Stio Pinedale women’s (left) and men’s pants.

Back in the 1970s, people skied in jeans. If you were fortunate enough to have fresh powder, the powder would cling to the lower legs of your jeans. Take a spill, you’d be coated. On a sunny day, the temperature didn’t have to get much above 20 to make that snow melt. By mid-afternoon, you were skiing wet and cold. 

Maybe it wasn’t always fun, but as long as you were sporting those jeans, along with a jean jacket and down vest, you were cool, man. That may have played a big role in why so many were slow to make the jump to the synthetic skiwear that began to emerge. Another reason: change is hard for most human beings, even adventurous ones.

Eventually, we got past the jeans hang-up, and not just in skiwear. Synthetics and wool, both good at dealing with moisture, rule. For hikers and backpackers, it’s a matter of comfort, a matter of performance, and, occasionally, survival. (And it doesn’t hurt that there’s some pretty cool-looking outdoor apparel on the market these days.)


Now, we come to another clothing crossroads, this one mostly aimed at the hiker and backpacker. We’ve long embraced synthetics: are we now ready to add stretch to the mix?

I had a Steve Martin “What the heck is that?” moment when I first laid eyes — and hands — on a pair of Stio Pinedale pants. Visually, they easily passed the cool test, with a streamlined fit that could mean the difference between post-hike dining at a drive thru or a sit-down, mingle-wth-the-masses brew pub. They even come with a stylish belt!

But when I picked them up, they … stretched?

Is that spandex?

Indeed it is, spandex with a combination of nylon and polyester in a comfy concoction Stio calls Everlight Softshell. Shazam!

Flexibility on the trail

Stio touts the pants flexibility for more aggressive pursuits, from mountain biking to rock climbing. I could see that. But on a recent backpacking trip, I discovered the pants are helpful in more pedestrian ways.

Filtering water from Jacobs Branch at South Mountains State Park, for instance, required contorting through a rhododendron bramble to reach moving water. It was a move that, in less forgiving pants, might have resulted in an embarrassing separation of cloth. This time, I and my Pinedals stretched with confidence. Ditto such tasks as setting up the tent, stoking the campfire, squatting to make breakfast over the cookstove. A little flex in the waistband may hint of grandad’s Sansabelt slacks, but it comes in mighty handy wiggling around in the wild.

Another plus: the pants (even the women’s) come with zippered pockets, perfect for keeping cameras, maps and snacks from jumping ship.

The tight weave had me worried that the Stio Pinedale might be a winter-only pant. But on an 80-degree early fall day in the mountains, they were breathable as advertised, shedding heat that even a lighter pant might retain.

Stio: First time in stores

If you’re not familiar with Stio, there’s good reason. Until very recently, their line, which includes a range of outdoor apparel, from fleece hoodies and down vests to pants and shirts, for a range of pursuits (hiking, climbing, skiing, cycling) was available only online. Based in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Stio is now available at a limited number of brick-and-mortar retailers, including Great Outdoor Provision Co.

Sunday morning upon waking in my tent I discovered another key attribute of my Pinedales. My clothes bag doubles as my pillow; the night before, exhausted after a long day with 30 pounds on my back, I’d stuffed my Pinedales into my pillow sack, with no attempt to minimize overnight wrinkling by folding or rolling them. Yet when I pulled them out the next morning, they emerged off-the-hanger fresh, belying a night spent jammed in a bag. I was immediately presentable, ready for a day on the trail.

Not to mention the apres hike sit-down burger and beer to follow.

The Stio line

  • Find Stio products on our website, here.
  • Learn more about Stio, including its Pinedale pants, at its website, here.