The most honest and in-depth reviews of outdoor sports equipment on the planet.

Men’s Everyday Casual / Tech Pants

Intro

Pants are great. You can climb in them, bike in them, work in them, hang out with friends in them, or just park yourself on the couch in them while binge-watching Netflix all day.

Just a few years ago, you pretty much had two options when looking for a new pair of pants. You could either (a) go with a standard, all-cotton option that looks normal but doesn’t really offer much in the form of water resistance, stretch, or any extra features, or (b) you could go with some technical pants that might provide better performance, but looked out of place anywhere but on the trail.

Things have changed significantly over the past few years, however, and with more and more companies catering to those who want casual apparel with technical features, there are now a large number of options in this once-niche market.

I’ve had a chance to test several pants in this category, using them while bike commuting every day, hiking, climbing, and even for some spring / summer skiing. Most of the options here are on the slimmer side, but for those who prefer a looser fit, several of them are available in a few different fit options. Whether it’s better breathability, water resistance, stretch, durability, or warmth, there are options for everyone here.

 

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SWRVE Midweight Slim Trousers

SWRVE Midweight Slim Trousers

Fabric: 90% Nylon, 10% Spandex

Stated Features

  • low waist in front to prevent your belt from digging into your gut
  • higher waist in back to stay respectable and to keep you warm
  • seamless diamond gusset for comfort
  • reinforced reflective belt loops
  • jean-style back pockets
  • additional small rear pocket
  • two front pen pockets
  • high quality YKK zippers
  • steel jeans-style button
  • reinforced pocket entry for durability
  • water and wind resistant
  • 4-way stretch

MSRP: $125

Reviewer: 5’8”, 155 lbs

Size Tested: 31×31

Days Tested: ~40

 

SWRVE is a relatively young brand that makes clothing they describe as being “designed to function in the great outdoors & work just as well every day in the office, bar, & beyond.” Their Midweight Trousers have several cycling-oriented features such as reflective belt loops and a low front waist and high rear waist. The nylon/spandex fabric is the heaviest of the soft shell pants here, and has a good combination of stretch, durability, and weather resistance. I usually reach for these pants when I know it’s going to be cooler and/or precipitating. The thicker fabric offers a bit of insulation for cold bike rides, although it is not fully windproof. The SWRVE trousers were the most water-resistant out of all the pants, even after several washes. In dry snow and very light rain, I was able to bike without the fabric wetting out. However, as with all the other pants, wet snow and anything more than a drizzle of rain eventually led to the pants wetting out on bike rides longer than ~10 minutes. Once out of the rain, the trousers dried quicker than traditional cotton pants, and I was able to brush off any grime from the wet ride.

I tested the Midweight Trousers in SWRVE’s “slim” fit, and I’d say this is a good description compared to other “slim” pants I’ve worn. I would say they fit a bit wider through the thigh compared to the Prana Brion, but have a more tapered leg from the knee to the ankle. Despite the slim fit, I never felt restricted by the trousers, something that I attribute to the great degree of stretch in the fabric. It’s also worth noting that, because of the stretch in the fabric, the pants don’t drape quite like a standard cotton pant, and therefore don’t look quite as slim as a similar pant with a stiffer fabric.

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Luke Koppa in the SWRVE Midweight Trousers, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO.

The Midweight Trouser’s features are well-suited to bike commuting, and I particularly appreciated the offset waist height. I always wear a belt with an aluminum buckle that has a tendency to dig into my stomach while biking. The low front waist on the SWRVE trousers does a good job of preventing this, and the high rear waist spares the people behind me from anything unsightly. The SWRVE trousers have a standard 5-pocket layout, plus an extra small rear pocket that I don’t often use, sewn pen slots in the front pockets, and have two reflective belt loops in the back that offer increased visibility.

