Travel Gear Review: Jeans or no Jeans

Sep 20, 2015

To jean or not to jean, that is the question. Backpackers around the world have pondered this question like Keirkagaard philosophizing about human morality. The typical thought process goes something like this…

Are they going to take up too much room in my pack? Will they dry fast enough when I wash them? Oh lord, the weight of this denim is crushing me! But I love my jeans, how will I live without them!?

In this post, we’re gonna give you our take on this age-old vagabond debate and see if we can come up with a majority consensus.



To travel with jeans or not was the question posed. That is not the question I intend on answering.

When I first left the States, I did not pack nor even consider bringing jeans with me. They were “heavy, not easily cleaned, and take forever to dry.” All things that may be true, if comparing them to pants made out of space-aged, super lightweight, ultra quick drying materials. Although I may be able to argue jeans are no harder to clean, especially if using a washing machine.

For the first seven months away from home I missed having jeans a handful of times, but not enough to think twice about it.

Then I went home for a couple weeks over Thanksgiving. Upon wearing jeans again it cemented the fact I was home.

When packing to return to South America it was not an option of whether or not to bring jeans, but which pair of jeans to bring.

Hence not answering the initial question. It is not about traveling with jeans. It is simply “Do I wear jeans?”

That answer is an unequivocal yes.

The road has been my ‘home’ for over a year now and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. I wear jeans at home. It is my preferred type of pants. Why wouldn’t I wear jeans now that I live out of a backpack and change addresses all the time.

Any additional weight or inconvenience that jeans may impose is inconsequential compared to the comfort they bring. I would – and do – wear my jeans in favor of my other travel type pants. And I really like my other pants. But I do not get the same feeling of home when stepping into them.

As for type of jeans… I couldn’t give less of a shit about any of that. I do not concern myself with anything of that sort. The jeans I have I bought at Old Navy in LA during a layover on my way to New Zealand. They were on sale and comfortable. That is enough of a reason for me to choose them.

Would I consider jeans an essential travel item? No. I consider them an essential life item, traveling or not.




As I’ve mentioned in a recent post, I am much more comfortable in jeans than in any other clothing option. My bag be damned!

Imagine a pear-shaped, lady hobbit with a big booty. Yup, that’s me! As I’m sure you could guess, finding jeans that fit the body of a pear-shaped, lady hobbit with a big booty is not always the easiest. If they’re big enough to fit my hips and booty, they are too big in the waist and vice versa. Don’t even get me started on the lengths. I don’t understand how you people can be so long! Capris are quite literally usually normal length pants on me.

Having said that, I definitely don’t have a favorite brand. If the price is right, and it even remotely fits my hobbit body, I buy them. Target’s brand, Denizen, does have some options that are pretty lightweight for jeans, and have some stretch to them, which is always nice. AND they have short sizes! What a treat! These worked really well for me for a while until the thigh area rubbed right through, which does tend to happen when you’re wearing the same pair of jeans pretty much every day, especially if they’re the stretchy kind.

When that happened, I was sadly nowhere near a Target so I had to settle for some cheapo random jeans found in a Chilean shop before flying over to New Zealand where I knew jeans would be more expensive.

Moral of the story? I think if you are more comfortable in jeans, then bring the fucking jeans! You’re going to be in uncomfortable situations all the time while you’re traveling, you might as well make it a little less so if you can.  




Denim my love… I can’t live with you, I can’t live without you.  Okay, I definitely CAN, but I always find myself making room for jeans in my pack regardless.  On the other hand, I think it is exceptionally difficult to find a decent pair of women’s (especially petite women’s) hiking pants that don’t give you one of the following ailments: mom butt, awful panty lines, super-tech-trail-girl notoriety, the swish as you walk, awful pockets, zippers, and bungees, or worst yet a combination of the above!

I am constantly questing for the perfect pair of pants, shorts, etc. because I love the idea of bringing, “only what [I] need to survive” – Spaceballs anyone?  Basically I want to avoid having favorites in my pack, or things I can only wear with ‘XYZ’.  Each item in my pack should work with every other item.  For this reason, Jeans fit the bill… unless you are in the Middle East for the summer, in which case jeans are way too hot and shorts aren’t an option for anyone other than prostitutes.

I am currently back-ordered on a pair of Shasta pants from (and have been for several months).  The Palisade pants (also were close but no cigar.  Fingers crossed that the Shasta hold up to the accolades they have received online!  If I fall in love with a pair of pants that aren’t denim, I would consider switching things up and throwing my jeans to the wayside; until then I will continue to pack a pair of my favorites: GAP Perfect Boot (P.S. I worked there for a long time, if you need “fit tips” feel free to ask). 




