15 Best Hiking Pants Reviewed in 2020 ( For Backpacking, Outdoors, Trekking )

tired hiker uphill front view

There’s no substitute for a great pair of trekking pants. While a poorly fitting pair of outdoor pants will be uncomfortable and constricting on the trail, a quality pair of trousers will allow you to perform at your best as you travel through the mountains.

But with hundreds of different options out there, how can you possibly find the best pants for hiking? We know that selecting a quality pair of trail pants can be difficult, so we put together this guide to the best hiking pants to get you started.

We’ll answer all your most common questions about hiking pants and give you some advice about selecting the best pair. Plus, we’ll even review some of the top models currently on the market today so you can save time researching and spend more time in the great outdoors.

 

The 15 Best Hiking Pants of 2020: Outdoor Empire Reviews

In the market for a good pair of hiking pants? Here are our reviews of thirteen of the best hiking pants that money can buy:

  1. Best Lightweight: Arc’teryx Gamma LT
  2. Best Convertible: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible
  3. Best Hot Weather Breathable: Arc’teryx Lefroy
  4. Best for Cold Weather: Fjallraven Vidda Pro
  5. Best Waterproof: Arc’teryx Beta AR
  6. Best for Women: Outdoor Research Ferrosi
  7. Most Durable: Fjallraven Keb
  8. Best Slim-Fit: The North Face Paramount Active
  9. Best Quick-Dry: Arc’teryx Palisade

 

CategoryBest LightweightBest Hot Weather BreathableBest for Cold Weather
ProductArc’teryx Gamma LT
Arc’teryx Gamma LT

Prana Brion
Prana Brion

Fjallraven Vidda Pro
Fjallraven Vidda Pro

Weight8 oz6 oz8 oz
Fit- Regular
- Straight leg
SlimRegular
MaterialFortius DW 2.0Stretch Zion fabricG-1000 polyester and cotton
DWRYesNoNo (optional Greenland Wax)
UPFNoUPF 50+No
CostCheck PriceCheck PriceCheck Price

 

1. Best Lightweight Hiking Pants #1: Arc’teryx Gamma LT

Arc’teryx Gamma LT

Made with versatility in mind, the Arc’teryx Gamma LT are a solid all-around pair of summer weight hiking pants for everyday use. They’re made with a highly abrasion-resistant Fortius DW 2.0 fabric that allows for freedom of movement while you charge up the trail.

The nylon and elastane fibers used in the Gamma LT also provide quick-drying performance as well as ample stretch for all-day comfort. Plus, the Gamma LT have one large zippered thigh pocket and two zippered hand pockets that provide plenty of carrying capacity for your must-have items.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:8 ounces (335 grams)
  • Fit: Regular fit, straight leg
  • Material: Fortius DW 2.0
  • DWR? Yes
  • UPF? No

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Quick-drying material
  • Good assortment of zippered pockets
  • Abrasion-resistant and water-resistant fabric

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • No UPF protection

Who these pants are for: Hikers who value lightweight, stretchy fabrics for their hiking pants.

 

Arc’teryx Gamma LT is also available at:

Moosejaw

 

2. Best Lightweight Hiking Pants #2: Prana Stretch Zion

Prana Stretch Zion

Lightweight yet impressively durable, the Prana Stretch Zion pants are perfect for hiking, scrambling, and other mountain activities. As Prana’s best-selling men’s pants of all time, the Stretch Zion are highly abrasion-resistant and feature a water-repellent coating for a bit of weather protection.

The Stretch Zion have a classic hiking pants fit, with two cargo pockets and roll-up leg snaps for your convenience. The fabric in the Stretch Zion is lightweight, breathable, and incredibly comfortable, all while offering UPF 50+ protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:6 ounces (385 grams)
  • Fit: Standard
  • Material: Stretch Zion fabric
  • DWR? Yes
  • UPF? UPF 50+

Pros

  • Stretch Zion fabric provides lots of flexibility and mobility
  • DWR coating for weather resistance
  • UPF 50+ fabric provides sun protection
  • Two large cargo pockets
  • Roll-up snaps

Cons

  • Not very breathable when compared to similar pants

Who these pants are for: Casual hikers who want lightweight, comfortable pants for day trips into the mountains.

