort and Mobility
From the standpoint of comfort, there's simply nothing negative that can be said about these pants. The material is soft and supple and the pants fit your body well; not too tight, not too loose, ready 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 80's, but an actual full-length pair of shorts with a cuff that sat right on our knees. We don't feel claustrophobic or constrained when sitting for long periods of time. In 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 might say that the convertible seam, where the zipper lies, rubs a bit on the lower thigh and knee when hiking in them. The zipper itself does not rub, however, just the flap of material on the inside of the leg to protect against the zipper. This is a problem that we found with all convertible pants, and all things considered, these did a good job of minimizing this discomfort. We also thought the crotch zipper was too short. This is something we have never really noticed in pants before, as apparently all the crotch zippers we have ever had in our whole lives were adequately long. While it still functions the way it is supposed to, we found it a bit annoying. These two minor complaints are all that kept the Stretch Zion Convertible from getting a perfect score, and instead we gave it 9 out of 10 for Comfort and Mobility.
The short video below shows the horizontal fabric stretch. The material does not stretch vertically. The balance of stretchy in one direction and non-stretchy in the other gives the pants a casual, almost dressy look combined with the flexibility and comfort of sweat pants.
These are the top pants from the perspective of versatility, hands down. 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; there are of course many better solutions for specific activities. We loved that they dried out pretty darn quick after a dousing in the rain, although not quite as quick as the Arc'teryx Gamma LT Pant. We also loved that the shorts were usable as actual shorts, not some pseudo-cutoff feeling shorts that we were only wearing because we were out on the trail where supposedly nobody would see you (dying of heat stroke). Overall, there isn't a specific climate in which we didn't think these pants would serve us well, unlike many of the other pairs that seemed great for one type of conditions, but not so much for another. We awarded these pants a 9 out of 10 points for versatility.
The Stretch Zion Convertible earned a 6 out of a possible 10 points for breathability. Its comfortable fabric is in the middle range in terms of thickness and heaviness; not nearly so burly as The North Face Paramount Peak II Convertible, but not nearly as light as the Outdoor Research Ferrosi. While this pant does feature a number of "breathing holes" sewn into the crotch area, we didn't feel like they made a huge difference when it got really hot and steamy inside these pants. The loose fit did make them feel slightly more cool than their counterpart, the Stretch Zion, which interestingly has slightly sleeker legs. Regardless, since this is a convertible pant, when things get too hot, you can simply change into shorts.
For how much abuse we put these pants through, we are quite impressed with how well they stand up to wear and tear. Our previous reviewer agreed, saying, "After six months of bushwacking through the 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". Our minor complaints and concerns include some stitching that has come undone (which hasn't caused any real problems yet), and that the stitching in general seems a bit shoddy compared to other pants we tested. Straight out of the box loose thread ends abound, and while it hasn't really caused us much problems, we appreciate something a bit neater for our money. Regardless, Prana's no questions asked return policy helps alleviate any concerns we might have had about the durability of the pant. While they don't exactly look new any more, we can honestly say these pants didn't disappoint, so we gave them 7 out of 10 points.
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 years past (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 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.
In our shower test, we found that the DWR coating worked impressively well considering how much wear they had before we tested them. It seriously limited water absorption, and soak through only took place in the highest abrasion areas like the knees. We thought that it worked better than on The North Face Paramount Peak II Convertible or the Kuhl Liberator Convertible. And after receiving a good dousing, some water did make its way all the way through to our skin; the material didn't absorb very much of that water, keeping the weight down and the drying time quick. 7 out of 10 points.
Features and Conveniences
The Zion Convertible Pants offer four front and two rear pockets, a tightening waist strap, zip-off pant legs (convertible), and functional crotch ventilation holes. The open front and rear pockets are well designed to be easily accessible and deep enough to hold ample material without risk of falling out; they also offer mesh netting that increases 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 and appreciated, as was this model being offered in ten waist sizes and three lengths. They also 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).
This convertible option is absolutely perfect for hiking, backpacking, general outdoor activities and especially multi-faceted travel. They are sufficient for both warmer and cooler climates and do an adequate job of shedding water in wet weather.
This competitor offers 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. 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's 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. Having worn them all over the mountains of Colorado and the deserts of Utah, we still couldn't find fault, and feel like these are pants we could literally live in with no real complaints whatsoever.
Prana Stretch Zion Pants
— Andy Wellman
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: May 14, 2016
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