For those looking for a single pair of pants that are an excellent choice for everything, we recommend the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible, the most versatile hiking pants we tested. This pair will certainly get the job done on any day hike or extended backpacking trip, but we love it because it is also great for yard work, climbing, and traveling. When the midday sun gets too intense, the lower legs zip off, converting the pants into shorts. The dual, compartmentalized cargo pockets have plenty of room for trail snacks, a smartphone or other trail necessities. For thru-hikers or gearheads, if versatility is your primary concern, look no further than the Renegade Cargo Convertible.
KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible Review
Cons: Convertible zipper rests across lower thigh, front button sometimes comes undone
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Our Analysis and Test Results
If you are looking to carry as little as possible without compromising safety or comfort, convertible pants - pants that have zippers that allow you to remove the bottom half of the legs to wear them as shorts - are a great option. They only weigh slightly more than regular hiking pants and save you from carrying an extra piece of clothing in your pack. The Renegade Cargo Convertible also features double cargo pockets that can hold snacks, a phone, a map, lip balm, and whatever other items you want close at hand while hiking. If versatility is one of your priorities, you should consider these pants.
It wouldn't be fair to compliment this pant for its convertible option without also pointing out the other pants in this review that are also available as convertibles. If unzipping into shorts is a feature you want, then we recommend you also look into the Prana Stretch Zion Convertible, as well as The North Face Paramount Convertible 3.0. We have reviewed both of these pants in their standard versions, and they were among the top scorers. Likewise, if you like KUHL pants but don't like convertible zippers, then check out the KUHL Renegade Stealth Pant, which retains the dual cargo pockets in a standard pant design.
Comfort and Mobility
With their gusseted crotch and articulated knees, the Renegade Cargo Convertible offers a more spacious fit than the handful of slim or straight-legged pants in this review. The waist and pelvis region also fit comfortably, without any hint of constriction. We were also pleasantly surprised by how soft the nylon fabric felt against skin.
The one strike against these pants in the comfort metric is that the convertible zipper seam, which encompasses the lower thigh, creates an obvious rub point against the skin as the wearer moves their legs. As such, we graded this pant the same as the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant and the Fjallraven Vidda Pro, which also had minor annoyances to our comfort.
Venting and Breathability
To facilitate ventilation, this model comes with mesh liners in both its two front hand warmer pockets, as well as the two rear pockets. Though it does not have mesh vents in the two cargo pockets on the side of each leg, the slightly looser fit made us feel cooler when the temperatures rose.
Of course, as a convertible model, these pants also feature the ultimate in breathability: the ability to remove the lower legs. Without undergoing the full conversion, though, we found that we could unzip the convertible zippers part way for added ventilation and that we could also wholly unzip the vertical lower leg zippers, designed to make it easy to take off the pants while still wearing boots or shoes. However, the predominantly nylon fabric did not prove to be super light or breathable in our testing. Though they go about it in different ways, these pants scored roughly the same as The North Face Paramount 3.0 and the Patagonia Quandary when considering both venting and breathability.
We wouldn't have named these pants our Top Pick for Versatility if they weren't exactly that. No pant in this review is as ideally suited for every kind of situation as the Renegade Cargo Convertible, and thus they received a perfect score.
While hiking or backpacking, these pants set you up for success with plenty of pockets for storing all your necessities as well as the option to convert them into shorts. With their UPF 50 rating, they will protect you from high altitude sun, and their tight nylon weave and DWR coating will also keep you dry in a gentle rain. We also found them to be durable enough for heavy outdoor work, and we wore them with success many nights of camping in the dirt. They look good enough to wear around town as well. In our experience, they were a definite step above the Prana Stretch Zion, and leaps and bounds more versatile than the rest, including the Paramount 3.0 or KUHL Kontra Air.
In our shower testing, these pants were effective enough at repelling a light spray for a short period, but it seemed as if much of the DWR coating had worn off during our three-month test period. Low-wear areas like the lower legs were doing a pretty good job of helping the water runoff without soaking in, but in the thighs and butt, water absorption started taking place almost immediately.
The good news is that the 95% Duralux nylon didn't absorb very much water, especially compared to the Mountain Hardwear Men's Hardwear AP Pant, or the KUHL Kontra Air. This meant they dried out fairly quickly after being hung up to dry. By no means did this pant match the performance of our Top Pick for Wet Climates, the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant, but we wouldn't call their performance an obvious liability.
Once again, this pant was the highest performer when it came to features, and ended up with a nearly perfect score. Not only did it have more features than any other model, but we were pleased to discover that they performed as advertised.
We have already mentioned most of the features included on this pant, including the vertical zippers at the bottom of the pant that allow it to be easily removed over a pair of boots or shoes, and the snap buttons on the cuffs that will enable you to keep them closed with the zippers open for ventilation.
The dual cargo pockets, found on each side of the leg, each have different compartments within them to aid in organization and to keep small items from getting jostled. The only thing keeping this pant from receiving a perfect 10 is the fact that the front snap button sometimes came undone on us during activity. Where other KUHL pants have the "French flap" interior button that helps the waist fit well, this pant lacks that feature which made it easier for the snap to come undone. This minor complaint didn't keep it from scoring better than the Prana Stretch Zion.
The KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible pants are optimal for hiking, backpacking, and thru-hiking, and for anyone who values the versatility they provide. Their convertibility means that they are good in both hot and cool climates and do a decent job of handling wet weather. We also found that they are well-suited for all sorts of other activities that require pants, like manual labor, traveling, camping, and walking around town.
These pants retail for $99, making them more expensive than many pairs that we have reviewed, but not nearly as expensive as the Fjallraven Vidda Pro. A solid pair of hiking pants and shorts typically cost at least that much, so we believe that this is a pretty good value. That said, if you are looking for the Best Bang for your Buck, we recommend checking out the Patagonia Quandary.
The KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible pants win our Top Pick for Versatility because they are the best-suited pants for nearly any sort of outdoor adventure. We think they are especially intriguing for thru-hikers or backpackers who want to only carry the minimum in clothing. They also had the best combination of useful features but weren't one of the most comfortable pairs that we tried on. Overall these were among the highest scorers in our review and are a pant we would recommend to most people.
— Andy Wellman