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

  1. First of all, I just want to say that I love your blog. I was looking for the best travel/technical/performance/travel underwear and came across your blog where you describe your experience with various types of underwear, which coincidentally I also own (ExOfficio, Saxx, Underarmour etc). I like ExOfficio, however I have the same problems you described, i.e. they loosen up quickly and then ride up your thighs. Anyway, I digress.

    I’ve been looking for a pair of travel pants literally for months now. I want all of the features of hiking pants, but I want a pair that doesn’t look like hiking pants, when I’m traveling for business and pleasure, which I do a lot. Wearing suits, jeans or any type of cotton clothing on a 16 hour flight from DC to Dubai, or 17 hour flight from NY to Mumbai, or 15 hour flight from LA to Tokyo is not best way to spend the time (sweat, heat etc). So, loved your review of the Bluffworks Chinos. However, I have a question for you since you already have them. I went to their website and it says that they are tailor fit, which usually it means they are slim or very tight. I have pretty big thighs and calfs, and I always have problems with slim fit, tailor fit etc. Are they really tight and do you recommend going 1 or 2 sizes up?

    Thanks again in advance! Keep up the good work!

    1. Personally, I’ve had no trouble with them, but body types are pretty variable. If you go on their site, there’s a little menu labelled “size chart” just underneath all the sizing and color menus, and it’ll give you really specific numbers on all the dimensions, including the thigh. That way you can compare it to a pair of pants you already own, and see how close it is. They’re slim, but the stretch helps a lot, and I feel more comfortable in them than some of the more loosely-fitting, non-stretch pants I own. The only potential issue would be if you want to go rock climbing in them, in which case you’d probably want a 4-way stretch soft shell pant instead. But aside from that, I adore them.

    2. I thought I would let you know that I just returned three pairs to them because none of them fit right. Like you, I have large calves. The size 30 fit my waist great, but the pants literally stretched around my calves. It felt uncomfortable and looked ridiculous. I then tried the 31 and 32. With each increase the room in tbe calf got better, but even the 32s still fit snugly around my calves. At the same time, the waist was way too big and hips were just odd.

      I will say the customer service was second to none so you only risk the return shipping should decide to try.

    1. Polyester is also going to be stronger than merino. I’d be a little worried taking merino pants on a hike, especially around things like thorn bushes or sharp rocks.

  2. Very helpful review, thanks. My suggestion is that you include more specifics about fabric. “Polyester” covers a muultitude of sins. I’m in the process of finding the best fabric for me (seeking the coolist since travel in hot climates). Thanks, tom

    1. Yeah, that’s part of the challenge of describing different fabrics. This is definitely softer and more cotton-like than some of the slick, super-thin nylon you find in hiking stores. There’s a bit of heat in hot weather, although the fact it’s so thin is a big help. The only way to make it lighter and cooler would be to wear linen, but that has its own downsides, like what happens in the rain.

      1. Hi, i don’t find linen too cool; I’m talking European summers and everyday thailand. I’ve been reading good things about polyamide micro canvas. Any experience with it? I’ll have to look up my motes, but i think used in the Rohan fusion pants.

        1. Polyamide is the British word for nylon. It definitely works. Some people just prefer natural materials and absorbency, but it’s a personal preference. I like quick-drying and rain-resistance a little too much to use natural materials exclusively. I think one pair of synthetic and one blend can work nicely, and for some reason jeans tend to be blended, so they can fill that slot.

  3. Do the chinos slide down railings as well as the original Bluffworks? This is my #1 criterion when looking for new pants.

    1. The Chinos aren’t as tough as the originals. Smooth railings, sure. Roughly-textured ones…I’d try to avoid it.

  4. I find it funny that the majority of commenters’ issue with the tailored chinos is that they are cut too slim. By contrast, I’ve been on the hunt for slim, durable travel pants. The ideal cut for me is slim-to-skinny. Not only do I believe that cut is more aesthetically pleasing and fashionable, but it’s also more comfortable. There’s a reason yoga pants are skin tight.

    It’s been difficult to find a nice slim-cut choice. Most pants are regular or relaxed fit, which do not turn me on in the least. I’ve narrowed my search down to the Bluffworks Chinos and the Outlier Slim Dungarees. I’m leaning towards the chinos, though, because they are more cost effective (about a hundred dollars less — I’m from Canada!)

    My question is — how does the chino cut compare to the SD? Are they both slim enough not to make much of a difference?

    1. The Bluffworks Chinos are slimmer, and both are similarly stretchy. They’re quite comparable in terms of mobility, though. The major difference is that the Bluffworks Chinos are lighter and thinner, and I find them more comfortable in hot weather, whereas the Slim Dungarees are a bit more like a cool-weather pant for cloudy days. That and the security pocket layout will be the most significant distinctions.

