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Hands-on Gear Review
Prana Stretch Zion Review
Cons: Not much ventilation, fabric absorbs water in a heavy downpour
Bottom line: Our favorite hiking pants, as they are simply the most comfortable.
The Prana Stretch Zion pants were the highest overall scoring pants in this year's review, making them a natural choice for our Best Overall Hiking Pant award. They were the most comfortable pant that we tested, combining a super soft and stretchy nylon fabric with a nearly perfect fit. They also have an impressive and simple feature set highlighted by a single dual-zippered cargo pocket, a very low-profile waist tightener, and snap buttons on the lower legs that help facilitate rolled-up cuffs. While we chose not to test them in our review this year, it is worth pointing out that these pants also come in a convertible option, so be sure to check out the Prana Stretch Zion Convertible if you like hiking in shorts as much as pants. Also, if you don't want the side pocket, cuff snap and want to save a little money and weight, get the Brion. We think the Brion also looks a little better.
The final feather in these pants' cap is their versatility, and not only did we find them to be comfortable for many different temperature zones, but we also enjoyed wearing them no matter what task our day involved. While we have featured many pairs of great hiking pants in this review, the truth is that none were better than the Prana Stretch Zion.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Hiking Pants for Men
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Prana Stretch Zion pants look and feel like a "normal" pair of pants. We loved this because it meant we could wear them out around town or over to a friend's house without looking like we were tech-ed out in the newest and trendiest gear all the time. They exude a comfortable and laid back vibe, perfect for everyday use. They also feel great to hike in, and we loved them for days at the sport crag as well.
While the Stretch Zion were the highest overall scorers based upon their scores for comfort, versatility, and their nearly perfect features, we don't want to let them off the hook for aspects where they weren't the cream of the crop. We found them to be lacking in ventilation options compared to the competition, and they didn't seem to breathe as well in our comparative tests as the thinner and lighter Patagonia Quandary. There is no doubt that these pants are comfier for cooler weather, but wouldn't be our first choice for the heat of summer. Likewise, despite coming with a DWR finish, it must have worn off by the time we did our water resistance testing, as these pants took on water faster than most. They performed fine in a light drizzle, but we would also be cautious if heavy rain is a guarantee in your itinerary. With these two caveats aside, these were our favorite hiking pants of 2017.
Comfort and Mobility
From the standpoint of comfort, there are not many negative things that can be said about these pants. The material is soft and comfortable, and they fit our body well; not too tight, not too loose. They provide stretch for hiking in and are a suitable option for activities like yoga or climbing. The snap-up pant legs offer an option for warmer weather or when wading through streams. We didn't feel claustrophobic or constrained when sitting in them for long periods of time, and in colder climates these pants did a great job with temperature acclimation as they offer some insulation, allowing us to focus our energy on what we are doing rather than what we are wearing.
As in years past, we still wish the crotch zipper was slightly longer in these pants — it feels like it stops too short. That said, we experienced no tightness or constrictions with the cut of the crotch, and likewise, these pants fit better in the upper thighs and front hips area than either the Patagonia Quandary or the Mountain Hardwear Men's Hardwear AP Pant. While the fit is on the slimmer side, the lower legs didn't feel anywhere close to as thin as the legs of the KUHL Kontra Air. The result was that this was the most comfortable pant in our review, and thus we awarded it 9 out of 10 points.
Venting and Breathability
This pant felt a bit hot compared to some of the other lighter pants in this review. The thinner cut pant sleeves seemed to allow less airflow within the pants than we experienced with the REI Co-op Screeline, and thus these felt slightly stuffier. Much like that pant, the Stretch Zion has tiny vent holes in the crotch region to facilitate breathing, but we found them to have minimal effect in reducing built up heat while toiling in a hot sun.
