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KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible Review
Cons: Convertible zipper rests across lower thigh, front button sometimes comes undone
Bottom line: Our Top Pick for Versatility due to its spacious and plentiful pockets, and the ability to switch quickly into shorts.
Some people aren't big on having an entire closet full of clothes; they would rather have one single pair of pants that is an excellent choice for everything. For those people, we recommend the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible, the most versatile hiking pant we have ever worn. Not only will this pant be your new best friend while hiking, but it is also great for working in the yard, going climbing, or traveling around the world. The mid-day sun starting to make you sweat? Just unzip the lower legs, and you are suddenly wearing an airy pair of shorts. Need to carry a couple of bonk-prevention snacks in your pocket, but also want to balance it out with your smartphone on the opposite side? The dual, compartmentalized cargo pockets have plenty of room for trail necessities, but won't make you look like Napolean Dynamite with a pocket full of tots. For thru-hikers or gearheads, if versatility is your primary concern, look no further than the Renegade Cargo Convertible.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Hiking Pants for Men
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
When thru-hiking or simply backpacking, a primary goal is to carry as little as possible without compromising safety or comfort. In such cases, convertible pants, meaning pants that have zippers that allow you to remove the bottom half of the legs to wear them as shorts, are the most efficient system. They only weigh a smidge more than regular hiking pants and save you from carrying an extra piece of clothing in your pack. The Renegade Cargo Convertibles add to this versatile trait by also featuring double cargo pockets that can hold snacks, a phone, a map, lip balm, and whatever other items you want close at hand while hiking. While they have a couple of downsides compared to the two pairs of pants ranked more highly, these pants are a must-look if versatility is one of your priorities.
It wouldn't be fair to compliment this pant for its convertible option without also pointing out the other pants in this review that are also available as convertibles. If unzipping into shorts is a feature you want, then we recommend you also look into the Prana Stretch Zion Convertible, as well as The North Face Paramount Convertible 3.0. We have reviewed both of these pants in their standard versions, and they were among the top scorers. Likewise, if you like KUHL pants but don't like convertible zippers, then check out the KUHL Renegade Stealth Pant, which retains the dual cargo pockets in a standard pant design.
Comfort and Mobility
With their gusseted crotch and articulated knees, the Renegade Cargo Convertible's fit more spaciously than the host of trim fitting, straight legged pants in this review. The waist and pelvis region also fit comfortably, without any hint of constriction. We also liked how surprisingly soft the nylon fabric felt against our skin.
If we had to make a complaint, it would be that the convertible zipper seam, which encircles the lower thigh, creates an obvious rub point against the skin as one moves their legs. This is a relatively small complaint, but one that helps differentiate the levels of comfort between the different pairs of pants. As such, we graded this pant the same as the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant and the Fjallraven Vidda Pro, which also had minor annoyances to our comfort. They received 6 out of 10 points.
Venting and Breathability
To accommodate venting, this pant comes with mesh liners in both its two front handwarmer pockets, as well as the two rear pockets. It does not have mesh vents in the two cargo pockets found on the side of each leg. Additionally, the slightly more large fit made us feel cooler when the temperatures rose.
Of course, these pants also feature the ultimate in breathability, the ability to simply convert in a minute to shorts. Without undergoing the full conversion, though, we found that we could unzip the convertible zippers part way for added ventilation and that we could also wholly unzip the vertical lower leg zippers, designed to make it easy to get them off while still wearing boots or shoes, to even gain needed ventilation. However, the predominantly nylon fabric was not super light or breathable in our testing. While they accomplished it by different means, these pants scored roughly the same as The North Face Paramount 3.0 and the Patagonia Quandary when considering both venting and breathability.
We wouldn't have named these pants our Top Pick for Versatility if they weren't exactly that. No pant in this review is as ideally suited for every kind of situation as the Renegade Cargo Convertible, and thus they received a perfect score.
For use, while hiking or backpacking, these pants set you up for success with plenty of pockets for storing all your necessities at hand, as well as the option to convert them into shorts. With their UPF 50 rating, they will protect you from high altitude sun, and their tight nylon weave and DWR coating will also keep you dry in a gentle rain. We also found them to be durable enough for working it and used them with success many nights of camping in the dirt. They look good enough for wearing around town as well. In our experience, they were a a definite notch above the Prana Stretch Zion, and leaps and bounds more versatile than the rest, including the Paramount 3.0 or KUHL Kontra Air.
In our shower testing, these pants were effective enough at repelling a light rain for a short period, but it seemed as if much of the DWR coating had worn off during our three-month test period. Low-wear areas like the lower legs were doing a pretty good job of helping the water runoff without soaking in, but in the thighs and butt, water absorption started taking place almost immediately.
The good news is that the 95% Duralux nylon didn't absorb very much water, especially compared to the Mountain Hardwear Men's Hardwear AP Pant, or the KUHL Kontra Air. Thus, they dried out fairly quickly after being hung up to dry. By no means did this pant match the performance of our Top Pick for Wet Climates, the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant, but we wouldn't call their performance an obvious liability. 6 out of 10.
Once again, this pant was the highest performer when it came to features, and ended up with a nearly perfect score. Not only did it have more features than any other pant, but we found that they performed as advertised as well. Only the KUHL Kontra Air, which had an entirely different arrangement of pockets, ended up performing as well.
We have already mentioned most of the features included on this pant, including the vertical zippers at the bottom of the pant that allow it to be easily removed over a pair of boots or shoes, and the snap buttons on the cuffs that will enable you to keep them closed with the zippers open for ventilation.
The dual cargo pockets, found on each side of the leg, each have different compartments within them to aid in organization and to keep small items from tossing about. However, the only thing keeping this pant from receiving a perfect 10 is the fact that the front snap button has come un-snapped on us as we moved about many times. Where other KUHL pants have the "French flap" interior button that helps the waist fit optimally, this pant is lacking that feature and thus, in our case, liked to come unbuttoned. This minor complaint didn't keep it from scoring better than the Prana Stretch Zion, and we gave it 9 out of 10.
The KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible pants are optimal for hiking, backpacking, and thru-hiking for enthusiasts who value the versatility they provide. Due to their convertible option, they are good in both hot and colder climates and do a decent job of handling wet weather. We also found them to be perfect for all sorts of other activities that require pants, like manual labor, traveling, camping, and around town.
These pants retail for $99, making them more expensive than many pairs that we have reviewed here, but not nearly as expensive as the Fjallraven Vidda Pro. Since you probably can't buy a solid pair of hiking pants and shorts for any cheaper, this is a pretty good value. That said, if you are looking for the Best Bang for your Buck, we recommend checking out the Patagonia Quandary.
The KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible pants win our Top Pick for Versatility because they are the best-suited pants in this review for nearly any sort of circumstances you might find yourself in. We think they are especially intriguing for thru-hikers or backpackers who want to only carry the minimum in clothing. They also had the best combination of useful features but weren't one of the most comfortable pairs that we tried on. Overall these were among the highest scorers in our review and are a pant we would recommend to most people.
— Andy Wellman
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