I tried $90 unisex travel pants that fold down into their own front pocket — here's what they're like in person
These Kickstarter-funded travel pants from Coalatree are the most comfortable pants I've ever worn. They're unisex, water-resistant, and flattering on my 5-foot-7 frame, with deep pockets that are usually reserved for menswear. There's also a pair of shorts with the same features and functions. Better still, you can't tell that they're travel pants, so you can wear them around cities without looking like a tourist.
I'm always struggling to find a good pair of travel pants that check all the boxes. Not only do they need to look good in photos, but they also need to fit well and be comfortable to wear for hours. As if that weren't enough, they also should be stain-, wrinkle-, and smell-proof, and durable enough for active travel. So when I finally tried the Kickstarter-backed Coalatree Trailhead Pant, I completely changed my mind.
Now, I've never supported a crowdfunding project, and I'm apparently part of the minority as crowdfunded projects raised just under $800 million in revenue in the US in 2016, according to an annual report from The Crowdfunding Agency. The Coalatree pants raised $400,000 on Kickstarter, giving them the record for the platform's highest-funded technical pant.
Given the amount of money raised, I had high expectations for Coalatree — and I wasn't disappointed. Coalatree has somehow checked all the boxes with its Trailhead Pant.
The pants are unisex, and available in a slim or regular fit. The unisex design means women get access to features usually reserved for men's pants — hello, deep pockets!
Maybe the best thing about these pants is their versatility. The extreme stretch and super-durable construction mean they're well suited for rock climbing, hiking, and active pursuits. But the tailored look, clean lines, and elegant fabric allow you to pair them with a button-down shirt or even flats for a business-casual look. As a traveler, they're ideal for when you don't know what activities are on the day's agenda.
What good is durable, functional clothing if you hate the way it makes you look? Fortunately, the Trailhead Pants are, in my opinion, extremely flattering. I'm 5-foot-7 inches and a US size 8, so it can be a challenge to find well-cut clothing with middle-of-the-road proportions that look good in person and in photos.
I wear a small in the unisex Trailhead Pant, or a medium in the slim fit. I particularly like the way the slim fit pants feel — they're fitted on my hips and rear so as not to add any unnecessary bulk, but roomy enough in the legs and knees to create a slimming, tailored look. I don't like tights so it's nice to have a pair of flattering pants that straddle the line between "too fitted" and "oddly baggy." The fabric is a nylon and Spandex mix with a waterproof coating, similar to lightweight dress pants.
The Trailhead Pant comes in a variety of earth-tone colors like brown and grey, as well as a blue-ish shade similar to jeans. If you're planning to wear them to the office or for sightseeing around Europe, the black should be almost indistinguishable from tailored dress pants in photos.
Easy to wear for long travel days
These pants are easy to wear, assuming you're familiar with how to put on pants, of course.
What's worth a mention is how easy it is to wear them for long days or weeks, no matter what activity you have in store. I find them ideal for travel because they can go from sightseeing to hiking to extended bus rides without wrinkling, stretching, or gaining that delightful sweaty travel smell.
And if you're traveling in extremely warm conditions, Coalatree makes a Trailhead Short (which is gender-specific) with a just-long-enough 3-inch inseam for women and an 8-inch inseam for men.
High-tech and travel-friendly features
The pant's unique travel features are what makes the Trailhead Pants a must-pack for me on trips.
The waterproof coating ensures that beads of water slide off rather than soaking in, and the antimicrobial (read: anti-smell) fabric is designed to wick sweat and moisture away quickly. The elastic waistband and stretch fabric keeps it from pinching at the waist, which may be why I've slept in them on several international flights.
The pockets are more than deep enough for a large phone or passport, and one of the back pockets securely closes to stash valuable items — features that are rarely found in womens' pants. If you're walking through puddles, or you're more petite than I am, the drawstring cuffs at the bottom make it easy to shorten the legs by a few inches.
A final feature worth mentioning is one usually reserved for down jackets and blankets. The Trailhead Pant (or short) can pack up into its own front pocket for easy packing, or to use as a pillow if you're resourceful. This saves so much valuable space.
Cons to consider
I've noticed just one issue with my pants and it's one I'm willing to overlook.
I have rather muscular calves thanks to mountain biking, which means I can't pull the ankle drawstrings up as high as I'd like on my legs. While the product photos occasionally show the pants pulled up near the bottom of the knee, mine are uncomfortably tight when adjusted that high.
I've also found that the drawstrings around the ankles and waist are a bit long, though both would be easy to trim if I cared enough to do so.
The bottom line
I'd recommend these pants to everyone, but especially to active and adventurous travelers.
If you're trying to pack light and get multiple days of wear from one pair of pants, but still look put-together in travel photos, do yourself a serious favor and try these pants. At $89 a pair, the price is a bit steep for pants, but the versatility and design have convinced me that they're a smart and long-term investment. I'd recommend the slim fit if you have lean legs or like your clothing a bit more fitted.
I love this pant, if you couldn't tell. They're flattering and designed to blend practicality and durability with a simple, streamlined design. Sure, they cost a bit more than a pair of sweatpants, but sweatpants aren't going to serve you well on hiking trails or during international urban exploration.
- Clean lines and simple design flatter many body types
- Versatile enough to wear hiking or going to work
- Pants come in two fit options, and have an elastic waistband
- Material has four-way stretch, and is rip-proof, waterproof, and odor-proof
- Great for wearing several days on end during travel
- Unisex design offers women features usually reserved for men's pants, like deeper pockets and a gusseted (roomier and more flexible) crotch area
- A little pricey — Trailhead Pants are $89 and Trailhead shorts are $69
- The ankle cuff might be a little snug for people with thicker calves
- You may need to trim the drawstring if you find the longer length annoying.