I just got a pair of Rail Riders Bone Flats pants in the mail the other day, which are to be my only major purchase for hiking gear this season. It’s not much, but so far I’m happy with what I see.
My philosophy when it comes to hiking clothes is that the simpler and lighter, the better. Which is basically the same as the rest of my philosophy for hiking gear. The Bone Flats pants aren’t quite as simple as my ideal pants, but their extra features are mostly worth the fuss. Before I talk about the pants too much, I have to mention my other hiking bottoms.
The most perfect pants/shorts for hiking in general are a simple pair of cheap soccer shorts. They’re perfectly ventilated, they’re light, they’re cheap, and they last a hell of a long time. My current pair is a pair of Champion shorts that I picked up four years ago. Weight: 5.5 ounces. Cost: $12. Miles hiked in them: Approx 2000. That’s some good bang for your buck.
When I needed sun protection on the PCT, though, I picked up another perfect pair of hiking pants, the BackpackingLight Thorofare Pants, which may not be in production anymore, sadly. They were much more expensive than the shorts, and not as well ventilated, but they were amazingly light (3.9 ounces. I can hardly describe in words how amazing these pants feel. Even the lightest, feathery pants you can find are usually around ten or twelve ounces), and after fording a waist-deep stream they would be bone dry within ten minutes. They were pretty cool. Unfortunately, even though the Thorofares were very breathable and light, pants are never ventilated enough for my tastes. In the desert sections of California, I ended up sweating profusely into these pants.
Enter the Railriders Bone Flats. I got these because I want to have a little extra protection against ticks and black flies, but not the extra heat of long pants. I’ll need to add a dose of Permethrin to the pants to make them actually protect against the little buggers, but what I’m really interested in is the performance of the pants in hot weather.
The Bone Flats are the lightest in the Railriders line, at 9.5 ounces (1 ounce more than the website says), so not nearly as feather light as the Thorofares. They have a full zippered fly and a top button, two zippered pockets, two hand pockets, and a webbing belt, which rounds out the standard pants features without adding too much. Too many zippers and pockets would add weight to the pants, which I find to be unnecessary. More importantly, more weight means more fabric, and more fabric means slower drying time.
Where the Bone Flats really shine (aside from the fabric, which is actually kind of shiny) is in the Railriders brand’s signature eco-mesh panels. From about mid-thigh down to just above the ankle on the inside and outside of the legs are three-inch wide mesh panels that very thoroughly ventilate the legs, which should be great for hot weather. I haven’t used them in hot weather yet, of course, but I think this might be the first pair of pants that I actually wear throughout the summer. Time will tell.