 

Prana Stretch Zion is also available at:

Backcountry

Moosejaw

 

3. Best Convertible Hiking Pants #1: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible

A time-tested fan favorite, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible pants provide maximum versatility for a wide range of different conditions.

The Ferrosi Convertible pants are a best-selling pair of hiking pants made with a premium softshell fabric that combines breathability and durability for remote adventures.

The fabric used in the Ferrosi Convertible pants are DWR treated for water resistance and also provide UPF 50+ sun protection for summertime trips.

They offer a fantastic amount of stretch and flexibility for hiking, climbing, and scrambling in tricky terrain and are surprisingly abrasion-resistant, despite their lightweight. Oh, and they zip off right above the knee to convert into shorts on particularly warm days in the mountains.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:1 ounces (370 grams)
  • Fit: Regular
  • Material: 90D stretch woven ripstop nylon and spandex
  • DWR? Yes
  • UPF? UPF 50+

Pros

  • Lightweight and highly breathable fabric
  • Abrasion-resistant for backcountry trips
  • DWR water-resistant coating
  • UPF 50+ protection
  • Lots of stretch and flexibility for all-day wear

Cons

  • Convertible pants aren’t for everyone
  • Not very stylish

Who these pants are for: Hikers who want a lightweight, abrasion-resistant pair of pants that can quickly convert into shorts.

 

 

4. Best Convertible Hiking Pants #2: Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible

Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible

Affordable and versatile, the Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible pants are a great option for budget-conscious hikers who need a single pair of pants for all of their adventures.

Made with Omni-Wick fabric, the Silver Ridge Convertible pants offer UPF 50+ sun protection and plenty of moisture-wicking capabilities for all-day comfort.

They easily convert into 10-inch (25.4-centimeter) shorts in seconds for when the sun comes out in the middle of your hike. Plus, they have two hand pockets, one Velcro cargo pocket and one zippered thigh pocket for maximum versatility on the trail.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:
  • Fit:
  • Material: Omni-shade ripstop nylon
  • DWR? No
  • UPF? UPF 50+

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Zippered pockets
  • UPF 50+ sun protection
  • Omni-wick technology for moisture-wicking

Cons

  • No DWR coating
  • Convertible pants aren’t for everyone
  • Not stylish
  • Not very stretchy

Who these pants are for: Budget-conscious hikers who want a solid all-around pair of pants for their travels.

 

Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible is also available at:

Backcountry

Moosejaw

Cabelas

Walmart

 

5. Best Hot Weather Breathable Pants #1: Arc’teryx Lefroy

Arc’teryx Lefroy

The Arc’teryx Lefroy are a highly technical pair of hiking pants for hot, summer weather. Made with Aeqora AirPerm fabric, the Lefroy are some of the thinnest, most breathable hiking pants on the market today.

They provide ample stretch for freedom of movement but are also quick to dry in foul weather.

With an articulated design, the Lefroy are ready for scrambling, hiking, bushwhacking, and climbing in some tricky terrain. They offer a trim fit that isn’t constricting, thanks to the gusseted crotch and the four-way stretch fabric.

The Lefroy even have two hand pockets and one zippered thigh pocket, so they provide everything you need and nothing you don’t for lightweight performance in the backcountry.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:7 ounces (275 grams)
  • Fit: Trim fit, straight leg
  • Material: Aeqora AirPerm nylon and elastane
  • DWR? No
  • UPF? No

Pros

  • Very lightweight and highly breathable Aeqora AirPerm fabric
  • Trim fit looks stylish on and off the trail
  • Lots of stretch for freedom of movement
  • Integrated webbing belt for the perfect fit

Cons

  • No DWR coating
  • Non-UPF fabrics
  • Too thin for winter and shoulder-season hiking

Who these pants are for: Summer hikers who need an ultra-breathable and lightweight pair of trekking pants.

 

Arc’teryx Lefroy is also available at:

Moosejaw

 

6. Best Hot Weather BreathablePants #2: Prana Brion

Prana Brion

Made to accompany you on any adventure, the Prana Brion are a simple yet functional pair of men’s hiking pants. The Brion are made with Prana’s Stretch Zion fabric, which offers lots of flexibility and freedom of motion for climbing, hiking, and scrambling.

