Hands-on Gear Review

The North Face Paramount Trail Convertible Review

The North Face Paramount Trail Convertible
Best Buy Award
Price:  $70 List | $41.97 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Water/wind resistant, warm in colder climates, durable, good features and pockets
Cons:  Baggy fit and lack of stretch, heavy, convertible shorts a bit short (10”)
Bottom line:  This warmer pant is a bit heavy in summer temps, and its design lacks stretch.
Editors' Rating:   
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Material:  70D 168g/m² 100% nylon faille
Water Resistance:  DWR finish
Sizing (waist, length options):  W: S - 3XL, L: S, R, L
Manufacturer:   The North Face

Our Verdict

These pants are hardwearing, versatile, and have several great features all offered at a bargain. They are the least expensive convertible pants AND the least expensive non-convertible pants we tested. Made from a thicker material than the other pants we reviewed, these hiking pants are more durable and provide excellent rain and wind resistance. We think they work great for hiking (their intended purpose) and are also an excellent choice for extended backpacking trips.

This model also provides perhaps the most comfortable fit for someone with a more substantial frame. The thicker material (100 percent nylon) holds up well against tears and provides more warmth than the competition. While this means they can be a bit hot in warmer weather, they also have an excellent conversion feature that includes vertical zips at the cuffs for easy removal of the lower leg without removing footwear. These are $25 cheaper than their main competitor Prana Stretch Zion Convertible, making them a natural choice for our Best Buy Award. If you want a stretchier material to give more mobility, The North Face offers the similarly-designed Paramount 3.0 Convertible for another $20. However, if you're going to spend that kind of money, we would go with the Stretch Zion.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Hiking Pants for Men


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Andy Wellman

Last Updated:
Thursday
January 18, 2018

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Hands-On Review


These hiking pants provide everything needed for a cool weather hike or for traveling abroad in moderately cool climates. The offer ample pocket space with a secure zipper pocket for our keys, a fair DWR rain and windproofing, and zip-off legs for when the weather gets hot; they also have an unencumbering fit, adding to the versatility of these pants. These pants win our Best Buy award as a well-priced, extremely functional and durable pair of pants that hold up well in a variety of weather conditions; they are great for serious hikers and travelers.

Not much has changed in these pants when compared to the original Paramount Peak Convertible. The cut and fit are a little narrow (a good thing) and the pockets are a bit more useful. The front cargo pockets are long enough to fit a large map. The fabric is designed to be more durable than it already was, although in the past we had not identified this as a specific weakness. The North Face claims that they are "QuickDry," which we verified as true, although they don't dry out quite as quickly as the thinner nylon pants like the Outdoor Research Ferrosi or Arc'teryx Gamma LT. In previous years we had identified these pants as "slow to dry," so we believe this is a marked improvement. All-in-all, The North Face has chosen to stick with what works and this convertible options fits and performs much like the original version.

Performance Comparison


Our head tester at the end of the hike-able part of the Subway if coming up from the bottom  as he did in the winter when swimming through the narrows was not an option. The Paramount Peak II pants kept him plenty warm in this cold slot  and later on the sweaty hike out he was able to wear them as shorts to stay cool.
Our head tester at the end of the hike-able part of the Subway if coming up from the bottom, as he did in the winter when swimming through the narrows was not an option. The Paramount Peak II pants kept him plenty warm in this cold slot, and later on the sweaty hike out he was able to wear them as shorts to stay cool.

Comfort and Mobility


These pants are stylish and are the loosest fitting ones in the review. They are also made of the heaviest and burliest material. They include an integrated belt enclosed within the waist.
These pants are stylish and are the loosest fitting ones in the review. They are also made of the heaviest and burliest material. They include an integrated belt enclosed within the waist.

The six waist sizes and three lengths available offer a fit for most body types, although these pants do tend to run on the baggy side. While the Peak II Convertible's looser fit is not ideal for a multi-use pair of pants, they offer excellent comfort and fit for hiking and backpacking, not to mention general travel. These pants are comfortable, although the 100 percent nylon material is not as soft on the skin and does not offer the comfort of the stretch that the most comfortable models provide, such as the Prana Stretch Zion. We debated getting a slimmer fitting version of this pant, but without the stretchy material, we felt fitting them any narrow might restrict movement, especially on stairs.


