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RailRiders Eco Mesh Pants: A Love Affiar

RailRiders EcoMesh Pants
RailRiders EcoMesh Pants

I just bought another pair of Railrider’s Eco Mesh Pants. This will be my tenth pair and the 9th year in a row that I plan on wearing them for hiking and backpacking trips.

Going through one pair of hiking pants per year may seem a bit extreme to you, but I really beat the heck out of my pants on 3 season, multi-day backpacking trips. Over the course of spring, summer, and fall I’ll wear one pair of pants for about 80 backpacking days covering about 1000 miles per year.

That’s just for overnights. I also do a lot of long day hikes, so add another 20 days per year to that. So by the end of each year, my pants are so filthy that no amount of washing or soaking can get the mud or sweat stains out of them.

The reason I love RailRiders Eco-Mesh pants is the venting. There are 27″ long zippers that the run along the outside of each leg and can be opened to ventilate your more delicate parts if you start to sweat between the thighs or along your calves. RailRiders is the only manufacturer that I know of that makes pants with these vertical vents.

I started wearing these pants in 2008, when I decided to give up wearing shorts for hiking to avoid tick borne illnesses. I know too many people who’ve contracted them. During those first two years, I sprayed Permethrin on my shirts and pants at the beginning of each season to kill mosquitoes and ticks that landed on the fabric. Sawyer sells Permethrin by the bottle and it really works.

Starting is 2012, RailRiders came out with Eco Mesh pants that are pre-treated with Insect Shield. This is a longer lasting, commercial version of Permethrin, that lasts for 70 washings.

In addition to bug protection, their pants are extremely soft and quick to dry, making them great hiking pants. They’re worth every penny I’ve spent on them over the years! 6 years later, I’m still wearing them!

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.

Written 2012. Updated 2018.

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  1. I bought a pair of Eco Mesh pants a couple years ago and love ’em. With the ability to regulate temps via the zipper down the side, I haven’t been too cold or too hot in them–they’re “Just right!”

    I recently bought a couple of their shirts for my layering system.

  2. Hey Phil, I’m looking to purchase a pair of Eco Mesh pants and I’m curious about the sizing. It looks like the waist is elastic on the side and I’m right on the cusp of two sizes. Small or Medium – I wear 32″ in jeans but some other shorts like RipCurl or Columbia I also wear 33″ and 34″ and rely more on my belt. How tight is the elastic on the side? My only comparison is generic REI Sahara pants and shorts which have tight elastic. Tight enough to make me stop wearing the Small’s I own.

  3. I got one of Railriders' shirts for my upcoming desert hiking. I've heard nothing but rave reviews for the pants, so I'm hoping the shirts are just as good. They sure look nice, anyway. Unfortunately, I don't think mine has insect shield… that would be nice from what I hear about the bugs in the Sierras.

  4. Where can I buy these pants?

  5. Hi Philip!
    I love the Rail Riders Eco Mesh pants too. I did an online search and couldn’t find any pants with similar side vents. I’m actually amazed that more manufacturers aren’t designing pants like these. They’re so versatile! Are you ever able to find them on sale (they’re currently $86 a pair)? If so, what time of year, and on what website? Thanks!

  6. Thanks for the review on an unusual design of summer hiking pants. RR pants are the “Hilleberg” of outdoor pants, durable but pricey.

    I’ve found that I really like Duluth Trading Company light synthetic pants for summer. They have a generous crotch gusset and many useful features for a much lower price than RR pants. The same goes for DT’s nylon fleece lined cargo pants, my favorite winter pants.

  7. Got a pair of these pants and RailRider’s Insect Shield shirt at Section Hiker’s recommendation, and have been wearing them all spring and summer. The zip vents on the legs work great, though you have to be careful about the zipper snagging or the mesh getting caught on brush. The weight of the fabric is perfect — light but not fragile. I can’t testify how well the insect shield works against ticks, but when everyone else was getting eaten alive by biting flies, the winged raptors never even landed on me. I’ve ordered a second set. (On sale right now.)

    • Philip, have you heard anything about the Railrider Bone Flats pants? Made by the same company, they feature permanent mesh (without the zipper) both inside and outside the pant legs. They aren’t treated with Insect Shield, but that can be done with permethrin after purchase. They are made with lighter nylon than the Eco-Mesh pants, 1.5 ounce nylon instead of 3 ounce nylon. Any comment?

      • I have used Bone Flats (BF) for 80+ summer weather and transition to the EcoMesh (EM) when the low temps get into the 40’s for 3 years.

        the BF are almost as cool as shorts because the dual vents allows air to flow through the legs freely. They are essentially as cool as shorts in my book. I treat all my stuff with Permethrin, so the non-treatment on the BF is no big deal. The only downside to the BF is you cant close the vents, so they become cold even with long johns when the weather gets below 50, and the outside mesh is prone to snag and shred on prickly brush or abusive terrain. the EM mesh has similar durability issues, but you can open the vents from the knee-up if the stickers are low down, or temporarily zip them all the way if brush busting. The nylon fabric has held up fine on both pants.

        The main downside to the EM is they are horrendously ugly. They are essentially pleated MC Hammer pants. The leg diameter is large even with the vents closed, then the vents add 2″ more circumference making them comically large. The upside is they ‘billow’ and exchange air effectively, making them cool in hot weather, but they are technical looking at best. indeed, rail riders makes some well made, comfortable, but horrendously ugly clothing and the EM pants are up there. the BF are more normal and have a normal cut.

        I love both pants and just bought replacements. For 3 season weather, they cannot be beat.

  8. Another question. I see from an earlier post that you used to wear Ex Officio Sandfly pants. How come you came to prefer the Railriders?

  9. Of course they don’t make them in women’s sizing. Disappointing.

  10. What color do you recommend, especially for sun/heat protection?

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