Thanks to their Stretch Zion fabric, the Brion are highly abrasion resistant, but also fantastically breathable, which makes them perfect for hiking in hot weather. They are quick to dry and are great at wicking away moisture from the body.

Plus, the Brion come in multiple inseam lengths, so you can get a pair of hiking pants with a perfect fit.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:6 ounces (215 grams)
  • Fit: Slim fit
  • Material: Stretch Zion fabric
  • DWR? No
  • UPF? UPF 50+

Pros

  • Multiple inseam lengths for the perfect fit
  • Very stretchy fabric for freedom of motion
  • Lightweight and highly breathable
  • Quick-drying fabric with UPF 50+

Cons

  • No DWR coating for water resistance
  • No thigh pocket

Who these pants are for: Hikers who value simplicity and functionality in their gear.

 

Prana Brion is also available at:

Backcountry

Moosejaw

Cabelas

 

7. Best for Cold Weather Hiking #1: Fjallraven Vidda Pro

Fjallraven Vidda Pro

The Vidda Pro are Fjallraven’s top-of-the-line winter hiking pants that are designed to withstand years of use in harsh conditions. The Vidda Pro are made using Fjallraven’s proprietary G-1000 fabric, which can be waterproofed using their Greenland Wax.

Plus, the Vidda Pro have a double layer of fabric in high-wear areas around the seat and the knees. They have a number of pockets, including a map pocket and an internal phone pocket, which allow for plenty of gear storage on the go.

Finally, the Vidda Pro have knee pad pockets, so they’re really a do-everything pair of hiking pants.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:8 ounces (590 grams)
  • Fit: Regular fit
  • Material: G-1000 polyester and cotton
  • DWR? No (optional Greenland Wax)
  • UPF? No

Pros

  • Very durable materials and construction
  • Can be re-waterproofed in the field
  • Double layer of fabric in high-wear areas

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Very expensive
  • No DWR or UPF

Who these pants are for: Hikers who value durability and warmth in their trekking pants and won’t settle for second best.

 

Fjallraven Vidda Pro is also available at:

Moosejaw

 

8. Best for Cold Weather Hiking #2: Outdoor Research Cirque II

Outdoor Research Cirque II

When it comes to cold weather performance, it’s hard to beat the Outdoor Research Cirque II. These stylish all-weather hiking pants from Outdoor Research are made with the four-season outdoor enthusiast in mind.

They feature a thick 90D nylon and polyester fabric that offers four-way stretch and plenty of freedom of movement.

Built for all mountain pursuits, the Cirque II pants have a harness-compatible waist and pockets, so they’re great for hiking or climbing. Plus, the waistband on the Cirque II uses ActiveTemp technology to help the pants thermoregulate better in a variety of conditions.

The Cirque II are also water and wind resistant for use in the foulest of weather.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:8 ounces (617 grams)
  • Fit: Regular Fit
  • Material: 90D stretch double weave nylon and polyester
  • DWR? Yes
  • UPF? No

Pros

  • Thick 90D nylon and polyester fabric is warm and durable
  • ActiveTemp thermoregulation technology for added comfort
  • Reinforced scuff guards for use with crampons
  • DWR coating for water resistance

Cons

  • Very heavy
  • Too warm for most summer outings
  • Expensive
  • No built-in UPF

Who these pants are for: Winter hikers and year-round mountaineers who want durable, weather-resistant pants for cold conditions.

 

Outdoor Research Cirque II is also available at:

Moosejaw

 

9. Best Waterproof Hiking Pants #1: Arc’teryx Beta AR

Arc’teryx Beta AR

Crafted for all-around performance, the Arc’teryx Beta AR are a top-of-the-line pair of waterproof hiking pants. These rain pants are highly versatile, thanks to their built-in breathable, waterproof protection.

