To walk in nature is to witness a thousand miraclesMarie Davis
“made in the mountains”
Just how important is finding the right trousers to wear when hiking? Well, next to finding the right footwear – both shoes and socks – about as important as it gets to ensure that you’re comfortable, will stay relatively dry and can move without restriction. And my new favorite is the KÜHL Hörizn convertible for its durable, yet soft and flexible fit.
KÜHL’s tagline is “born in the mountains,” and that’s quite literally so. Founded by three skiers and a climber (living legend Conrad Anker) KÜHL is an independent brand of clothing that reflects the harsh and changeable conditions of an alpine environment as well the demands of the people who play there. And I kinda like the fact that they’re indie, without shareholders or venture capitalists breathing down their neck. They answer to no one but themselves – and, of course, us.
And so it’s no wonder that the hiking trousers feel as if designed by people like me who live for adventure and also specifically with my type of hiking in mind – hard, fast, unforgiving with day after day in the same cloths. My walking demands a product that’s not going to unravel at the seams or easily tear when I plop myself down on a rock outcropping for the thousandth time.
This starts with the choice of materials. KÜHL uses a fabric called “Reflex” which is made of 56% stretch polyester and 44% “new” polyester. What’s so new about this polyester, you might ask? For one thing, it’s a type of synthetic used in performance wear that allows for moisture management like wicking, color and other properties to be added to it but in a far more eco-friendly manner. Reflex is also Bluesign Certified, which means it meets a high standard of manufacturing that requires companies to replace harmful substances with safer alternatives.
But perhaps the most important point about Reflex is its GSM, or grams per square meter, number. At 164 it’s on par with chambray, a high density but lightweight fabric – you know, the stuff they make those ultra-comfy button down shirts out of. This translates to a heavy-duty fabric that can manage the punishment meted out on miles-upon-miles of blowdowns, cacti, and rock scrambles while never feeling heavy or scratchy against your skin.
Rugged they are, but also stretchy in all directions, which is useful since most blissful hikers are known to move in all directions. KÜHL sews the seams with 100% nylon thread. And why should this matter? This is the same thread used on climbing harnesses, and you won’t see a fraying or unravelling harness pretty much ever. To hold together the seams with that nylon thread, they use a saddle stitch. I learned this technique way back in Junior High Sewing Class, a more time-consuming way to piece heavy materials in the strongest and most secure manner. The point is to keep things together even if one portion of the stitch is cut. Talk about attention to detail!
In addition, this magic fabric offers the highest amount of sun protection at 50+ UPF.
So now we know that the materials are tough and put together in the best way possible to ensure they hold up on long backpack trips. But what about fit and how I look out there humping a backpack ? KÜHL knows that pants that might look good on a static model aren’t going to cut it in the field. This is why they add an extra panel or gusset at the back of the knee to allow the trouser to articulate with your every move.
I am not a belt person, so will never make use of the belt loops and it seems KÜHL is fully aware of this, providing an internal waist drawcord for a perfect fit. The pant actually tips slightly, higher in back and lower in front with a cupped fit over the hips while relaxed through the thigh. Although I’d never call the Hörizn “low rise,” the trousers tend to fit too close to the hips for me. I’d prefer a higher fit all the way around my waist rather than at my hips as there’s a tendency for the pants to droop slightly when I squat down or lean over. That being said, the fit is loose while still flattering, not an easy task.
The sizing feels true, so if you’re one of those people drawn into the race-to-the-bottom of making a size 6 into a size 2, prepare yourself for a shock. But this might very well be the only hiking pant on the market that offers three, count em THREE, lengths – 30, 32, and 34. LONG LEGGED HIKERS UNITE! You will no longer need to look like you’re waiting for a flood. I am a bit in-between tall and not-quite-as-tall-as-I’d-like-to-be, so it helps that KÜHL adds a bottom hem cinch to gather the pant over my trail runners.
I am an obsessive pocket-user when I hike and I know designers struggle to give me all I need and not make me look like I’m wearing clown pants. What I’d like to know is why men are so cute in cargo pants and us chicks end up looking like beached whales? While the Hörizn has two pockets in front and two in back, I don’t trust open pockets much while backpacking except to hold the odd wrapper or maybe my lip balm. I normally like my iPhone within easy reach for photos. But while the thigh zip pocket fits my phone well, it’s too short for me to zip it closed, so not all that helpful on river crossings or other exposed areas where I’ll need to keep my phone safe in my backpack’s waist belt. The zippers are high quality and hidden within a stealth seam, again with superb attention to detail and style.
Over the years, I’ve begun to dress more like an Arab in the desert rather than a hot young thing thru-hiker in short shorts. I still have good legs worth showing off, but I’ve learned from my dermatologist it’s unwise to expose them to the sun for hours on end, day after day because, as it turns out, the most common area for melanoma to occur in women is on the legs. That being said, it’s nice to have the option of a zipoff on trail for certain occasions.
so, how did it go?
I wore the KÜHL Hörizn Convertible hiking trouser for a solid month in Scotland and I have to say I love them. While most of the time they stayed hidden under rain gear, they did their job, breathing when I got hot and sweaty, keeping me warm when the rain really came down and moving with me as I “bog trotted” on rough, uneven ground up and down trackless moorland. Yet somehow I managed to look reasonably attractive at the bothies and when we ventured into pubs for a wee dram. I am hooked and that’s why I give these trousers five Anitas!
Specs at a glance
- Material: Bluesign certified sustainable “Reflex” fabric
55% stretch/44% regular ripstop polyester/100% nylon thread
- Sizes: 0 – 16; 30, 32 & 34 inseam
- Color: Khaki
- Fit: mid-rise, relaxed leg with internal drawcord, articulated legs
- Sun protection: UPF 50+
- Modifiable: bottom hem cinch cord
- Convertible: stealth zips
- Storage: four open pockets/two zippered thigh pockets
alison young was given these pants for testing by KÜHL
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