I was going through some old Backpacker magazines today and came across the article about The Onion vs. Mr. Magoo. I remember it is what inspired me to buy your book and hope that my minor contribution enabled you to continue your journey.
Nonetheless, after studying the main picture for awhile, I felt like both you and The Onion were wearing the same convertible pants. Figuring they would meet my less traveled needs, I was wondering if you recall which they were or could recommend a pair now. Despite the fact that most convertibles are very similar, there is a bit gap between a good pair and a bad pair which is why I'm sending you this e-mail. Whether it a cut entirely too generous around the thighs, a cuff zipper that goes unnecessarily too high, or too many or poorly placed pockets, some pairs are better then others.
Anyway, best of luck.
James, thanks for the email and for helping me by buying my book. Every bit helps!
I'm not sure what pants The Onion was wearing, but I believe I was wearing ones that I got from REI. I just can't remember if I got the REI brand or the Columbia brand. I think REI.
I did NOT use convertible pants on any of my American thru-hikes. I used it on my Spain thru-hike. However, in that case, I bought them in Germany, so I doubt you can get them in the US.
I struggle to recommend you a specific pair of pants, but here are my general thoughts about backpacking pants:
1. HYOH: If it fits and feels good, make that your most important criteria (as long as it's a synthetic, fast-drying fiber). It's hard for me to say, "These are the pants you must have!" because we have different body shapes and values.
2. I've got mixed feelings about convertible pants.
PRO: They're versatile and often have several pockets.
CON: They're relatively heavy and have two fragile zippers (at the knees) that can break.
3. What I've done in my Triple Crown hikes is to have one ultralight pair of pants (GoLite Whim Pants - less than 5oz) and quick-dry lycra shorts under it. Taking off the pants isn't much harder/slower than taking the legs off the convertible pants. The problem with ultralight pants is that they often don't have pockets. Still, when you're moving your legs a lot, having crap in your pockets can distract you or feel uncomfortable.
4. I tend to like the clothes that GoLite produces, but I haven't tested their gear for the last 3 years, so I'm a bit out of date.
REI has a great return-policy, so if you have one near you, I would shop there.