TLDR: KÜHL is THE BEST Outdoor Clothing Brand On The Market When It Comes To Technical Hiking Pants
I’ve been wearing KUHL pants as my go-to pants almost exclusively for several years. I’ve sported them in a wide range of environments and weather conditions, literally coast to coast – teaching shooting and tactical driving courses, off-road driving, mud bogging through swamps, boating, and lots of travel by car, bus, metro, and plane, from the Georgia family farm to the streets of Atlanta, D.C., NYC, Philly, Dallas, Phoenix, Portland, and Seattle to trail running in the San Juan Islands, fishing on a mountain lake, skiing in Colorado, hiking trips in the Arizona desert, romantic beach walks with my wife in Virginia Beach and the Oregon coast, a cross-country move, construction projects at home, and mowing the lawn. Personally, I absolutely love my KUHL pants and recommend them 100%. I think they’re awesome! Just watch any of my videos, and you’ll see that I’m wearing KUHL pants every time, including years before I became affiliated with KÜHL.
In the interest of full disclosure, I became affiliated with KÜHL over a year ago, but I’ve been a huge fan for almost a decade. I currently own more than a dozen pairs of KUHL pants, a couple pairs of shorts (equally awesome if you like shorts), a t-shirt and hat, plus an ESKAPE™ 25 backpack (review here). I purchased most of my KUHL clothing, and KÜHL sent a few items for me to review over the last year and a half. Being affiliated with KÜHL just means that, if you decide to buy any products through the links in this article, I will earn a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, and shopping through any of our affiliate links helps support our work. We are very appreciative, and we don’t take this for granted.
Your trust is important to me and so is an honest review. I’m not interested in making fluff reviews. While I may prefer certain brands for various reasons, I don’t have paid loyalties to brands. When I find aspects of products that I don’t like, I mention them. There is one aspect about KUHL clothing that I’m not a fan of…keep reading to find out what it is.
Further regarding full disclosure, I have not yet worn every different version of KUHL pants that there is. I’ve done some online orders, and I’ve had the opportunity to visit their Seattle store, as well as authorized dealer locations on the east coast and west coast. Mostly though, I’m combining my broad experience with the variety of KUHL pants I own to my research in creating this review guide for you.
Are you looking for the perfect pair of men’s pants to keep up with your outdoor adventures and active lifestyle? Seriously, look no further than KÜHL! Their pants are specifically designed for hiking, climbing, and other outdoor activities. They’re made from high-quality materials that will hold up against the terrain. Not only are they durable and comfortable, they also come in various styles, so you can find a great fit. KUHL pants are also good for anyone who works in some type of manual labor, machine shop, or other vocation where you need quality coverage for your legs.
In this ultimate buying guide, we’ll discuss all the features to look out for when selecting KUHL pants, the various designs they offer, and what style I would recommend, based on your activities. Keep reading if you want an informed decision before purchasing your next pair of KUHL pants!
Born In The Mountains™ | A Brief History of KÜHL & Why It Matters
KÜHL is a privately owned American company, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their entire focus is functional and high-performance outdoor clothing. They were originally founded in 1983 under the name “Alfwear” and then officially introduced and trademarked as KUHL in 1994, at the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show.
By the way, if you want to type the Ü symbol, hold alt and type 0220 on your number pad. While KÜHL is a German word that literally translates to “cool” (also pronounced like “cool”), its root inspiration comes from Holger Kuhr, the legendary 3-D master pattern maker, responsible for the iconic KUHL designs. In Scandinavia, KÜHL carries an entirely different meaning – it’s slang for fun!
KÜHL is where performance and casual style merge. Their motto is “Born in the Mountains™.” They produce high-quality outdoor apparel, including pants, shorts, shirts, and jackets for men, women, boys, and girls. They have everything you need to venture outside your comfort zone – from technical outdoor to rugged workwear, as well as lightweight hiking pants! Get ready to explore any terrain with their nice range of clothing that will help you maximize comfort through the elements.
Not All Hiking Pants Are Created Equal
To really understand how someone like me can go on and on about how great KUHL pants are, take a good look at a few pairs of whatever pants you wear the most. As we start to break down the various features and design elements that go into KUHL pants, I think it will make more sense if you can compare them to the pants you typically sport.
