My adventures in outdoor gear and clothing are designed to explore what keeps me most comfortable outdoors. The story began last fall, when my mission to stay warm outdoors launched in earnest. Since that time it’s been an ongoing exploration of how to stay comfortable, whether tied to temperature or other considerations. This summer that has seen me test several different pants, and the Cotopaxi Samburu pants are among the best.
Cotopaxi’s use of llama wool was the primary subject of this earlier Q&A, though the company also offers tents, backpacks and other gear. None of that gear is made from llama wool, of course, nor are its Samburu pants. Don’t let that deter you from being interested in using them outdoors.
The Cotopaxi Samburu pants use a four-way stretch material, which seems to be the most fashionable substance of the summer. At 62% nylon, 24% polyester and 14% spandex, they’re a far cry from natural llama fleece. Still, I couldn’t be happier with their performance.
Four-way stretch material lets your pants move with your legs, not in spite of them. As a result, the material provides full range of motion. I don’t boulder or climb mountains, but my hikes in Mt. Hood National Forest and the Columbia River Gorge tend to involve clambering. Not once did I have to pause to pull thigh material closer to my crotch so my legs could bend toward my torso. That was a welcome change, as it let me keep my pace.
I also wore the Cotopaxi Samburu pants on a few lake-kayaking excursions. It wasn’t necessarily a deliberate choice. They’re just so comfortable that I happened to be wearing them when I headed for the water. Cotopaxi’s tech specs don’t mention durable water-repellent or any special water resistance, but water beads up very well. I was therefore able to shake off any moisture and keep the pants dry. When my son paddles the tandem from the seat in front of me, that’s a welcome feature….
Although they work as one, the Cotopaxi Samburu pants aren’t billed as a kayak pant. Instead, they’re billed as a hiking and urban crossover. And let me assure you, they are. It’s hard to tell from the photo above, but the Samburu look just as appropriate in the office as they do on the trail. They won’t be mistaken for suit pants, but the dark gray pair can definitely pinch-hit when business casual attire is acceptable. My two favorite bottoms this summer have been the Fjallraven Vidda Pro Trousers and these Samburu pants. Only the Samburu can be worn in an office environment. Take that into consideration if a minimal closet is your goal.
The only areas where the Cotopaxi Samburu pants falter verge on the realm of “ticky tacky.” First, the company’s sizing only relates to waist, not inseam. On the 34-inch pants, the inseam is set at 32 inches, which is a couple of inches too long for me. Not being able to define an inseam length was disappointing, because it makes the cuffs look bunched-up if your legs aren’t a stereotypical length. Speaking of waist size, the pants run big. I normally wear a 35- or 36-inch pant, and I easily fit into the 34. Just FYI if you’re sizing them for yourself.
Second, the zippered pockets are great to keep things from falling out, but if you unzip them all the way, the tip of the short zipper can get lost and stuck in the material. I struggled on a couple of occasions for 15 seconds to unwedge the zipper. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it was an annoyance.
But while these two complaints are legit, I acknowledge that they are a bit superficial. And they certainly don’t preclude me from wholeheartedly recommending the Cotopaxi Samburu pants. Lightweight and breathable, yet still able to insulate against the wind, they’ve been one of my go-to bottoms for higher-octane outdoor activities this summer.
The Cotopaxi Samburu pants were provided for review. All opinions and words are my own and honest, and the article contains no affiliate links.
Cotopaxi Samburu Pants
- Overall comfort is astounding
- Sufficiently stretchy without seeming baggy or loose
- Unmatched freedom of movement
- Water resistance keeps them just as appropriate for kayaking as they are for hiking
- The set 32-inch inseam doesn't support all wearers
- Pocket zippers tend to get lost/stuck if unzipped entirely
- Not true to size, so pick one size down