Kuhl Freeflex Roll-Up Pants - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Incredible fit, soft and flexible fabric that doesn’t sag, dries quickly
Cons: Does not block wind, no secure smartphone pocket
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Kuhl Freeflex Roll-Up Pants - Women's
|Price||Check Price at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$48.92 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
$79.95 at REI
|Check Price at REI|
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|$44.99 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Incredible fit, soft and flexible fabric that doesn’t sag, dries quickly||Very comfortable, versatile, wind and water resilient||Mobile, wide range of fit options, vents and breaths wonderfully, good pockets||Incredibly light, soft with endless stretch, breathable, DWR finish||Lightweight, easy to move in, breathable|
|Cons||Does not block wind, no secure smartphone pocket||Fit can be hard to perfect, not as breathable as the previous version||Doesn't block the wind, not a great style around town||Not the most flattering, low rise can be uncomfortable||Material pills, front pockets are small, sizing is off|
|Bottom Line||These comfortable and thoughtfully constructed pants fit and feel like a dream and work wonderfully on and off-trail||With their endless mobility, comfortable details, and technical abilities, these are our favorite overall women's hiking pants||These 2-in-1 convertible hiking pants work wonderfully, providing great breathability and excellent value||Incredibly soft, flowy, and stretchy, these pants are comfortable, except for the low rise, which can make the crotch feel tight||A lightweight, breathable, and weather resistant pair of pants that perform adequately to get you out on the trails without spending a ton|
|Rating Categories||Kuhl Freeflex Roll-Up||Outdoor Research Fe...||REI Co-op Sahara Co...||Mountain Hardwear D...||Columbia Saturday T...|
|Comfort and Mobility (35%)|
|Venting And Breathability (20%)|
|Weather Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||Kuhl Freeflex Roll-Up||Outdoor Research Fe...||REI Co-op Sahara Co...||Mountain Hardwear D...||Columbia Saturday T...|
|Measured Weight, Size Regular||11.9 oz||9.5 oz||12 oz||4.1 oz||9.2 oz|
|Size options and versions||0 to 16, Plus||0 to 14||0 to 26w, Petitie, Regular, Plus, Tall||XS - XL||2 to 24w Short, Regular, Plus, Long|
|Fabric||50% polyester/50% new polyester||86% bluesign nylon (46% recylce), 14% spandex 90D stretch woven ripstop||96% recycled nylon/4% spandex||94% Nylon, 6% Elastane||Omni-Shield Summiteer Lite 96% Nylon, 4% Elastane|
|Fabric Features||FreeFlex||Quick-dry||Quick dry||Ultralight||Omni-Shield advanced repellency|
|UPF?||UPF 50+||UPF 50+||UPF 50+||No rating||UPF 50|
|Pockets||2 hand, 2 back (snap), 2 thigh (snap)||2 hip, 2 back, 1 cargo||2 hand, 2 back, 2 cargo||2 side, 1 rear, 1 zippered thigh||2 hand, 1 side (zip), 2 back (Velcro)|
|Zip-Off or Roll-Up?||Roll-Up||Roll-up cinch cuffs||Zip-off||Roll-up||Roll-up|
|Integrated Belt?||Yes, internal drawcord||Yes||Yes, internal drawcord||No||No|
|Fit Features||Wide waistband with internal drawcord, mid rise, relaxed fit, straight leg||Gusseted crotch, articulated knees, drawstring at waist, stretch fabric, harness-compatible waist||Mid rise, convert to shorts, relaxed fit, straight leg, 2 inseam lengths||Three inseam length options, elastic waist, stretch fabric||Gusseted crotch, mid rise, straight leg, convertible to capris|
|Social or Environmental Certifications||None known||86% is bluesign approved nylon (46% is recycled)||Contains materials that meet the bluesign® criteria
Contains recycled materials
Our Analysis and Test Results
These are among the most comfortable pants in the review. They feel more like sweatpants while somehow leaving you feeling polished. During our tests, we found ourselves pulling these on for days that moved from meetings to errands to quick side hikes on the way home. The fabric is thicker and more structured than many options in the review, yet it still breathes well, which we’ll discuss more below. That thickness helps you buffer against human-climate challenges of air conditioning and cold plastic seats.
Comfort and Mobility
As we’ve said, the Kulh Freeflex pants are exceptionally comfortable. The polyester fabric’s mechanical stretch, which adds give to the structure without adding spandex, lets it move with you. We never felt restricted while wearing these pants. They work well for all of our favorite activities from yoga, climbing, and water sports to actually hiking. That movement, when combined with their incredible fit, soft fabric, and lasting structure often made them an irresistible choice.
Let’s talk about that fit. It’s remarkably good. These pants seem to have some of the most thoughtful construction in the test, sewing numerous panels together to create some sort of trail magic. They fit like a glove.
A mid-rise in the front shifts to a high-rise in the back, a combination we enjoy day to day. No more gapping to expose your low back every time you sit down. That said, the low rise in the front doesn’t work as well with a climbing harness or backpack strap. It tends to sit below them. And, since the back is higher, it is captured by the pack or harness. This pushes the front of the pants forward awkwardly. They aren’t the best option for thru-hikes for this reason.
We find the thigh to waist size ratio to work wonderfully, with very little gapping. Our lead tester is fairly curvy, and these pants have plenty of room for her legs and bum while still nipping comfortably in at the waist.