At first glance, one might assume the human body is pretty uniform and easy to clothe. When it comes to pants, all you need is a couple of long skinny tubes attached to a larger, short tube for your waist, right? Things start to get more tricky, as soon as you start to move. Since we have hips and knees that bend and flex in all kinds of ways, the design of the pants you’re wearing will have a dramatic and noticeable effect on your comfort and performance.
For example, have you ever squatted down to lift something and ripped out the seat of your pants? What about if you need to step up, onto a rock or trailer, and you need to get your knee and leg very high to do it? If the designers of your pants haven’t considered this very likely and natural motion, you’ll find that most pants start binding around your thighs, and it becomes difficult or even painful to perform a high step.
As far as durability, I have one small rip in one pair of REVOLVR™ ROGUE pants that are roughly 7 years old. I’m not kidding. After all this time…working, outdoor adventures, coast-to-coast travel, hiking, and more, I’ve only recently ripped one small hole in one pair of KUHL pants. That is impressive!
KÜHL Exclusive Fabric Weights and GSM
In this article, you’ll see things like “5.2 oz./sq. yd. | 176 GSM.” This is a measurement of how heavy and thick a piece of fabric is. “GSM” stands for grams per square meter. The higher the number, the thicker and more durable the fabric is.
Heaviness Average GSM Range
Light Weight 1-150 GSM
Medium Weight 150-250 GSM
Heavy Weight 250+ GSM
The lightest fabric that KÜHL currently uses for their pants is called FREEFLEX™, which is a 50% Polyester and 50% New Polyester blend that is 4.5 oz./sq. yd. | 152 GSM. The KÜHL FREEFLEX™ Men’s Pant is a soft, lightweight pant that offers flexibility, helps with moisture wicking, and has quick-dry capabilities. Whether you’re on the trail or simply chillin’, this pant should be breathable and keep you comfy. These would be great for lounging, hiking in hot weather, or as simple travel pants.
On the other end of the GSM spectrum is KÜHL’s KNOCKABOUT KLOTH™ which is wax-reinforced 98% Cotton, 2% Spandex, and 10.3 oz./sq. yd. | 350 GSM. The pant made with this fabric is designed for extreme abrasion resistance and durability. Typical uses would be for woodworking, blacksmithing, fabrication, welding, machine shops, automotive garages, construction, and any other activity that would be potentially dangerous for your lower limbs.
Options with this fabric include THE LAW™, THE LAWLESS™, and for the ultimate work pant, ABOVE THE LAW™, which is a double layer of the fabric on the front for a total of 700 GSM in high wear areas. The ABOVE THE LAW™ pant also features zipper openings on the sides of both thighs to help vent and get airflow going (see this pant in the following diagram). Just because you have to don thick pants doesn’t mean you have to stay hot in them too.
KÜHL Is Different By Design | Different By Construction™
Technically, when it comes to outdoor clothing, there are several attributes you should consider. For example, if you’re an avid hiker, the best hiking pants would be abrasion resistant but also lightweight and breathable. Climbers would need pants capable of extreme flexibility without sacrificing durability for being repeatedly rubbed against rocks. Every activity has its own set of unique requirements and challenges for clothing, which is why KÜHL offers so many different types of pants and fabrics.
Someone living off the grid in Alaska has a VERY different set of needs, requirements, and preferences than someone just out for Saturday afternoon hiking with the kids. The same can be said about someone who enjoys riding their bike to work versus driving a car. Although there are countless different scenarios you could purpose, the human body tends to move in similar, measurable ways.
When KÜHL designs a new piece of clothing, they approach the process with a focused understanding of the human body and, specifically, how the body will move. Joints, flex & stretch points, and high abrasion areas are all considered, along with the end desired use-case for the attire.
The bottom line is that your garb and gear should be functional, durable, flexible, dependable, and comfortable.
What Makes KÜHL The Best?