The Beta AR are made with two different weights of Gore-Tex Pro, the world’s best waterproof membrane, so you can have more abrasion-resistance in high wear areas and weight savings in others. Plus, the Beta AR feature an articulated pattern that improves performance and mobility in tricky terrain.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:9 ounces (535 grams)
  • Fit: Regular Fit
  • Material: N80p-X and N-40rX Gore-Tex Pro 3:
  • DWR? Yes
  • UPF? No

Pros

  • Two weights of Gore-Tex for added abrasion resistance
  • Fully waterproof construction
  • WaterTight ventilation zippers on sides of legs for breathability
  • Reinforced knees and other high-wear areas

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Fairly heavy for waterproof hiking pants

Who these pants are for: People who need the best waterproof hiking pants and don’t want to sacrifice durability-for-weight savings.

 

Arc’teryx Beta AR is also available at:

Moosejaw

 

10. Best Waterproof Hiking Pants #2: Arc’teryx Zeta SL

Arc’teryx Zeta SL

When you head into the mountains, you never know what to expect. While we hope for sunshine when the mountains give us rain and storms, the Arc’teryx Zeta SL are the waterproof hiking pants you need.

These ultralight waterproof hiking pants are built with Paclite Gore-Tex, which provides a great blend of weather protection and weight savings.

Highly packable, the Zeta SL are a pair of minimalist waterproof hiking pants that include leg vents for added breathability on the trail. They even have an articulated pattern for better restriction-free movement while you hike.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:6 ounces (245 grams)
  • Fit: Trim fit
  • Material: N40r Gore-Tex with Paclite Plus technology
  • DWR? Yes
  • UPF? No

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Gore-Tex Paclite technology for weight savings and weather resistance
  • Leg zips for ventilation
  • Articulated design for better range of motion

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No pockets

Who these pants are for: Hikers who need super lightweight yet waterproof trekking pants that don’t skimp on performance.

 

Arc’teryx Zeta SL is also available at:

Moosejaw

 

11. Best Women Hiking Pants #1: Outdoor Research Ferrosi

Outdoor Research Ferrosi

Built to follow on any adventure, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi are an award-winning pair of women’s hiking pants that are perfect for summer outings in the mountains.

The Ferrosi are made using a 90D ripstop nylon fabric that is fantastically stretchy and surprisingly abrasion resistant, even on long bushwhacks.

These softshell pants are lightweight and highly breathable and offer UPF 50 protection from the sun. They are comfortable enough for long day hikes and extended backcountry expeditions but are also stylish enough for everyday wear around town. What’s not to love?

Important Specifications

  • Weight:5 ounces (296 grams)
  • Fit: Regular Fit
  • Material: 90D stretch woven ripstop nylon and spandex
  • DWR? No
  • UPF? UPF 50

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Stretch, comfortable fabric
  • UPF 50 sun protection
  • Lightweight, yet durable

Cons

  • No DWR treatment
  • Too thin for winter use

Who these pants are for: Women who want affordable lightweight hiking pants for summer use.

 

Outdoor Research Ferrosi is also available at:

Moosejaw

 

12. Best Women Hiking Pants #2: Arc’teryx Gamma LT

Arc’teryx Gamma LT

The women’s version of the award-winning Gamma LT, these pants are built for outdoor women who won’t settle for second best. These pants are made with ultralight Fortius DW 2.0 fabric, which provides comfort and breathability without sacrificing performance.

The Gamma LT feature an articulated pattern as well as a gusseted crotch, which, alongside their stretchy fabric, provide ample range of motion for hikes in difficult terrain. They have a women’s-specific fit that allows for more room around the hips, while the polyester waistband improves next-to-skin comfort.

Finally, the Gamma LT have three zippered pockets for added functionality on the trail.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:9 ounces (308 grams)
  • Fit: Trim fit, straight leg
  • Material: Fortius DW 2.0
  • DWR? Yes
  • UPF? No

Pros

  • Lightweight, highly breathable fabric
  • Lots of stretch for better movement in tricky terrain
  • Polyester waistband for improved comfort against the skin
  • DWR coating for water-resistance
  • Articulated pattern and gusseted crotch for better range of motion

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No built-in UPF protection

Who these pants are for: Women who want a lightweight, breathable pair of hiking pants for any summer adventure.

