A funny thing tends to happen to me as I’m planning a trip: I become completely, wholly fixated on finding the perfect version of one specific thing that, in my mind, will make (or break) my travels. I will zero in and obsess and scroll until I have found the closest approximation to my ideal iteration of whatever the thing is: cross-body bag, fragrance-free moisturizer, ankle boots. I don’t know why this happens, but I imagine it’s probably safe to blame a heady blend of Instagram and capitalism.
Last month, I took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to New Zealand. In the weeks preceding the trip, I obsessed over the calculus of assembling a lightweight, low-maintenance, minimalist, and versatile travel wardrobe for 10 days of hiking, visiting beaches, drinking wine, and strolling through city streets. Somewhere along the line, I decided that the linchpin of packing for this trip lay in…pants. I became fixated on finding a pair of pants that could pull double-duty on hiking trails, beaches, and bars alike; lightweight enough to withstand the southern hemisphere’s summer sun; comfortable enough to wear on the plane. Maybe even with actual, functional pockets.
On a whim, I ordered a pair of pants from Athleta that looked suspiciously promising. The Skyline Pant ($ 89, athleta.gap.com) appeared to bridge the best of both worlds, with the fabric of athleticwear and the silhouette of something one might procure at Madewell. After trying them on, I was so into them that I decided not only to keep them and bring them on the trip, but also to wear them on the plane. And it’s a good thing I did, because thanks to a luggage mishap, I ended up wearing them for about three days straight.
Here’s why these pants are my new favorite wardrobe staple for adventure travel—and for being temporarily stranded without your luggage 8,000 miles from home.
They're comfortable enough to spend approximately 30 hours (!) traveling in.
From the moment I locked my front door in Atlanta to the minute I exited the Auckland airport, roughly 30 total hours had passed, 22 of which I spent on airplanes. If you’ve taken a long-haul flight before, you know that even the tiniest thing—the wrong bra, a slightly too-tight pair of jeans, a sweater that seemed soft when you tried it on but suddenly feels awfully itchy—can compound over the hours into an infuriatingly uncomfortable experience. Being hermetically sealed inside a crowded tube, trapped in the middle seat, and forced to passive-aggressively battle my seatmate for the armrest (I see you, 38C) for 15 hours straight is unpleasant enough, so I knew that at the very least, I could attempt to maximize my comfort level with my clothing choices.
The pants served their purpose well. The stretchy fabric made it easy to rearrange my legs in my seat, and even do some stretches in the aisle a few times. The relaxed fit felt loose enough to be comfortable without being actual pajamas (not that I’d judge that choice). Plus, on long-haul flights like that, I try my best to chug as much water as humanly possible. Have you ever been bloated while wearing tight pants with no stretch and sitting in an uncomfortable chair for that long? I’m feeling claustrophobic just thinking about it.
The fabric is well-suited for activities like hiking to the top of a volcano (or sprinting through an airport).
After traveling for over a day, we finally got to Auckland, but our luggage was MIA. Not ones to waste time sitting around pining for clean clothes, we decided to stretch our legs and do some exploring on our first full day in Auckland. Had I worn, say, jeans or cozy sweatpants on the journey over, traversing big lava fields and hiking up to the top of a volcano in the merciless afternoon summer sun would’ve been less than enjoyable. But the lightweight, stretchy material was perfectly suited for moving around and getting a little sweaty. (Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the completely unsupportive wireless bralette in which I chose to swaddle my DDs on the plane ride, purely for comfort reasons, but you can’t win them all. Especially when boob sweat is concerned.)
The fabric also dries quickly, which means you can wash the pants in the sink and have them ready to go the next morning.
I learned on a multiday backpacking trip last year that quick-dry fabric is non-negotiable when it comes to packing for active trips, and to this day, I will never travel without at least one garment that can be dunked in the sink before bed and ready to wear the following morning. (For this reason, I will no longer travel anywhere without at least one pair of this underwear from Ex Officio.) The fact that I could quickly wash the pants in a sink of soapy water and hang them near a fan, knowing they’d be dry within hours, gave me some much-needed peace of mind when I didn’t know how many days stood between me and a suitcase full of clean clothes.
Unlike most pants I hike in, you can actually dress these up and wear them out to dinner.
Bridging the gap between form and functionality isn’t easy, but these pants felt equally at home on the trail as they did in a restaurant. Of course, my options at the time were limited to the T-shirt I was wearing, but given full access to my wardrobe, the pants’ cinched waist and cropped, ankle-skimming hem pair just as well with a fitted top and flats as they do with a tee and Nikes.
Prior to the trip, I hosted a few people for dinner at my home, and wore the pants with a black turtleneck and calf-hair loafers. I was comfortable enough to stuff myself full of food, and still looked like I had dressed up (at least by my standards). The very next day, I wore them again, this time with a long-sleeved shirt and sneakers to walk the dog. Get you pants that can do both.
There’s just one thing that would make these better…
And that’s if I could recommend them this effusively to everyone I know. Athleta currently only offers the Skyline pant in sizes up to a 16, even though the upper limit of that size range is actually what the average American woman wears. (Unsurprisingly, in the realm of sportswear, Athleta is far from the only offender.)
Buy it: Athleta Skyline Pant ($ 89, athleta.gap.com)