The design aspects that really set KUHL pants apart from the rest are:
- Stealth cell phone pockets
- Gusseted crotch
- Articulated knees
- Free ride waist
- Large belt loops
- Slim buttons
- Slender thigh pockets
- Large opening front pockets
- Extremely durable
- Double stitching (sometimes triple stitching) everywhere
Depending on the model, some designs have zippered pockets, reflective zipper pulls, adjustable cuff sizes, removable sections to convert them to shorts, additional stretch zones, air vents, seven+ pockets, sun protection, and more. Seriously, it’s a long list, and trying to figure out exactly which style is right for you can be a little overwhelming.
To make it as easy as possible to find what you’re looking for, I’m going to sort the men’s pants into a few categories. That way, if you know you’re not looking for sweatpants or a really thick pant, you won’t have to waste time reading through those sections.
KÜHL’s naming system is slightly confusing. Any time you see “Free,” “Rogue,” or “Tapered” in the name, they all mean the same thing. It’s a slight taper, slimmer fit, where the legs get a bit more narrow toward your feet. It’s not skinny pants or anything like that, just a nice taper around your ankles if you don’t want the regular wider look. I personally prefer the tapered versions, but I have several pairs of the KLASSIK fit, as well.
Color Options & The "Lived In" Fade
The color options available for most of KÜHL’s pants are basically earth tones, browns, tans, greens, and grays. Some styles have more of a yellow/orange option, but that isn’t really my thing. For the most part, expect a neutral color. Depending on the type of fabric used, some styles of KUHL pants fade over time in high-wear areas. KÜHL calls this a “lived in” look, and it’s an interesting feature.
The Best KÜHL Pants For Everyday Wear
Several of the different styles of pants that KÜHL offers could fall into this category – great for everyday, but I’m mostly going to focus on the most applicable ones. I’ll also include my personal favorites for each category. You can see all of the options for this section under “Men’s casual pants” on KÜHL’s website.
KÜHL FREE RADIKL™
The FREE RADIKL is my favorite style of KUHL pants that I currently own. I have two pairs of RADIKL™ pants. They are made primarily with KÜHL’s ENDURO™ fabric, which is a light, durable blend with a bit of stretchiness to it. The aspect that sets the RADIKL™ pant apart from others is that there are several places where the ENDURO™ fabric is supplemented by a very flexible nylon/spandex blend around the front and back of the knees, inner thighs, crotch, and back of the hips. These flex points allow you to crouch, climb, or move pretty much any way you’d like, without resistance from your pants. They are SUPER comfortable, durable, and breathable.
I actually have a dedicated video review on the RADIKL pants that goes into all the details and reasons why I love them so much. These currently come in two different styles with one (the FREE RADIKL) being a tapered fit, while the other is not the slimmer fit.
Though the RADIKL is my favorite, I actually have a couple of minor complaints about them. The first con is that the color on the back of my khaki ones has turned a very unfortunate shade of orange in a few places. My wife now calls this particular pair my “glowy orange butt” pants. She has basically banished this pair to the back of the drawer, purposing them for work around the house or all-day drives because she doesn’t think my butt should be glowing in public. On the plus side, I now have a super flexible and durable pair of pants designated just for long drives and house projects!
The other con with these and other KUHL clothing is that they are made in Vietnam. Being a small business owner myself, I can completely understand cutting costs and trying to keep prices down, especially with inflation going the way it has. Buying imported products isn’t a deal breaker for me in this case, but it might be for some.
KÜHL REVOLVR™ ROGUE
The REVOLVR™ ROGUE is the other one I typically wear and was actually the very first pair of KUHL pants I ever owned. This was around 2015-ish. Prior to that time, I had been wearing a mix of Arc’Teryx, Mountain Hardware, Patagonia, and Wrangler jeans. The features that really sold me on KUHL right away were the cell phone pocket on the right thigh, the articulated knees, and the fabric. There are more reasons, but who likes a list with all positives on it?
Basically, I went from wearing pants that had some features I liked and some I didn’t to a pair of pants that were literally perfect for me – light yet durable material, belt loops large enough to hold my gun belt, pockets with enough space where I didn’t feel like my hands were going to lose blood circulation if I dared use them, a pocket just for my phone, etc.