 

Arc’teryx Gamma LT is also available at:

Moosejaw

 

13. Most Durable Hiking Pants: Fjallraven Keb

Fjallraven Keb

Fjallraven’s flagship technical hiking pants, the Keb are built with G-1000 Eco fabric, making them some of the most durable hiking pants on the market today. These burly hiking pants have extra-reinforced fabric around all high wear areas but don’t feel constraining as you hike.

They feature ventilation zippers on the upper thighs for added comfort, as well as large leg pockets to store all your gear on the go. The Keb come with an easy to adjust leg length so you can tailor the pants to better fit your needs.

Plus, they have detachable straps and hooks at the bottom of the leg to provide a more secure fit to the top of your boots. What more could you ask for?

Important Specifications

  • Weight:5 ounces (610 grams)
  • Fit: Regular Fit
  • Material: G-1000 Eco polyester/cotton
  • DWR? No, but can be used with Greenland Wax
  • UPF? No

Pros

  • Highly durable G-1000 fabric
  • Reinforced high-wear areas for extra durability
  • Lots of pockets
  • Length can be customized to your needs

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Very heavy
  • Not very breathable

Who these pants are for: Hikers who value durability above all else in their trousers.

 

Fjallraven Keb is also available at:

Moosejaw

Walmart

 

14. Best Slim-Fit Hiking Pants: The North Face Paramount Active

North Face Paramount Active

As functional on the trail as they are stylish, the North Face Paramount Active are a pair of durable and comfortable slim-fit hiking pants. Made specifically for summertime hiking, the Paramount Active provide ample mobility, thanks to their gusseted crotch and stretchy fabric.

The Paramount Active feature FlashDry-XD technology, which effectively wicks moisture away from the skin to help keep you dry, even in hot conditions. Plus, the Paramount Active have a DWR coating to provide some water resistance in light summertime rainstorms for solid all-around performance.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:4 ounces (295 grams)
  • Fit: Slim fit
  • Material: FlashDry-XD polyester and spandex
  • DWR? Yes
  • UPF? No

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Stylish slim fit
  • Lightweight and highly breathable
  • Gusseted crotch adds mobility

Cons

  • No built-in UPF protection
  • Odd pocket placement

Who these pants are for: Summer hikers who prefer slim-fitting performance trekking pants for day trips.

 

The North Face Paramount Active is also available at:

Moosejaw

 

15. Best Quick-Dry Hiking Pants: Arc’teryx Palisade

Arc’teryx Palisade

Created with remote backcountry ventures in mind, the Arc’teryx Palisade is a pair of quick-drying hiking pants for the most rugged of terrain. Built using TerraTex fabric, the Palisade pants are technical yet comfortable, thanks to their streamlined fit.

The TerraTex fabric provides plenty of stretch and durability but dries very quickly for added comfort in wet climates.

Highly breathable, the Palisades are great for humid environments where rain is to be expected. They also have an adjustable integrated webbing belt to help you find the right fit on all of your expeditions.

Important Specifications

  • Weight:6 ounces (300 grams)
  • Fit: Trim fit, straight leg
  • Material: TerraTex nylon and elastane
  • DWR? No
  • UPF? No

Pros

  • Integrated webbing belt for a better fit
  • Very quick drying TerraTex fabric
  • Articulated pattern and gusseted crotch improve mobility
  • Next-to-skin comfort
  • Four zippered pockets

Cons

  • No DWR coating
  • Not built with UPF fabric
  • Expensive

Who these pants are for: Hikers in wet climates who need quick-drying trekking pants.

 

Arc’teryx Palisade is also available at:

Moosejaw

 

How Hiking Pants Differ From Tactical or Hunting Pants: Pros & Cons of Hiking Pants

man walking on trail in the woods
Tactical pants

If you’re used to wearing tactical or cargo pants, you may be wondering how they’re different from hiking pants.

Basically, tactical pants are designed for first responder, law enforcement, and military use. They are made with fairly lightweight materials but are specially designed with certain features that aren’t going to be necessary for most hikers.

For example, tactical pants will often have thick belt loops in order to support the weight of a utility belt that contains a firearm, handcuffs, and other tactical equipment.

