Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Clothing > Pants and Shorts > REI Sahara Convertible Pants > Test Report by Kathleen Waters


INITIAL REPORT - July 02, 2015
FIELD REPORT - October 15, 2015
LONG TERM REPORT - November 17, 2015


NAME: Kathleen Waters
EMAIL: kathy at backpackgeartest dot com
AGE: 64
LOCATION: Canon City, Colorado, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.60 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)

Living in Colorado and being self-employed, I have ample opportunities to backpack. There are over 700,000 acres/280,000 hectares of public land bordering my 71-acre/29-hectare "backyard" in addition to all the other gorgeous locations which abound in Colorado. Over the past 15 years, my husband John and I have also had the good fortune to hike/snowshoe glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in exotic locations, including New Zealand, Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. I use a tent (rainfly if needed). Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) excluding food and water.



Manufacturer: Recreational Equipment, Inc.
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US $64.50
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 10 oz (283 g)
Sizes Available: Women's 2 - 16 Petite and Regular and Women's Plus 16W - 24W
Size Tested: Women's 4 Petite
Colors Available: Asphalt and Steel Grey
Color Tested: Steel Grey
Listed waist: 28.5 (72 cm)
Measured waist: 28 in (71 cm)
Measured inseam pants: 29 in (74 cm)
Measured inseam shorts: 7 in (18 cm)
Measured rise: 12 in (30.5 cm)

Other details:

Materials: 100% Nylon Shell with DWR finish & 100% Polyester Mesh
Sun Protection: UPF 50+

My waist: 30 in (76 cm)
My hips: 37 in (94 cm)
REI Sahara Convertible Pants
Photo: Copyright REI


When I ordered the REI Sahara Convertible Pants, from the REI website description and pictures, I was confident I knew what the basic construction of the pants would look like. I also understood (more or less) the sizing and features. What I wasn't sure about was what the color would be. Computer monitors are notoriously inaccurate with color shades and I couldn't really tell the color from color choices. Why do clothing manufacturers use creative color names? What exactly is "asphalt" or "steel grey"? A bit of "googling" defined "asphalt" as being black to light grey. And "steel grey" is dark metallic gray with a bluish tinge. OK... So when the pants arrived, I was pleased to find my steel grey pants were the pleasant medium shade of grey that matches many of my other outdoor clothing.

Once I got over the color thing, the most notable and wonderful thing about these pants are the way they handle being "convertible". I have many pairs of convertible pants but these are the first that not only unzip in a circular fashion around my thighs, but also have a full-length side zippers from top to bottom of the removable legs so they can be removed without having to pull my boots through them. REI calls this design "No-Sit Zips". I call them "Super Zips"! No more muddy pants! This is so cool! Oh, and the zippers are color-coded - the side zippers and the upper zippers match but are different for the left and right legs - so I can easily match the proper "leg" when I have to re-attach them. How neat is that?

This feature alone would right off move these pants to the front of my gear closet but that's just one (a big one) of the neat features, REI has put into these pants.

There are six roomy pockets. The two hook and loop closure pockets on the back are, alas, just a bit too small for my cell phone but big enough for a hankie or two. Then there are two hand pockets at the front waist which are well, hand-sized. And, lastly, two side leg pockets large enough to tuck my Samsung Galaxy 5 cell phone into and safely secured closed with an overlap and zipper closures.
Back Pocket Side Pocket

For comfort, the gusseted crotch eliminates seams from rubbing against my inner thighs when hiking and the soft elasticized (back) waist lining feels like a pair of flannel pajamas!

REI, thoughtfully, added some additional adjustment features to these pants in the way of hook and loop tab closures at the cuff so I will be able to cinch the cuffs tightly closed when in terrain that warrants caution against pricklies. And if I ever do lose those last stubborn five pounds (2.3 kg), I will be able to tighten the waistband via the stretchy strap and button adjusters hidden in the waistband,

Cuff Closure Waist Adjusters

Before I tried on the Convertible Pants, I carefully inspected it for any flaws in construction or workmanship. I found that all seams were straight with no puckered or dropped stitches. The fabric showed even coloration and there were no snags. All zippers worked smoothly. Absolutely, nothing was amiss. A quality product for sure!


