columbia hiking pants

For as many cycling and running tights as I have, and wind pants, and skiing/snowboarding pants, I’ve never been much for hiking pants. I never really liked them. Then I found some pants that looked awesome, at a reasonable price, and couldn’t say no.

They were the Columbia Sportswear Cool Creek Stretch Cargo Pants which retail for $60 but I managed to find them in my size for just a few cents over $25 at Sierra Trading Post!

Ever since finding the Omni-Freeze gear, I’ve become a big fan of Columbia. Not that I wasn’t already a big fan beforehand, but much more now!

To no surprise, these pants offer some cool Columbia technology, including Omni-Shade (UPF 50 sun protection) and Omni-Shield, which resists light rain and stains.

While they should offer sun protection simply based on the fact that they are pants, the Omni-Shield is a technology worth talking about. It’s legit!

I couldn’t tell you exactly how it works, but I believe it’s some sort of coated fabric that repels liquids and will not retain moisture.

What’s even better (somehow) is the “comfort stretch” fabric. Holy crap is that awesome! I freaking love the fabric! It’s light and stretchy, but feels like it would be fairly durable, too.

I could practically do yoga in these pants! I’m super excited to test these.

I got these for hiking.

columbia hiking pants

Realizing that I’d be doing some longer hikes and backpacking trips in the summer heat, and with ticks being really bad the past few years, I figured it would be good to have some nice hiking pants like this. (That’s what convinced me from a practical, logical standpoint.)

My climbing pants are too thick for summer hiking, and they definitely would not dry fast after a stream crossing or pouring rain.

I hiked countless miles in these, with lots of shorter hikes in the 2-6 mile range, and a few 16-20 mile hikes.

The weather cooperated most of the time, with temps from 60-80 degrees, and no extreme heat or storms. But hey, those the conditions I’m most likely to go out in, so it was realistic testing.

I actually did some winter hiking and trail running in these. The coldest day was 25 degrees, and yeah, that was a bit chilly! I had only planned to hike, but it turned into a trail run because I had to run to stay warm!

I wouldn’t recommend these for winter hiking without serious base layers underneath!

But man, what incredible hiking pants!

Everything was nice, down to the small details. For instance, the little zippered pocket on the right thigh is super useful, always accessible, and doesn’t chafe you when you’re moving. Well done!

I did some rock climbing, too.

I thought the material looked durable enough for hiking, but rock climbing is another story. If you’re not skilled, you will be scraping your legs against rough stone surfaces constantly! What’s durable by hiking standards might not be so tough in rock climbing conditions!

But the pants were so nice, I couldn’t resist wearing them for some light climbing (just a few times, because I didn’t want to push my luck). The pants scraped the rock a few times, and seemed to get covered with dirt and moss stains, but never sustained any real damage!

The stains washed out, too!

Outdoors, during easy climbing, the comfort and mobility were top-notch. They’d be awesome climbing pants for hot weather.

I also wore these indoors at The Climbing Wall, and they did pretty good, but they were far from perfect. See, indoors at the gym I’m frequently working on tougher bouldering problems that require a lot of mobility – putting myself in positions that would never happen during hiking.

For tough sit starts and crazy moves where I essentially do a split, the pants were annoying. I would have to pull them up my waist until they were tight against my crotch, to get the needed mobility. Otherwise they would have ripped at the seams!

So I’ll stick with my Gramicci pants for bouldering. And after this realization (that they don’t allow extreme mobility as I had initially thought,) I definitely won’t be wearing them for yoga! I’ll stick with my YogaSmoga shorts for that.

What else? I even wore them on the water!

One of the first adventures they went on was kayaking the Monongahela River when the water was the choppiest I’ve ever experienced. What would normally be a quiet paddle was wet and wild, and after 2.5 hours, I was totally drenched and the pants were soaked.

But out on Lake Arthur, where it’s just occasional waves and choppy water due to wind and boat wakes, the water beaded up and rolled right off. So if you’re getting some light splashes, or there’s light rain, or you spill water on yourself, it will have no affect on these pants.

