Kuhl Free Rydr: The Toughest Jeans Around

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We travelled light. For a year, my wife, infant daughter, and I toured the U.S. while living in a truck camper, and that meant little space — particularly for extra clothing. For 11 months and 30,000 miles, I wore two pairs of pants, and Kuhl’s Free Rydrs were my favorite. They endured day after day of abuse via hiking, climbing, the various perils of fatherhood, roadside mechanic work, and worst of all, brutal laundromat washing machines.

I was initially drawn to the Free Rydr pants ($79 at Backcountry) due to the extensive reinforcements sewn into the waist, pockets, and cuffs — areas that fail first on most well-worn pants. But the design goes beyond a bit of extra fabric here and there. These are stitched to move with a gusseted crotch and articulated knees. They don’t bind or hitch, even when crouching to pick up a toddler or scrambling over a downed tree.

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All those allowances make for a great motorcycle-riding pant, which is how I wore them while bombing around San Rafael Swell in central Utah on an XR250. When I went over the handlebars on a rough downhill rock scramble, the Free Rydrs faired better than either the bike or my jacket.

Better, the fabric isn’t straight cotton twill. The heavy material is two percent spandex, which means it stretches and moves with your body. The hitch, of course, is that after 10 days of wear they loosen up, and no amount of belt cinching can keep the things up. Now, at 10.8 ounces per square yard, they’re thicker and heavier than normal jeans. That’s great for resisting abrasion from thorns and jagged stone, but not so great for packing, and worse for hot/humid weather. 

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My pair of Kuhl Free Rydrs is now well over a year old, though I’d wager I’ve submitted them to a decade’s worth of abuse. They’re faded, both from the desert sun and innumerable tortures at the hands of laundromats from Knoxville to Seattle and back. They’ve worn through here and there, most notably where my Zippo, phone, and wallet rode for all those months, but they’ve survived well enough to stay in regular rotation in my closet. That’s good because they aren’t cheap. But they are worth it.

Kuhl Free Rydr pants come in various colors and waist sizes 28”–42”, and inseams from 30”–36″.

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