I see that a lot of world travellers wear shorts. I definitely do not fall into the shorts camp. For one thing my old-man white, hairless legs look terrible in shorts but I opt to wear long pants for more practical reasons. Mosquitoes are the biggest reason—around the world mosquitoes kill. Catch a mosquito-born fever such as Malaria, Dengue or Zika and you will quickly become a long pants convert.
Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes include: malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever, filariasis, Japanese encephalitis, Saint Louis encephalitis, Western equine encephalitis, Eastern equine encephalitis, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis and Zika fever.
See my post Travel 101: The Shirt off My Back for further details about my experience with Dengue Fever up close & personal. Also, in that post, you will find most of the criteria I use to buy shirts also pertain to buying pants. Protection is paramount: from the elements (sun, rain and cold) to the multitude of insects you will meet in your travels. Modesty is also (or can be) very important. Unless you’re staying at a resort location seeing shorts among the locales is a pretty rare sight. And in many venues it’s downright frowned upon.
I mentioned in my shirt post that garments made of quick drying material are almost a must. While travelling you’re going to get wet (it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when). Clothes made of 100% cotton are not ideal for outdoor adventure travel; in the heat and humidity of the tropics they never seem to dry and in colder winter conditions they can actually wick away body heat exposing you to hypothermia (another potentially lethal condition). You will notice that fashion doesn’t really play a role in my travel clothing criteria—it’s all about functionality, durability and value.
Pros: Button-fly (no zippers to jam or break), 2-large button-down cargo pockets, 2-rear button-down patch pockets, 2-slash side pockets, tough long-lasting material (almost indestructible), quick drying, moderate price, insect resistant.
Cons: Can be a little heavy for hot and humid tropical wear.
My long pants of choice are Propper Mil-Spec BDU cargo pants. I strongly recommend the 65/35 blend: 65% polyester for its strength, durability and quick drying properties and 35% cotton for its comfort and reduced funk factor. What is funk? Funk is that cheesy oder you smell when your natural body fluids and secretions embed themselves into synthetic fibres. It is not a pleasant smell. I’ve had my Propper pants for six years and although they’re faded and stained they have no rips or tears—I’ve popped a button once or twice but they’re easily sewn back on (unlike a jammed or broken zipper).
These pants are just about pickpocket proof and I can carry my wallet and passport in the cargo pockets with very little worry about theft. Items stored in typical (non button-down) rear pockets are prone to theft. An added advantage of cargo pockets is that you’re not sitting on your wallet or passport and the pockets also store copious amounts of snacks and drinks for long bus rides. Cargo pockets are easily accessed when sitting down (photographers can never have too many pockets). When caught in a torrential downpour your Propper 65/35 pants will dry quickly. Again, you buy these pants for functionality, durability and value—not to make a fashion statement.