Choosing the right hiking pants can be a difficult task, but it doesn’t have to be. In this article, we will break down everything you need to know about choosing your perfect pair of hiking pants and make it easy for you by providing a step-by-step guide.
Table of Contents
What are Hiking Pants?
Hiking pants are a type of outdoor clothing that can be used during hiking, backpacking, or camping. They usually include features such as water repellent fabric, breathability, and stretchiness to ensure comfort while moving around in the wilderness.
Why do you need hiking pants?
They provide much more comfort than regular pants, as they protect your legs from insects, leaves, twigs, and other irritants found in nature. They are also water-resistant and quick-drying, which is perfect when you’re traveling through rivers or in case it starts raining.
Types of Hiking Pants
There is a huge variety when it comes to different styles of hiking pants. They can range from classic jeans to special mountain pants with technical features like zippers, pockets for gadgets and gizmos, etc.
- Classic Hiking Pants: These are usually made of twill fabric or cotton canvas combined with polyester which makes them incredibly durable yet fairly heavy compared to other types available today. These were the original hiking pants and they’re still a preferred choice by hikers who go on long, strenuous trips where weight is an issue.
- Technical Hiking Pants: Lightweight fabrics such as nylon or polyester are usually used to make these types of pants which offer much more flexibility than classic ones. They can include features like breathable mesh lining for extra comfort, special pockets for gadgets, zippers on the legs to easily take them off while wearing boots, and so on.
- Convertible Hiking Pants: These pants can be easily converted into shorts by zipping off the legs. They are incredibly convenient for hiking, as you don’t have to carry two separate types of pants with you and they also pack down much smaller than other styles available today.
- Hiking Shorts: These are simply regular athletic shorts that offer more freedom of movement due to their short length. They are usually made of stretchy fabric such as nylon and they include special pockets for carrying gadgets, water bottles, or other essentials while hiking.
- Roll-up Hiking Pants: The legs of these pants can be rolled up and secured with straps. They are great for warm weather hiking, as your thighs will get plenty of airflows and you won’t have to worry about bugs biting them while you’re climbing uphill.
- Jeans: This is not the best choice when it comes to hiking pants, but they are better than nothing. They have a loose fit which makes them comfortable for long walks and extra pockets where you can store your stuff while traveling through nature. However, jeans are much heavier compared to other types available on the market today so this might be an issue in the case of long hikes.
- Cargo Pants: These are a good alternative to classic or technical pants and they can come in handy when you need extra storage space. They have lots of pockets which is great for storing your gadgets, but the weight might be an issue if you plan on going on long hikes with them.
When you’re going on a short hike, a pair of regular jeans or cargo pants will be just fine. However, when you go for multi-day trips to the wilderness where every ounce matters, technical hiking pants are your best bet because they provide much more comfort and versatility while still being lightweight.
What to Look For When Buying Hiking Pants
There are a couple of things you should consider before buying hiking pants:
- Price range: This consideration is pretty straightforward. You can find some great deals on high-quality fabrics that offer the best features for the money, but these types of pants tend to be more expensive than their synthetic counterparts which usually do not have any special capabilities apart from being water-resistant.
- Warmth: If you’re not planning on going for a multi-day hike, choose pants with insulation capabilities if it’s very cold outside. Otherwise, opt for those that don’t have them because they will be much more comfortable to wear during the summer months and save your wallet from unnecessary expenses at the same time.
- Fitment: If you’re going for a multi-day hike, choose hiking pants that have adjustable waistlines and cuffs so they can fit better around your calves when worn with boots. The ankles should also be equipped with drawstrings to offer the best possible fit for this type of terrain.
- Weather conditions: This is an important consideration if you plan on going for a multi-day hike because you will need to choose the right type of fabric based on your location. If it’s very cold outside, opt for pants with insulation capabilities or heavy fabrics such as wool which are better at insulating heat than lighter types.
- Ease of maintenance: This consideration is especially important if you’re going for a multi-day hike where you will be camping in the wilderness and won’t have access to a washing machine. In this case, choose pants with quick-drying capabilities which can usually be found on synthetic types of fabric such as nylon or polyester.
- Durability: The durability factor is often overlooked by hikers because they tend to focus only on the special features that each fabric type or brand has to offer. However, durability is just as important because you will need your hiking pants to last for many years if they are made out of high-quality materials such as merino wool which can be found in some brands at very reasonable prices compared to other fabrics with similar capabilities.
- Weight: If you’re planning on going for a multi-day hike, choose pants that are lightweight because they will be much more comfortable to wear during the entire trip.
