Bluffworks Tailored Chinos – The Perfect Pants For Traveling?

My search for the “perfect” pair of travel pants is over.

A few months ago, Bluffworks sent me a pair of their new Tailored Chinos to review. Now that I’ve had a chance to truly test them out, here are my conclusions:

  • It must have taken a lot of experimentation, but Bluffworks has truly created the “goldilocks” travel pants: comfortable (but not “technical”), stylish (but not flashy), and versatile (to go with any outfit). In other words, they are just right for 99% of travel scenarios.
  • If your style of travel is like mine (i.e. most of the time I’m in cities, with only the occasional hike), you might as well look no further and just get these in your size.
  • They are not as thick as denim, so if you’re looking for a travel solution for colder climates you’ll still have to layer these with leggings when it drops below 5 Celsius or so. Otherwise, they are perfect for warm/hot climates.

Here’s what they look like:

Bluffworks Tailored Chinos, front and back view
Bluffworks Tailored Chinos, front and back view (color: Navy).

At first glance, they look like your typical tailored chinos – which is a good thing. This means that they can be dressed “up” or “down” easily, and look just fine when paired with more formal footwear (e.g. lace-ups). This is contrast to a lot of other “travel” pants on the market, which often err on the side of technical features while neglecting style.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t need my travel pants to look good on the trail. But it helps that I can just dust them off, put on a button down and suddenly be ready for meeting in a nice restaurant or lounge. If you’re a fan of “one bag” (minimalist) type travel, you should seriously consider the Tailored Chinos.

Note: I specifically asked for the Navy color, which I believe to be one of the most versatile for any kind of men’s pants. Otherwise, these are available in four other colors: Charcoal (grey), Stone (light grey), Khaki, and Harvest Gold.

Materials and feel

The pants are made from 100% polyester, and the pockets are 80% polyester / 20% cotton. From the outside, the fabrics feel like your typical synthetic technical pant. Most importantly, they feel very comfortable – and I’ve been happy to lounge around them for hours on end.

I must have got the sizing just right (I’m 5’11, 170 lbs and wearing the 32 waist size) –  they sit very nicely on my waist, while offering enough stretch and flexibility. Bottom line: these are comfortable enough to jog in, and I would not hesitate to ski or hike in them either.

They are lightweight, at 5.3 oz/yard (compare to jeans, which are typically 12-15 oz/yard). This makes them perfect for hotter climates (e.g. South East Asia), where breathability is key. I spent a good chunk of this winter in Canada, so I had to pair these with some warm merino leggings when going outside.

According to my primitive luggage scale (accuracy not guaranteed), they weigh ~400 grams (0.88 lbs). Made in China.

How they fit

In short, they fit like your favorite pair of … tailored chinos (this is what Bluffworks was going for, after all). More than anything, it feels like I’m wearing pants that could be worn to a West Coast job interview – just formal enough to not get a second look from judging eyes.

Now for some “guy” talk: not to worry, these offer ample “freedom” down there. As a bonus, they do a decent job of “accentuating” your posterior, so to speak.

My only nitpick: I would have preferred the leg opening to be a tad smaller – maybe by 0.5” – but perhaps that would be too “fashion forward.” Personal preference, really. From a pure style perspective, I think these pants look much better worn with lace-ups and boots (of any kind) than with running shoes or sneakers.

Bluffworks Tailored Chinos front and back pockets
Pockets galore! Inside out views showing front (top) and back (bottom) pockets

Pockets and other features

First of all, there are a lot of pockets. Two back pockets (one zippered), two front pockets (each with their own, separate zippered deeper compartment), and one special back pocket that allows you to sit down without sitting on top of your phone (it’s just big enough for an iPhone 6/7/8). There’s no shortage of places to stash your valuables (e.g. passport, cash when on the go), safely out of reach of pickpockets. As someone who quite OCD about these things when traveling, I appreciate the various compartments they’ve included here.

Note: the separate zippered “deeper” compartments on each front pocket are sizable, and would fit any smartphone on the market (as well as things like passports, boarding passes, etc.)

Water resistance: outstanding. I’ve walked with these in the rain (and snow), and they simply refuse to let water through. As a bonus, they dry very fast (within 15-20 minutes) of being indoors after rain. With that said, I haven’t yet tried them in a proper Asian monsoon – but I’m guessing they would stand up to the challenge (we’ll find out).