The North Face's looser fit, especially when compared to pants like the Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible, does allow those with a more significant frame to fit comfortably inside. It leaves enough room for additional thermal layers underneath (but are not tight enough for a waterproof shell to fit over the top). The elastic waistband and belt also add a better fitting pant. Our only other complaint was that the conversion seam where the pants unzip into shorts was again a bit restrictive on our legs, as it is in pretty much all conversion pants. On this model, it was slightly more noticeable due to the less stretchy material used, but we were happy with the way the overlapping fabric covered the zipper, making the best of a slightly annoying feature.

Playing on a log on one of the countless stream crossings on the 4.5 mile hike to the Subway in the Zion National Park Backcountry.
Playing on a log on one of the countless stream crossings on the 4.5 mile hike to the Subway in the Zion National Park Backcountry.

Versatility


We find the multiple pockets and loose fit of these pants to be ideal for hiking and traveling town to town, although when crammed into public transportation and when dealing with warmer weather, we find ourselves zipping off the legs and wishing we were wearing a slightly thinner material. The baggy fit makes these pants less ideal for a variety of outdoor activities, although this didn't detract from their intended purpose of hiking.


The 10" short length was a bit short for us, and we felt a bit stylishly awkward. But that is a style preference. The Paramount 3.0 uses and even shorter 8" short. This year's model dried out fairly quickly compared to the competition, improving on their versatility.

On this day the water resistance and drying time of these pants was not tested  as our head tester managed to keep himself out of the river on the possibly 100 stream crossings encountered on the nine mile roundtrip journey to the Subway.
On this day the water resistance and drying time of these pants was not tested, as our head tester managed to keep himself out of the river on the possibly 100 stream crossings encountered on the nine mile roundtrip journey to the Subway.

Breathability


We liked the vertical zippers at the bottom of the pant legs on these pants. They provide extra ventilation  or allow one to more easily remove the pant leg when converting them to shorts without taking off your shoes or boots.
We liked the vertical zippers at the bottom of the pant legs on these pants. They provide extra ventilation, or allow one to more easily remove the pant leg when converting them to shorts without taking off your shoes or boots.

In the case of this competitor, we are happy that there is that convertible moniker at the end of their name. Without the ability to strip off the lower legs and quickly convert these pants to shorts, we would only be able to recommend them for the coolest of cloudy days. The fact is that the fabric of these pants is thick and heavy, which makes them very durable, but also quite hot compared to the competition.


Like the Kuhl Liberator Convertible, we had a hard time tolerating the sweat and heat build-up while charging uphill in the sun. That said, if you get too hot and sweaty in these pants, just zip off the legs.

While we wish the shorts were a little bit longer when the lower legs are removed  we are happy that they look like a normal pair of shorts and that the zipper is well hidden with no awkward flaps.
While we wish the shorts were a little bit longer when the lower legs are removed, we are happy that they look like a normal pair of shorts and that the zipper is well hidden with no awkward flaps.

Durability


The thicker material excelled at our 'rough them up' tests (basically climbing in chimneys and off-widths at Indian Creek, where the rock is sandpaper). The pockets are well-made and the stitching is well done. Additionally, North Face offers a lifetime warranty against product defects and a low-cost repair option for worn out zippers, velcro, or other components. In comparison to the other pants tested, this contender held up better and had an impressive made-to-last quality that makes them ideal for more serious hikers. In our opinion, only one other pair of pants in this review offered the same level of durability and that was the Arc'teryx Gamma LT pant, though it costs $100 more.

Water Resistance


These convertible pants performed well when it came to dealing with the elements. Warmer than most pants we tested, the thicker material offers better wind resistance than the competition and has an effective enough DWR coating. In our shower testing, these pants didn't repel water as effectively as some of the other similar pants, like the Prana Stretch Zion Convertible, but they also didn't absorb much water into the nylon fabric.


