Pant Eaters: A Challenge to Outdoor Clothing Maufacturers

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Submitted by damien on

I am now convinced that most children's outdoor clothing is made more for fashion than function. The quality I am seeing these days is pretty abysmal. My theory is that most people who buy this stuff are not actually spending much time in the outdoors doing, you know, outdoorsy stuff.

Kids like to climb rocks and trees, jump over creeks, and explore little crags, nooks, and crannies. They probably spend as much time on their bums and knees as they do their feet. This is normal behavior for a kid. Don't outdoor companies know the conditions for which these things will be used?

Geared-up for a real day in the outdoors.

We spend a lot of time in the outdoors with our kids. I am not afraid to spend money on buying quality clothing, because I know we will use it. The problem is, how in the world am I supposed to know what quality is? You sure can't go by brand name...

Patagonia used to make kids' pants. They were the most durable pants we had ever seen, we were able to pass them down from one child to the other. When our kids eventually outgrew them (they outgrew them before they fell apart) I had to find an alternative.

I have bought three (yes, three!) pairs of pants for my son in the last year. All from different manufacturers. None of them have lasted more than six months each. I am getting a little frustrated with this picture:

Chlorophylle: MAJOR FAIL!

This was our first attempt. We bought these pants last summer while on a trip to the Gaspe Peninsula in Canada. They started falling apart within a couple of months. This is what they look like now...

Blown side pocket...
Blown knee...
Buttons gone...
Blown rear pocket...
Blown hem.

Columbia: FAIL!

This was attempt number two. In a matter of a few months they were unwearable.

Blown knee...
Blown zipper. This issue rendered the pants unwearable.
My daughter's Columbia pants have fared a little better,
but they are starting to wear out prematurely as well, after less than a year.
It is difficult to capture in a picture, but the fabric is starting to get threadbare in some areas.

Mountain Hardware: FAIL!

Our latest attempt to find something for my son. I had such high hopes for these... oh well.

Blown butt.

Patagonia: MAJOR PASS! ... but they don't make them anymore :-(

The photo below is of a pair of well used Patagonia girls' pants. They are on their fourth year, second child, and still going strong. Yes the rear pocket is blown, but I would expect some wear-and-tear after the amount of abuse these have seen. Why Patagonia, did you have to stop making these? Why can't anyone else make them like this?

Old friends. I think we will have a ceremony when we finally retire these pants.

The Challenge

I am tired of spending my hard-earned money on stuff that doesn't work. I would like to issue a challenge to all childrens' outdoor clothing manufacturers: make me a pair of childrens' pants that ACTUALLY work in the outdoors. These are the criteria:

  • They need to be quick drying. No cotton! Nylon and polyester are great.
  • They need to last at LEAST a year. Multiple years preferred.
  • There need to be models available for both boys and girls.

If you provide me with a pair of pants, I promise that my kids will put them to the test in some of the toughest conditions that kids can dish out. I will then report the results here on this blog. If your pants pass the test, I will even pay you full price for them. As I said before, I am willing to pay for this stuff, but I want it to actually work.

So, who is up to the challenge? If you are, contact me.



Molehill Yampas

Thanks for the shout-out on our Yampa pants. The posting highlights how tough it is to make pants that can take what active kids can dish out. The nylon quick-dry Yampas had reinforced knees and butts and people who bought them raved and requested more. Unfortunately we have had troubles selling enough of these great pants to get our prices down so we recently discontinued the Yampa. We are in the middle of designing a new line of pants that will pick up where the Yampas left off. Meanwhile, you can still find the Yampa online at some of our customers' stores.

Because durability is such a huge part of our story, we feature reinforced stress point on almost all of our gear. You can see other tough Molehill products at I'd love to hear from any of you with suggestions of how to imporve our line or great other products that we could add.

Sturdy kids' pants

With your Canadian roots I can't believe you haven't mentioned Mountain Equipment Co-op clothing yet... for the under 8's try their "Hoofit" pants, and for kids older than 8 try the "Sidetrack" pants and shorts. We have found them to be very durable for outdoor living and have handed them down (older versions anyway) from one daughter to another... If you're not close to a Co-op, you can order them online.

Isbjorn of Sweden

Hello Damien, a surprise that you never heard of Fjallraven before. This is a big brand in Europe. Especially their G1000 pants are very popular... ...because of their durability. Though I read a few reviews from people who said that the pants where not 'scouting' proof. But more than a half of the members of my backpacking club wear them.
Another interesting brand could be Isbjorn of Sweden. This brand makes high end outdoor clothing ONLY for children up to ten years old. They have a pant made from Cordura, see I believe this brand is not available in the US or Canada at the moment. Maybe you could order overseas.

kids wear

I'll play the devil's advocate here - from a manufacturer's viewpoint, why would they want to make something that "lasts forever", especially for a changing market, a.k.a. growing children?