They do stretch out some with wear. (What they don’t seem to do is sag, more about that later.) And of course, your size is likely to fluctuate throughout the months and years. So we appreciate that they include an internal drawstring.
The drawstring is very thin and lightweight, which is great when you aren’t using it since it’s so easy to keep out of the way. But we were afraid it would feel too narrow to distribute pressure properly when we used it. We gave it a try on a hike after a day of wear loosened up the waist. We can tell the band is thin when we think about it. But it works fine as long as you don’t tie it too tightly.
When you first pull these pants on, you notice the weight of the pockets on the sides. At first, we thought they would be annoying or uncomfortable, but they blend into the background pretty quickly. Another noteworthy feature is the extra panel of fabric that runs along the inseam, shifting the seem itself forward on the pants, this seems to limit inner thigh chaffing and may serve a similar purpose to a gusset.
We really appreciate that you can choose between three inseam options. That goes such a long way to making your hiking pants comfortable. So you're not tripping over your hems and you don't have to take it to a tailor or deal with sewing. You can also roll the hems up and hold them in place with a dedicated strap and button. We do wish they came in plus sizes. Currently, they’re offered in sizes 0 to 16.
Venting and Breathability
The thicker fabric is nice when you’re bushwacking, spending part of the day indoors, or on a cooler day. On long summer days in the hottest conditions on exposed trails, it’s less ideal. Particularly in the darker color schemes. That said, these pants do breathe well, letting your heat and sweat escape the fabric. They aren’t the best, but they’re good enough to work in a range of warmer weather temperatures.
They also include straps with snap buttons that hold up both sides of a rolled-up hem. This venting system does wonders to cool you off on a warm day. You don’t need the straps to hold up your hems, but they really help when you’re hiking, especially through brush or when it’s raining.
The Khul pants shade you from the sun with a 50+ UPF rating and they hold light rain and mist at bay with a C6 durable water repellant (DWR) coating. That kept us happy when SUPing in the sun or taking our dogs for daily swims. When they come to stand right beside you to shake off, it’s gratifying to shake the water right back.
Though they kept us dry on many a misty, drizzly hike, they soaked through almost immediately in our shower “downpour” test. They do dry quite quickly, though slower than some other options, so they aren’t our top pick for water wear.
DWR treatments historically contained toxic, forever chemicals that can harm humans and the environment. The C6 DWR treatment used here is becoming more common in the industry. Since it's made of a shorter chain of Fluorocarbon it should break down more easily, which isn't the most comforting statement. You can read a bit more about this issue in the main body of the women's hiking pants review.
The fabric is a nice mid-weight. And, even though these pants aren’t windproof, you don’t feel a chill with every light breeze. They work well into the shoulder season, and you can always add a base layer underneath or rainpants on top to extend your range of comfort. While they feel light and breathable enough on a warmer day, they're not your best bet for scorching weather.
We already told you about the useful straps to hold up your hems and the drawstring at the waist. Now we go to that all-important and somewhat controversial topic, pockets. To sum it up, they’re okay.
Front pockets in women’s pants seldom do more than hold your hands. These work for that purpose, and that’s about it. While the fabric is thicker than many hiking pants, and the pocket is made of the same fabric instead of mesh, it’s still not burly enough to keep whatever you’re carrying from pressing against your skin while you walk. The same is true of the back pockets. They also have a snap button closure that is a bit bulky and seems unnecessary. We don't notice it often though.
If hiking pants are going to have thigh pockets, we want them to be off to the side, so whatever is in them doesn’t press into our thighs with every step. These pockets aren't large enough to secure larger smartphones or those in a case. You can carry them but then you won’t be able to snap the button closed, so they aren’t as secure as we’d like.
We like these hiking pants for day hikes or days that take you from the office to the trailhead. The quality fabric feels polished and these pants do look pretty smart. And while they do stretch out a bit with multiple wears, they never seem to pick up the saggy appearance that makes us feel sloppy. These might not be the most fashionable pants ever. (Our review team was a bit split on the subject.) But their comfort, excellent fit, and structured nature gave us cleaner lines and helped us feel put together when wearing them. They would also be great for traveling.
Since their waistline doesn’t work that well under a backpack strap or climbing harness, we don’t recommend these pants for thru-hikes or climbing trips. And, because they aren’t the best a blocking wind, they wouldn’t be our first choice for longer trips in the alpine, or anywhere temperatures could drop unexpectedly.
They do seem sturdy enough to handle some off-trail adventures like canyoneering or scrambling though. In our abrasion tests, rough granite didn’t faze the fabric. And, since these pants are on the thicker side, they’re good candidates for shoulder season layering. Adding a base layer beneath these or a wind-blocking layer on top of them would extend their temperature range.
The Kuhl’s impressive versatility, comfort, and sturdiness make them a solid value at their price point. Their quick-drying nature and effective DWR coating sweeten the deal. And, if they fit you as well as they fit our testers, you will wear them so often that the cost-per-wear will be a total bargain.
Kuhl’s stated “Standards” claim that they promote a fair and safe supply chain, that they strive to use sustainable materials when possible, and that they work to create a circular economy when possible. They do not provide any information about the sustainability or labor standards they met when creating the Freeflex pants.
For us, these pants are an excellent option for day trips and afternoon hikes after a casual day at the office. You can even fit in some yoga or bouldering and look good doing it. These are just some great hiking pants.
— Clark Tate
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