The Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible is a lightweight model that we think looks better than it performs. We find that these pants have limited versatility. The material is thin and breathable, which means they do a fine job of keeping us cool on warmer days. They also dry quickly if you get caught in a passing shower. However, they offer no water resistance, and the total lack of stretch in the material limits the wearer's mobility, especially during climbing sessions, or backpacking over rugged terrain. Though they are comparatively inexpensive, we recommend paying a little bit more for a pair such as the REI Co-op Sahara Convertible, which performs significantly better overall without a considerable jump in price.
Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Lightweight, variety of sizes and colors, inexpensive
Cons: Thin material not suitable for rugged terrain, no water resistance, static material limits mobility
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Silver Ridge Convertible is a basic, entry-level pair of convertible pants. They are priced low and get the job done, but we found that they also lack in a couple of areas. There is no water-resistant coating, meaning they absorb precipitation immediately, and the fabric doesn't offer any stretch at all, which makes them feel restrictive at the knee and hip joints.
Comfort and Mobility
These pants offer decent comfort for lounging around, but that's not really what they are meant for. Owing to their total lack of a stretchy fabric like spandex or elastane, the 100% nylon shell limits mobility on steep ascents. The legs also slide up when you are sitting down, which in addition to just being a little annoying, exposes skin to sun and bugs.
One positive design element is the two small sections of elastic on each side of the waist that enables a little stretch beyond the advertised size. The belt also permits a fair amount of adjustability if your waist shrinks over the course of a longer adventure. Other than that, these pants are somewhat limited and rank towards the bottom of the pack in terms of this metric.
Venting and Breathability
These pants offer solid breathability. The material is lightweight, and sweat evaporates from them rapidly. Venting features include two front and rear mesh pockets, as well as the conversion zips. During rainstorm testing, they by far absorbed the most water, but they also dried out fairly quickly.
This pair lacks the versatility found in other models. The static material restricts movement, making activities like scrambling, climbing, and bouldering even more challenging. They are best reserved for walks, mild hikes, or travel.
They do dry quickly, but as noted above, they are not at all water resistant, so we prefer to wear them in dry climates. The light material makes them better for hotter weather — they just don't keep us warm enough when the mercury drops.
They function fine as shorts, but not better than any of the other convertible pairs. And we think the shorts could use a little more length to land at the top of our knees. In a lot of ways, we feel that these pants look outdoorsy without truly being capable of active, outdoor pursuits.
There is no DWR coating on these pants, and their performance suffers for it. As soon as the rain starts to fall, these pants will absorb water. The reality is that the material is lightweight enough that if the skies open up mid-hike for just a bit, you'll probably be fine. However, we recommend looking elsewhere if you know that you could experience consecutive days of rain on your trip. If you're wearing a rain jacket with these pants, water will run off down the thigh, eventually soaking the entire front area. A few times we kept these pants on after rolling into camp at the end of a rainstorm. We stayed wet and got colder.
These pants have a decent feature set but fall short in a couple of important areas. They come with a full complement of pockets — two mesh-lined handwarmer pockets in the front, two in the rear, and two cargo pockets (one velcro, one zippered) on the sides.
Like most pairs of convertible pants, you have to take off your footwear in order to remove the lower legs (although this is not necessary with the REI Sahara Convertible pants). They perform decently as shorts, but we found that the zippers consistently did not run as smoothly as other convertibles and often got caught up in the fabric. Consequently, we were less likely to want to pause in the middle of an activity to take off or reattach the legs.
The included belt is a nice addition. It feels a little cheap, but it's very easy to fasten and tighten or remove altogether if you don't need it. When we buckled a pack hip belt around it, we could feel the plastic buckle of the pants slipping on the pack buckle, so we often ditched it.
The lack of stretch in these pants really limits their versatility. We were most comfortable in them hiking on flat to moderate terrain in warm, dry climates. These pants are not well-suited for any activity that requires large steps, scrambling, or the use of a harness. They are decent for domestic outdoor work like mowing the lawn, and they are stylish enough that we feel comfortable moving from the trail to town without a changeover.
At $60, they are one of the least expensive pairs in this review. We don't have concerns about their durability more than the average hiking pant, but we would also choose a lot of other pairs for almost any outdoor activity, so they would probably spend a lot of time in the closet. We recommend opting to spend a little more to get a lot more if you want to use these pants for a range of outdoor activities.
The Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible pants didn't perform in our testing period as well as they look. This model has an admirable set of pockets, but their lack of water resistance and restrictive material mean that they have limited versatility. If the price is your number one priority above all else, then give them a look. But if you need a high-performing pair of pants, we suggest turning to one of our award winners.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch