The Kuhl Liberator Convertible ended my quest to find a pair of backpacking pants that fit well, looked good enough to wear to work or around town, and offered the function and durability I was looking for. Denim jeans are by far the pants that I wear the most. Cotton khakis are next in line for me. These pants are durable, and are available in a wide variety of styles and fit. The problem with them lies at their core and in fact is with the material itself – cotton pants do not dry quickly and are really heavy when wet.
When it comes to moisture management both with sweat and water, synthetic pants win. My problem was that many of the synthetic backpacking pants are cut to fit folks with skinny legs. I bought 3 or 4 pairs of backpacking pants from various companies and every one fit me in the waist, but were too small in the seat and thighs. I wouldn’t wear them out in public because they were too tight across the front to the point that they caused me to be self-conscious.
The Kuhl Liberator Convertible was in stock at a local merchant and I tried on a pair. At last, I had found some pants for me. One waist size larger than I normally buy fit me the best. Although the waist is a bit big, the legs, seat, and length all fit great. Kuhl offers pants in three fits; Lean, Klassick, and Full. The Liberator Convertible is in the Full size fit category, which Kuhl describes as a more relaxed fit.
The material of the Kuhl Liberator Convertible is slightly heavier than the other synthetic pants that I have and is actually a blend of synthetic and cotton fibers. Synthetic materials on the inner surfaces wick moisture to cotton on the outside to allow moisture to evaporate. A DWR coating on the outside helps to keep dew and light rain at bay. The DWR finish really does bead up surface water and keeps it from soaking in. I have worn these to work on a few days and out in the woods as well. My only complaint is that I haven’t bought any more yet.
As the name implies, the Kuhl Liberator Convertible is both a pair of pants and with zip off lower legs, a pair of shorts. The zippers are hidden from view and don’t feel like a band of rope around the things, and the zipper pulls are hidden away in little pockets so you don’t hear them jingling while walking. They don’t snag much, and once off, the inseam of the shorts is 10.5 inches. Zippers at the bottom of the legs allowed the lower legs to be removed even with my boots on.
The Kuhl Liberator Convertible has a total of 8 pockets. Cargo pants with huge floppy pockets can get annoying. These pants have just the right amount of zippered and accessible pockets. I especially like the vertical tube-like pockets on the sides of the legs. One of these is designed especially for cell phones. Even a large smart phone in a case will slide in just fine.
The Khul Liberator Convertible received a 2012 Backpacker Magazine Editor’s Choice award, and it is easy to see why. MSRP on these pants is $95. Go and check them out here.