Additionally, tactical pants will have very large cargo pockets for other gear storage, as well as interior knee slots for use with knee pads during certain missions.

On the other hand, while some hiking pants look superficially similar to tactical pants, they will generally be much lighter and more breathable.

man hiking with his dog
Hiking pants

Since hiking pants are designed to provide maximum range of motion without holding you back, they will not have as many pockets or the other unique features we often see in tactical pants.

So, while you could use some synthetic tactical pants for hiking, you’ll probably find that they’re a bit heavy and cumbersome for backcountry adventures.

Here are some of the pros and cons of hiking pants when compared to tactical pants:

 

Pros

  • Made with lightweight, breathable materials
  • Generally quite stretchy and offer good range of motion
  • Usually have UPF- and water-resistant fabrics
  • Can be used in a range of conditions

 

Cons

  • Not as durable as tactical pants
  • Don’t have as many large pockets
  • Generally won’t have thick belt loops
  • Often more expensive

 

Buying Advice: How to Choose & Important Considerations

backpacker hiking a rocky mountain slope

Choosing just one pair of hiking pants is not an easy decision. While a bad pair of hiking pants can make you feel constrained and incredibly uncomfortable as you hike, a good pair of trekking pants will fit well and will allow for plenty of range of motion while you’re in the mountains.

Since we know how difficult it is to find the perfect pair of pants, here are some top tips for choosing the right pair, as well as some important features to consider when you’re shopping for hiking pants:

 

How to Choose Hiking Pants

Your hiking pants are an important piece of gear, so it’s critical that you find the right pair. Here are some things to think about when deciding what kind of hiking pants will be right for your needs:

 

Intended Use

man hiking on a grassland during a sunny day

Do you plan to do a lot of day hiking, or are you more interested in longer overnight trips? When you choose a pair of hiking pants, it’s best to get a model that’s tailor-made for your chosen pursuit.

While day hikers can often deal with a little less versatility in their hiking pants, backpackers need trekking pants that can withstand a wide range of conditions.

Many backpackers will opt to get convertible or roll-up pants that provide some water resistance and sun protection in order to be ready for any eventuality.

 

Terrain Considerations

hiker crossing a river

If you live in the desert, your outdoor apparel needs are going to be quite different from someone who lives in the temperate rainforest of the Pacific Northwest. When it comes to hiking pants, the terrain you venture in will have a big impact on what specific models will work best for your needs.

While desert hikers will likely prioritize breathability and sun protection in their hiking pants, people who live in places with wetter climates will probably want to look for trousers that are more water  and wind resistant. Additionally, if you do a lot of off-trail hiking, durability and abrasion resistance are key.

 

Hiking Seasons

man hiking a snowy mountain

The winter months are beautiful, but they come with their own unique set of challenges. So, if you’re the type of hiker who doesn’t stay indoors when the temperatures drop, you might benefit from a pair of hiking pants that feature a fleece or flannel lining or thicker fabrics for some extra warmth.

Summer hikers, on the other hand, will probably want to prioritize breathability over insulation.

 

Important Considerations

Now that you understand what kind of hiking pants you might be interested in, here are some important features to keep in mind while you shop:

 

Pants Style: Regular, Roll-Up & Convertible

hiker's legs shown on a snowy slope
Convertible

Modern hiking pants come in three main styles: regular, roll-up, and convertible, each of which has its own unique advantages and disadvantages.

Regular hiking pants look quite similar to other kinds of pants and feature a more or less straight leg and traditional pants fit. They are the simplest and generally the lightest type of hiking pants on the market.

Convertible hiking pants are a bit of a specialty item that you either hate or love. Basically, convertible pants have zippers right above the knee, which allow you to turn them into shorts in just a few seconds.

This type of pants is quite popular among backpackers who want the versatility of shorts and pants, but don’t want to carry shorts in their pack. However, convertible pants tend to weigh more than regular hiking pants. Plus, they have a very peculiar look that some people just don’t find attractive or stylish.

roll up hiking pants
Roll-up

Roll-up pants, however, strike a bit of a balance between regular and convertible models. They are essentially regular hiking pants that have a button or snap closure that allows you to roll up the bottom of the pants leg for added breathability on the trail.