All of a sudden, my pants were with me, rather than on me, if that makes any sense at all. They give me full range of motion, no need to worry about ripping, and excellent moisture-wicking properties, all in the same pair of pants. Like I mentioned earlier, I prefer the “ROGUE” tapered leg design because it has a little more of a tailored look than the KLASSIK fit.
KÜHL FREE RYDR™
The FREE RYDR™ is basically the same cut as the REVOLVR™ ROGUE, but the RYDR is made of a 98% cotton and 2% spandex blend versus the 68% Cotton, 29% Nylon, 3% Spandex of the REVOLVR™. This means the RYDR™ fabric is much heavier than the REVOLVR™, so if you live in a colder climate or want a little more wear-resistance, these would be a great option.
The Best KÜHL Pants For Rain & Snow Sports
My go-to KUHL pants for wet weather and snow have to be the KLASH™. The material is actually a combination of different types, formed into the best water-resistant pants I’ve ever used. These are in no way like any traditional hard-shell rain pants or most other water-resistant pants on the market. They are flexible and stretchy, and they do a great job of repelling water and snow. I’ve actually worn my KLASH™ pants for snow skiing a few times with no complaints.
Are they absolutely 100% waterproof all day? No. From my experience, they do best in light to moderate rain, as well as heavy snow. Water beads up and rolls off the fabric very quickly, but if you soaked them long enough, the water would eventually come inside. Living in the Pacific Northwest, it’s nice to have pants like these that are very water resistant but also not too hot, bulky, or stupid to walk around wearing in public.
Where the KLASH™ pants really shine, in my opinion, is in the snow. Beyond ski trips, I’ve also worn these hiking in deep snow and for general winter activities. All the pockets have zippers to close them, which helps keep the water out, but it’s also a huge plus for keeping things where they should be while skiing. The last thing I want, if I take a spill, is have my phone or wallet go flying out of my pocket into some snow drift.
Two additional features that really help the KLASH do exceptionally well in the snow are the zippered bottom hem gusset and boot hooks. Basically, you can unzip the lower twelve inches or so of your leg to widen the opening of the pants. With the stretchy fabric, this feature is ideal for slipping your pant legs over a pair of ski boots. There is also a small metal hook attached on the inside front of both legs that you can hook to your boot laces. You can see this feature in action in my Salomon X Ultra Winter 2 Boot review video. If the bottom of the pants is attached to your boot laces, they will not ride up or let snow enter.
The Best KÜHL Pants For Cold Weather
If you live in a colder climate or like to do a lot of outdoor activities when it’s freezing outside, I would recommend the HOT RYDR™. These are made with KÜHL’s EXKLUSIV EUROTWILL fabric, which is 98% Cotton, 2% Spandex 10.8 oz./sq. yd. | 365 GSM. They also have an additional 100% cotton flannel liner for insulation.
With the inner flannel liner, these can help block wind and give an added layer of protection for your skin. Since the liner is attached to the inside of the pants, you can even add a base underlayer for additional insulation if needed. The AKKOMPLICE™ BOTTOM is the perfect base layer under the HOT RYDR™, if it’s extra chilly outside.
The Best KÜHL Pants For Hot Weather & Desert Hiking
When it comes to warm weather, you have several options. I’ve used my REVOLVER™ ROGUE pants for hiking in Phoenix, Arizona without issue. This was before I had my RADIKL™ and KONFIDANT AIR™ pants. Either are excellent options. Since I already covered the RADIKL pants, I’ll focus on the KONFIDANT AIR for this section.
The KONFIDANT AIR is actually made with the same ENDURO™ fabric as the RADIKL™ and SLAX™. The difference between the RADIKL™ and KONFIDANT AIR™ is the lack of super flexible fabric at the knees, crotch, and lower back. However, rather than thin and stretchy fabric, the AIR in the name comes from all of the air vents that are built into those same areas. There are several vents around the back of the knees and crotch that helps keep air flowing, preventing swamp butt. My wife especially likes the look and feel of the KONFIDANT AIR™.