  5. If these are the best, then that is a very sad commentary. I bought these on your recommendation, and I am not sure I can list all the problems, but here are some of them;

    – These are the full PeeWee Herman. It is astonishing how many of these supposedly form-follows-function comfort-tech-travel clothes outfits have gone for the tight skinny-pants nerd-style that nobody even pretends is comfortable. They look absurd now, and will look more absurd in two years time when the fickle finger of fashion mercifully moves on and away from the PeeWee Herman look. And, for travel pants, skinny pants are simply counterproductive.

    – Apropos of taking its fashion cues from PeeWee Herman, these are cut short…3/4 of an inch shorter than the inseam length listed on the website in my case. Their overall tightness, narrow opening at the hem, and the fact that static makes them ride up subtracts at least another 1.5 inches.

    – Did I mention static? Which is all internal as you wear them, as the fabric as a rougher matte texture on the inside. As the static is internal, a spritz of water on the outside does nothing to tame it.

    – Noisy. If you don’t like how a corduroy swish announces your are coming with every step, these pants do about the same thing. It from the friction of the inside of the fabric on the inside against your legs, made worse by the aforementioned tightness and static.

    – Thank God that the front pockets have in inner part with a zipper, because the main pocket is so shallow as to be worthless. Zippered part is equally shallow so you have no choice but to use the zipper. I carry a small front-pocket sized wallet, which is too snug in these pockets. The tight fit is tolerable for waling around, but would be a constant strain sitting for long periods. I doubt a full sized wallet would fit at all.

    1. Well, it’s certainly useful to have dissenting feedback. I fit into them just fine, but maybe I got a bigger waist size than I otherwise could have, and haven’t run into too many of these problems. I agree on the front pockets, though. But no amount of depth seems to fix the problem, which is why I prefer horizontal jean pockets.

  6. Hi Snarky,
    I would like to buy some bluffworks trousers, but I was wondering how often they do sales for them. Right now there’s a 10% discount from Facebook, but they are still expensive, specially when you buy them from outside US (UK). Any ideas of when new sales will be?
    BTW, I went to the Rohan shop in London; they have quite nice clothing there. :D
    Thanks!.

    1. I expect sales are pretty rare. They’re really great, though. I know shipping abroad is painfully expensive, especially with returns, but I have a hard time bringing other pants on trips, especially if I want hidden pockets.

  7. What do you recommend for someone who wants the fabric of the chinos but the fit of the orignals? Do I have to go with another brand?

    1. They just released a relaxed fit option on the Chinos, as of just a few days ago. Your problems have been solved.

      1. Good luck getting a pair – they seem to be out of almost every option, except Harvest Gold. I was told that they had a production problem.

        1. That’s too bad. I hope they get things taken care of, as it’s almost one-of-a-kind in terms of its multitude of security pockets and other functionality.

  8. Using “TFC” as a promo code on their site will get you a discount on your entire purchase.

    Use promo code TFC and get 10% OFF your entire order on bluffworks.com

  9. Looks like the TFC code no longer works. Using TFC10 as a promo code on their site will get you a discount on your entire purchase. 10% OFF your entire order on Bluff Works. No expiration.

  10. Snarky……Because of one of your original reviews, I bought a pair of the originals. Then I bought another pair. Then the chinos and then the blazer. Between them they have been on every continent. The only complaint I had was with the chinos…..I got the light gray and they seemed to pick up dark marks and stains just from getting in a car, sitting on a plane or breathing. They would clean up well in the washing machine but not a sink wash when travelling. Now for the best part. I explained this to Bluffworks and they exchanged them for a black pair that I can mark up (I think) and not notice. There was no challenge and no questions asked. That is incredible for any clothing (or consumer products) company. I’m a fan for life.

    1. Really happy to hear that. Polyester is usually really stain resistant, but certain materials will cause a problem instead of others. Natural materials simply stain from other things, but those other things are more common, in other words. Food, coffee, etc. Polyester can stain from cheap deodorant, for example, but not usually from food. Happy to hear they got you a different one, and I’m happy to hear they’ve gone with you all over the world.

  11. Hi Snarky,

    I’m thinking about buying a Bluffworks pant, either the Regular Fit Original or Regular Fit Chino. After reading the reviews, it looks like the Chino is slimmer than the Original. Looking at the Bluffworks Fit Guide, the measurement of the Original is slimmer than the Chino.
    Most of my pants are straight fit and recently I got the Rohan Classic jean which fits fine.
    In your opinion, which Bluffworks pant is closer to a straight fit?

    1. The originals and the chinos each have 2 fits, but they both have a regular fit, which is pretty much the same for both. They’re all detailed on this page. I would definitely go with the stretchy chinos, but if you want a straight fit, go with the regular, not the tailored. The original version in the relaxed fit might be closest to straight, but the stretchiness of the chinos allows them to be skinnier without a problem.

    1. Hmm…I like to keep my passport up front, as it’s usually too large to sit on without bending it awkwardly. Just a personal preference thing, but it might be worth getting used to the switch.

  12. Hey there,
    could you be so kind and tell me the exact weight of your pants in 32? Which length do have, 30 or 32? Would be great to know as Bluffworks only tells the weight per inch or so.

    Thanks!
    thomas

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