Royal Robbins Alpine Road Review
Cons: Stiff, most pockets don't have zips
Manufacturer: Royal Robbins
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Our Analysis and Test Results
With a look all their own, this pair might not be what you would expect from hiking pants. For us, they are a pleasant surprise. They have an aesthetic that is much more formal than the typical model — we would characterize it as something like outdoor professional — but their weather resistance and versatility are solid. They are a durable pair and are great for going straight from work to the trail.
Comfort & Mobility
Unfortunately, this metric is where these pants struggle the most. With a 66% polyester, 31% nylon, 3% spandex blend, they feel a little stiff. There is a hint of stretch, but not much. They performed admirably during testing, but compared to other models with way more spandex, they just aren't quite in the top tier here. On the other hand, they do come with a gusseted crotch and articulated knees to help with mobility. However, we wouldn't recommend taking these pants to places that require high-stepping or scrambling through boulder fields.
With that in mind, one of the advantages of this model is that it is less susceptible to stretching out. If you have found on any multi-day trip that your pants or shorts start to loosen up and slide down, these could be a good option. You can't tighten the waist if you lose some inches, but they won't let you down by falling down either. There is no integrated belt (which, honestly, would just be out of character for these pants), but they do come with standard belt loops. They also have a felted liner on the inside of the waist to minimize chaffing.
Venting & Breathability
The thickness of the fabric means that breathability is more limited than in other models. Our testers got rather warm rather quickly on sunny spring days. The difference is pretty evident just by a quick feel test between this model and thinner pairs. If you hold the fabric up to the light, it is also clear that these pants are more tightly woven than most.
Venting options are also limited. The front and side pockets are mesh-lined, so there is a bit of a benefit there. The primary feature for dispersing heat rapidly though is the cinch cord in the ankles. The pants are tapered enough at the cuff that they stay rolled up for semi-stationary activities like belaying, but the toggle is great if you need them to stay up on the move. The upshot is that they can be rolled up in a pinch, but they aren't ideally suited for hot climates.
Versatility & Style
These pants shine in the style department. They are almost like dress pants that happen to be water-resistant (along with some other hiking-specific features). Save for the subtle stitching around the back of the knees, and the zipper pocket on the right leg, they are not discernably different from slacks at first glance. The side pocket is even thoughtfully incorporated on the inside of the pants as opposed to having it slapped on the outside 'cargo-style.'
We think that the ability to take them from work to the trail or vice versa is a huge plus. They dress up or down really well and they would make a great addition to almost any wardrobe. Though they don't do awesome in activities that require high leg lifting, they are functional for most hiking, canoeing, fishing, and commuter bike riding.
This model stands up to the wind and rain. The DWR coating ensures that water beads thoroughly, and the thicker material provides an extra layer of protection from water seeping through to the skin. During the spray test, even when the outside of the pants saturated, our testers stayed dry underneath. Despite their bulk, they also dry relatively quickly. In addition, we found that they provide excellent wind resistance, presumably because of the more tightly woven fabric. Another plus is that they have a UPF 50+ rating, meaning that they provide significant protection from UV rays.
These pants are best-suited to cool-weather hiking. Their thickness and density that are liabilities in warmer climates actually make them a solid option for nasty weather if it's not quite necessary to take fully waterproof rain pants, and the adjustable ankle cords make for a quick and dirty gaiter replacement when secured around a hiking boot. We also think that the construction is solid and their durability will prove itself season after season.
These pants have a modest feature set, but it is well-executed. There are two front handwarmer pockets that are slightly deeper than average, as well as coin pocket, two rear pockets, and a horizontal zipper pocket on the right leg. The zipper on this pocket is thoughtfully angled to make it easier to open and close with one hand. It is large enough to stash a granola bar or a large smartphone.
This pant has standard belt loops that match the pair's more formal styling. In addition to the ankle cinch cord and felt waist, a standard snap closure at the front as well as a french fly round out the rest of the basic features. We find the additional french fly button to be superfluous; during testing, we didn't really need to secure it. However, it does, in theory, reduce the stress on the main snap, reducing the likelihood that it pops open. We also appreciate that the fly is appropriately positioned and makes it easy to take care of business when nature calls. The fabric is also bluesign approved, meaning that its materials and production meet or exceed rigorous standards for environmental protection and consumer safety.
We think for the right user, these pants offer exceptional value. Because of their dual front and backcountry utility, it truly is like having two pairs of pants in one. If you work in a setting where a nice pair of slacks is part of the dress code, then these pants are worth a strong look. They aren't a bargain, per se, but their durability and adaptability make them well worth the investment.
The Royal Robbins Alpine Road pants earn a Top Pick Award for their front and backcountry versatility. They look great and have solid weather resistance. The features are simple but functional. Though the fabric is a little stiff for activities that require high agility, we still think that they offer enough functionality to make a solid option for the town-to-trail hiker.
— Ben Applebaum-Bauch