So a while back I shared some thoughts on the endless debate over whether or not to travel with jeans. They’re immensely comfortable, but incredibly bulky. They’re suitable for any and all social situations, but horrible in extreme heat and rain. They’ll last forever, but if you get stuck doing a sink wash, they’ll stay wet forever. It’s a tough call.
But I also pointed out that the real mystery is not about whether to pack jeans or not, but rather why the outdoor companies are too stupid to realize that making a travel-friendly version of the world’s most popular leg attire would be exquisitely magnificent, and that their failure to do so is a ludicrous manifestation of sheer stupidity that deserves our collective disdain.
Luckily, someone actually agrees.
Rohan Jeans Plus: Travel jeans that actually exist!
So here we are with a pair of jeans from Rohan, a company that pretty much only makes travel clothing, which is incredibly convenient for backpackers who are tired of looking like mountaineers all the time.
Rohan calls them Jeans Plus, as they’ve got extra features that make these far more travel-worthy than a typical pair of Levi’s: They’re lightweight, relatively quick-drying, and built with travel-friendly security pockets that don’t look utterly ridiculous or call attention to the fact that you have a passport there.
Seriously, guys. Is a “security” pocket really that secure if it’s slapped on the outside with fluorescent colors and contrast stitching?
Okay, venting over.
So, they recently sent me a pair to try out, and although I’ll soon be getting to how not-ordinarily they perform, I’m going to start with how very ordinary they look.
Behold: Normalcy, in all its entirely ordinary glory!
No silly zippers all over the place. No embossed flames or racing stripes or zip-off legs or integrated belts or knee patches or drawstrings or other dangly nonsense. Nothing! Nothing at all!
The only real indication that anything interesting is going on is that you can sort of make out the velcro that seals the back pockets:
But that’s nearly invisible anyway.
I can’t put into words how much it drives me crazy how travel clothing so often looks like safari expedition gear. Oh wait, yes I can. It drives me crazy.
As I’ve said a billion times, you don’t need a ridiculous appearance to make good travel clothing. You need only a few things:
Rohan built these with a 66% cotton and 34% Coolmax polyester blend, meaning they’ll have some of the performance characteristics of travel clothing, but still retain some of the comforts of home. You can tell it’s not just cotton, but not in a way I would find uncomfortable. They’re also just a bit thinner than typical denim, which felt nicer on hot days.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I’m actually split on whether I would prefer 100% synthetic clothing, or a blend of synthetic and natural fabrics, to get a balance between performance and comfortable familiarity. Since practically no one bothers making travel jeans in either variety (I only know of these two), I’ll take whatever I can get. Either way can work, but it’s worth mentioning how these are intended to offer partial performance advantages, so you get a mix between faster drying times and natural comfort, and it makes for a good balance.
They’re also a little stretchy, but they actually retain their shape, rather than gaining two extra sizes over the course of the day like regular denim. It’s therefore a million times easier finding the right size.
Which, by the way, was a bit slimmer than I was expecting. Probably something to do with the difference between what American companies consider a relaxed fit and what the rest of the world considers a relaxed fit, since Rohan is based in the UK. Probably more like an American regular fit, and a rest-of-the-world relaxed fit.
So anyway, how does this all work out?
Travel pants vs travel jeans vs regular jeans
I wanted to see how these would compare to my current favorite pair of travel pants (Bluffworks, reviewed here), so I could see how similarly they’d perform when compared to high-tech gear, as well as how they’d stack up against a typical pair of Levi’s, to see how much of an improvement they’d provide when compared to regular jeans, particularly when it comes to packability and drying time. So:
The Rohans are about halfway between the thickness of travel pants and regular jeans, which is what I’d expect, since that’s exactly what they are.
Weight savings felt similarly proportional. Definitely an improvement over the typical bulk of jeans.
You can see how the fabric composition correlates directly with drying time. The less cotton it has, the faster it’ll dry:
- Bluffworks pants: 100% polyester, 8 hours
- Rohan Jeans Plus: 66% cotton, 34% polyester, 24 hours
- Levis: 100% cotton, 36 hours
That was on a cool but not cold day, and after a machine wash (which would be faster than a sink wash, since the spin cycle gets rid of a lot more excess water than hand wringing).
Neighbors probably think I’m weird.
So although it was slower than Rohan’s claimed 10 hours, I think it’s more useful to compare the proportions, rather than the numbers themselves. Varying conditions like temperature, humidity, wind, direct sunlight, and other factors will obviously impact the results (they may have dried theirs in the sun, for example), which is why I compared all three, in the same room, at the same time. Thus: These’ll dry out in about 2/3 the time of regular jeans, under similar conditions. Getting caught in the rain wouldn’t be so bad either.
In warm weather, I’d probably be happy to hang them up to dry overnight (and if it’s warm, you can wear them while slightly damp anyway, and they’ll finish drying quickly), but in cooler weather, I’d wait until I’m in the same place two nights in a row, and do it there.
So the fabric provides a good balance between high-tech performance, and natural comfort. What about the hidden perks?
The Rohan Jeans Plus have a total of seven pockets; four close with velcro, one zips shut, and two are hidden. The front pockets were a little smaller than I was expecting, but still big enough for passports and other things (edit: the front pockets have been expanded in newer versions, and they’re now a great size).
Starting with the front, there’s a velcro pocket hidden in the front pocket. It’s a little tricky to see, but the velcro-secured divider splits the front pocket in two:
It’s big enough for a passport, or a phone, or maybe a small camera. And although it’s just velcro, it would be practically impossible for a pickpocket to figure out what’s going on in there without knowing ahead of time that that’s what’s going on.
The other front pocket has a loop, for clipping a camera with a strap, or a set of keys, or a security wallet on a chain:
Plus that little coin pocket closes with velcro.
And on the back, there’s a hidden zippered pocket, sewn right into a seam, where it remains practically invisible:
It’s big enough for a passport, yet it’s cleverly hidden, without ruining the appearance or announcing its presence. Exactly the way all secret pockets should be. You know, secret.
These are great. I don’t know why practically nobody else bothers making travel jeans, but I guess life is full of mysteries. So if you’ve been digging around forever trying to find some, these’ll do quite nicely. The fabric is a great mix of comfort and performance, and it has all sorts of security features, but keeps them completely invisible. These are exactly how travel jeans should have been this whole time.
At $110, they’re not going to be for everyone, but their satisfaction guarantee goes a long way in reducing the anxiety of spending three digits of money on a pair of jeans. By comparison, my Levi’s have ripped apart after just a few years. Just something to think about.
They’re available for men and women (or go here for the UK store), alongside a rather extensive collection of other equally normal-looking travel clothing that can follow you along on adventures far and wide, without looking ridiculous the whole time.
…because if I want to look ridiculous, I’ll damn well act ridiculous, dammit!