- Material: If you’re going for a multi-day hike, choose hiking pants that have been made out of some lightweight and durable material such as nylon or polyester. These types of fabrics are usually water-resistant which is an important feature to keep in mind if you plan on camping somewhere with wet terrain.
- Breathability: If you’re going for a multi-day hike, choose pants that offer the best possible breathability and ventilation capabilities because this will prevent discomfort during warm weather when you’re going to be hiking in areas with dense vegetation.
- Size: Do not buy a pair of hiking pants that is too small, but also make sure they’re not loose because this type of clothing has no give and the legs will feel uncomfortable when you’re hiking.
- Packability: When buying hiking pants, it’s important to also pay attention to how easy they are going to be packed because you will need them for your entire trip. If the pants have been made out of lightweight materials, this usually won’t be an issue. On the other hand, if they are heavier or made out of thicker fabrics such as wool or cotton, you will need to find a way of carrying them with your backpack.
- Features: Make sure you get the right type of features depending on what type of hike you’re going for. For example, if you intend to go camping in the woods where there are lots of bugs and vegetation overgrowth, make sure your pants offer some bug protection. On the other hand, if you’re going to hike somewhere with lots of snow and ice where you will most likely need something warm and waterproof, make sure your pants have been made out of heavy-duty fabrics.
Choose The Right Size
Size is another important factor to consider when buying hiking pants. Make sure you get the right fit by referring to the manufacturer size guide before making a purchase or choosing one that corresponds with your usual size in regular clothing.
Keep in mind that these are not jeans, so make sure they fit well around your legs without being too tight. The fabric should be thick enough to provide warmth, but not so thick that it becomes uncomfortable to move around in.
Also, you will need a pair of hiking pants with an adjustable waistline which can be cinched up or down depending on the weather conditions and how much extra space you want while wearing a backpack. The ankles should also have adjustable drawstrings for better fit and convenience while wearing boots.
The material is another important factor to consider when buying a pair of hiking pants. The most common types available today are nylon, polyester, and cotton which all have their advantages and disadvantages depending on how you plan on using them.
- Nylon: This fabric is lightweight but can be easily torn if the rocks or branches around your trail are sharp enough. On the other hand, it dries much faster than cotton or polyester and is a good choice if you plan on going for multi-day hikes where quick-drying capabilities can save your life in case of an emergency.
- Polyester: This fabric is more durable compared to nylon but doesn’t offer any breathability benefits which might be an issue in the summer. However, it dries much slower than other types available on the market today so this should be taken into consideration if you’re planning on going for long hikes.
- Cotton: This fabric is not the best choice for hiking pants, but some people still prefer it over nylon or polyester. It dries slowly and the fabric is not very elastic, which makes it uncomfortable to wear if you plan on carrying a backpack for multi-day trips.
- Gore-Tex: This is one of the most durable types available on the market today. It has a waterproof and breathable membrane which is perfect if you plan on going for multi-day hikes in unpredictable weather conditions or when it starts raining. However, the material is much heavier compared to other types so this might be a turn-off for some people.
When it comes to the future, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind when buying hiking pants:
- Water resistance: This might not seem like a big deal at first, but in case it starts raining while you’re hiking the trail, this feature can save your life because most accidents happen on rainy days. Some types of fabric such as nylon and polyester offer water-resistant properties, but cotton does not.
- Wind Protection: This is another important feature to consider when buying a pair of hiking pants. If you plan on going for multi-day hikes, the weather can be unpredictable and you might spend a couple of nights outside. This is why it’s important to make sure your hiking pants offer some degree of wind protection because the cold can be your worst enemy if you don’t have the proper gear.
- Breathability: Breathable fabrics are a must if you’re planning on hiking during the summer months because they will prevent odors from building up even after hours of walking in the wilderness. This feature is usually only available with synthetic types of fabric such as nylon or polyester.
- Insulation capabilities: If you’re going on a winter hike, you will need hiking pants that offer insulation capabilities. Cotton and wool do not insulate heat very well which means they should be avoided in this case.
- Quick-drying capabilities: This feature is only available with synthetic fabrics such as nylon or polyester so cotton and wool are out of the question here too.
- Fitment: If you’re going on a long hike, choose hiking pants that have adjustable waistlines and cuffs so they can fit better around your calves when worn with boots. The ankles should also be equipped with drawstrings to offer the best possible fit for this type of terrain.
- Bug protection: If you’re planning on going for a hike in the woods or at least somewhere with overgrown vegetation, make sure your hiking pants offer some sort of bug protection. Otherwise, you might end up with some nasty bites on your legs which can make a bad situation even worse if they start to swell and cause an allergic reaction.