How they compare to other pants

If you’re a traveler, it’s important to consider all the options first – after all, it’s not like you can bring 5 different pairs of pants with you (I mean, you could – but you really don’t want to).

Here’s how the Tailored Chinos compare to a couple other options:

Bluffworks Chinos vs. Jeans: while there’s nothing that will take a true beating like heavy denim, there’s simply no comparison when it comes to comfort and water resistance. In heavy rain, your jeans (and anything underneath) will get absolutely soaked – while the Bluffworks will be fine. The chinos are lighter, and will pack into a much more compact size (important for minimalist travel).

Bluffworks Chinos vs. Outlier New OGs: this one is tougher, but for me the Bluffworks still win out. While the OGs are a bit comfier and allow for more stretch/mobility, they also look closer to “technical” hiking pants than the Bluffworks. For some reason, the OGs look a bit blotchy after they get wet from rain. If your entire trip is going to be boulder hopping and scaling walls, by all means go for the Outliers. For an urban adventure, however, go with the Tailored Chinos and don’t look back.

Conclusion

In the last few years there has been an explosion of new travel gear – with every brand promising to change (and improve) the way we travel. While all these claims should be taken with a grain of salt, I can confirm that Bluffworks really is changing the game.

If you’re looking for a great travel pant that hits the sweet spot of versatility, style, and features – the Bluffworks Tailored Chinos are it.

Thanks for reading – and safe travels!

Highly Recommended 


The Tailored Chinos are available for $125 on the Bluffworks website (they offer Free shipping and returns for US customers).

Tortuga’s Setout Laptop Backpack: The Perfect Minimalist Travel Bag For Nomads?

As someone that exclusively travels with a single carry-on, I’m always on the lookout for the perfect “one bag” solution that can fit everything for a trip with no set end date.

I’ll cut to the chase: the Setout Laptop Backpack from Tortuga is pretty much perfect for my needs. And if you’re looking for an ultralight nomad travel solution, it might work for you, too.

Read on, and I’ll explain why.

(Note: this is about the Setout Laptop Backpack, not the Setout Divide or Setout Backpack)

“Is it the right size and weight?”

First of all, please note that this bag is not specifically designed for minimalist “one bag” types like me. Instead, it’s described as a “versatile secondary bag” on Tortuga’s website, to accompany a duffle bag or rolling luggage.

Indeed, Tortuga has an assortment of proper Travel Backpacks to choose from for those that need the space (~35-45L) and additional features (e.g. hip belts). And for the vast majority of travelers, one of those would be the most sensible choice.

If you’re into minimalist travel, however, the Setout Laptop Backpack is just the right size. Here are the basic stats:

  • Volume: 25 Liters
  • Dimensions: 18.5” x 12” x 6.75” (47 x 30 x 17 cm)
  • Weight: 2.8 lbs (1.3 kg)

Bottom line: the bag is compact (well within most airline carry-on size restrictions), lightweight, and spacious. Even though “25 Liters” doesn’t sound like much, I find that I can fit quite a lot into the pack. I also like to keep my total load-out under 8kg, and this backpack makes it easy to do so.

Overview of pockets and compartments

First of all, I recommend watching Tortuga’s intro video to the bag:

Right away, it’s obvious that a lot of thought went into the bag’s design.

Some of the features that immediately stand out:

  • The “quick access” pocket on the very front of the bag. Perfect for stashing headphones, boarding passes, or even dumping everything from your pockets into right before you go through airport security. About the height of a regular-sized Kindle.
  • The handy water bottle pocket on the side. While it’s great for holding my 1L Nalgene, I can see others potentially using it for something like a compact umbrella or small tripod. If not needed, it zips flat and doesn’t protrude from the bag (very sleek!)
  • Hideaway straps: while I don’t foresee myself making use of this feature very often, it’s nice to know that it’s there for unforeseen circumstances. As a bonus, the space reserved for hiding the straps could be used a separate area for stashing a light jacket or sweater (bonus: more cushion for your back!)
  • Strong, lockable zippers. Tortuga didn’t skimp on the zippers (yes, they are YKK!) Zippers are usually the first point of failure, and I’m confident that these ones will last. All three of the compartments are lockable, something that’s practically unheard of on a daypack.
  • Bright interior lining. Helpful for finding stuff quickly inside the bag.

