The Cargo Pants that awakened my passion to travel and sketch …
In 2009 a friend treated me to a river cruise on the Saône and Rhône Rivers. Each day we docked and toured the villages and cities on the shore of the rivers. At that time, the economy was still in a terrible state; paintings weren’t selling and I was working part-time (but far too many days) for a theatrical prop rental company housed in a beautiful, dairy barn without running water and only portable heaters to stay warm throughout the winters. I maintained my sanity by going out three nights a week to sketch musicians during open mic nights in Pennsylvania and New York City. My easel was all but forgotten. Sixty-six sketchbooks, all incomplete, sat on my shelves untouched for almost two decades. Long before the economy crashed, I had all but given up plein air painting, working on large paper and canvas in the studio instead. My focus was on painting for exhibits and galleries, not on exploring the world and expressing my findings in a sketchbook as I had done all through my twenties.
When my friend asked if I would join her, I immediately said “yes”. She informed me that I would need to meet her in Avignon in three days. Fortunately, I had a passport. Three days later I was sipping Green Chartreuse in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. There had been no time to contemplate clothing. I’d packed a pair of baggy-pocket cargo pants that I’d recently picked up at a rummage sale and one pair of nice black pants. A small sketchbook, mini watercolor palette, travel brush, mechanical pencil, fountain pen, cell phone/camera, passport and money fit easily into the baggy pockets of the cargo pants and a small, flat hip pack. I didn’t bring a handbag.
When on a tour, there is little to no time to sit and sketch. I sketched as I walked, I sketched as we gathered in a circle around our guide, as we motored (more quickly than I had imagined we would) up and down the rivers, as we were either raised or lowered in the locks, and while riding the occasional tour tram. My curiosity and wanderlust was alive and kicking, pleading with me never to become dormant again.
The only problem was what to do when my pants wore out.
My original cargo pants- MacGear Cargo Pants:
The inside tag is gone. I’m guessing they are about 70% cotton and 30% nylon (very similar to the fabric of my Union Bay Cargo Pants listed below). They are nice to the touch and quick drying. When I looked online to try to buy another pair, I found mostly Goth, Rave and incredibly bizarre pants. Fortunately, mine are still in usable condition though beginning to fray at the bottom.
An amazing total of ten pockets: two snap pockets in the back; two snap pockets in front of two hip, side pockets in front, on small; snap pocket on one of the two, double snap, thigh pockets; one small, snap pocket at the ankle of the left pant leg. Needless to say, I never missed my handbag. I didn’t even need my flat, waist pack. I will be sad when I am forced to dispose of these amazing pants. They were the key that reopened the door to the world of travel and adventure, new cities, new mountains, and more importantly, amazing new friends.
Union Bay Cargo Pants:
70% Cotton, 30% Nylon, quick drying, convertible pants. Made in Jordan.
Total of six pockets. Two back, hip, Velcro close pockets; two side, hip pockets; two side, thigh, baggy pockets with small loops. Zip off the lower legs to create shorts.
Though the pockets give me plenty of storage for my supplies and my ID & money, I prefer zip closures to Velcro closures. Small items slip out of the thigh pockets past the small Velcro piece, though they usually don’t. The biggest problem is the Velcro on the back pockets. The Velcro catches on the sweater or middle layer that I usually wear in spring, fall and winter. Not only is it annoying, it ruins the fabric of my middle layer. That, however, is the only down side of these pants. These are great.
Mountain Hard Wear:
88% Nylon, 12% Elastan, Made in India. Quick drying.
Excellent travel pants. Two zip, thigh pockets. I keep my iphone in one and my sketchbook, mini palette, fountain pen and waterbrush in the other. I usually have a small daypack or a suitable handbag with me when I wear these pants. When I am flying somewhere I put my passport and boarding pass in one pocket, my iphone in the other and everything else in a handbag that fits into my carryon, making it easy to get through security. These pants are noisier than my other pants. They rustle a bit too much when I walk, making me a little self-conscious in quiet environments. Even so, I’m glad I purchased two pair of these pants when I did. Mountain Hard Wear has changed the design and these pants now have only one zip pocket, making them pretty useless for me.
I have never been much of a fashion queen. Versatility and comfort are more important to me than looking chic. I am quite pleased, though, when I can have versatility, comfort and great style. I generally receive compliments when I wear these pants. I don’t ever hear how great my pants look when I’m wearing my cargo pants. These are sized a bit large. I had to order a size smaller than I normally do.
The North Face Rollup Pants:
100% Nylon, made in Indonesia, quick drying, super-light, great feel.
These may become my favorite travel pants when I don’t need to carry a great deal in my pockets. They are a great replacement for the Mountain Hard Wear pants. They look great, not having the big baggy (frumpy) thigh pockets that I love so much. The are super comfy. Six pockets! One large stow pocket inside; two back, button down hip pockets with flaps, two side, hip pockets and one small zip pocket outside the right, front hip pocket. The roll up straps and loops are great. Nylon often unrolls itself far too quickly. The strap/loops keep the length just below the knee, perfect for cooling off or wading in shallow water. They scrunch up into a ball hardly larger than a grapefruit. I haven’t worn them on a long, hot hike yet, so I don’t know if they will be as comfy as my pants made of fabric with cotton. I’ll let you know.
I’ve tried other pants and gotten rid of them. The four I’ve listed above are the only ones that fit my needs. I will continue to be on the lookout for great pants and when I find them, I’ll add them to this list.
Happy travels, whether local or afar! Travel light; travel happy; and draw, draw, draw.