Bluffworks Chinos are even better than the original

So a while back, I made a pretty bold statement when I said Bluffworks were the best travel pants out there. The mix of technical fabric, casual styling, and hidden security pockets were as good a combination as you were going to get, and despite the millions of options available, this is still true.

But in the review, I mentioned one potential problem. The fabric wasn’t stretchy, so it can feel a little restrictive when sitting down on a plane for 14 hours, or high-stepping your way up a Mayan pyramid or something. And although they’ve updated the fit since I first got them (plus added a relaxed-fit version), they were also working on a stretchy new fabric that would offer a lot more flexibility, which they called the Chino.

For the last few years, I’ve been waiting for this new version to show up, often avoiding other pant purchases in the meantime, because I expected these would just end up replacing them anyway. And when they recently sent me a pair to try out, that’s exactly what happened.

These are great. Really, really great.

I’ve tried a million different options over the years, and I’m pretty confident when I say: I don’t think you’re going to find a better pair of travel pants out there. The travel-friendly security features are as good as it gets, and they still look exactly like a regular pair of pants. And with the addition of the stretchy new fabric, they’ve removed the only potential problem they ever had. They look great, feel great, and keep important items safely hidden away. This is exactly what travel pants should do, and amazingly few of them do it.

Here’s what they look like:

Bluffworks Chino Front
Normality!

Notice first of all how you do not see a billion zippers and fluorescent racing stripes and billboard logos everywhere, which everyone else always seems to have for some reason.

Ahem, moving on.

Features:

These have a grand total of 7 pockets, 3 of which are zippered. This is amazingly useful if you’re heading somewhere with annoying pickpockets, or you just like keeping stuff someplace where it can’t fall out. Money belts are fine, but I just prefer these features built-in.

Both front pockets have a hidden, zippered pocket on the inside:

Bluffworks Chino Front Left Pocket
Zippy.

On the right side, there’s also a little hang loop, for attaching keys on a carabiner, or maybe a small camera, which can hang from its wrist strap.

Bluffworks Chino Front Right Pocket
Zippy again.

There’s also a small, drop-in coin pocket in there, but it’s down deep and it’s hard to get a photo of it.

I’d actually like to see “invisible” zippers used here, which are so stealthy that you can’t even see them, as they hide the zipper completely on the opposite side of the fabric. I floated this as a suggestion, so maybe it’ll make an appearance at some point, but in the meantime, the zippers are completely hidden when standing, and only show up when sitting down:

Bluffworks Chino Visible Zipper
It kinda depends on what kind of chair you’re in.

Even then, it’s only from certain angles, but it would still be neat if those zippers were the on-seam kind that remain completely invisible. Plus your hands wouldn’t feel the teeth when you reach into the regular pocket, which would be nice.

Moving on to the back:

Bluffworks Chino Back
Also normal!

Notice the extra back pocket on the right side, up by the waistband, which is designed for a phone. It holds it up high, so if you like to carry your phone in your back pocket, you won’t sit on your phone when you sit down. It even comes with an easily-removable line of stitching to shorten the space, so it can accommodate small phones, or you can remove the stitching, to fit large phones.

Bluffworks Chino Phone Pocket
Remove that extra stitch line if you have a big phone.

(I’m just pointing this out because of someone who didn’t understand the point of the stitch line, and thought his big phone just wouldn’t fit.)

Personally, I always carry my phone in a front pocket, but I like how there’s this extra bonus pocket in back. It’s a good place for keeping a wallet or spare cash, because no one will try to pickpocket something if they don’t know it’s there.

The back left pocket is also zippered:

Bluffworks Chino Back Left Pocket
This zipper is very hard to see when it’s zipped shut, just as it should be.

The right side pockets are just drop-in, I assume because they didn’t want a zipper going right over a phone, since the teeth might press against it and feel weird.

A few more pics for fun:

Bluffworks Chino Right

And the other side:

Bluffworks Chino Left

Like I said, I don’t think you’re going to find a pair of pants with as many built-in security features, and certainly not one that looks completely indistinguishable from a normal pair of pants. If you’re going somewhere with a reputation for pickpockets and you don’t want to look like a dork, this is the only way it should be. I even use these features at home, so coins and keys don’t fall out, which is always nice.