Mesh-lined pockets are a common tactic to increase ventilation among hiking pants, but unlike the Screeline or Kontra Air, these pants had only two mesh-lined pockets, the front handwarmer pockets. And while they do have small plastic snap buttons to hold the cuffs up if you need some extra air on the lower legs, this method was not as efficient as a full conversion to shorts that is possible with the Stretch Zion Convertible. At the end of the day, while they are the most comfortable, they didn't fare as well when the going was hot, and we enjoyed them more as a spring and fall pant than a summer one. 6 out of 10 points.
Whether you are day hiking or trying to select the only pair of pants you will bring on a long backpacking trip, the Stretch Zion is a good choice. They are also the perfect choice for rock climbing, working, travel, or hanging out at the local pub. As a "do everything" pant that also thrives on the trail, these pants were naturally one of the most versatile.
We've already mentioned that we didn't test the Stretch Zion Convertible this year, but having the option to purchase the convertibles raised their versatility in our minds. Only The North Face Paramount 3.0 and the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible pants also had this option, which has the effect of making a pant usable no matter what the temperature outside or the preference of the wearer. As a pant that can handle a lot more than merely hiking, we awarded it 9 out of 10 for versatility.
There is no doubt in our minds that water resistance is the weakest aspect of this pant, and if you are searching for a pair of hiking pants for your next trek through the tropical rain forest, we would urge you to stay away. While this pant does come with a DWR coating on top of its 97% nylon weave fabric, the truth is that by the time our three-month test period had come to a close, any sense of water resistance had worn off the front of the legs, butt, and knees of our pair of Stretch Zion's.
In a light mist, there was a bit of resistance to absorbing water. However, anything more than that led to pretty much immediate absorption, in line with the REI Screeline. That said, we found that these pants dried out considerably faster than the cotton-heavy fabric blends used in the KUHL Kontra Air or Men's Hardwear AP Pant. With relatively poor test results, we couldn't award more than 5 points for water resistance.
The Stretch Zion Pants offer three front and two rear pockets, a tightening waist strap, snap-up pant legs and somewhat functional crotch ventilation holes. The open front and rear pockets are well designed to be easily accessible and deep enough to hold ample material without risk of falling out. They also offer mesh netting, increasing the overall breathability of the pants. The cargo zipper pocket on the side of the leg is extremely useful for securing valuables and important items when on the move. It offers two zippers for top or side access (nice while sitting or when in a harness), something we felt at first was overkill but later came to appreciate when accessing these pockets on a climb. The waist tightening system was very low profile and worked fine, and we were happy to have the option of not wearing a belt underneath our pack waist strap.
Overall, we thought these pants had the third best set of features, based mostly on how well they functioned, rather than a total number. They really couldn't compare to the magnitude of different pockets and ventilation options found on the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible, and ditto with the heavily featured KUHL Kontra Air.
But while they didn't offer the most storage or pockets, all the zippers, buttons, and the waist tightener worked pretty much perfectly. 8 out of 10 points.
These hiking pants are perfect for hiking, general outdoor activities, and especially multifaceted travel. They are uniquely suitable for higher intensity activities rock climbing, slack-lining, dancing and general play. They are sufficient for both warmer and cooler climates, although are a bit more comfortable in cooler climates than warmer ones. While they will keep you dry in gently wet conditions, they are not the best for full on rain.
These pants retail for $85, which is pretty close to as affordable as high-quality hiking pants come. Since they were the highest scorers in our review, and we recommend them as our Best Overall Hiking Pants, we clearly think that you will find great value in this purchase. We also love that Prana will honor their policy of providing a full refund at any time if you are unhappy with their product.
The Prana Stretch Zion wins our Best Overall Hiking Pant award based mostly on the fact that we found them to be the most comfortable pant that we tested. They are awesome for nearly any outdoor activity, not just hiking, although they are great for that too! Their nearly perfect feature set was optimally functional and simple. While they aren't our preferred choice for wet weather, we love them for pretty much everywhere else, and we think you will too.
— Andy Wellman
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