Call me crazy, but I want a pair of pants that can do it all—business meeting, long-haul flight, days on the trail without a wash, dry overnight on the towel rack in a hotel bathroom, all-day work assignment, yoga (yes, comfort is a requirement). I want pants that are lightweight, wrinkle-resistant, water-resistant, and odor-resistant. Forget fabled cities of gold, I want the El Dorado of pants.
Those pants may exist, but it’s pretty hard to figure out by looking online, and in my small city, the chance that I’ll find that pair in a store is slim to none. You’ll forgive me then, if I hesitated to pull the trigger on any of the many “travel” pants that litter the web. I am decidedly not looking for zip-offs, cargo pockets, wide legs, or that swishy technical fabric. I was intrigued by some of the new commuter pants by companies like Outlier and Proof, but most of the high-end commuter pants are made with Schoeller NanoSphere fabric, and though Schoeller claims the nanotechnology is safe, I’m not keen to be a guinea pig.
After way too much research, I landed on Anatomie, which bills itself as a luxury travel wear brand designed by creative geniuses, incorporating the latest French and Italian fabrics, blah, blah, blah. I didn’t care about the marketing jargon. I cared that they claimed to be durable and versatile (they mention extreme sports and chartered super yachts in the same paragraph), and weren’t made with nanotechnology. But $199? Ouch. I figured the only way to find out if they could back up their claims was to ask if I could try them out. Shawn Boyer, one of the designers, sent me a pair of black Skylar Skinny pants. Game on.
Let’s start with the basics. The pants were super-lightweight. Out of the package, they were folded into what felt like a pocket square. I’m 5’7”, about 125 pounds. The size small fit tightly and hit right at my ankle bone. The medium was roomier and longer. I sent back the small. They didn’t look like travel pants. No zip-off legs, no cargo pockets, and the material, though synthetic, was very thin and had a bit of softness. From day one, they were comfortable. As far as styling goes, they’re not high-fashion. I’m not sure how they look on a super-yacht as I’ve never chartered one, but they were slim-cut and high-waisted, and could be cuffed to shorten them, or worn full-length. They were the kind of pants you can wear for anything, but they are not the kind of pants that will get you noticed.
The first four months of my trial, I wore the pants about five days a week—nearly constantly (this was a test after all). I once wore them for nine days straight without washing them (don’t judge). I’m a photographer. I work at home a lot, I meet with clients, I have shoots that last anywhere from two hours to two days. I wore them for all of these things (on one two-day assignment, I didn’t pack anything else). I have to admit, the pants are comfortable. I once wore them to yoga class—I was the only one there not wearing spandex tights. During that period, I only machine-washed them a handful of times. Otherwise, I washed them in the shower at night and hung them up to dry. They were usually still a little damp in the morning, but not enough to put me off wearing them.
Then June hit, and I threw down the gauntlet. I took the pants on a month-long hike across Spain on El Camino de Santiago along the Norte and Primitivo routes (500 miles), and a week-long hike across Scotland on the West Highland Way (100 miles). We were carrying everything in backpacks, so I kept it light—besides the Anatomie pants I only brought a prAna skort. We traveled to New Orleans, Houston, Istanbul, Madrid, and then our final destination, Irun, Spain. The route took us along the northern coast of Spain through small towns, and bigger ones like San Sebastian, Bilbao, and Santander, and then over the mountains where the towns were even smaller, and the cities farther apart. We travelled through Oviedo and Lugo before meeting up with the Camino Frances and completing our trip in Santiago de Compostela.
Next up, we headed to Scotland for a day of fun in Glasgow and then our West Highland Way hike. On our last day, after completing 600 miles of walking in five weeks, we summitted Ben Nevis, the highest point in the British Isles. Then we spent a couple of days in London, and departed on our epic journey back home.
The trip involved four nights on a bus, two nights on a plane, and a different hostel or hotel every night (only once did we sleep in the same hotel for two nights). I felt surprisingly comfortable and presentable throughout the trip.
I wore the pants on our first day of hiking, and they were great, but I found that I actually preferred to wear the skort during the day when it was hot, and wear the pants at night around town. This resulted in some crazy tan lines and not having to wash the pants very often. The weather was all over the place. Sometimes the sun blazed for days and my clothes were soaked by the time we reached our hostel. Other times, I had to pile on the layers. The Anatomie pants are great in warm weather because they are so lightweight. But in cold weather, they don’t give you much insulation. For the most part, we were too tired to patronize fancy restaurants or bars where people were dressed stylishly, but I felt like I looked pretty good considering we averaged 18 miles of walking a day. Any insecurities I had about my attire usually had to do with my hiking shoes.
I didn’t wash the pants as often as I did the skort (I had to wash the skort nearly every day). When I did wash them it was usually by hand with shampoo or body soap, and a good wring-out. They dry quickly when you hang them outside—much quicker than they dry indoors.
They held up pretty well after all the abuse, but if you look really closely, there is a little pilling around the waistband and the pockets. By the end of the trip, I began to feel like they were losing their shape. They still fit me in the waist, but they seemed baggy in the legs. I think rather than attributing it to lost weight, it is more likely that hand-wringing was hard on the pants. When I got home, I was able to machine-wash and tumble them dry. I actually think it brought back some of their shape. I’m wearing them regularly now—they’re more comfortable than anything else, and they go with everything. It’s gotten to the point they’re nearly the only pair of pants I wear. Maybe eventually they will be, and I’ll see how they hold up to that challenge.