I'm always interested in reading the manufacturer's care instructions because I try hard to take care of my clothing but I don't really care to spend a lot of time doing it. So I was pleased to see there isn't going to be a lot of fuss when it comes to keeping these pants as pristine as possible. According to the cloth hang tag attached to the waist in the back of the pants, REI states the pants are to be machine washed in cold water. They should not be bleached. I should tumble dry the pants in low heat and use a cool iron if necessary. Even if it is necessary, it's not likely I'll be pulling out the iron and ironing board though! Lastly, according to REI, the pants should not be dry cleaned.

Now on to getting the pants dirty enough to need to be cleaned!


I have to admit, I was a bit worried as to how the Sahara Convertible Pants would fit me. I usually wear a size 6 or 8 pants depending on the style and manufacturer and when I ordered these, I was out of town and couldn't check my pants at home myself. My husband checked an old pair of pants and he said they were size 4. After checking out the REI size chart, I was even more confused. I quickly decided on the size 6 based on the size chart, but was stumped when trying to choose between the regular and petite lengths. Petite is designated as for 4' 11" to 5' 3" (1.5 to 1.6 m) while regular is for 5' 4" to 5' 8" (1.63 to 1.73 m) . I'm just a shade over 5' 3 " (1.6 m) and I worried if the petite were geared more for the shorter end of the scale, the pants would be way too short, while it the regulars were more for the leggy lady, I would be tripping on them. What to do? I basically "flipped a coin" and chose the regular as I would rather roll up my pants than have to worry if my socks matched!

It turned out to be a bad flip of the coin! When the pants arrived, I eagerly pulled them out of the packaging and my first reaction was "these are huge!" I always dislike thinking that something looks way too big, because if I think that and they fit, I'm horrified and start planning a new diet! But just looking at the pants I knew that even if the rest of the pants fit, the length was not even close to being wearable. Way too long by several ( 4-5 in/10-13 cm) inches.

Once I actually tried the pants on, my suspicions were confirmed, the size 6 pants were too loose for my comfort. I don't like tight pants on the trail, but these were uncomfortably large and I would need a belt which I don't like to have to wear when wearing a backpack.

Fortunately, I love visiting our REI store in Denver, so I was able to take the size 6 regular pants in the next day and exchange them for a perfect fitting size 4 Petite! Now I'm ready for the trails!


I am so excited to be trying out the REI Sahara Convertible Pants! I had a pair of REI pants in the past, but they were not convertible and they met a sad end when a Fourth of July sparkler sent some wild sparks onto my lap and burnt several good sized holes into the pants. I will be headed out to the Twin Lakes, Colorado area this week for a week of base camping and backpacking (half way to the summit) our way to the top of Mt. Elbert and traversing a section of the Colorado Trail. I plan on wearing the Sahara pants for the entire trip so they will get an immediate hard workout right away. I will be sure to keep these pants far from celebratory campfires, sparklers, and anything else that involves open flames!



Glacier National Park
Typical Day on Glacier NP Trip
Field locations and conditions, eh? The question is; where and when, haven't I worn these pants?!! It's been a very busy couple of months and I've been in locations as diverse as the Canadian forests, the Colorado mountains, Utah canyons and of course, lots of local high desert terrain in south central Colorado. On one two-week trip in early September, I managed to "hit" two Canadian provinces (Alberta & British Columbia) and five USA states (Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho & Utah). Terrain was everything from dry desert to lush forest to rocky mountain trails with a lot of streams to rivers and alpine lakes in-between.

A lot of my backpacking these last two months involved fishing, so even when it wasn't wet from the weather, I was in or around water. This means I experienced way more humidity than I normally do on my backpacking forays.

Also, the vegetation was very "bushy" in Waterton and Glacier National Parks, with more deciduous trees rather than the shrubby pine and juniper I am used to as well as the lack of cholla cactus and prickly pear cactus that are so hard on my clothing.

