I love hiking in shorts because they are so good at venting moisture buildup under periods of high exertion. However, there are times when it is impractical or even unsafe to wear shorts due to deer ticks, black flies or poison ivy. In these conditions, the risk of lyme disease, bug bites or a bad skin rash far outweigh being comfortable and the safest policy is wear long pants during your entire trip. Many people, myself included, are big fans of convertible hiking pants because you can turn them into shorts when you are hot. But if the bugs are biting and the weather is hot, wearing convertible hiking pants can be a miserable experience because of the sweat buildup in your crotch and down your crack.
I recently discovered an alternative to convertible pants for these conditions: RailRiders’ Eco-Mesh pants, which weigh 11.9 oz in an extra-large, short. Eco-Mesh pants have 27 inch zippers that run the length of your pant leg and unzip to reveal a mesh liner that vents moisture buildup without exposing your skin to bugs or plant oils.
I tested my the Eco-mesh pants by hiking in a park behind my office called Prospect Hill, in Waltham, Ma. This area is heavily forested and lies between the city of Waltham and Rt 128, just outside of Boston. It is also the site of an very steep hill that used to be used as a ski slope and where I do fitness training for steep ascents.
During my gear test, the temperature had climbed to a balmy 69 degrees F under sunny skies. I spent the next 60 minutes wearing a full pack, climbing the ski slope and bushwacking through the park with the Eco-Mesh side zippers open. I was surprised at how comfortable these pants were under the conditions and I am planning to take them hiking with my on the Long Trail in Vermont during black fly season.
Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.
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