I’m a big fan of Kuhl clothing. If you’re not familiar with Kuhl, they’re an outdoorwear brand that got their start selling hats to skiers out of the back of the founders’ van back in the 1980s. Over the years, they moved beyond hats (and vans) to all kinds of clothing, including my all time favourite pair of camping pants, the Radikl.
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The Radikl has been a staple of my spring and fall canoe trips for a few years now. They’re my go-to campsite pant. They’re made of a blend of cotton and nylon with just a hint of spandex thrown into the mix. They’ve also got panels made of a higher blend of nylon and spandex at strategic spots that provide flexibility to the fabric that you won’t find in other hiking pants. The net result is something that is more comfortable than my daytime tripping pants, warm enough to keep the May and September chill at bay and durable enough to stand up to all the nonsense I tend to put clothing through on any given trip. I like the pants so much that they’ve made it into my regular rotation here in the city, and more often than not are what I’ll wear for a day hike once the snow starts to melt.
Huh, given those first couple of paragraphs, you’d think this month’s review is about the Radikl pants. It’s not! It’s about another Kuhl product, their Transcendr pants.
A couple months back a Kuhl representative reached out to me to ask if I was familiar with their clothing and, if so, would I like to try out their line of wind and water resistant pants. The answer to both those questions was very much “yes”, and Kuhl was kind enough to send me a pair of their Transcendr hiking pants to test out. The pants arrived at around the same time winter did here in Ottawa, which has given me ample opportunity to put them through their paces.
To start with, unlike the Radikl which are regular pants, the Transcendr is a softshell. Different types of pants mean different expectations. As a cotton blend, I try and avoid getting the Radikl wet. The Transcendr is a nylon/spandex blend that is specifically designed to be water resistant. So far, I’ve found them to live up to this billing. I’ve worn them walking, hiking, cross country-skiing and downhill skiing in both snow and (light) freezing rain and my legs have stayed dry through it all. I haven’t had a chance to wear them in a proper rain storm (those are in short supply in Ottawa in January), but the initial brushes with precipitation have been everything I could ask for.
Comfort and Flexibility
For a softshell, I’ve found the pants to be fairly comfortable. The outside fabric feels a bit rougher, as I would imagine it should given the focus on wind and water resistance. The interior of the pants are softer and quite comfortable. Kuhl advertises the pants as having “built in stretch”, and here as well I’ve found them to live up to that promise. I’m 5’10, with a 32′ waist. The pants I got are 32×32 and they fit very nicely. They’re not baggy by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s a lot of give in the material which means you can bend in pretty much any direction without feeling constricted.
From a durability perspective, Kuhl advertises the pants as being abrasion resistant. I can’t say much about the long-term lifespan of the pants, but after wearing them about a dozen times across a variety of activities, they don’t seem to have accumulated any wear and tear. This is backed up by the feel of the pant. The fabric feels sturdy, without being heavy. They’re not going to stop a chainsaw, but they seem to do just fine with sharp sticks, frozen ground and other small hazards I typically run across (including a new puppy that loves pulling at pants cuffs).
I’ve found that once I start to move, the pants do a good job of keeping me warm. They stand up well to the wind, something I’ve put to the test a few times while skiing (I should note, I’ve been wearing a base layer under the pants for skiing). I wore them the other day for an outdoor Beaver Scouts investiture meeting, which meant standing outside in temperatures well below zero for about an hour, and found that between the pants and my base layer I stayed warm and comfortable. I wouldn’t necessarily want them to be my only layer once the temperature gets too much below zero, but they’re certainly enough in cooler temperatures and even some moderate winter weather.
Style and Design
From a style standpoint, the pants look pretty sharp. I got the Raven style (read: black). One of the interesting things about these pants in black is that they look almost like dress pants at first glance. When I showed them to my wife she couldn’t figure out why I was showing her my work pants.
The pants are well designed. They fit well, with everything where you think it should be. There’s a drawstring around the cuffs that can be used to tighten the bottom of each leg around your ankles if you want. I haven’t used this yet, but I imagine it comes in handy on rainy hikes. There are multiple pockets, each with what is simultaneously my most and least favourite feature of the pants, which we’ll talk about in the next section.
A Pro and A Con
One of my favourite features of the pants, and yet also one of the only drawbacks I’ve found with them, is that every pocket (there are six of them) is zippered. This is awesome! One of my biggest worries on a hike is losing something important (like car keys) from a pocket without realizing it. Not with these pants. I put my keys in one pocket, my ski pass in another and my phone in a third and don’t have to worry about losing any of it when I inevitably take a spill. That said, the zippered back pockets are a bit of a problem if you plan on sitting on anything that you don’t want to scratch. They stick out from the rest of the pant and are sharp enough that it left marks on a leather (or leather-like) surface. This was manageable by leaving the back pockets open, transferring the zipper to the outer edge of the pocket where it doesn’t actually touch the chair/seat material, but it’s something to keep in mind.
I like these pants. They’re marketed as a hiking pant but they translate well to any number of outdoor activities. They’re a good addition to my outdoors closet and fill in the softshell gap nicely. They retail for $129.00 US on the Kuhl website, but I’ve found that the Kuhl products I’ve owned have earned their price tag over the years. These are a great option for active winter days, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they hold up to what Algonquin can throw at them this spring.