Kuhl Renegade Cargo Convertible Hiking Pants Review

Kuhl Renegade Cargo Convertible Hiking Pants Review

KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible Pants are great for hiking, backpacking, and outdoor recreation because you can unzip and remove the lower legs if you start to overheat. They’re made with a super comfortable softshell-like fabric called Duralux which combination of nylon and spandex. They have six pockets, boot zips, a center waist snap, zipper, and require a belt.

Specs at a Glance

  • Fit: Relaxed
  • Type: Convertible Pants
  • Gender: Men’s and Women’s
  • Pockets: 6
  • Belt Required: Yes
  • Material: Nylon and Spandex
  • Water Resistance: Factory DWR Coating

Kuhl’s Renegade Convertible Pants have a full fit through the thigh, knee, and lower leg that offers great freedom of movement for scrambling over rocky ledges or crawling under blown-down trees. The fabric is a medium-weight nylon/spandex blend that’s lighter weight than a softshell pant, but heavier than thin summer hiking pants, making them a good choice for cooler temperatures in early spring or autumn. They are definitely not heavy, warm, or windproof enough for winter use unless you’re skiing in T-shirt weather.

The Kuhl Renegade Cargo Convertible Pant comes with 6 pockets.
The Kuhl Renegade Cargo Convertible Pant comes with 6 pockets.

The Cargo aspect of these pants includes 6 pockets:

  • Two cargo pockets on the outside of the thighs that close with top flaps, that stay closed with velcro patches.
  • Two mesh-lined front pockets that provide some ventilation and are open on top
  • Two rear pockets that don’t have top flaps but also stay closed with velcro patches.

There’s no inner change pocket, map pocket, or cell phone pocket, which is limiting if you’re used to that kind of extra and secure storage.

The convertible legs aren’t completely obvious and don’t have the telltale exterior flap that announces their presence, but you can still tell that they’re convertible pants even though the zipper is hidden and stealthy. In other words, you can wear them to work, but they’re not going to fool your mom. The zippers work well, as expected, but the pant legs are not color-coded which is kind of surprising, although you can figure out which leg goes with which side by the position of the boot zippers, described next.

The multiple snaps means that the cuffs can fit over larger boots.
The multiple snaps mean that the cuffs can be resized over larger boots.

It’s common for hikers to unzip half of their convertible pants legs when they start to sweat, without taking the entire leg off. One of the nice things about the Renegade zip-off legs is that they unzip rear-first, instead of front first, so you can vent the back of your knees and legs when you begin to sweat. This is more comfortable for hiking because you don’t have the zipper seam rubbing against the front of your knee, which can be annoying.

Long ankle zips make it possible to take the pant legs off without removing your shoes.
Long ankle zips make it possible to take the pant legs off without removing your shoes.

But the most intriguing and functional part of the Renegades is the lowest on the totem pole, namely their long, zippered boot zips and adjustable hems, reminiscent of Fjallraven’s more technical hiking pants. The boot zips let you take the pants’ legs off or put them on without taking off your shoes. You can also unzip the zippers to vent your lower legs: the lower leg hem has two snaps that can be closed to cinch the bottom of the pant below your ankle, even when the boots zips are open.

The Renegades have a large center waistband snap and belt loops. They come in a nice selection of earth-tone colors and are available in men’s and women’s sizes.

The Recco receiver is unobtrusive and sewn into the top flap of the cargo pocket.
The Recco receiver is unobtrusive and sewn into the top flap of the cargo pocket.

Kuhl sells a version of the Renegade Convertible Pants with a sewn-in RECCO reflector which will make you searchable to rescue workers equipped with RECCO detectors, which are particularly useful in avalanche zones to find buried victims. RECCO reflectors are lightweight, passive transponders that require no power or activation to function. But RECCO detectors are not really very widespread yet, so your best bet is to partner up skiers who have avalanche awareness training and carry avalanche transceivers, probes, and shovels. If you have to wait for a RECCO detector to arrive by helicopter (because they’re a big device), it’s going to be too late.