They’re not waterproof, but they’re darn good!

Man I love these pants! Let’s recap all the awesomeness and some of the finer details:

Comfort and Fit

These pants were comfy for all of the above situations, and super comfy for working at my desk! Doesn’t matter if you’re being active or sitting still, these are excellent!

I ordered a size 32×32 since user reviews said they ‘fit slightly small.’

This turned out to be true! My waist was 29.25″ at the time of purchase, and the 32 wasn’t overly huge. If my waist is around its typical 31″ circumference, the pants are perfect for me. (So yeah, assume the 32 waist fits like a 31.)

The 32 inseam was definitely on target. The pants are plenty long. Almost too long for me, but without a 31″ inseam option, it will do.

Durability

It’s been about 18 months now, and these have been my go-to hiking pants in all weather. Actually, they were my go-to adventure pants! They did it all. And I spent a lot of days just wearing them at home because they were so comfortable!

As proven on the boulders at Bilger’s Rocks and McConnell’s Mill, and the jagger bushes near most trails, they are strong enough to resist mild abrasions!

As far as the material goes, they’re still going strong! Even the Omni-Shield coating still works!

Unfortunately, just past the one year mark (and just out of the warranty period,) the pants started to break down. First, the stitching pulled out of one of the rear pockets. I wondered why my stuff was falling down my leg… it was because the pocket was nothing more than a trap door! A few months later, I went to unbutton the pants, only to have the button break in half!

It’s a bummer because otherwise, the pants are incredible!

I’m still wearing them. I mean, I had to wear a belt anyway since the waist was too big. I just have to do a bit of sewing and see if I can get someone to rivet a new snap button on there.

Style

The color is called “gravel.” It’s sort of the grayish green color of dark gravel or wet gravel. Under some lights, it’s olive green. I like it.

They are sort of a slim fit, with a straight leg, and are very flattering (unlike my baggy climbing pants). I received many compliments on them!

The only negative thing I noticed is they sometimes look like I have a wedgie when I’m climbing.

But most of the time, they are awesome. Just compare the pictures of me rock climbing in these Columbia pants to me climbing in the Gramicci pants, and it’s an obvious difference. Plus, you can see my leg muscles flexing in these pants! How cool is that?!

Why were they discontinued?!

I was going to buy more, but apparently that’s not an option! As usual, when I find something I like, it gets discontinued!

The Cool Creek Stretch Cargo Pants seem to have been replaced by the “Columbia Royce Peak Pants.” They cost $60, use the same fabric blend, have similar gussets around the knee, and have the same style pockets.

(And let me state once again how awesome the pockets are!)

My final verdict is…

These are quite possibly my favorite pants out of everything I own. Super comfy, stylish, and they conform to my body. Everything about them is well done (well, except maybe that button that broke in half). I just need to get another pair that actually match my waist and inseam a bit better.

I can’t guarantee that the Columbia Royce Peak pants are as good as these, but they look like your closest option.

Official website: www.Columbia.com

Buy online: www.REI.com | www.Amazon.com

Product Review Details
Company: Columbia Sportswear
Product: Columbia Sportswear Cool Creek Stretch Cargo Pants
Reviewed by: Coach Levi
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Date last updated: 2015-09-17
Obtained Product: Purchased at retailer.
CoachLevi.com Advertiser: No.

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4 Comments
  1. REI has those pants in the REI Outlet right now! $41.93 if you want another gravel color. Use your dividends! 😉

    • @Howie

      Wowzers! That means $33.54 after the current 20% off coupon! With my dividend it’s like I’m getting them for free!

  2. Sort of like Kuhl pants.

    • @Francis

      You know what, my uncle saw me wearing these and thought they were indeed Kuhl pants! They have very similar gussets around the knee.

      I’ve never worn Kuhl pants so I can’t compare. But I do know that Kuhl pants are much more expensive! Like, $80-130. They better be incredible for that price!

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