Over the two months, most of it was very hot, unseasonably so, but I also wore the Sahara pants on a couple of very cool - 28 F (16 C) one morning - days as well. And while most of my day hiking was in pleasantly sunny weather, I did not fare so well on our long-awaited big backpacking trip to Waterton and Glacier National Parks. There it was almost constantly overcast at best the entire two weeks. And when it wasn't drizzling, the sun was dimmed by all the wildfire smoke from fires burning in both Glacier National Park and neighboring states.


There are three features I most look for in convertible hiking pants - how comfortable are they to wear on the trail and in camp; how functional are they as to pockets, the convertibility, etc. and how well do they wear when not delicately (which is all the time!) treated? After these past two months, I can pretty much answer these three questions.

First off - how comfortable are the Sahara Convertible pants? In one word - "VERY"!

I love the way these pants fit me. They never twist up tightly and give me a "wedgie" yet they are not so baggy as to be uncomfortably bunched up behind my knees or in the crotch. The cut of the seat of the pants is slim, but as Goldilocks would say, :"just right" even when sitting. And while I generally do wear a belt with these pants, they don't fall off if I forget to do so (as I did on one fishing trip in Glacier National Park).

I also really like the light fleece lined waistband. Not only does it feels so soft against bare skin, but it absorbs sweat nicely and keeps me feeling less clammy which is a good thing when I'm sweating profusely from hard climbing under my backpack waistbelt.

Another great feature for me is the length of the pants which is again, "just right". It's not so long as to have me tripping on the hems, but is not so short that my hiking buddies get to gawk at my bright, sometimes, mismatched socks!

The pants are made of a very lightweight material which keeps me cool in even the hottest weather I encountered this summer and some of my hikes were in 100+ F ( 38+ C) temperatures. I never even felt the desperate need to unzip the legs just to get the material off my sweaty legs and to let my limbs "breathe". Actually, I think, most of the time, the fabric kept me cooler than I would have been in the short version of the pants. I know I certainly saved myself a sunburn or two.
However, for most of my trip to Waterton and Glacier National Parks, it was not remotely sunny. Several days, we couldn't see 20 ft (6 m) ahead of us on the trail and drizzling, cool rain was our constant companion. On those days, I was able to see how the Sahara pants fit under my rain pants. Not bad! The slim cut made putting my rain pants over the Sahara pants easy. I never felt like the Michelin Man and was as limber as ever pounding down the trail. And I did even wear them to sleep in one very chilly night at Kootenai Lake, south of Goat Haunt in Glacier National Park. They were not so constricting as to keep me awake.

On the few occasions, I did get caught in a light rain without my rain pants; I was pleased to find the Sahara pants did a nice job of not wetting through.

On to how the REI pants fared as to "features". In the case of pockets, I'm not overly thrilled. There are several pockets, of course, but the pockets are rather small. I have a Samsung Galaxy 5 cell phone and the only pockets that I could stash that monster in were the two front slash pockets at the waistband. That would be fine and dandy, except, it makes for an uncomfortable pressure on my leg when climbing anything steeper than flat surface. Besides, when wearing my usual backpacking back pack, I was unable to retrieve the phone from the pocket easily. The side leg pocket is almost biggest enough for my phone, but zipping the pocket shut really strains the fabric and leaving it unzipped poses the risk of the phone slipping out. I suppose I could solve the problem by leaving the phone home though. Quelle Horreur!
Julia Waters and I at GNP
Wearing Sahara pants in Glacier NP (under rain pants!)

The biggest feature plus of the Sahara pants are how easy it is to remove and re-attach the lower "legs". Having a vertical zipper as well as the horizontal zipper makes removing the legs downright "zippy"! Plus it saves the interior of the pants from getting muddy from boots since the legs don't have to be pulled over my boots at all. And even better, in my opinion, is the color coded zipper system that REI has employed. No more fumbling trying to find out which pant leg goes back onto which leg. This is a great boon for me as if there are only two ways to do something; I will inevitably choose the wrong way first!