Fabric:

These are 100% polyester, with 2-way mechanical stretch. They feel great, and they’re super soft. While the original fabric felt like canvas (think carpentry pants), these feel pretty much just like a pair of nice cotton khakis. And the stretch, despite only going in 2 directions (left and right, but no up and down), really makes a huge difference, especially with the modern, trim fit. There’s even an inseam gusset that helps too. They’re really comfortable, and I wear them all the time. I much prefer them over the original version, because of the stretch.

These were also designed with a non-grainy appearance, for a more casual look. The originals look like wool, while these look like cotton:

Bluffworks Chino vs Original Fabric
Grainy, wool-like original fabric (left) vs smooth, cotton-like chino (right).

They also dry ridiculously fast. Putting them in the dryer is almost pointless. You can take them right out of the washing machine and wear them, and they’ll be dry in minutes. They’re also great at resisting wrinkles and stains, and they’ll probably last forever, as they’re made of 100% polyester.

Speaking of polyester, when it comes to travel, certain people prefer natural fabrics, or blends, especially in tropical climates; there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve generally run into more trouble with slow-drying natural fabrics than non-breathable synthetics, which is why I usually go for the technical fabrics. If they’re light enough, they’ll work well enough in hot weather, and if it’s really hot, you’re probably going to wear shorts anyway. That’s just how I look at it, which is why I prefer things like these.

The only high-tech fabric alternative worth looking at would be soft shell pants, which provide crazy yoga-pant levels of flexibility, due to the 4-way stretch, so you can go rock climbing, or something like that. Soft shells also seem to hold up to rain a little better, though I think that’s because of the pre-applied rain-resistant spray-on finish rather than the fabric itself. The downsides are that soft shells are usually twice as expensive, and threads get snagged more easily. So I’d like to see 4-way stretch in something like this, but I wouldn’t get too worried about it. The only time I could really feel the difference was on really cold days, when I was wearing leggings underneath. Because of the extra friction, the pants couldn’t move anywhere, so I could feel the resistance when kneeling down to tie a pair of shoes, for example. So if you need crazy stretch, get a soft shell. If not, you’ll be fine with these.

Conclusions!

As you can tell, I’m overjoyed with these. The travel-friendly safety features are unmatched by anything else I’m aware of, and the development of the softer, stretchy fabric has solved the one and only problem with the original version. These also dry faster and resist wrinkles better than the originals, making them even lower-maintenance than they were before. I wear these all the time now, and it’s hard to imagine traveling with anything else. When Bluffworks says these pants will replace three in your drawer, I think they’re right.

A few things worth mentioning: I’d like to see 4-way stretch someday (as long as it could avoid the thread-snag problem of soft shells), along with invisible zippers in the front hand pockets. I’ve also heard these don’t breath quite as well as the originals, so you might still want shorts in oppressive heat. Also, I don’t think these come pre-finished with a spray-on rain-resistant treatment, so it’s not a bad idea to spray this on if you’re going to be out the rain constantly. Lastly, the softer fabric picks up cat hair a little more easily than others, which is worth knowing if you live with pets.

But that’s it, and none of those issues are particularly significant. If you’ve been on the lookout for something like this, I don’t think you’re going to find anything better. They’re light, soft, strong, stretchy, stylish, and secure. You can probably just get two of these and not shop for travel pants again for another 20 years. Like I said, they’re really great.

Check them out here.

(Two more colors are on the way soon; light gray, and dark gray.)

About SnarkyNomad

Eytan is a pretentious English major whose rant-laden sarcastic tirades occasionally include budget travel tips and other international nonsense. You can follow his every narcissistic word on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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86 Comments on “Bluffworks Chinos are even better than the original”

    1. It’ll show up soon. They did a poll during the Kickstarter for which colors they should do next, and people chose light gray and dark gray. They planned to do a poll ahead of time, since they discovered their most popular color for the original fabric (charcoal) from people just telling them they’d love one in that color. That way they wouldn’t have to guess every color ahead of time. I think they went with the warmer, flashier colors to differentiate it from the original fabric, which mostly has dressy colors, but I’m looking forward to the grays too.

  1. Are the leg openings that much narrower than the regular khaki ones? And how would you compare the fit to the regular (or relaxed if you have them) khakis?