Care instructions

Kuhl recommends machine washing the Renegades in cold water with like colors, no bleach, and to tumble dry on low. I pretty much ignore them and throw them into the laundry on cold (no bleach) and the drier on high with everything else. Hasn’t hurt them one bit. They come out fine every time.

Other Hiking Pants We like

Make / ModelLeg StyleGenderPrice
Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking PantsConvertibleM | F$60
prAna Stretch Zion PantsRoll-upM$85
REI Sahara Convertible Hiking PantsConvertibleM | F$70
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible PantsConvertibleM | F$90
Kuhl Renegade Cargo Convertible PantsConvertibleM$99
Fjallraven Abisko Lite Trekking TrousersFull LengthM$170
Mountain Hardware AP PantsRoll-upM | F$90
Arc'teryx Palisade PantsFull-lengthM | F$159
RailRiders Eco-Mesh PantsFull LengthM$89
Fjallraven Vidda Pro PantsFull LengthM | F$150

Recommendation

Kuhl’s Renegade Convertible Pants are really comfortable to wear indoors or outside. That, in my mind, is the main reason you’d buy these pants over the many other wonderful hiking pants available today. They dry quickly and come with a DWR coating which helps keep them drier longer in the rain or on snow. Weight and warmth wise, they’re best for so-called shoulder seasons of spring and autumn when there is a chill in the air but it’s not downright cold. But the convertible legs and calf zips help extend their range into the warmer months. The cargo pockets are “OK” for more casual use, but I like more secure ones with zippers for off-the-grid hikes. On the other hand, the less obtrusive pockets make the Renegades more presentable off the trail as well as comfortable on it. If that’s what you’re looking for, these pants are a win.

Disclosure: Kuhl provided the author with a pair of these pants for review.

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4 comments

  1. Either there is a difference between the Renegade CARGO and ordinary Renegade Convertible pants or Kuhl has updated (and might suggest downgraded) them since mine from 2 years ago. I bought these because at the time they were one of the few options I could find with a 36″ inseam.

    The primary difference I can tell from your review and mine is the cargo pockets. There are snaps on mine, not velcro, and there are inner mesh pockets on both sides with the one on the left having its own zipper. The one on the right is the perfect size for a phone. I’m somewhat indifferent to the velcro versus snaps but the inner sub pockets are extremely useful for staying organized.

    They are lightweight and great for 3 seasons. I’ve also used them for dayhiking during the winter that didn’t require more substantial “snow pants” with a pair of long underwear beneath them.

    Similar to Phil I’ve just thrown them in the wash/dry as I would any of my other clothes and they don’t seem any worse for it.

    It’s never occurred to me to vent just the back of the leg by opening the convertible zipper – thanks for the idea!!

    • Sounds like they “redesigned” them. Kuhl gave me these pants to review a few months ago so I’m pretty sure they are the latest model.
      I’ll also add that they have made so many variants over the years and they evidently don’t enforce uniform reseller naming through their distribution channel that the only way you’ll know you have the latest and not some old inventory is by buying them at Kuhl.com or probably REI because they sell so fast through there.

      Opening a zipper on a convertible – either in front of the knee or from behind is an old hiker layering trick. I’m not sure if it’s just an “old hiker” trick or one that younger hikers know about too! But I really dig the fact that you can vent the back of the knee on these pants because most convertibles only open on the front.

  2. Good article, but there are no Renegades for women on either the REI or the Kuhl website. Clothing manufacturers seem to concentrate on style rather than utility or practicality for women’s hiking clothing, a continuing frustration of mine for many years.

    • I think they’re one of those (stupid) manufacturers that have different model names for men’s and women’s pants. I think the “Horizn” product line is the female equivalent of the Renegade Cargo Convertible.

      But I completely agree with you. Women’s hiking clothing is pretty “eh”.

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