We still think they offer an ideal option for longer hikes or multi-day adventures where a change of clothes is not available. We like that these pants offer an improved UPF 50 sun protection (although sun exposure, in general, was not a problem with any of the pants we tested).

The DWR coating and water resistance in the shower was about average for the Paramount Peak II Convertible pants. Some water certainly made it through  but there was not nearly as much absorption as a few of the pairs exhibited.
The DWR coating and water resistance in the shower was about average for the Paramount Peak II Convertible pants. Some water certainly made it through, but there was not nearly as much absorption as a few of the pairs exhibited.

Features and Conveniences


The cargo pockets on there pants are on each side and have an odd fastening system of an overlapping flap that is sewn closed at one end  and adhered by a single velcro patch on the other.
The cargo pockets on there pants are on each side and have an odd fastening system of an overlapping flap that is sewn closed at one end, and adhered by a single velcro patch on the other.

Sporting two open, bottomless front pockets, two velcro front pockets, a security (zipper) front pocket, and two rear velcro pockets, this competitor offers more than enough real estate to potentially day hike without a pack. Although it is not our style to load weight into our pockets when it can be isolated to a lightweight pack, there is some benefit to this option, especially for world travelers carrying lots of tickets, passports, and other stuff in need of quick access. The long-haul thru-hikers that we interviewed in our Buying Advice Article specifically wore these pants and loved them for the size and number of the pockets.

The elastic waistband and belt provide some additional adjustment potential, and we liked that the belt came enclosed within its sleeve, and was not hanging loose. Finally, the convertible legs and vertical zippers on the bottom of the pant legs offer breathability and aeration in warmer climates. This pant was the only convertible option that had color-coded zippers on the pants to make it easier to zip them back on quickly (red goes with red; blue with blue). 8 out of 10 points.

The back pockets on these pants have a flap and velcro attachment. You can also see the side zipper pocket which is only on one side  but is good for securing valuables.
The back pockets on these pants have a flap and velcro attachment. You can also see the side zipper pocket which is only on one side, but is good for securing valuables.

These pants are the only ones that have color coded the zippers on the conversion. The other side has a blue zipper. This feature is especially handy when putting the legs back on  as you can quickly and easily tell what side goes where.
These pants are the only ones that have color coded the zippers on the conversion. The other side has a blue zipper. This feature is especially handy when putting the legs back on, as you can quickly and easily tell what side goes where.

Best Applications


Very solid hiking, backpacking, and multi-day travel pants. We highly recommended this contender if you are looking for a single pair of pants to hike the PCT or other long trail in, and would perform great as a single trekking pant for higher ranges like the Himalaya (plenty of room for long underwear). Due to their heavy and warm nature, they will be better in cooler climates, and despite their conversion feature, we wouldn't recommend them for warmer areas.

Winter time testing meant trips to the desert  and no need to battle the crowds in the world-famous Subway feature in the Zion National Park backcountry.
Winter time testing meant trips to the desert, and no need to battle the crowds in the world-famous Subway feature in the Zion National Park backcountry.

Value


Considering their durability and versatility, we think this offers great value, and are sure that you are going to get a lot of time in these pants before you consider them worn out. We think they provide such good value that we are happy to call them our Best Buy.

The Paramount Peak II Convertibles are one of our favorite pants for hiking in cooler temperatures. Their thick and heavy fabric helps hold in the heat and they unzip into shorts when the temperatures climb.
The Paramount Peak II Convertibles are one of our favorite pants for hiking in cooler temperatures. Their thick and heavy fabric helps hold in the heat and they unzip into shorts when the temperatures climb.

Conclusion


These hiking pants are OutdoorGearLab's Best Buy Award winner because they offer great longevity for an affordable price. They are a well-made, well-designed hiking pant that is ideal for world travelers and seasoned hikers. These are not a multi-purpose pant good for all sports, but handle well in inclement weather, are durable, and if you are looking for a breathable warm pair of pants for your hiking and exploration of the world, are a great fit.

Andy Wellman

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Most recent review: January 18, 2018
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