- UDF: This is a very rare feature, but if you’re planning on buying one of these pants for mountaineering or skiing purposes, it will probably come in handy. UDF stands for ultra-durable fabric, and it will provide much better protection against sharp rocks or branches compared to regular hiking pants. However, this feature is usually only available on the outside layer of these pants so keep that in mind when making your choice.
- UPF: This is another rare feature that can only be found on specialized hiking pants. If you plan on going for long hikes in sunny weather conditions, this feature will protect your skin from harmful UV rays which can cause some serious damage in the long run. However, this type of fabric is usually much heavier compared to regular nylon or polyester so keep that in mind when making your choice.
What to Avoid When Buying Hiking Pants
There are a few things that you should avoid when looking for the right pair of hiking pants:
- Lighter types of fabrics are usually not best suited for colder climates because they offer little insulation. If you’re going on a multi-day hike, make sure you buy pants with insulation capabilities in the lower legs and thighs to keep your body heat inside.
- Avoid purchasing a pair of hiking pants that is too large because they will move around while you’re hiking and this can cause you to trip or hurt yourself in some other way. The legs of your pants should also have some sort of elasticity to them because this will increase their mobility and make it easier for you to move around.
- Make sure your pants have the right inseam length regardless of the type of fabric they have been made out of because this is a crucial factor that heavily influences your comfort.
The Anatomy of Hiking Pants
In order for you to understand how to choose your perfect pair of hiking pants, it’s important to know the different parts of a pair of hiking pants.
- The Waistband: The waistband is the top part of your pants and it’s usually made out of a durable material such as nylon or canvas. This is also the area where you can find two side pockets and a back pocket, which are all great for storing your most important items.
- The Fly: The fly is the area where your button and zipper are located and this part of a pair of pants can either be made out of two separate pieces of fabric or it can be one solid piece.
- The Side Seams: The side seams are located in the middle of your pants and they can either be sewn together or riveted together.
- The Seat: The seat is the area of your pants that contains two pockets on both sides which are usually used to store things like your knife or your phone.
- The Cuffs: The cuffs are the bottom part of your pair of pants, and it’s usually made out of synthetic material or woven material.
- The Inseam: The inseam is the part of your pants that contains two zippers and this is the area where you will go when you need to take them off.
- The Crotch: The crotch is the part of your pants that contains the waistband and it’s also where your fly is located.
- The Trouser Legs: The trouser legs are the main part of your pants and they’re usually made out of synthetic or cotton material.
- The Zipper: The zipper is the part that allows you to put your pants on and take them off. It should be a sturdy metal or plastic zipper that can easily withstand heavy use without breaking apart because this is an area where you might get stuck if it breaks.
- The Belt Loops: The belt loops are the area on your hips where you can attach a belt to your pants and they’re usually located on the sides of a pair of pants.
What Are The Best Hiking Pants?
Now that you know about all of these options, it’s time to take a look at our top recommended products and what makes them great choices for hikers.
Q. What material should I choose for my hiking pants?
A. You have two main options when it comes to fabric: synthetic or cotton, with the main difference between them being their weight.
Q. What is the best length for a pair of hiking pants?
A. The inseam of your pants should contain two zippers and these are the areas where you will go when you need to take them off.
Q. Why should I buy hiking pants with belt loops?
A. Belt loops are the area on your hips where you can attach a belt to your pants and they’re usually located on the sides of a pair of pants.
Q: How should my hiking pants fit?
A: Your pants should be tight enough to not get caught on anything while you’re hiking, but they also shouldn’t fit too tightly. Make sure they are neither too tight or too loose.
Q: What is the difference between synthetic and cotton fabric?
A: Synthetic fabric is made out of polyester or nylon and it’s usually very lightweight, while the cotton fabric is heavier.
Q: What are the most important parts of a pair of hiking pants?
A: The waistband is the top part of your pants and it’s usually made out of a durable material such as nylon or canvas.
Q: What is the best way to clean my hiking pants?
A: It’s important to always check the washing and drying instructions for each pair of pants. If they aren’t machine washable, you should always hand wash them and avoid using harsh soaps or chemicals.
Q: Where should I store my hiking pants when they’re not in use?
A: Always store your hiking pants in a clean and dry place to prevent them from getting dirty. If you’re not going to use them for a long time, make sure you air them out completely before storing them.
Q: What are the best hiking pants brands?
A: The best hiking pants brands are Columbia, Royal Robbins, and ExOfficio.
Q: How do I know if my hiking pants are long enough?
A: Your pants should be between your ankle and calf. They shouldn’t cover the tops of your shoes or they will get wet when you walk in the rain.
Q: How do I choose my size?
A: You should always use your waist measurement when choosing your size. This is especially important for women’s hiking pants because they tend to be smaller than men’s pants.