We recommend the Patagonia Quandary as an excellent pair of pants for tackling day hikes and backpacking adventures. Its lightweight, slim-fitting blend of recycled nylon and spandex offers freedom and mobility while also doing a more-than-admirable job of warding off wind and light rain. It has a simple yet functional array of pockets that might provide less room for a map or snacks than some other models, but also won't slow you down.
Patagonia Quandary Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Supple and mobile, DWR coating works great, fair price
Cons: Not many pockets, slim fit may not be awesome for larger adults
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Although they can't speed you down to treeline when the thunder starts booming, the Patagonia Quandary will do an excellent job of limiting how soaked you get if you are out 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 more cooling 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 excellent value.
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 have 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. While they didn't fit as well for our testers as some other models, we love the feel of the fabric against the skin, which is impressively soft for a synthetic material.
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 handwarmer 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. We think these pants perform toward the top of the review in this metric.
The light, thin construction of the Quandary pant makes them a good choice for either warm or cold climates. However, they are a bit thin for cooler 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.
The Quandary comes with a surprisingly effective DWR treatment. In our shower test, it scored near the top of the pack. Even after many days of wear and more than a couple of times in the washer, these pants still repelled 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 other pairs of pants in this review. The nylon proved to be not very absorptive, and they also dried quickly and efficiently, even after a substantial soaking.
The feature set on this pair of pants is 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, recessed inside the pant, rather than resting on the outside. With no other features to speak of, this pant projects elegant simplicity more than do-it-all functionality.
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.
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.
— Andy Wellman