I would recommend the SWRVE Midweight Trousers as an everyday pant for shoulder season use. The midweight fabric offers a good blend of warmth, water resistance, and freedom of movement. They work very well for biking, but they’ve also become my favorite pant for camping and hiking trips when the temperatures are in the 30-65 degree Fahrenheit range. SWRVE also offers the trousers in a looser “regular fit,” and lightweight nylon, heavier softshell, and cotton fabric options.

 

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SWRVE Cordura Slim Jeans

SWRVE Cordura Slim Jeans

Fabric: 55% cotton, 30% polyester, 15% Cordura Nylon

Stated Features:

  • front coin pocket
  • low waist in front to prevent your belt from digging into your gut
  • higher waist in back to stay respectable and to keep you warm
  • diamond gusset for comfort
  • rear accessories pocket
  • reflective strip on both inside legs that are exposed when you roll up your cuff
  • high-quality YKK metal zipper
  • rivets for durability

MSRP: $100

Size Tested: 32×32

Days Tested: ~40

 

SWRVE’s Cordura jeans have quickly become one of my favorite everyday jeans (it’s a tough call between them and the Mission Workshop Mission Jean). Like the other SWRVE pants, they feature a lower waist in front and higher waist in back, which feels great both on a bike and simply while sitting down. I tested the Cordura Jeans in SWRVE’s slim fit, and I’d say it’s pretty similar to something like Levi’s 511 fit, though with a bit more room in the thigh, which I appreciated. The Slim Cordura Jeans seemed a bit slimmer from the knee down compared to SWRVE’s Slim Midweight Trousers, but that might just be a result of the different fabrics. If you want an even slimmer, or more relaxed fit, SWRVE also offers the Cordura Jean in “skinny” and “regular” fits.

The first thing I noticed about the SWRVE Cordura Jeans is their fabric — it has a significantly softer hand feel compared to the other cotton pants here. This was especially surprising since the main benefit SWRVE claims regarding the Cordura Jeans is their durability.

SWRVE says that, “in a rub test conducted by CORDURA® (Martindale Abrasion BS EN ISO 12947-2:1999 Standard Woolen Abrasion with 12KPa weight), regular 100% cotton denim held up to between 75,000 to 25,000 rubs (depending on number of times the denim was washed) compared to the same weight CORDURA® denim where they stopped the tests at 250,000 rubs on all samples because the denim was just not wearing through.”

That’s a pretty impressive claim, so I was very surprised to find that this supposedly ultra-abrasion-resistant fabric was so soft and comfortable. As far as durability goes, only time will tell if they prove to be that much more durable than standard jeans, but at least so far, they’re doing just fine, and I’ll update this review when I have anything new to report.

In terms of features, the Cordura Jeans have the standard 5-pocket layout plus an extra back pocket for smaller accessories. They have a generously gusseted crotch that gives them plenty of mobility. They also feature thin reflective piping on the interior of the legs for added visibility when you need it.

Overall, the SWRVE Cordura Jeans are extremely comfortable pants that have a cut that’s great for biking and everyday wear, and, if Cordura’s testing results are reflected in actual use, the fabric should hold up to wear better than standard cotton denim. On top of that, they’re available in three different fits for a variety of preferences.

 

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Prana Brion Pants

Prana Brion Pant

Fabric: 97% Nylon, 3% Spandex

Stated Features:

  • 5-pocket styling with fixed waist and beltloops
  • Reinforced rivet details
  • Mesh pocketing
  • Slim fit

MSRP: $75

Size Tested: 31×31

Days Tested: ~50

 

The Brion has been in Prana’s line for a while now, and is their more urban-styled version of the popular Stretch Zion Pant. The fabric is a light soft shell Nylon/Spandex blend that sits between the Topo Designs Tech Pant and SWRVE Midweight Trousers in terms of weight, water resistance, and breathability. The DWR blocks water fairly well, but is really more effective at preventing stains than keeping out water during 15+ minute rainy bike rides. It does dry a bit faster than the SWRVE trousers, but not as fast as the Topo Designs Tech Pants.