I go through similar wear with pants but they aren't hiking pants. I hike and do trailwork with Dickies work pants (spring thru late fall). Tisk tisk I know - they are a cottton / polypro blend. Even those break down and I resort to patching. It's a pain but at least the pants cost under $20.

It's said to see these deteriorating in such a short time frame. Blown rear pockets seem to be common on poly pro shorts.

Sounds like someone needs to make double kneed and double back seat pants/shorts like they do for forestry type pants.

I have a pair of pants from

I have a pair of pants from REI that I love. But after less than two summers, the seam on the butt is coming undone! I am not a large person, and i am certainly not putting strain on the seams of my pants, but it seems that the simple act of sitting in these pants has worn down the stitching. Last time out I was forced to do a little field repair on the light tan pants with some black thread. Looks great, with the dark black streak now running down the middle of my butt. Not sure HOW they could have avoided it, but it would seem that sitting is something that pant manufacturers would take into consideration, right?

I was going to mention

I was going to mention Mountain Equipment Co-op too. I haven't yet bought kid's pants from them though. We are just getting back into getting our kids into the outdoors and so far don't have the budget for that (we've just been using things we already had since we're not doing more than a few hours at this point). I have two pairs of pants myself that have lasted me well, one is Columbia that got many many years of rough abusde (from when I was a teen and young 20s) and the crotch came out but I sewed it back up. The other are some old school MEC pants that are the best. I think personally their older stuff is the better stuff. I find it second hand sometimes. I grab it when I do even if its not the right size since kids grow. I just got a shirt of theirs today for $4. Anyways the MEC pants that I have were used already and they have held up. But I do find their stuff to sometimes be good and sometimes not. Check the ratings online they have reviews on their site and a place to ask questions. We have been very happy with some of their products (the pants I mentioned, our bike trailer/stroller, some bike gear for my husband, a kids raincoat second hand, some quick dry shirts) but very unhappy with 3 different styles of mitts we bought there (none we tried were warm enough for cold Canadian winters). So anyways I love the store and have had a lot of success there overall. I hope that you can find something there, or somewhere else. Oh I also forgot I have a men's pair of MEC pants that I wear now since they fit me nicely and are a neutral colour and they are holding up nicely too so far. They were also used. They haven't had as much use as my other old school pair though did (those ones logged 2 seasons of doing outripping at camps plus some other hours and still look great).

Skip Pants, Go With Shorts

My son doesn't wear pants, ever. We go with the knickers and tights method. We even did this in the 7-9 feet of snow we just hiked the last few days in. He owns UnderArmour tights and then wears his shorts (which are usually big so he can grow into them) over the top. This way they don't wear out in the knees, the ends of the pants, or the pockets. I was highly skeptical of UnderArmour and thought them much more flash than function. They are down right amazing. These pants have now been through two children (we got them as hand-me-downs) and they still aren't showing wear. They are also the warmest clothes my son has. We never worry about him getting cold. Plus, he is covered again by gaiters to help with keeping dry.

The other option we have found is to use Patagonia XS women's. They are the best option for kids clothes now that Pata has stopped much of their children's line. Extra small is a bit hard to find in the stores, since very few people meet the size recommendations (and I have looked being a female XS), but you can find them cheaper than dirt on Ebay, since almost no one meets the size recommendations. I don't know how much Laurent pays attention to labels and such, but many of the non-tapered styles are almost the same from men's and womens.

Prana is another company that makes pants built to be destroyed. They are a climbing company. Sizes run a bit weird due to being a climber's company, but they are good stuff. I find much of their yoga line to be more pretty than functional, but their actual gear is pretty rock solid. Their are no kids clothes, but they make small adults and XS adult clothes which would fit most kids (I'm an child's size Medium to XL depending on the company).

Another option is to buy sheets of Hypalon and just put them over the knees and butt. I don't know of anything which can wear out Hypalon.

I feel like that with a lot

I feel like that with a lot of different the people even TEST out what they are supposed to do? Bend over, do backflips, etc. etc. Then the problem becomes when you DO find quality gear, it always ends up being expensive. I think Dickies are a good, solid least I know their Dickies line of scrubs is good.

Though I usually go for

Though I usually go for Columbia, but lately Columbia's pants are not what they used to be. I heard that Beyond Fleece's Shock Pants a good choice but they are quite pricey. So yeah, I'm also looking for good one.