One of the best things about the co-op is the thriving community of gearheads, dirtbags, bird nerds, thru-hikers, peak-baggers, storytellers and more who work in our stores and headquarters, guide our trips and teach our classes. In this monthly series, we’ll tap into that expert knowledge to answer some of your burning questions about terrain, gear, safety, etiquette—anything! The co-op has your back.
Hiking in anything spandex—like yoga pants, cotton leggings and running tights—is a noticeable trail trend. It makes sense—they’re comfortable, they fit well, and they’re already in your closet. On the other hand, technical hiking pants are designed for the trail, and as my imaginary grandpa likes to say, cotton’ll kill you faster than a rattler in a thunderstorm. Instead of Gramps, though, I turned to Liz Meschio, a 26-year-old REI Outdoor School instructor for some sage advice.
Liz is an experienced long-distance hiker, and to my surprise, she told me she hikes only in running shorts. “Plenty of people still wear pants and stuff, but I’m just one of the people who don’t,” she says. “I hiked the entire PCT in a pair of running shorts and a moisture-wicking tank top.”
Liz favors shorts because they’re ultralight and well-ventilated, and they even have built-in underwear so she can skim a few more ounces off her pack. But she’s not recommending them per se—she believes people should find their own sweet spot in terms of trail clothes. “What works for me might not work for everybody, you know?”
There’s another reason Liz eschews more traditional hiking pants. “I’m 6 feet tall and I’m Italian, so I have a lot going on as far as curves,” she says, pointing out that hiking pants tend to be tailored for straight legs and narrow hips, which doesn’t work for all body types. “Sometimes …