Rohan Jeans Plus make Levi’s look dumb

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!

Rohan Jeans Plus official photo
In-jean-ius.

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!

Rohan Jeans Plus front
Normalcy is the greatest of all stylistic achievements.

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:

Rohan Jeans Plus back
Bet you can’t find the secret pocket!

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:

Fabric

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:

Packability

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.

Bluffworks, Rohan Jeans Plus, and Levis packed size
Left to right: Bluffworks khakis, Rohan Jeans Plus, and a pair of Levi’s.

Weight savings felt similarly proportional. Definitely an improvement over the typical bulk of jeans.

Drying time

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.

Levi's, Rohan Jeans Plus, and Bluffworks Pants drying times
Left to right: Bluffworks, Rohan Jeans Plus, and Levi’s.

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?

Features

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:

Rohan Jeans Plus hidden front pocket
Secrets!

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:

Rohan Jeans Plus hidden pocket loop
Loopy.

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:

Rohan Jeans Plus hidden back pocket
More secrets!

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.

Conclusions

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!

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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32 Comments on “Rohan Jeans Plus make Levi’s look dumb”

    1. Yup! But I never would have been able to do it without my incredible good looks and charm. I appreciate the tip, though. I had never heard of Rohan before, and they seem to do correctly what I complain about everyone else constantly doing incorrectly.

      1. Levine,
        If you don’t end up with the Rohans you’ll be happy with the Bluffs! I was standing in the waves at Reñaca beach, Bluffs rolled up, when the tsunami alert was issued. We nope’d out of there quickly and by the time I met up with the family I was staying with, the Bluffs were dry! (They weren’t soaked, but it’s an ocean, you get wet.) I even wore them all day the next day (today).

        And Stefan,
        Don’t worry, you guys will get a write up of the abuse I’m putting them through. I still have to get up to San Pedro de Atacama in the next few days and wear them some more.
        I have regular jeans with me too, I just don’t want to wear them because I’m digging the Bluffs so much!

      1. Hi Stefan

        Thanks for the offer , I would love a pair of Bluffworks trousers, Lets make it happen!
        Thanks in anticipation

        kevinaevans at gmail dot com

  1. And I just picked up a pair of Bluffworks!
    Mind you, I’m in Chile right now and they have been amazing. I wouldn’t get rid of them. But if I had to add another pair to my travel collection, I’m going to look at these… Then probably Bluffworks again for a different color.

    1. Actually, I was thinking of mentioning how they coincidentally have a nearly identical pocket layout. The hidden back right hip pocket, the front left hidden pocket, and the front right attachment loop…they’re like long-lost brothers. This means they’d actually work together quite well, since you could keep all your belongings in the same place, regardless of which pair of pants you’re wearing, so you’d never get stuck looking for your wallet before realizing it’s on the opposite side.

  2. I checked out the site, very nice! I’m travelling with levi’s at the moment and I’m looking to get a new pair since they are wearing out. The Rohan line looks good — even the shorts. I always like your travel gear review!

  3. I can’t remember how I stumbled on to your site, but I really enjoy your insights.

    I am very interested in these Rohan jeans and I think I will order a pair. I am a true 33″ waist and odd sizes are not an option. Based on your experience, would you suggest I try a 32″ or 34″? The only thing I hate more than loose pants are tight pants!

    Thanks, and keep up the great work.

    1. Hmm…I’m gonna say 32″. The 34″ would have been a little baggy on me, and from the measurements, it sounds like you’re a bit slimmer than I am.

  4. Nice – thanks for another great review – you speak for a lot of us picky/geeky gear types that want great gear and not worry about wardrobe/gear malfunctions so we can enjoy an amazing trip (or even just daily use!). I just got 2 pairs of the Prana Axiom which I had been wanting to try – and while expensive – i had a 45% off coupon making them very affordable. That said – they work great with that bit of 1% spandex or something Levi’s or others dont have. Id love to compare it to a Rohan as well (which I was looking at after your last reviews) – but as you mentioned the prices are high (albeit probably worth it). Would be great if your buddies at the factory had some sort of special “Snarky” Deal for 25% off our first new-custy order? (after all your glowing reviews surely send the masses to their door/website!) Bluffs too!
    thanks again – and greetings from SoCal!

    1. There was talk of that, but they would be temporary promotions that would require me to go back and forth and update pages to add the promotion and then subtract it…not an impossible chore, but still just another of many tasks that build up.

      And yes, stretchiness is great, especially in jeans, which fit completely different after wearing them for a few hours, which would be solved with stretchy fabric. Now that my Levi’s are tearing themselves apart, I think I’ll be on the lookout for a little more stretch next time.

