Backpacking in West Clear Creek Wilderness, Arizona with a touch of orange for elk hunting season.
Isis makes outdoor clothing for women. Their Maia convertible pants are constructed of a wonderful stretchy, lightweight nylon that is non-binding and allows a more flattering fit than typical 100% nylon pants. The pants have details that make me smile – a purple belt, red stars tacking down the corners of the pockets, and gold stars inside the zipper – without losing their functionality for hiking and backpacking. One overlooked detail: the scratchy fabric tail of the pant-to-short conversion zippers are sewn outside the protective cloth flap and occasionally chaff my legs.
- Stretchy fabric and low slung waist for a flattering fit and great mobility
- Fabric dries quickly
- Converts between pants and shorts easily, no need to remove shoes
- Inside of leg at conversion zippers can be scratchy
- Colorful, mood-enhancing details
• Garment Style
|Women’s pants convertible to shorts|
• Fabric Description
|Expedition LT cloth, 4.1 oz/yd2 (139 g/m2), 95% nylon, 5% spandex. Nylon yarns are combined with spandex to create a durable, abrasion resistant woven fabric with the added comfort and mobility of stretch|
• Other Features
|Zip-off legs convert pants to 7 in (18 cm) inseam shorts, #3 YKK coil conversion zippers, webbing belt, zippered back pocket, print microsuede lined waistband|
|Women’s 4 through 16 offered, size 12 tested|
|10.6 oz (301 g) as measured women’s size 12|
• Model Year
|2004. Note: the 2005 version of pants have 6 in (15 cm) ankle zippers|
|$75.00 Manufacturer’s suggested retail price|
Features and Fit
The author emerging from Fat Man’s Pass in South Mountain Preserve, Arizona. The front slash pockets on the Maia pants are mesh lined and deep enough to be useful.
The first thing I noticed about the Isis Maia pants was the fabric. I normally wear 100% nylon pants for warm weather hiking and aim for a baggy fit to avoid any binding when I raise my knees to scramble over obstacles or trek up a steep hill. The Maia pants are constructed of lightweight nylon with 5% spandex woven in. The result is comfortable, non-binding hiking pants with a closer, more flattering fit than my normal baggy attire.
Isis uses small, #3 YKK zippers for conversion from pants to shorts. Tiny colored tabs with the Isis logo help match the correct pant leg to shorts leg; a thoughtful touch that speeds up conversion back to pants.
The pants have a low-slung waist, with the waistband riding just below my navel, a style that fits me better than higher-waisted pants. Although the Isis sizing chart indicates that I am between a size 14 and 16, the size 12 fit just right (I normally wear pants in size 12 or 14). The inseam is 31 inches as claimed, plenty of length for most backpackers but 1 inch too short for my long legs.
The pants have a webbing belt that runs through a fabric casing. The casing ends a few inches short of the zipper and allows the belt buckle to ride up above the pant waistband. The belt tends to twist inside its fabric casing during washing, but can be laid flat again with a few minutes of attention. The belt buckle quickly flips open with a flick of a finger, another nice touch.
I wore the Maia pants for many desert hikes in temperatures up to 95 °F (converted to shorts), in rain, bushwhacking through thorny vegetation, and with long underwear underneath for a 20 °F overnighter and hike through snow.
The fabric used in the pants is fairly lightweight which helps the pants dry quickly. The 95 percent nylon, 5 percent lycra material is tough. My test pants survived a bushwhack through thorn covered bushes to reach cliff side Sinagua ruins with some snags, but no rips or tears. My legs did not fare as well, both were scratched and bleeding in many spots.
When in the field, the conversion is easy from pants-to-shorts or shorts-to-pants. The small conversion zippers held up fine during my four months of testing. A flap of cloth inside the pants keeps the zipper itself from rubbing against skin, but the scratchy tail end of the zipper material is outside the flap and was occasionally annoying when I wore the full-length pants. I did not notice this after I snipped the tail end of the zipper casing off, or when I wore the pants converted to shorts.
I can pull the pants legs off over my hiking shoes with care. The 2005 version of the Maia pants has leg zippers to facilitate this.
The two front slash pockets are low enough that I can access the pockets under the narrow hipbelt of my fanny pack, but when backpacking I need to slide the wider hipbelt of my pack up a bit to access the pockets. The pockets are mesh and deep enough to be useful; my titanium skewer stakes stayed put while I made my way around my tarp bending and squatting while staking it out.
The Isis Maia convertible pants retail at the high end of women’s convertible pants. The stretchy material is functional and very comfortable and bumps their value up; the scratchy zipper fabric on the inside of the legs moves their value back down. Result, a good, not great value.
Recommendations for Improvement
Redesign the conversion zippers so that all the finishing touches are covered by the inner flap to keep them away from tender skin.
Place belt loops closer to the zipper to keep the belt buckle from riding above the pant waistband.