After spending weeks on a Conservation Corps in the Arizona desert last fall, my work pants reeked of urine and my legs suffered dozens of scrapes from trying to find a secluded spot to squat in thorny Devils Claw. I found myself desperately wishing for a pair of capable outdoorsy pants that could better accommodate my anatomy. So when I heard about Chickfly, a company that makes activewear pants and leggings with a fly specifically designed so that women (or anyone who prefers an alternative to the traditional zipper) can pee discreetly, I jumped on the opportunity to check them out.
I tested their functionality on the trail with a mellow muddy run and post-jog stretch. I wore them as pajamas inside my sleeping bag, then as thermals on a warm ski day, to test their comfort and range of motion. But then came the main event: I hung in a climbing harness and let my friend and belayer laugh as I awkwardly grabbed at my crotch and attempted to pee midair. I squatted in various locations, including beside dirt roads and in a snowy canyon.
Before I began trying the pants outside, though, I practiced their capabilities over the toilet and in the shower. You can open the fly, which is made from overlapping pieces of fabric, from the back (giving you enough space to go number two, but a little less privacy) or from the front (good for number one and more private, but creating a smaller opening). My success rate was high—I only peed on myself once—but I was grateful for the practice of stretching the fly and angling my legs and hands correctly, which would have been difficult to do outdoors for the first time.
To wipe before returning to your outdoor shenanigans, you might need extra practice holding back the fabric layers with one hand while the other wields a pee rag or wad of toilet paper. This technique worked best for me when I used one hand to open them from the front. The pants, which are made of a super-soft, legging-like material, are intended to be worn without underwear, and they are very comfortable and functional commando (you can even wear a pad on the upper layer). It is possible to wear undergarments if you prefer: you’ll just have to pull them aside along with the pant layers.
Once you’ve practiced using the fly, the process is the same as any time you pee outdoors—find a comfortable place, squat, and go—but takes half the time. And the major win here is for privacy. You don’t need to pull the pants all the way down to go, and if you’re opening them from the front, your back and sides will be fully covered. When you’re done, the stretchy fabric springs back into place so you never feel exposed for long. Granted, you’re still peeing outside, so privacy is relative, but you avoid the hassle of hoisting your pants back up and mooning other outdoor patrons.
The pants, with their lycra and sustainable bamboo fabric, were extremely comfortable. The inner folds of the “fly” felt very secure, and I never worried my crotch was going to be on display when I was hiking to a hot spring, hanging in a harness, and getting groceries in town.
The wide waistband can fold down around your hips or be flipped up to hug your belly (an especially great option for pregnant people who prefer a pant that can go either under or over their stomach). The pants fit like a yoga pant would around the legs, flaring out slightly at the bottom. Around the butt the overlapping fabric of the fly gives you a panty line on one side—a minimal price to pay for their functionality, in my opinion.
I stuffed them in my dirty laundry after two to three wears, but I pulled them out for several more: the bamboo’s odor-resistant properties kept smell at bay throughout my many test runs. The stretchy fabric makes movement and relieving yourself easy, but may sacrifice some durability on rock or rough surfaces. My only qualm is that the pockets, which are very stretchy with large openings, are not very secure—my phone once fell dangerously close to a pee puddle.
Overall, the convenience and innovative bathroom access of these pants is unmatched against any I’ve previously tried. They’re equipped for long hikes, sport climbs, runs, yoga sessions, and long road trips. Preorders for Chickfly’s pants and leggings were taken over to Kickstarter (shipping this summer), and an online store is expected to launch later this year.
Lead Photo: Courtesy Chickfly