The fabric weight is just about perfect for hot summer days, where it’s a toss-up on which would be better between wearing shorts or wearing pants to help block the sun. In this case, these have UPF 50 sun-protection properties, and the air vents really help.
Cargo Convertible Option
If you might need pants and shorts in the same day, a good option would be the RENEGADE™ CARGO CONVERTIBLE pants. There are zippers around both legs, just above the knees, that allow you to remove the bottom half of the pants. The cargo pockets can then be used to store the lower leg sections, until you need them again.
What If You Prefer Wearing Jeans Rather Than Super Outdoorsy Clothes?
Not to worry, my friend, KÜHL has several options that look like any other pair of jeans, but they are MUCH more flexible and comfortable. You don’t have to be a hardcore outdoor enthusiast to enjoy KUHL pants. Obviously, the primary focus of KÜHL is outdoor technical and performance clothing, but they also have several styles of jeans and slacks that would work fine for casual daily drivers or even typical office attire for business casual.
I’ve never really liked wearing regular jeans for three specific reasons. Number one, they’re too tight, #2) they don’t breathe well, and #3) they don’t have enough pockets, so I end up having multiple objects in a single pocket. If you’re like me, you keep a specific set of items with you all the time. This is commonly called your EDC or everyday carry gear. In my case, I have a phone, earbuds, wallet from Dango, keys, knife, flashlight, pen, small prybar tool, tourniquet, belt, and handgun.
The point is, I carry a bunch of stuff, and I really don’t like having several items in a single pocket. There are two main reasons for this. First, I don’t like things rubbing together and getting scratched up. I don’t want my phone in the same pocket as my keys or knife, because the screen could get damaged. Secondly, if I have several things in one pocket, it’s just too tight, starts to bulge, and becomes uncomfortable. Since jeans typically don’t give you much leeway, the pressure of those full pockets is transferred back into my thighs, which I don’t like. This is especially annoying when I’m driving for a while.
If you guessed that KÜHL solved all of my issues with jeans, you would be correct. I was hesitant to try a pair, even from one of my favorite brands, but I’m glad I did. The KÜHL DENIM™ TAPERED, KLASSIK, and RYDR™ JEAN are the options for this category.
I have the DENIM TAPERED, and they are miles ahead of any other jeans I’ve owned. Granted, there aren’t many others I can compare them to because of my general dislike of other brand jeans, but they completely smoke my Wranglers. The biggest difference between KÜHL’s denim and other denim is that it is stretchy and breathable. There isn’t the same level of constriction and limited range of motion that I get from other jeans.
Another reason KÜHL jeans are better than other options is the stealth cell phone pocket. This simple pocket is possibly my favorite feature of KÜHL pants and something I instantly missed, before I gradually ruled out my other brand pants a couple years ago. It’s basically a dedicated phone pocket on your right thigh. It’s not a crazy tactical cargo pocket or anything like that, just a simple slim pocket, specifically designed to hold your smartphone. No matter what position you’re in – sitting, standing, driving, whatever – your cell phone is always on your right thigh and is easily accessible. Trust me, this pocket alone is worth grabbing a pair of KUHL pants, in my opinion.
The Best KÜHL Pants for Abrasion Resistance and Protection
Suppose you have a job that involves a lot of manual labor like metal working, fabrication, woodworking, automotive shops, blacksmithing, or anything else that is potentially dangerous for exposed skin. In that case, look into any of the options in the Work Pants section that are made with KNOCKABOUT KLOTH™. This is the heaviest and most wear-resistant fabric that KÜHL currently offers.
Options in this category are THE LAW™, THE LAWLESS™, and ABOVE THE LAW™. As far as I can tell, the only difference between THE LAW™ and LAWLESS™ pants is that THE LAW™ version has a zippered cell phone pocket on the right thigh, while the other doesn’t. Because the fabric is so thick and abrasion resistant, these would be good for very rough terrain, rock scrambling, and trailblazing, etc. I would not recommend them as your only pair of KUHL pants, or as your primary hiking pants; but when you need to do some work and keep your chicken legs protected, THE LAW is the way to go.