Lastly - for this report - is how the pants have held up so far. I've worn these pants well over 3 dozen days both in the field and casually. On overnight trips and including the 2 weeks in early September, they were the only pants I wore. Yes, that's right. I confess, I wore the same pants for 14 days straight, including 1 night when I slept in them as well! (I did wash them half way through at a campground through.)

The Sahara pants still look pretty good even after all that and 6 or 7 washings. I washed the pants in cold wash with other tech wash in regular detergent and no fabric softener. I did machine dry the pants at first, but found I preferred to give them a quick shake straight out of the washer and then let them hang dry. In the electric dryer, the seams of the pants "puckered" a bit giving them a wrinkled look. Fat chance, I was ever going to iron out though wrinkles and while I'm no fashion plate on the trails, I do like to look at least a little neat post-hike.

All stains have come clean and there are no tears, loose stitches or any other signs of wear as of now. Let's see what happens in the next couple of months, eh?


I have been very pleased with the comfort and performance of the REI Sahara Convertible pants thus far. They have held up well in all weather and trail conditions and I can certainly say, they are my favorite pants for all outdoor activities, including hiking and backpacking. I look forward to the fall months when hopefully the weather will cool down and I can enjoy even more adventures while wearing these great pants!



On the trails in Lincoln National Forest
Throughout the autumn months, I've worn the REI Sahara Convertible Pants almost every single time I was on the trail, either hiking or backpacking. I've probably had an additional 10 days of use. I've also worn them several days when I was at home and the only outdoor use on though those were my almost daily four-mile (6.4 km) hike to my rural mailbox).

2015 has been a crazy year for weather over the winter, spring and summer and fall was no different. We broke heat records on many days here in Colorado, but yet, several mornings, the temperatures barely were above freezing. So, I would have to say that I wore the Saharas in temps from 32 F to 80 F (0 to 27 C).

Though most of time the weather was nice and sunny in Colorado, I did have one hike in a very light - almost a mist - drizzle as well.

However, on a one-week trip in early October to New Mexico in the Lincoln National Forest and the White Sands National Monument, most of the time it was either foggy, misty, drizzly or downright, rainy! I think we had only one day where it was hot and sunny.


The overwhelmingly stellar aspect of these pants in the way REI can handled the converting of the pants to shorts and vice versa. The two-zipper system where the pant legs unzip vertically down the side seam and horizontally around the leg makes taking these pants off and on really easy and neat. Because I don't have to pull/push my (maybe) muddy or dusty boots through an enclosed pant leg, the inside of the pants never get muddy or wet during the process of changing from pants to shorts and then back again.

I've experimented with the order of fastening/unfastening the zippers as well. I tried the vertical zippers first and then the horizontal and also worked with the horizontal first and then fastening the verticals. While both methods work just fine, I found I prefer starting with the vertical zippers first and then the horizontal for the pants to shorts conversion and then the opposite process for shorts to pants. That works best for me and I can now accomplish both tasks rather quickly,

I especially like the color-coded zippers so I always know which lower leg piece goes on which side of the body! Super neat idea, REI!

The Sahara pants have continued to be my go-to pants during the last couple of months and have continued to perform flawlessly as far as wear and tear. There is nary a rip, pulled seam, snagged zipper or material failure anywhere to be found. The pants wash and dry easily and I haven't had to iron them (heaven forbid) since I started to let them "hang" dry. I have no complaints as to the workmanship at all!
Converting to shorts
Easy off on the trail!
Shorts conversion
Ah! That's better!


I have really liked wearing the REI Sahara Convertible Pants during this test period of four plus months and I know I will continue to be wearing them often for a long time to come. They are comfortable, feature-rich and have held up beautifully to all the rough wear I have given them. The convenience of the unique zip-off/on system converting the pants to shorts is sheer genius in my opinion and makes these pants a great value.

Thank you to REI and for the opportunity to wear these pants on the trail!

Kathleen (Kathy) Waters

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of REI gear
Read more gear reviews by Kathleen Waters

Reviews > Clothing > Pants and Shorts > REI Sahara Convertible Pants > Test Report by Kathleen Waters

Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

All material on this site is the exclusive property of
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson