For three days in Chiang Mai I wore a $30 pair of men’s athletic chinos from Target. They weren’t exorbitantly expensive, they weren’t marketed for traveling, they weren’t made for women, and yet, for some reason, they are worlds better than any women’s pants I’ve worn while traveling.
Let’s start by recapping women’s pants.
- Standard women’s pants are some combination of the following:
- skin tight, at least in some areas
- low-cut enough to be inappropriate or at least problematic in some parts of the world
- very small as far as pockets go, and the pockets they do have are sometimes fake
- made with ridiculous sizes that vary from brand to brand
Standard men’s pants, on the other hand, are:
- not designed to be skin tight (although slim cuts are available)
- cut so that an oxford shirt can be tucked neatly into them (closer to the top of the hip bone/natural waist than most women’s pants)
- endowed with ACTUAL POCKETS that can ACTUALLY HOLD THINGS
- more likely to come in utilitarian combinations like dress pants made for hot weather, athletic chinos, etc.
- made in standard sizes that describe waist and inseam measurements
When you lay it out like that, men’s pants are already looking a lot nicer than women’s. But let’s look at the specific pants that served me so well in Chiang Mai: Target’s Goodfellow and Co. Athletic Chinos.
- are “athletic”, which means they’re built with a bit of stretch and don’t get sticky-hot like jeans
- bear four pockets large enough to fit your hand in
- also have two hidden mini-pockets, one to the right of the zipper below the waistband, one sewn into the lining of the right front pocket
- are a light tan that’s surprisingly hard to find in women’s clothing (but that’s great for sunny southeast Asia)
I look good in them, I like wearing them, they’re comfortable and practical. They’re great.
Couldn’t I have found a pair of women’s travel pants that checked those same boxes? Yeah, sure. I could have gotten pants from The Willary, Pivotte, Rohan, or Dish and Du/er and they probably would have been fantastic. They probably would dry faster and might have cool things like DWR coating to keep the rain and spills away. But there’s an unexpected bonus to having $30 men’s jeans from Target as my primary travel pants: I’m not afraid of destroying them. I don’t intend to overnight trek in them or anything, but if I fell in a mud puddle or tore them rock climbing, it wouldn’t be a major loss.
If you want to get your own pair of men’s’ pants for travel purposes, here are my tips:
- know your size before you shop. If you’ve got a standard size, hit some thrift shops. If you don’t, stick with larger department stores.
- if you’ll be traveling in hot weather, I recommend looking for “athletic” on labels.
- going into the men’s section feels weird at first. Psych yourself up for it, go at a downtime, take a buddy — whatever it takes to make you feel comfortable.
- if you can’t find anything that fits you quite right, consider getting pants tailored. If you’re pinching pennies but need to look professional, getting a $30 pair of pants tailored for $15-20 is still half as much as buying a new pair of travel pants. If you snag a pair of pants from the thrift store, your savings will be even greater. (You can also shop in stores that offer free tailoring, but unless it’s Uniqlo and you just need the bottoms hemmed, this will probably not be cost-effective.)
This post isn’t sponsored, and I don’t get anything if you buy these pants! I just really like ’em.