There are three primary compartments:

  1. Front “organization” section: contains many small pockets for pens, gadgets, business cards, and the like. Also contains a key clip and a zipped compartment (great place to put passport/ID).
  2. Main compartment: opens flat to reveal a cavernous main area. I had no trouble fitting in 5 t-shirts, 4 pairs of boxers, 4 pairs of socks, a pair of shorts, merino leggings/longsleeve/gloves, sunglasses case, and a compact camera wrapped up in its own case. On the opposite side, there are two large mesh pockets (I use these for my portable backup hard drive and random cables/adapters).
  3. Back laptop/tablet compartment: the raised laptop sleeve is a great fit for my 2015 15” Macbook Pro, while the mesh zipped pocket works well as a catch-all for chargers, dongles, and a small wireless mouse. There’s also space for a 9.7” tablet in a separate pocket.

As you can tell, there are a lot of separate pockets and compartments. Aside from a couple small packing cubes for my clothing, I find that I can leave any other small cases or organizers at home.

Clockwise from top left: (1) the back of the bag, (2) laptop pocket, (3) strap attachment hook, (4) outside stash pocket, (5) inside the cavernous front organization compartment, (6) 1L Nalgene in bottle pocket

Pros and Cons for Minimalist Travel

Here’s a quick rundown of everything I really like about the bag:

  • It’s comfortable. While I don’t like to dwell too long on comfort and fit (everyone is going to feel differently about the bag and you gotta try it on before coming to any conclusions), the bag feels great on me fully loaded. The straps are padded and comfortable, contoured nicely to the body. As a bonus, there’s a small chest strap that to redistribute the weight for longer walks.
  • It looks cool. Aside from a small turtle shell logo on the front, there’s no visible branding or lettering. The color is a dark grey and hides dust/scratches very well. Most importantly, the bag doesn’t stand out as a “travel bag”—instead of a backpacker, I simply look like a style conscious local hipster commuting to work (and that’s a good thing).
  • It fits all my stuff (with room to spare). The main compartment has enough space for all the clothing and toiletries I may need for a week of travel (which to me is the same as for a year of travel, as I typically do laundry every 7-10 days on the road). Could I go even smaller? Possibly. But I do enjoy and value the available space, and my advice is always to have 10-15% empty in case you need it.
  • The laptop compartment. Nothing much to add really—it’s perfectly executed. My Macbook Pro fits in nicely, and is elevated by an inch or so off the ground at all times. Access is quick, and the laptop thankfully does not come into contact with the metal zippers as I pull it out (you’ll be surprised how often that’s the case these days).
  • There’s no hip belt. I’m glad this was left out, as there is simply no need for a waist belt on a bag of this size.
  • It’s solidly built. More than anything, the bag feels like a quality product. There’s no loose stitching, and all the handles are very sturdy. If anything, the bag is over-engineered—I don’t see how it’s going to fail (will update this review if anything does happen).

And possible changes/improvements:

  • Removal of the “hideaway strap” and “luggage handle pass through sleeve” features (OK, I’m really nitpicking here). From a selfish point of view, I don’t see myself using these features often, if ever. Most minimalist traveler would have no need for a roller bag, and there’s no way I’m ever trusting anyone to gate-check this bag (a situation that would call for stowing the straps). For me, these features simply add to the complexity (and weight) of the bag. And if you’re the kind of person that palpitates at the sight of an airline employee wielding a portable luggage scale, you know that every gram counts.
  • Some kind of solution to the “TSA liquids” problem. Getting into bag nerd territory here. OK, so if you have a bunch of liquids (e.g. shampoo, sunscreen) you almost always have to remove them from the bag during airport security. Naturally, you don’t want to keep the liquids in the main compartment, because that would be really annoying to open every time. My workaround is to stash them all at the bottom of the front organizer pocket—which actually holds much more than expected. It’s not elegant, but it does the job. If there’s a better way, I trust the boffins at Tortuga to figure it out!
All packed up (left). Inside the main compartment (right). Total weight: 7.4 kg!

Final Thoughts

Even though this bag wasn’t specifically made for one bag travel, it’s the one that stands out most to me in Tortuga’s lineup. I’m glad they carried over their design ethos and features from the larger bags into this one—you get all the benefits of modern travel bag design without the weight and bulk.

A great bag, and as of 2019 it’s my travel bag of choice. It’s available for $125 through Tortuga’s website.

Well done, Tortuga!

Highly Recommended 

(Note: Tortuga Backpacks sent me this bag as a sample to try out)