Jeans for me! While I definitely enjoy a good tech oriented pant from time to time I just can’t part with the comfort of jeans. When I worked in the Middle East we all wore some sort of “fancy pant” every day and referred to jeans as “freedom jeans” because we only wore them when we were flying home for vacation. I always remembered the feeling of getting in them and giving the 100 degrees summer days the big middle finger for the month off. I admit they do not pack light, shed water or offer much breathability but when traveling to mild or cold weather climates I will never leave them at home.  If you only travel to warm weather areas I would certainly just replace them for a second pair of board shorts. Do not forget that many Muslim countries (which are terribly warm) look down upon shorts so pants are still a good idea. Many nightclubs, restaurants and religious areas are restrictive of shorts so it makes sense to have pants of some form with you. An extended vacation usually comes with some feelings of missing home, so for me jeans will always be on the list. 




Jeans. I love them. I don't like the idea of living a life without them. They're comfortable, durable, sensible in the way of style, and let's be honest, you hardly ever have to wash them. For me, they are perfect for the every day wear in places that are not warm enough for shorts. Since we've been gone, we've spent a combined three months time or so in places that required us to wear pants due to the weather and I happily wore my jeans in all of them. And when it's too hot for pants, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be wearing denim shorts! 

But let's go back to the whole durability thing. When I say that jeans are durable, I mean that they'll stand up to a tumble, to some thistles on a trail, to just about anything. Anything, that is, except for your own thighs. Let those babies just rub on each other enough times and you will witness the fastest crotch explosion in denim history. Because ladies, we all know that as soon as you see the worn down individual fibers on the inside of the thighs of your jeans, you've only got a few days before the thighs are fully blown out and you're only days away from wearing jorts.  The downside of denim, my friends. 

But what about those cool travel pants you see all those travelers wearing? What about those? Well, I'll tell you about those. I think they're stupid, cliché, and are the gringo-est of gringo things to wear. Unless you're hiking out in the wilderness then I believe they have no place in a modern town or city. They are just ridiculous. Unless you’ve got long skinny legs and a cute little Teague-bottom, then they just don’t work. You're probably asking yourself about now, "but Jen, why are you so hostile towards these poor, innocent pants? Aren't they actually pretty cool and functional?" Well, dear reader, I will give you that. They are functional. Especially when you can zip off the leg and now, voilà, you've got shorts. But let me also tell you that personally, I think those take the cake for being the MOST ridiculous pants ever. Again you say, "Jen, come on. So much hostility! They're just pants!" Yes they're just pants. Just pants that are out to make me and my ass and my legs look AWFUL. You just can't put a figure like mine in pants like those. It just can't be done. And you want to try and unzip the legs to give me shorts in the event of it turning into a warm day? Pardon me while I walk my tree trunks over to the other side of the street. No. No, no, no. I'll take my heavy-ass, non-washable, slow-as-hell-to-dry, crotch-exploding jeans over those silly travel pants any day. This also applies to those stupid-ass colorful striped burlap sack pants you see a lot of people wearing down here in South America. For the love of all that is good in this world, please, someone burn them all. 

And on that note, I am sad to say that when we depart for New Zealand this September, I don't think I will be packing my jeans :( it will be summer down under and Southeast Asia will be on deck so it just doesn't seem to make sense to carry them around. I'm sure that I will feel utterly lost without them but I will just have to find comfort in my two pairs of yoga pants. 




No jeans for this guy. Don’t get me wrong, I love wearing jeans and would absolutely live in my favorite pair if I thought they could handle my rigorous pant requirements but, for me, jeans don’t fit the bill when it comes to what I want in travel clothes. Perhaps I should explain by starting there; let’s discuss what is so different about my travel clothes.

To put it as succinctly as possible, I need stuff that can handle a variety of stresses and come back ready for more. My gear needs to work in three seasons weather and be worn for a ridiculous amount of time without washing. I need to literally be able to sleep in them when they are dirty and never worry about them showing the filth or holding onto it. When even I can’t handle the otherworldly rancidness of my clothes, I need to be able to wash them easily and have them mostly dry within about two hours. I want to be able to ride a mountain bike through a stream  and have my pants nearly dry with in 30 minutes. I also need them to pack small and light and not suffocate me when worn in warm weather. For me, Denim just can’t meet those standards.

Denim holds onto dirt, is heavier than I’d like, doesn’t dry fast enough and weighs too much. It can’t keep up with Teague like behavior. That being said, my favored pants, Kuhl Liberators, aren’t perfect either. They don’t like getting caught in bike chains or offer any skin protection against pavement, they can’t be dressed up at all (I always look trail ready) and they don’t look universally cool like my Levis 527s. But hey, I’m universally cool enough, just ask around. Modest too.

So there it is, no jeans in my pack. Just stuff that’s ready for adventure, lightweight and not afraid of the water with a willingness to get dirty time and time again, like me. 



Jeans! Matt may have put it best; whatever you wear at home is what you should wear on the road. If you wear jeans a lot at home, you’ll want to wear them when traveling. On a side not, almost all of us have some sort of technical hiking pant in our packs and a few of us carry those nerdy but damned practical zip-off pants. If in doubt on what you should bring, just remember that most of your favorite brands can be found in many places around the world so if you feel like you’ve made a mistake you can always pick up some new threads.

Category: Products

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