    I really like the fabric, but I tend to like a fit between regular and relaxed (leaning toward regular usually). Not a skinny guy here, heh. Just happened to notice the sale and finally contemplating my first pair… choice paralysis.

    1. So I have a size 32, and the leg openings are exactly 15″ (in circumference) whereas the regular fit version of the original fabric lists them as 15.75″ (there are a bunch of super-specific measurements on the page for the original fabric version, so you can compare them to a pair of pants you already own by looking at those). I think the stretch version has a slimmer thigh as well, although the waist band seems pretty much the same. So the stretchy fabric is actually slimmer than the regular fit originals, but I think the stretch makes up for it. I actually don’t have an exact-match comparison for the original fabric, since the pair of originals I have got a fit update, but mine were made before that. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to try them both, and see which one you like best. Sitting down in them with full pockets for a while is probably the best way to see if they’re going to be restrictive. Maybe climbing stairs, too.

    2. The legs of the chinos are definitely slimmer than the originals, I would guess maybe an inch which fits with Snarky’s measurements above.

      I was very happy with the original fit so this was fine with me and the stretch helps, but if the originals were restrictive for you, then I’d go a size up and deal with the slightly larger waistband.

    3. I have both the original (non-relaxed-fit) and new chinos, and would say if you prefer relaxed/regular, you may find the chinos too slender. For myself (6′, 195#, average’ish? build), the chinos are about at the limit for how skinny a pant I’m willing to wear. They look & feel awesome, though (I’ve received more compliments on all of my Bluff pants than any other pants I’ve owned, and more on the chinos in the couple weeks I’ve had them), and the stretch is very welcome. My personal ideal would be the original fit cut with the chino fabric, and with a salmon/brick color option.

  2. Would you say that the hidden pockets are the biggest selling feature about these? I have a bunch of “technical fabric” pants, and while all have great fabric, especially for bike-to-work type things, none of them have hidden pockets. The pants I have are the Mission Workshop Aviator chinos, which are *quite* slim fitting, and 4 way stretch, but ultra light weight. I also have Outlier’s 60/30 chinos, which are 4 way stretch, thicker than the aviators, *very* expensive, but an absolute dream to travel in. No problems even in across the world flights. I also have the Futureworks which are “summer weight” nylon pants, but I honestly don’t like them too much because they’re not that lightweight, and only have two way stretch,

    Neither of them, though, have hidden pockets, and the Outlier pants are especially guilty of letting stuff fall out too easily.

    1. I think you mean Ministry of Supply Aviator Chinos…Mission Workshop is different, though they use a lot of the same sorts of materials.

      I would definitely say the security pockets are a major selling point. Slash pockets drive me absolutely insane, because change falls out of them all the time. This is why pretty much everything in my closet has jean pockets, because that almost never happens with them. The only slash pocket pants I own right now are dressy suit pants, and Bluffworks, because Bluffworks solves the change-falling-out problem with those zippers, which are also helpful for traveling to countries with lots of pickpockets. I really wouldn’t travel anywhere with a slash-pocket pant, because if you lose something in another country, there’s really no convenient backup plan. Imagine if your passport falls out, for example. At home it’s fine, but in the middle of nowhere it’s crazily complicated to deal with. So I prefer jean pockets, or zippered pockets.

      It’s hard to give fabric comparisons, because everyone will feel a little different, but I also have the Futureworks, and I think that would be the closest comparison. They’re similarly light, and have 2-way stretch…the differences seem to be that the Bluffworks have a higher inseam (better movement, and the gusset is wider, so it doesn’t feel restrictive), a less visible gusset (dressier appearance), and the Bluffworks are a lot smoother (not quite as soft, but they move around more easily because of the lower friction). The Bluffworks also have a much finer weave, so they’re not going to get snagged. Hopefully that helps. There’s no “perfect” fabric, but this is a good one.

      1. In the pictures the fabric looks a lot like the fabric of Prana Brion pants, is that correct or how does it compare to those?

        1. I would say that’s a good comparison in terms of weight and thickness, but the Prana Brion pants are much stretchier (I actually find them just a bit too stretchy, and they don’t really feel substantial, the way “real” pants would). They stretch 50% greater than their original width, whereas the Bluffworks stretch about 20%. Also, the Prana Brion has thicker threads, which are more easily snagged by cat claws (though this usually makes them more breathable). I would say the Prana Brion has more a sporty, stretchy, almost-too-thin fabric, whereas the Bluffworks feel much more like normal pants.