      1. Ok thanks – One more question regarding Fit of these vs other UK brands. I recall ordering a pair of cragghopper pants and the sizing/fit was very different than US (or even other Euro brands). Seemed like they were 2+ sizes smaller since they seemed to be designed to wear above the waist (belly button almost!) so a 34 or 32 were like 28-30! I agree the usual EU Large is like our oversized Medium in US for shirts, but the pants seemed very diff for UK. Did you find the waist/length meet your expectations or size up? (i usually order 2 sizes anyways and send one back if unsure of fit).

        1. It was slimmer than I was expecting. I usually wear a 32×32 relaxed fit, and the Rohans were more like a regular fit. If you’re between sizes, going up a size wouldn’t be a bad idea.

  5. Like you, I also wear 32×32. Was the pair you reviewed and tried the 32 regular or 32 long? I’m trying to decide which you to get.

    Thanks
    Dan

  6. Been travelling for 10 months now with a pair of Rohan Jeans that I managed to find on Ebay for $12, plus a new pair of Rohan Grand Tour chinos, $70. Both superb.

  7. One pair of pants you might add to your list is the Exofficio Roughian. It is nearly identical to the Bluffworks pair in construction but the fabric is 75% cotton, 22% polyester, and 3% spandex. The difference; Roughian’s have a velcro secured cell phone/camera pocket on the right leg while the Bluffworks pair has a small pocket up at the waistband. Both have 7 evenly spaced belt loops with 3 across the back; a major design plus. The Roughians look a bit less dressy because of the visible stitching. I have carried out drying time tests with both brands side-by-side. The Bluffworks pair dried to a wearable state in about 5 hours. The Roughian pair took slightly longer; maybe 6 to 6.5 hours. Both were equally wrinkle free. The upside of the Roughians is that you can find them on-sale for around $50 but they are becoming hard to find because of they are in high demand.

    1. Ex Officio has some good stuff, though they tend to have a few too many visible high-tech features for me, but they have enough options that they’re a decent place to look.

  8. None of the fancy fabric or pockets, but at least lightweight denim. http://www.vigilante.com.au/products.php?category_id=17

    I’ve started looking for something for a summer Japan trip – nothing but town time I expect ,but seems like the weather will be warmer than I am accustomed to. Since my Japanese firefighter hosts will want to be… hospitable… I’m thinking of gear that is ok for heat but still fit to go out in evenings too.
    I appreciate your views.

  9. So, Eytan, sorry for necroposting here, but I got to ask – are your Rohans still in one piece? What about wear and tear? I wondered what would you say about their durability after wearing them this long. I’d like to snatch a pair myself, except I hike and climb a lot, so I tend to ruin any pants in about a year due to friction (inner thighs) and impacts (knees). Sure, there’s nothing wrong about extra vents here and there, but it looks stupid when I sit. If I’m to spend twice my usual pant budget, I’d like them to last a while. ;) Could you offer any insights? Thanks!

    1. These are thinner than regular jeans, and although the addition of polyester and elastic will help with abrasion and tearing, I think synthetic pants would be a better choice for hiking. There’s just too much cotton in here for it to be super durable if you scratch against rocks and thorns a million times. Mine are still in great shape, but I haven’t taken them hiking. Good choices would be soft shell pants, which were invented for hiking, and should work nicely, though any hiking pants should be able to handle a hike as well as anything.

  10. Hi, Can I suggest you look into a company called Dish & Duer – Canadian (so good for me because local shipping and currency and good for Americans because exchange rate).
    They have two pairs of pants – performance denim jeans and a new kickstarted no-sweat 5-pocket pants. I have both and they are awesome. Light, breathable, resist stains, comfortable. Comparable to the Rohans which I returned because the fit was too relaxed for me and miles cheaper.

    1. I backed the Kickstarter for the No Sweat pants, although I have to do a size exchange when I get back home. They feel great, though. Very much looking forward to seeing if Tencel is as good as I think it is. I tend to get a little paranoid and prefer security pockets somewhere, but not all trips need those.

  11. My favourite travel trousers are the Rohan venture jeans, which are essentially a black version of their travel jeans, but seemingly only available in the autumn/winter. While Rohan think of them as winter wear I’ve successfully worn them in hot weather in Istanbul as well as in the Alps in winter. They have a similar selection of pockets and can look dressier than blue jeans as well as being anonymous. Rohan seem to have a weird idea about the cut of modern clothing however so I always take mine to get the legs narrowed. I’ve got two pairs that I wear everyday and after about three years of solid use they’re both still in great shape so excellent value for money, especially when bought on sale. While rohan gear can look a bit dorky and is obviously marketed at a certain demographic which can make you stand out as a moneyed tourist, it’s generally really well thought out, quality gear, and the more subtly coloured pieces are great for travelling and not standing out.

    1. Yeah, I agree with all that. They do seem to have added a few new cuts for the jeans, rather than the somewhat-wide leg of the original.

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