When hiking a 14er in Colorado, the most typical concerns are getting off the summit before thunderstorms roll in, avoiding a wicked sunburn, and being prepared in case a chill wind picks up. Patagonia Quandary pants can help in all of these cases. Although they can't speed you down to treeline when the thunder starts booming, they will do an excellent job of limiting how soaked you get if you are caught in the rain. They also offer UPF 50 sun protection, a serious bonus at high altitudes, where the sun's rays can be pretty intense, and the nylon fabric's tight weave is both stretchy and cuts the wind well.
While they don't have a lot of vents for air to escape, we found their lightweight fabric to be more breathable and cooler feeling while working up a sweat than most, assisted by an absorptive, moisture-wicking band around the waist. The truth is that these high-scoring scoring pants offer a great value.
The Quandary is relatively affordable and super comfortable. We also like their simple look for wearing around town on top of their great hiking performance.
Comfort and Mobility
The Quandary pant is cut thin and features a slim fit that Patagonia recommends for lean-to-medium builds. We would agree with this recommendation, as we found them to be slightly restrictive around the tops and outsides of the thighs where they meet the hip flexors and pelvis, as well as in the seat. If you have cross-fit thighs or like competing in triathlons, we suggest you try these on before you purchase a pair.
Despite a narrower fit, these pants are supremely mobile. They are comprised of 6% spandex, blended into their nylon weave, allowing them to stretch any which way that you do. They also have a stretchy drawstring recessed into the waistband, which facilitates a perfect fit without a belt, even as your body weight and waistline fluctuates (as it does on all of us). While they didn't fit as well for us as the Prana Stretch Zion, they were more comfortable than the similarly slim fitting KUHL Kontra Air. We also loved the feel of the fabric against the skin, which was impressively soft for a synthetic material, and felt better than the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant.
Made of recycled nylon combined with 6% spandex, these pants are seriously stretchy! While they were a bit trim fitting, their insane stretchiness, and therefore mobility, meant we never felt constricted while hiking in them.
Venting and Breathability
When it comes to venting features, this pant does not have a lot to offer. It has mesh lining half of the two front hand warmer pockets as well as the tiny coin pocket, and a small piece of mesh on the inside of the right thigh pocket, but none on the back pockets. Likewise, there are no other features that accommodate venting, and it does not come in a separate version that is convertible into shorts.
Although venting is not a strength of this model, we did find that the super thin fabric feels cooler and breathes better than most of the more substantial materials found on competing pants. This pair also has a moisture-absorbing mesh liner around the waistband that is designed to wick away sweat, and even feels nice. The result is that we think it performed at the same level as the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible and The North Face Paramount 3.0, two pants that had heavier fabric but more ventilation.
Testing the Quandary for breathability and venting while running up this steep hill in the hot sun. While they didn't have a lot of features to aid in venting, we found that their very thin, light fabric did a more effective job than most at breathing.
The light, thin construction of the Quandary pant makes them a good choice for either warm or cold climates. However, they are perhaps a bit thin for frigid weather, and likewise, do not offer much ventilation for scorching temperatures. The fact that they do a good job repelling a light rain adds to their versatility.
Because of their thin fabric, we wouldn't choose to intentionally use these pants for heavy outdoor work other activities, like rock climbing, that offer ample opportunity for abrasion. We think the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible, or even the Prana Stretch Zion, are better suited for these purposes. Much like the REI Co-op Screeline, we think they make an excellent pant for travel.
We couldn't help but test the versatility of the Quandary out at the local sport crag. While we loved their mobility, their thin, lightweight fabric likely won't hold up to too much rubbing against the rock. We loved them for hiking in all seasons, but wouldn't use them for highly abrasive activities, like climbing or yard work, very often.
The Quandary Pant comes with a surprisingly effective DWR treatment. In our shower test, it was second only to the performance of our Top Pick for Wet Climates, the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant.
Even after many days of wear and more than a couple of times in the washer, these pants still repelled a light rain well. In a solid downpour, they eventually ended up soaked, but somehow our legs stayed dry inside, which was more than we could say about The North Face Paramount 3.0 pants. The nylon proved to be not very absorptive, and they also dried quickly and efficiently, even after a substantial soaking.
Before jumping in the shower, we tested the Quandary under a simulated light rain and found that their DWR coating was quite effective at preventing moisture from soaking in, rather forcing it to run off.
The feature set on this pair of pants could be described as simple and effective. The most notable feature is a stretchy, thin drawstring on the inside of the waist that works similar to the ones you would find on a pair of running shorts. We think it helps cinch up the fit slightly if it is too loose, and gives one the option of wearing these pants without a belt, a feature we prefer for hiking or backpacking with a pack.
In terms of pockets, it has two front hand warmer pockets with a tiny coin pocket, and two rear pockets, the left of which has a zipper. On the right thigh is a zippered storage pocket that is recessed inside the pant, rather than resting on the outside.
The Quandary has a simple feature set with only one extra pocket in addition to the hand pockets and rear pockets. This recessed, zippered pocket lives high on the right thigh, and is plenty large enough to carry a phone, wallet, or other trail necessities.
With no other features to speak of, this pant projects elegant simplicity more than do-it-all functionality. We awarded it the same score as the very similarly designed North Face Paramount 3.0, as well as the Mountain Hardwear Men's Hardwear AP Pant.
A feature unique to the Quandary is this drawstring on the inside of the waist belt that helps make micro-tuned adjustments to the fit, and helps you avoid needing to wear a belt underneath a pack waist strap. You can also see the mesh wicking material inside the waist belt designed to allow sweat moisture to evaporate quicker.
As its name suggests, the Quandary pant is best suited for hikes where you are just as likely to want to stay cool as warm. Summertime alpine peak ascents, day hikes, and backpacking are all ideal pursuits for this pant. Likewise, it is a good choice for travel, camping, or use around town. It does well when facing a light rain, but like all hiking pants, won't keep you dry in a deluge. It would not be our first choice for outdoor work or rock climbing.
I think we lost the trail. The Quandary pant was a great choice for both hot and cold weather hiking, and was easily one of the most mobile, nimble, and comfortable choices that we tested.
This pant retails for $79. As a top scorer, these pants are worth it, especially for peak-bagging. Backed by the Patagonia Ironclad guarantee, there is no doubt that these pants present a great value.
Hiking on a trail in the San Juan Mountains, contemplating value. As the most affordable pants in this review, not to mention one of the top scorers, we felt the Quandary were the perfect hiking pant for our Best Bang for the Buck Award.
The Patagonia Quandary pants are a slim fitting but highly flexible pant that does a great job protecting from the sun, wind, or light rain, and look good enough to rock in town as well as on the trail. Though their fit may not be ideal for larger adults, they do a good job of offsetting their sleekness with stretchy fabrics. Despite their price point, there is little compromise when it comes to the quality of these pants, which we would happily recommend for all styles of hiking from day hikes to long treks.
One of the best parts of living in Ouray is the huge network of trails that surround town. Hiking in the evening in the comfortable Quandary Pant, it almost felt like going for a stroll in our pajamas.