The Prana Stretch Zion pants have so much to like about them that it was a natural Top Pick for Best Climbing Pants. They are one of the most comfortable models 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 enable the wearer to roll up the cuffs easily. The final feather in these pants' cap is their versatility. Not only did we find them comfortable for many different climates, but we also enjoyed wearing them for daily tasks and travel. While we have featured many pairs of great hiking pants in this review, the truth is that the Prana Stretch Zion is hard to beat.
Prana Stretch Zion Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Comfortable fit and fabric, very versatile, perfectly functioning features
Cons: Not much ventilation, fabric absorbs water in a heavy downpour
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Our Analysis and 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. They have a comfortable and laid back style, perfect for everyday use. They also feel great to hike in, and we loved them for days at the crag as well. While the Stretch Zion score highly for comfort and mobility, versatility, and their nearly perfect features, we don't want to let them off the hook too easily. We found them to lack adequate ventilation options compared to the competition, and consequently, they didn't seem to breathe as well in our comparative tests as some other models. There is no doubt that these pants are comfier for cooler weather, but they wouldn't be our first choice for the heat of summer. Likewise, despite coming with a DWR coating, these pants took on water faster than most. They performed fine in a drizzle, but we would also be cautious if heavy rain is a guarantee in your itinerary. With these two caveats aside, they are still one of our favorite pairs of hiking pants.
Comfort and Mobility
From a comfort standpoint, these pants have a lot going for them. The material is soft, and we found that they offer an excellent fit; not too tight, not too loose. They provide the right amount of stretch for hiking 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 constrained when sitting in them for long periods, and in colder climates, these pants did a great job with keeping our legs warm.
We wish the fly zipper were slightly longer in these pants — it feels like it stops too short. That said, we didn't experience tightness or constriction with the cut of the crotch, and these pants fit well in the upper thighs and front hip area. The overall result is one of the most comfortable pants in our review.
Venting and Breathability
This model felt a bit hot compared to some of the other lighter pants in this review. Though the thinner cut legs seem to allow less airflow within the pants, they have tiny vent holes in the crotch region to facilitate breathing. However, we found that these holes have a minimal effect while adventuring in the heat of the day.
Mesh-lined pockets are a common approach to increase ventilation in a pair of hiking pants, but this pair has 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 your lower legs, this design is not the most efficient. At the end of the day, while they are some of the most comfortable, they don't fare as well when the going gets hot, and we enjoyed them more as a spring and fall pant than a summer one.
Versatility and Style
Whether day hiking or trying to select a single pair of pants for a long backpacking trip, the Stretch Zion is a good choice. These pants 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, they naturally rank as one of the most versatile. As a pant that can handle a lot more than merely hiking, it crushes in this metric.
Weather resistance is the weakest aspect of these pants, and if you are searching for a pair of pants for your next trek through the tropical rainforest, we will 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 notion of water resistance had worn off the pants and out of our minds.
In a light mist, there was a bit of resistance; however, anything more than that led to pretty much immediate absorption. That said, we found that these pants dried out relatively quickly. With relatively poor test results, it slid toward the back of the pack here.
The Stretch Zion pants have three front and two rear pockets, an adjustable waist belt, snap-up pant legs and marginally helpful ventilation holes in the crotch. The open front and rear pockets provide easy access while keeping their contents secure. The mesh fabric interior of the pockets increases the Zion's breathability. The cargo zipper pocket on the side of the leg is handy for securing valuables and important items when on the move. The dual-access thigh pocket (zippered access on top and the side) is useful. Initially, we thought this might be gimmicky, but we appreciated the side access when wearing a harness. The waist tightening system is low profile and works great, and we were happy to have the option of not wearing a belt underneath our pack waist strap.
Overall, we thought these pants had a robust set of features, based mostly on quality, not quantity. But while they didn't offer the most storage or pockets, all the zippers, buttons, and the waist tightener worked pretty much perfectly.
These pants are about as affordable as high-quality hiking pants come. Since they are one of the top scorers in our review, and we recommend them as our Best Climbing Pants, we 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 earns a Top Pick Award because of their comfort and effectiveness while climbing. They are awesome for nearly any outdoor activity, not just hiking, although they are great for that too! Their nearly perfect feature set was highly 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