Another good option for abrasion resistance is the RYDR™ line. These are made with KÜHL’s ESKLUSIVE™ fabric, which is 98% Cotton and 2% Spandex 10.8 oz./sq. yd. | 365 GSM. Another interesting thing about this particular fabric is that it is designed to fade over time and give the pants a “lived-in” look.
I have not personally tried the RYDR™ line yet, so I can’t say too much about them. However, I know I would have no problem buying them without seeing them because I’m that confident in my experience with my other KUHL pants. This line feature the signature articulated knees, FREE RYDE™ WAIST, stealth phone pocket, gusseted crotch, and reinforced pockets.
The KÜHL DISRUPTR™ is also really sturdy and durable, while also being flexible. The airflow isn’t quite as nice as something like the REVOLVR™ or RADIKL™, because the material is much thicker overall. I would tend to wear my DISTRUTR™ pants when it’s fairly cold out, or I’m going to be doing manual labor outside or derping around in the garage on projects during the winter. The DISRUPTR™ is made with KÜHLFLEX™ fabric, which is 60% Cotton, 40% Elasterell 9.7 oz./sq. yd. | 328 GSM.
The Best KÜHL Hiking Pants
Since we’ve covered several excellent options for KÜHL hiking pants, I’ll list a couple here that I haven’t already mentioned. If you skipped to this point, I personally wear RADIKL™, REVOLVR™ or KONFIDANT AIR™ pants for hiking.
Great hiking pants are going to be dependent on your climate, weather conditions, and exposure time. In other words, if you wear super thin pants at high altitudes and find yourself trapped in a snowstorm, you’re going to have a bad time not having the right gear. On the other hand, I would prefer not to wear thick or insulated pants while hiking if the temperature is over 65°F.
For lighter pants that also have some water resistance, check out the SILENCR™ line. These are made with KÜHL’s REFLEX SOFTSHELL fabric, which is 100% Mechanical Stretch Polyester 4.8 oz./sq. yd. | 164 GSM.
Personally, I find the SILENCR™ pants to be slightly less comfortable than the others I own. This is mainly because the polyester isn’t super soft, compared to the mostly cotton blend of the others. Another aspect of these that I personally don’t like is that the pockets are mesh lined.
Ironically, the SILENCR™ pants are also the loudest KUHL pants that I currently own. They have a much more distinct “swish” sound when I walk versus the others, and that is because of the nature of the softshell fabric. They repel rain like a boss though, and they are great for hot weather. Even with the things I don’t really like about them, I would still choose them over a different brand altogether.
Another good option for KÜHL hiking pants is the RENEGADE™ line. These have quite a bit of flex and stretch to them, as well as some great breathability and drying factors. They also have a total of eight pockets, so you really don’t have to worry about keeping more than one item in a pocket at a time with them. Eight pockets, really? Sounds good to me!
THE OUTSIDER® | KÜHL's Latest Outdoor Gear
The RADIKL OUTSIDER® Pant is a new addition to KÜHL’s offerings this year. I haven’t seen them in person yet, but from what I can tell, they are basically a hybrid design between wax-coated softshell rain pants and the original RADIKL™ pants. There are zippered vents on the legs, as well as softshell stretch panels. Basically, they look like the ultimate outdoor pants.
KUHL also has a brand new jacket made with the same DYNAWAX RIPSTOP fabric with articulated stretch points. I’m definitely looking forward to checking out these new options!
Conclusion & Final Thoughts
KÜHL offers an amazing selection of pants for hiking and outdoor activities. Whether you want something lightweight and breathable, like the SILENCR™, or something more rugged and durable like the DISRUPTR™, they’re sure to have a pant to suit your needs. My favorite is the RADIKL, but I also really like the REVOLVR ROGUE.
If you’re looking for some new gear from KUHL, check out their RADIKL OUTSIDER® line, which combines wax-coated softshell rain protection with stretch panels. With so many great options, I think you’re sure to find exactly what you need when gearing up for any outdoor activity and stay comfortable no matter what kind of terrain or weather conditions you encounter on your adventures.
Let me know in the comments if you want me to add more info to this article or if you have any specific questions. If you’re already a Kuhl fan too, let me know which ones are your favorites.