Prana states that the Brion falls under the brand’s “slim fit”, but I wouldn’t say it’s completely in line with the other slim pants in Prana’s line. I own the old Kavitz Cord and Tucson Pant from Prana, and while they’re similar to the Brion through the thigh, I’d say they both fit slimmer from the knee down compared to the Brion. Most of the pants here fit similarly slim through the thigh, but the Brion has the widest lower leg, which is fairly straight, and doesn’t really taper from the knee down.

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Luke Koppa in the Prana Brion Pants, Fort Collins, CO.

The Brion doesn’t have any special features, and looks pretty similar to any regular 5-pocket pant. It’s worked well for summer climbing and camping when I want the increased coverage of a pant instead of shorts but still need good breathability and freedom of movement. I’d recommend the Brion to someone who wants a pant that doesn’t look out of place in town, but breathes and moves well during time spent outside in cool to warm temperatures.

 

Men's everyday pants review on Blister Review

Betabrand Bike to Work Britches

Betabrand Bike to Work Britches

Fabric: 99% cotton, 1% spandex

Stated Features:

  • Classic five-pocket styling.
  • Gusseted crotch for more comfort while in the saddle.
  • U-lock loop in the back left waistband.
  • Internal phone pocket built into the wearer’s right pocket bag (pocketing is poly-cotton blend).
  • Antique brass rivets at front hand pockets and coin pocket, and a coordinating antique brass tack button at fly.

MSRP: $108

Size Tested: 32×32

Days Tested: ~20

 

Betabrand’s Bike to Work Britches are fairly simple jeans that have several cycling-specific features that set them apart from your standard denim pants. The fabric is pretty hefty, and is the heaviest of the cotton blends here. However, it does have a bit of stretch that is noticeable both while biking and just walking around. The Bike to Work Britches have a fairly straight fit, and are pretty close the Prana Brion in terms of fit, though I’d still say they’re slimmer than most brand’s “regular” fit.

In terms of features, the Bike to Work Britches have a large reflective flap that you can keep tucked into the back left pocket when not in use, or drop down outside the pocket for a pretty noticeable boost in visibility at night. In addition to the back flap, the pants also have reflective piping on the inside of the leg seams, as well as a large reflective patch. When it comes to nighttime visibility on a bike, the Bike to Work Britches are the best option here.

The Bike to Work Britches also feature a reinforced U-lock loop at the back of the waistband that is great if you need a quick spot to stow your lock on the go. The belt loops have smaller loops sewn to hang a carabiner with your keys, and the pants have a slightly higher back waist and lower front waist, though it’s a bit less noticeable than the SWRVE pants. A gusseted crotch rounds out the list of notable features.

I think what sets the Bike to Work Britches apart from the other options here are their features, fabric, and fit. They have the heaviest fabric, lots of bike-specific features, and a straighter fit. So, if that description sounds interesting to you, the Betabrand Bike to Work Britches could be a great upgrade from your standard jeans.

 

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Topo Designs Tech Pants

Topo Designs Tech Pants

Fabric: 96% nylon, 4% spandex

Stated Features:

  • Trim fit
  • Gusseted crotch
  • Adjustable quick-release T-lock belt
  • Large top-stitched front pockets with reinforced stress point stitching
  • Large rear pockets with inner zip wallet security pocket
  • Cinch cord lock at the ankle
  • Durable Water Repellent finish

MSRP: $149

Size Tested: Medium

Days Tested: ~75

 

The Topo Designs Tech Pants use the lightest fabric in the group. Like the other soft shell pants, the Tech Pant’s fabric is very stretchy and comfortable, but is lighter and much more breathable than the others. This increase in breathability comes at a price — the Tech Pants provide the least degree of water resistance. While biking in the rain, they were the only pants where I could actually feel water running down my legs inside the pants. However, the Tech Pants were also the quickest drying of all the pants. After being completely saturated on the bike ride to work, the pants dried completely after only about thirty minutes inside at room temperature.

