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REI Co-op Savanna Review

This lightweight, breathable pant prioritizes utility over style at a reasonable price point
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $55 List
Pros:  Lightweight, inexpensive, stretch waist
Cons:  Not stylish, inelastic fabric
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Ben Applebaum-Bauch ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 29, 2020
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65
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort and Mobility - 35% 7
  • Venting and Breathability - 20% 8
  • Versatility and Style - 15% 6
  • Weather Resistance - 15% 6
  • Features - 15% 4

Our Verdict

The REI Savanna is all about lightweight practicality. This pair earns a Best Buy Award for its utility at a reasonable price point. These pants strip away almost all of the extras. Though the features are spartan, they are an excellent breathable option in the heat. They definitely won't win you any fashion awards, but they are comfortable enough to make up for it. This is the pair that we would take on a long-distance trip and run until they were threadbare, or keep in the car or in a backpack for a quick and dirty outfit change.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The most unique thing about these pants is how light they are. Coming in at just over 7 oz, they are almost half the weight of some other pairs in this review. For those counting their ounces, that can make a noticeable difference. They definitely are not the pinnacle of fashion, but they get the job done.

Performance Comparison


These pants are a lightweight utility pair that look the part.
These pants are a lightweight utility pair that look the part.

Comfort & Mobility


These pants achieve most of their comfort by virtue of their fit. They are neither tapered nor baggy, just straight through the legs. They are made from nylon but don't have any elastane and aren't particularly stretchy. We also didn't notice any obvious gusseting. In addition, we noticed that the legs feel just a little bit shorter than advertised (potentially because they don' stretch the same way that other pants do). There is elastic in the waist, which provides some flexibility in terms of fit and increases comfort. However, we would also say that the waist measurement takes into account some amount of the elastic stretching. In other words, the true (unstretched) circumference of the waist may be smaller than what is advertised.


Once you have taken the sizing into account, one design flaw that we encountered during testing was that the corner of the fabric at the front of the pants where the button is sewn on is actually quite pointy. After a day hike, the spot had caused some noticeable abrasion below the bellybutton of at least one tester. In spite of all of this, we still found that these pants offer a decent amount of wearer mobility.

The elastic band sewn into the back of the waist provides the leeway that you might need for the fit.
The elastic band sewn into the back of the waist provides the leeway that you might need for the fit.

Venting & Breathability


These pants shine for their lightweight breathability. Weighing in at under 8 ounces, they are one of the lightest pairs in this review. There's no mesh in these pants. Instead, a combination of a looser, straight fit through the legs, and airy fabric kept us cool on trail. It's somewhat of a liability in terms of their weather resistance, described below, but the looser weave of the fabric is a plus when the sun is out and your body needs to throw off more heat.


These pants achieve ventilation primarily through their functionality as roll-ups. That is, the cinch cord in the ankle makes it possible to pull up and secure the legs if the pants just get too hot. During testing, we found that their functionality here is fairly sufficient, though the 'toggle' relies on friction to stay in place and there is no real 'lock' position, so they will loosen up and fall down eventually.

The legs can be rolled up on the fly.
The elastic cord keeps the legs from falling down if you pull them up for some ventilation.

Versatility & Style


These pants are versatile to an extent. They have the roominess for climbing and are good for flatwater sports like canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. We like them for backcountry backpacking where you just need a "do everything" pair. Their static material makes them not ideal for activities that require a ton of flexibility, but they compensate somewhat with their looser fit.


We definitely wouldn't count them as stylish. In fact, some of our testers received some feedback that they should probably change before going out in the front country. However, we also found that there is something liberating about having a pair of pants that can be pure utility. Covered in mud or last night's rice and beans? No problem. We also appreciate that the knees are reinforced with an additional layer of fabric so you still have coverage, even after the first one wears thin.

This pair isn't quite baggy  but we would call it a regular fit with a utility look.
This pair isn't quite baggy, but we would call it a regular fit with a utility look.

Weather Resistance


These pants do a decent job out in the elements, but they wouldn't be our first choice. They come treated with a DWR coating that beads mist and repels lighter rain. However, if you find yourself in a moderate storm for any amount of time, you will start to notice the fabric wetting through. We suspect that the DWR coating is sufficient, but the fabric is just a little less densely woven than other models.


Similarly, their wind resistance is limited to stiff breezes. Anything more and the chill cuts right through. We do appreciate their UPF 50+ rating, which makes them an excellent candidate for high sun-exposure environments.

These pants don't excel as far as water repellence is concerned. In fact  they tend to wet through relatively quickly. However  they also dry very fast.
These pants don't excel as far as water repellence is concerned. In fact, they tend to wet through relatively quickly. However, they also dry very fast.

Features


The feature set on these pants seems spartan at first glance, but there is enough to get the job done. They come with two deep handwarmer pockets that we would describe as cargo-style. That is, they have an additional pleat at the bottom to accommodate thicker items. They also have two rear pockets, the right has a (somewhat cheap, plastic) zipper, the left has a snap. Notably, there are no pockets on the legs. This pair comes with standard belt loops and a button closure. The button won't come undone like some of the snap closures of other models, but we think, in the long run, it is also more likely to pop off entirely so if you are inclined to go for this model, there might be some sewing in your future.


The elastic waist, discussed above, is a simple solution to waist sizing that eliminates the need for a belt. There is also a small plastic keychain ring attached to one of the belt loops. As described above, the elastic cinch cord at the ankles can help the pants stay up if you need to cool down quickly, but they can also make the pants a stand-in for a gaiter if you happen to leave yours at home. As long as your boot is high enough, these pants can be secured reasonably well to keep debris out. These pants are also made with bluesign approved fabric, which means that they have been manufactured according to stringent standards that maintain the health and safety of consumers, workers, and the environment.

These pants include simple  utilitarian features like a loop for keys or a light.
These pants include simple, utilitarian features like a loop for keys or a light.

Value


If you can dial in the fit, these pants are worth the investment. They are comparatively inexpensive and for the hiker looking to go lightweight while still benefiting from the protection that pants offer over shorts, this model is a great choice. Though there are other pairs that come with more features or outperform this model in specific metrics, if you are trying to keep your spending in check, the utility of these pants makes them worthwhile.

Conclusion


The REI Co-op Savanna is a lightweight, sturdy pair of pants. This model is a Best Buy Award winner for its decent performance at a reasonable price. We think that the fit is a little unusual, but it's not an insurmountable issue. They offer outdoor versatility (though not really any front country style), and we are pleasantly surprised by their durability given their weight. If you just need a quick and dirty pair of pants, this slightly quirky but straightforward model is worth a look.

A solid  inexpensive lightweight pair. It won't blow anyone away but it will get the job done.
A solid, inexpensive lightweight pair. It won't blow anyone away but it will get the job done.

Ben Applebaum-Bauch