  3. As to the breathability, I read the same thing you did from their website, but my experience hasn’t supported it. Now I have only received them since the weather cooled off here in Miami, so this impression may change in the summer.

    What I did notice was that when I get things from the freezer section in the grocery store, my legs get freezing right away (which I never noticed with the originals), which might imply poor/less insulation but I don’t know (maybe some physics thing like heat capacity/conduction, etc, not really breathability). I have the blue version (not sure if the fabrics vary between colors).

    1. This has been my experience as well. They’re pretty thin, and they’re sensitive to cold temperatures, so leggings are a good idea if you’re traveling in the winter. I haven’t gotten a chance to test the breathability so far, but I think that because of the finer weave (you can barely see the threads), it just has smaller air gaps.

      I’m generally of the opinion that it’s the thickness that makes you overheat, more so than the breathability. If something is warm but breathable, you’re going to sweat. But if it’s cool and not-quite-as-breathable, you’ll just sweat less to begin with, so it’s less of an issue. I’ll come back in the summer with an update once I get a better idea of how it feels in the heat.

  4. SN, thanks for the thoughtful write up. I bought their originals and they are just way too formal for me while on the road traveling for holiday. Also, I work at a brewery, and my boss gave me a funny look when I wore them to work one day (“too corporate”). So sadly they are gathering dust in the back corner of my closet. Hopefully the chinos will work out better.

    1. That’s pretty funny. Only a brewery or something like that would tell you that you were dressed up too nicely. I think some of the lighter colors work, though. But yeah, this stretch version uses the non-grainy fabric, so it looks nice and casual.

  5. The originals were 25% off this week so I ordered two pair. I’m looking forward to getting them. I’m a big fan of navy pants; I wish the new chinos would be offered in navy. The khaki looks nice but the lighter blue and goldenrod don’t appeal to me.

  6. Do I understand it correctly that you think a soft shell like Outlier makes is a bit better than these, but not worth the extra money?

    1. It’s a pros and cons thing. Most soft shells are stretchier, but easier to snag. Aside from that, it’s just up to the specific soft shell fabric, which might have better or worse qualities depending on what the fabric is like.

  7. Does anyone have any experience with the pants from QOR, particularly the Gym Jean? Those look like they might be comfortable for travel…

  8. Thesee look really cool. I own the original ones and use them everyday to work (cool to hot climate in africa).
    was looking for these , fabric wise, but unfortunately they made them narrower and slimer. Even narrower at the leg bottom. I do not understand this tendency for cigarette type of cut… too slim, doesn t even look good as the shoes arz not slightly cover by the pants… too bad not for me this time it seems.

    1. Yeah, it’s just a style preference. More and more people nowadays wear slim-fitting pants, and they can only make so many options available. They do have regular and relaxed fits on the non-stretch fabric, but I didn’t think these were too skinny. I don’t like super-slim fits, and these look fine to me.

  9. I really like you reviews, I really do, but I am at loss to understand why you keep raving about these pants. They are not anything like a “khaki” pant. They are very light. Almost no weight. Might be good in the summer, but any temperature at all, you will feel the cold. The fabric has a funny synthetic feel to me. They are cut very slim. Since, they do not stretch very much, you have to be very thin to wear these. I know they are two way stretch. But, in my mind, they do not hold up to the four way Schoeller fabrics. I think the Proof or Outlier pants are a much better bet. More comfortable, easier to move in and can be worn on a much wider range of temperatures. I know you like the hidden pockets, but really, are you going to use them? Try them. The pants are slim to begin with. Put stuff in your pockets and you will wish you carried a bag or have cargo pants. On me, anyway, they look silly with things in the pocket.

    1. Well, I can’t say I’ve run in to any of those problems, and I use the zippered pockets all the time. If I’m traveling somewhere with pickpockets, I don’t feel good wearing a pair of pants without them. I love 4-way stretch fabrics too, but I haven’t felt restricted in these, unless I’m doing something athletic in them. They’re light, reasonably stretchy, have more security options than just about anything else, and they feel good to me. I’m quite happy with them. Maybe going a size up would help?

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