The Tech pants are slim through the thigh while tapering from the knee to the ankle, more so than the Prana Brion, and fairly similar to the SWRVE Midweight Trousers. The knees have two articulation darts that give the pants more range of motion, and this is noticeable while climbing and biking. Despite the darts, the Tech Pants still have a clean look.

Men's everyday pants review on Blister Review

Luke Koppa in the Topo Designs Tech Pants, Fort Collins, CO. (photo by Eric Mills)

The Tech Pants have deep, topstitched slant front and back pockets and one zippered back pocket. They also have an integrated belt and elastic in the waistband. Personally, I like having the option to use my own belt, but some might prefer the Tech Pant’s belt. One issue I have noticed with the pants is the use of a snap closure at the top of the fly, which has come undone on a few occasions. The pants also have a drawcord at the hem of the ankle opening, allowing you to cinch it over or above your footwear. Initially, I was going to just snip the cord right away as I thought I wouldn’t use it and it seemed out of place on a pant that I’d be using often in town. However, after cinching the cords over my boots while on a hike that involved a depressing amount of postholing, I was impressed by how well they prevented snow from getting into my boots, so I have held off on removing them (they’re also useful for cinching pant cuffs while biking).

I would recommend the Tech Pants to people that favor breathability over water resistance, or find themselves in warmer, drier environments. Since receiving the Tech Pants, they’ve become my go-to for nearly everything that the summer climate in Colorado offers.

 

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Mission Workshop Mission Jeans

Mission Workshop Mission Jean

Fabric: 55% cotton, 35% polyamide, 10% elastine

Stated Features:

  • Extreme 4-way stretch
  • Will not bag out
  • Highly breathable + wicks moisture
  • Next-generation water-repellent (DWR) finish
  • Soft, natural cotton hand

MSRP: $285

Size Tested: 32×32

Days Tested: ~40

 

The first thing about the Mission Jeans that caught my eye was the price. At $285, they’re by far the most expensive pant here. There are a few things behind that price. First, Mission Workshop sews the pants in L.A., so the domestic manufacturing — and Mission’s lifetime guarantee that goes along with it — certainly adds to the cost. Second, they use an exclusive Italian fabric for the Mission Jeans, and after trying them on for the first time, I became far less skeptical of the high price.

These jeans stretch more than any pant I’ve ever worn before. The fabric seems to have no end to the amount of stretch — it just keeps going. Despite this, the fabric still feels and looks pretty much like normal denim, and has not bagged out at all during my use so far. In addition to the ridiculous amount of stretch, the Mission Jean is treated with a DWR, and though it doesn’t repel water as well as the soft shell options here, it does fend off the occasional spilled beverage better than any non-treated cotton fabric.

The Mission Jean is available in two fits — slim and straight. I wore the slim fit, which is the same as the straight fit from the waist to the knee, but is 1” narrower from the knee to the cuff. I’d say the Mission Jean in the slim fit is very similar to the SWRVE Cordura Jean, with maybe a slightly narrower thigh. And, thanks to the generous amount of stretch in the fabric, the Mission Jean never felt restrictive, even without a gusseted crotch or any articulation.

When it comes to features, the Mission Jean doesn’t offer anything extra besides a classic 5-pocket layout. It’s sold only in a 34” inseam, so you’ll need to hem them for a shorter length.

Though it might seem a little underwhelming on paper, the Mission Jean is extremely impressive as soon as you try it on. The fabric is truly unique, and it makes the Mission Jean one of, if not the most comfortable options here. It doesn’t offer any extra features, but as a result, the Mission Jean looks the most like a normal 5-pocket denim pant. So if you’re looking for an everyday pant and want the most stretch possible while maintaining a classic aesthetic, the Mission Jean is certainly worth a look.

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