The Prana Brion keeps things simple. It doesn't have the frills and features found on a lot of hiking pants, but this allows them to segue into town-life better than any other model. And it does this without sacrificing much hiking performance. It is a simplified version of our Top Pick for Climbing, the Prana Stretch Zion. The Brion is made of the same comfortable and durable stretch Zion fabric (97% nylon, 3% spandex), but stripped down on features, doing away with the cuff roll-up buttons, crotch vent holes, waist tightening strap and buckle, and cargo pocket. Without all these technical features, they look a lot better for everyday casual wear or even to the office on casual Friday. This model is also very functional for hiking and climbing for those who don't demand extra features.
Prana Brion Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Simple design looks good, very comfortable, affordable
Cons: No features, too hot in warm weather
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Brion is very functional as a hiking pant, but also excels as a casual, everyday pair of pants. They are Prana's version of a mountain-style khaki. The stretch Zion fabric ensures that they are super comfortable against the skin, while also offering superior mobility, durability, and protection you would expect from an outdoor pant. This model has a relatively slim and straight cut with none of the features found on the rest of the options in this review. They come in a wide variety of earthy colors, ensuring that you will look as comfortable in a meeting at work as out on the trail.
Comfort and Mobility
The Brion is a very comfortable pant that ranks up there with our favorite pairs. In particular, we love how the fabric feels against the skin, and appreciate that these pants incorporate enough stretchy fibers so that mobility is rarely limited. Like the Prana Stretch Zion, they have a relatively slim fit that is straight through the leg. We like the gusseted crotch, but wish that the zipper extended a bit lower. To us, it feels like it stops too high up on the front of the pant. Because of its slightly looser fit, we feel this pant is more comfortable than the Outdoor Research Ferrosi.
Venting and Breathability
During our hiking field tests, we noticed that these pants hold quite a bit of heat compared to the competition. The stretch Zion fabric is a fair bit heavier than the material found on the most breathable pants, such as the OR Ferrosi, and the Brion also has very few ventilation features. The only ones we noticed were mesh-lined front hand pockets, but considering the openings for these pockets rest flat when not in use, we felt that this feature had a minimal impact. Unlike the Stretch Zion, there were no crotch holes or roll-up cuff snaps. The overall effect is that these pants don't vent or breathe well, and so are not our favorite choice for hot weather.
The versatility of the Brion is tricky to pin down. In terms of this pair's functionality as hiking pants in different seasons or climates, they lack the technical features that would expand their usage. For example, they are warm, not convertible, and don't have any substantial ventilation points to help cool you off, like roll-up cuff cinch cords. All of this diminishes their versatility for hot weather or long backpacking trips. On the other hand, they are the most appropriate pant we tested for a variety of other outdoor activities; working outside, or in an office, wearing around town, camping, traveling, climbing, and paddling.
These pants come with a durable water repellent (DWR) coating applied to the outside, meant to help repel water droplets before they have time to soak into the material. We found that much like the Prana Stretch Zion, which uses the same fabric blend, water soaks in much quicker than most hiking pants we tested. In a light mist, water droplets would bead up and run off, but in a true rainstorm, these pants quickly become saturated. Not only that, but they also start to feel wet on the inside against the skin almost immediately. If you need a pant that has solid water repellency, we recommend checking out the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant, and leaving these on the shelf.
The little extra things can go a long way to improving the function of a hiking pant. The Brion takes the opposite, minimalist approach.
There are no extra cargo pockets, drawcords, zip off bottoms, or any of the features found on most comparable hiking pants. They are simply a pair of pants with the pockets that you would expect — two on the front (as well as a tiny change pocket), and two on the back. Worth mentioning, though, is that they have a UPF 50+ rating, meaning their ability to shield you from the sun has been lab tested and confirmed. Including no extra features at all is a design choice that we don't necessarily dislike, but in the context of this review, they received one of the lowest scores in this metric.
In our opinion, the Prana Brion pants thrive as an everyday around town or work pair for people who enjoy the "mountain casual" style, with some cross-over functionality for getting in a short bouldering session or evening dog walk without needing to change. They are simple, functional, and comfortable pants that would not be our first choice for bringing on a backpacking trip or other outdoor adventure.
Purchased at retail price, these pants will set you back $79. While this isn't exactly dirt cheap, they aren't the most expensive pants we tested either. We think they provide plenty of good value to be considered for purchase.
The Prana Brion look, feel, and perform far closer to an average pair of casual pants than they do to a technical piece of outerwear. There is nothing wrong with that, and we admit that we love these simple pants. In the context of a hiking pants review, however, they are slightly lacking compared to the designs presented by the competition and weren't one of the highest scorers.
— Andy Wellman