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Patagonia Quandary Review
Cons: Not many pockets, slim fit may not be awesome for larger dudes
Bottom line: An awesome pant for 14er day hikes and chilling at the brewpub afterwards.
Mount Quandary is the monarch of the Tenmile Range in Colorado. It looms over the ski town of Breckenridge, and might just be the most popular 14er in the state. Because of a well-maintained trail to the summit, hikers during the summer rarely need more than a robust set of lungs and legs, but appropriate clothing certainly helps. We recommend the Patagonia Quandary as the perfect pair of pants for tackling an ascent of its namesake mountain, or any one of the other 53 official 14er summits in Colorado. Its lightweight, trim-fitting blend of recycled nylon and spandex offers the wearer ultimate freedom and mobility while doing a more than admirable job of warding off wind and light rain. It has a simple yet functional array of pockets that offers less room for a map or snacks than some others, but also won't slow down your ideal hiking pace. Best of all, this pant was the most affordable in our review, and as one of the best that we have worn, it earned our Best Bang for the Buck Award.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Hiking Pants for Men
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
When hiking a 14er in Colorado, your most significant concerns are going to be getting off the summit before thunderstorms arrive, avoiding a wicked sunburn, and being prepared in case a chill wind picks up. The Patagonia Quandary can help with all of these concerns. Although they can't speed you down to treeline when the thunder starts booming, they will do an excellent job of preventing massive water absorption if you get caught in the rain. They also give UPF 50 sun protection, a serious bonus at high altitudes, where the sun's rays can be pretty intense, and their tight nylon weave is simultaneously stretchy and mobile while cutting the wind nicely.
While they don't have a lot of vents for hot air to escape, we found their lightweight fabric to be more breathable and cooler feeling while working up a sweat than most, aided by an absorptive, moisture-wicking band around the waist. The truth is that these were the second highest scoring pants in our review, behind the best overall Prana Stretch Zion, and come at the lowest price, a great value.
Comfort and Mobility
The Quandary pant is cut thin and features a slim fit that Patagonia recommends for lean-to-medium builds. We would agree with this recommendation, as we found them to be ever so slightly constrictive, in a noticeable but not annoying way, around the tops and outsides of our thighs where they meet the hip flexors and pelvis, as well as in the seat. For reference, our head tester is pretty darn skinny and has often been made fun of for his stick legs, so if you have cross-fit thighs or like competing in triathlons, we suggest you try these on before you purchase a year's supply.
We must point out that despite a narrower fit, these pants are supremely mobile. They have 6% spandex fibers blended into their nylon weave and stretch any which way that you do. They also have a stretchy drawstring, like on running shorts, recessed into their waistband that helps one find the perfect fit without a belt, even as your body weight and waistline fluctuates (as it does on all of us). While they didn't fit as perfect for us as the Prana Stretch Zion, they were more comfortable than the similarly slim fitting KUHL Kontra Air. We also loved the feel of the fabric against our skin, which was impressively soft for a synthetic material, and felt better than the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant. 8 out of 10 points for comfort and mobility.
Venting and Breathability
When it comes to venting features, this pant does not have a lot to offer. It has mesh lining half of the two front handwarmer pockets and tiny coin pocket, and a small piece of mesh on the inside of the right thigh pocket, but none on the back pockets. Likewise, there are no other features that accommodate venting, and it does not come in a separate version that is convertible into shorts.
Although venting is not a strong suit of this pant, we did find the super thin fabric to feel cooler and breathe better than most of the more substantial materials found on competing pants. It also has a moisture absorbing mesh liner around the waistband that is designed to wick away sweat, and even feels nice. The result is that we it performed equally to the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible and The North Face Paramount 3.0, two pants that had heavier fabric but more ventilation. 7 out of 10.
The light, thin construction of the Quandary pant makes them a good choice for either warm or cold climates. However, they are perhaps a bit thin for frigid weather, and likewise, do not offer much ventilation for scorching temps. The fact that they do a good job repelling a light rain adds to their versatility.
Because of their thin fabric, we wouldn't choose to intentionally use these pants for work or any other activity that is especially abrasive, like rock climbing. We think the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible, or even the Prana Stretch Zion, are better suited to these purposes. Much like REI Co-op Screeline, we think they make an excellent pant for travel. 7 out of 10 points.
The Quandary Pant came with a surprisingly effective DWR treatment, and in our shower test, it was second only to the performance of our Top Pick for Wet Climates, the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant.
Even after many days of wear and more than a couple of times in the washer, these pants caused a light rain or drizzle to bead up and drip off. In a solid downpour, they eventually ended up relatively soaked, and yet our legs stayed dry inside, which was more than we could say about our legs while wearing The North Face Paramount 3.0 pants. The nylon proved to be not very absorptive, and they also dried quickly and efficiently, even after a substantial soaking. As the second-best pant for this metric, we awarded them 9 out of 10 points for water resistance.
The feature set on this pair of pants could be described as simple and effective. The most notable feature is a stretchy thin drawstring on the inside of the waist that works like a pair of running shorts. We thought it helped cinch up the fit slightly if it was too loose, and gives one the option of wearing these pants without a belt, a feature we prefer for hiking or backpacking with a pack.
Regarding pockets, it has two front handwarmer pockets with a tiny coin pocket, and two rear pockets, the left of which has a zipper. On the right thigh is a zippered storage pocket that is recessed inside the pant, rather than resting on the outside, cargo style.
With no other features to speak of, this pant projects elegant simplicity more than do-it-all functionality. We awarded it the same score as the very similarly designed North Face Paramount 3.0, as well as the Mountain Hardwear Men's Hardwear AP Pant. 6 out of 10.
As its name suggests, the Quandary pant is best suited to hikes where you are just as likely to want to stay cool as warm. Summertime alpine peak ascents, day hikes, and backpacking are all ideal pursuits for this pant. Likewise, it is a good choice for travel, camping, or use around town. It does well when facing a light rain, but like all hiking pants, won't keep you dry in a deluge. It would not be our first choice for outdoor work or rock climbing.
This pant retails for $79. Since it was the second highest overall scorer in this review and comes at the lowest price, it was an easy choice for our Best Bang for the Buck Award. Backed by the Patagonia Ironclad guarantee, there is no doubt that these pants present a great value.
The Patagonia Quandary pants are a slim fitting but highly mobile pant that does a great job protecting from the sun, wind, or light rain, and look good enough to rock in town as well as on the trail. Due to their fit, they may not be the favorite of larger guys, but do a good job of offsetting their sleekness with stretchy fabrics. Despite being the most affordable hiking pant in this review, there is absolutely no compromise being made when selecting these pants, which we would happily recommend for all styles of hiking from day hikes to long treks.
— Andy Wellman
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