Base Camp Blog

Ask Answer Man: Are Zip-off Pants Ever Acceptable?

Are zip-off pants ever acceptable? You can’t argue their function, but where do they fall on the dork spectrum?
—Ted M., Modesto, CA

Zip-off pants fall roughly between fanny packs and LARPing on the NDS  (National Dork Standard), which means they are acceptable in the following situations: 1) in the very far reaches of the backcountry, where there are no people and no cameras, and 2) never.

Here’s the thing, Ted: There are numerous better options out there in terms of calf coverage. Take, for instance, La Sportiva’s Kendo Jean. It covers all in a sweet denim-and-Cordura package that you can actually wear in public. If that’s not techy enough for your tastes (or you’re the alpine type), check out Patagonia’s Rock Craft Pants. Also, where on Earth are you climbing? Where does the climate fluctuate so often that one moment it’s too hot to bear the thought of having your ankles covered, and then so cold that your shins might freeze solid? Do as me and my pals do—buy a pair of thick, comfortable, above-the-ankle socks and wear shorts. It’s all about confidence, and in a pair of zip-off pants, my friend, you clearly have none, or we wouldn’t be chatting right now.

My boyfriend and I bought our rack together. Now we’re breaking up. Who gets to keep it?
—Susan K., New Paltz, NY

Remember that Bible story about the two women who each claimed to be the mother of the same baby? Then that crazy-ass king was all, “Let’s cut it in half, and you can share the baby!” One woman was fine with that plan, while the other sobbed and told the first she could keep it, thus revealing the true mother’s identity through her genuine love for the child. Your rack isn’t (exactly) a baby, but what are we talking here? Indian Creek set? Or some sort of nuts and hexes situation? If it’s the latter, let him keep it. Buy yourself some new cams and find a man who understands that modern trad climbers don’t have to live in constant fear for their lives.

If the rack is relatively complete and you definitely want it, you have a few options. 1) If you have doubles of all your cams, split it down the middle. If you’re missing a second in a few sizes, toss in the Tricams, or whatever periphery items you have, to sweeten his deal. 2) Prove to your now-former toprope leech that his skills are inferior, and he doesn’t deserve the set. Buy him out at half of his original contribution to account for wear. 3) Sell the rack; split the money.

What type of music should I listen to in order to get psyched?
—Sean P., Fort Collins, CO

I’m partial to the technotastic pump-up jam that is “Sandstorm” by the indelible DJ Darude. But then I have an affinity for a genre of techno music that went under in the late 1990s. That was before that dweeb with half a haircut started making songs that sound like a dial-up connection struggling to download Jenna Jameson pics. But this is about you, not me!

I can’t begin to guess what might get you hyped, Sean. Could it be the soft intros that give way to raucous denouements of “Bohemian Rhapsody” or “Come Sail Away”? Maybe crunchy, guitar-driven rock will blast you into send mode? Perhaps Eminem’s anger or the self-congratulatory anthems of Kanye West will help you float that next line?

What gets you psyched is as personal as the shape of your downstairs hang-low. And just like that undoubtedly invigorating piece of work, it should remain private until called upon. Ya dig? Try JayBird BlueBuds X for the ears, Baskit Active Low-Rise Trunks for the other.

And other topics...

Which hangboard should I get?
Any of the unused ones hanging above your friends’ door jambs.

When does the length of my stick-clip become too extreme?
The moment you refer to stick-clipping as extreme.

Is boar’s hair really better?
Yes, but does it matter?

Got a burning question about climber etiquette, customs, or values? Email


Previous Comments

Zip off pants are great for when you don't want to spend 80 effing dollars on Patagonia bs.

LikesEatingMoreThanClothing - 07/09/2014 1:17:47

Zip off pants are only dorky when you wear only the top half for a week until they are dirt brown and then zip on the clean leggings when leaving the climbing area and heading back to civilization.

markdroy - 06/23/2014 7:20:05

Sorry Roadkillphil, unless you've been wearing longjohns and shorts for decades (or centuries, if you want to include lederhosen), you might have come up with the idea independently, but you are far from the first to rock that particular style.

Pinner - 06/20/2014 3:41:15

@April - LARPing stands for Live Action Role Playing

Climbing Staff - 06/20/2014 11:44:47

OG , I have to ask what is LARPing.?

April K. Gray - 06/20/2014 10:23:17

I'm pretty sure my partner and I invented the ideal all conditions set up which is shorts over long johns. The only way to go. Looks cool. Total comfort all the time. Climb grades harder. You could try zip off pants over long johns but that would be for like, really extreme conditions where looks don't matter.

roadkillphil - 06/19/2014 6:05:52

Oh Shoot, somebody better let Mountain Hardwear know that zip off pants aren't in style: Also north face: Also: every other outdoors company

jd - 06/19/2014 2:24:40

Who is this 'answer man' anyway?

question man - 06/18/2014 2:00:15

Zip-off pants are great for LARPing in variable weather conditions and the lower legs can be neatly folded into your fanny pack.

Legolas_rulz! - 06/18/2014 8:05:32

Who would have thought an article about zip off pants would garner so many comments?

Ryan zip-off-pant-wearer-that-doesn't-give-a-shit-if-anyone-thinks-they-are-dorky Stefani - 06/17/2014 7:48:35

Zip off pants are amazing. People who think they are stupid should stfu and go back to getting pumped on 5.6 slab.

Seasoned Chicken Kebobs - 06/17/2014 4:30:59

I deeply resent the implication that zip-off pants are anywhere near fanny packs or LARPing on the dork scale. There was a time, some time around the early 2000s, when one could hardly buy a pair of non-cotton cargo pants that was not zip-off, and while the LARPing, fanny-pack-wearing, crowd may be the only ones still wearing pants they bought circa 2000 AD, their dorkiness is not in any way transferred to their unusually functional pant choices.

Jacob - 06/17/2014 3:53:49

Zip off pants are great for the north cascades where it does shift from clear skies to apocalyptic in a single day.

index dirtbag - 06/17/2014 2:13:54

Zip off pants are great for bushwhacking to your obscure project in the east (in pants), then climbing in shorts.

functionoverform - 06/17/2014 1:45:15

Zip of pants are nice when you're living on the road for multiple seasons/years and want to waste minimal space on seasonal clothing. Of course an alternative is buying newish pants in the fall and cutting them into shorts when they've blown out at the knees by late-spring.

Seasoned Dirtbag - 06/17/2014 1:12:33

Zip off pants are great when you live on the road for multiple seasons/years and want to waste minimal space on seasonal clothing.

seasoned dirtbag - 06/17/2014 1:09:13