35 degrees with snow flurries?  70 degrees and sunny?  Perhaps both?  With a good pair of convertible pants, it’s not a problem; just pack lightly and know that you’re covered in all circumstances.

Merrell Bison Convertible Pants Features

  • 100% nylon
  • 50+ UPF fabric
  • Merrell® Opti-Wick™ moisture management technology
  • Ankle zips for easy on/off over shoes or boots
  • Vislon metallic-finish zip-secure cargo pockets, jeans-style front pockets, riveted back patch pockets
  • Metallic-finish vislon zipper fly
  • Weight 390g (13.8 oz)
  • 11” short inseam (men’s size 34 regular)
  • MSRP $75

Merrell Bison Convertible Pant Review

Merrell didn’t invent convertible pants, of course; the style has been a staple of backpackers and hiking aficionados for decades.  The trick is finding a pair that is rugged enough to take a beating, versatile enough to deal with temperature extremes, and comfortable enough to wear day after day.  As luck would have it, I had an ideal opportunity to test all three of these elements on an excursion to Yosemite this April.

The first day was a travel day, which gave me a good feel for the fit and comfort of the pants.  Even before that, however, I had worn them quite often around the house or for weekend errands; the features and accents are subtle enough that they don’t scream “HIKING PANTS!!” during everyday use.  The nylon fabric feels very comfortable against the skin, and none of the seams or zipper lines cause friction or irritation during long periods of wear.

Fit around the waist is a little tricky, as the cut seems slightly larger than standard sizing, and there’s no waistband adjustment for fine tuning.  There are loops to add a belt – and Merrell has a very sharp one called the Mosier that fits it perfectly, but at an additional cost.  It would be great to see a simple built-in nylon belt included with these pants in the future.

Descending in the snow. Also pictured: Patagonia Wind Shield jacket, Dakine Blockade Windstopper gloves; Golite Rush pack

Day 1 of hiking was a 6-hour affair that took us out of the rim of Yosemite Valley, through shin-deep snow starting around 6000’.  Temperatures never got above 40 degrees, but the Bisons kept me nicely insulated the whole time.  Snow contact that would make normal pants soggy and cold was nicely managed by the moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties of Merrell’s Opti-Wick fabric.

On day 2, the sun decided to come out, producing temps in the 70s (Gotta love Yosemite!) as we took on the famous Mist Trail.  The Bison’s zipper mechanisms are completely hassle-free, and the remaining “tooth line” after conversion to shorts remains covered by fabric to prevent discomfort, even with the most challenging activities.  The 11” inseam is longer than I typically prefer for standard hiking shorts, but in this case the convenience of traveling lightly was enough to compensate for an extra inch or two of length.

Climbing in the heat

Temperature regulation is equally effective in warm conditions as in near-freezing conditions.  The fabric has 50+ UPF protection, with nice breathability to allow air movement for cooling.  Its overall lightweight construction and moisture management properties ensure comfort on the hot days as well as the cold ones.

Good Bison

  • Extremely comfortable
  • Fashionable styling
  • Good temperature regulation in the heat or cold
  • Sturdy, efficient zipper construction

Bad Bison

  • No waist adjustment
  • Long shorts inseam–good for some, a little long for my tastes

Bottom Line: Merrell Bison Convertible Pants

If you travel lightly and don’t want to worry about wardrobe changes, Merrell’s Bison pants offer a nice combination of comfort and performance for a wide range of conditions.

Buy Now: Shop at Merrell.com

About Author

Donald is a physical therapist, ultrarunner, barefoot aficionado, and father of three with more than 20 years of experience in endurance sports. When he's not training for ultramarathons, he enjoys hiking or slacklining with his family in Monterey County, CA.


  1. Alright, Magnum PI, so you like short shorts eh? Those sound about right for my tastes, but may get annoying when climbing something more strenuous. All things considered, I prefer to show less thigh than most. 🙂

    Nice review and nice work getting out there man!

  2. Thanks Jason. I never need much incentive to go to Yosemite!

    As far as shorts length goes, normally 8 or 9″ is right in my wheelhouse. These were just a tad long, but better too long than too short, especially for us tall guys.

  3. Pingback: Merrell Badlands Shorts Review - FeedTheHabit.com

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