Thus, they provide ventilation without the added weight of zippers or the somewhat odd look of convertible pants.

 

Fabric Thickness

woman standing on a view deck

The thickness of the fabric in a pair of hiking pants has a direct effect on both the pants’ durability and breathability. As you can imagine, thin hiking pants will be more breathable, and thus better suited, for warm-weather hiking, particularly in the summer months.

However, thin fabrics tend to be less abrasion resistant than thicker alternatives.

That being said, thicker fabrics decrease the breathability of hiking pants, while also providing a bit of extra warmth. Thus, when you decide on a pair of hiking pants, you often have to decide between breathability and abrasion-resistance.

 

Breathability and Moisture Wicking Qualities

hiker standing on a rocky slope

When we hike, even in cold temperatures, most of us sweat quite a bit. So, it’s imperative that our hiking pants are breathable, to help us stay comfortable throughout a hiking day.

As we’ve mentioned, lighter, thinner fabrics will generally be more breathable than thicker alternatives. However, it’s also important to remember that some pants are also made with moisture-wicking fabrics that can make a big difference in both hot and cold climates.

In hot climates, moisture-wicking fabrics will pull sweat away from your body and help it evaporate off your skin to keep you cool.

On the other hand, in cold climates, moisture-wicking fabrics are very important because they help reduce the amount of moisture against your skin, which can prevent you from getting cold if you stop for a few minutes during a break.

Thus, it’s important to look for breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics in your hiking pants.

 

Durability

hiker sitting drinking water with landscape view

No one wants to spend money on a new pair of hiking pants only to have them rip after a day or two on the trail. As you can imagine, thicker fabrics are going to be more durable than thinner alternatives, so durability is often a compromise with breathability.

Our advice? If you’re planning on doing a lot of longer overnight trips with a decent amount of off-trail travel, a slightly thicker pair of pants will be advantageous due to their added durability.

 

Water Resistance

hiker on a snowy trail

If you spend enough time outside, at some point you’ll get caught in a rainstorm. Thankfully, many pairs of hiking pants are made with some semblance of water resistance, generally in the form of a durable water repellent (DWR) coating.

A DWR coating is basically a treatment that’s applied to the outside of a pair of pants. The DWR treatment helps water bead off of the pants instead of soaking through, for added weather resistance in the mountains.

Many manufacturers will add a DWR coating to their hiking pants, which is nice as it doesn’t really affect the weight or breathability of the fabric.

 

Sun Protection

woman trekking on a sunny day

Anyone who spends a lot of time in the outdoors generally finds that they get quite a bit of sun throughout the day. Particularly if you live in the desert or another hot and sunny environment, protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful rays is of the utmost importance.

Thankfully, many pairs of trekking pants are made with fabrics that offer some protection from the sun. You’ll want to look for a Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating on different models as you’re shopping around.

Basically, a UPF rating is a measure of how much sunlight is blocked by the fabric. Anything with a UPF rating of 50 or above blocks over 97.5% of the sun’s rays, making it ideal for use in particularly sunny environments.

The best part? UPF fabrics tend to be highly breathable and lightweight, so there’s no reason not to wear them.

 

Pockets

hiker legs upclose on a snowy cliff

Pockets might seem like a minor feature of a pair of pants, but having small or poorly placed pockets can really affect the performance of your trousers. When it comes to hiking pants, a solid assortment of pockets is key.

Although some people prefer the cargo-pants style with many large Velcro pockets, others don’t really like this look. Often, a good compromise between style and functionality is to have two hand warmer pockets and one or two thigh pockets for storing larger items like maps.

Oh, and keep in mind that zippers tend to be the best way to secure items in your pockets. Look for a pair of pants that have at least one zippered thigh pocket for that added layer of versatility.

 

Top Brands

If you’re going to spend your hard-earned money on a new pair of hiking pants, it might as well be from a brand you trust, right? So, here is some background on four of the top trekking pants manufacturing companies in the game today.

 

Arc’teryx

Arc’teryx logo

Arc’teryx is a Canadian outdoor gear and apparel brand that’s based out of Vancouver, British Columbia. Well known for their production of high-end outdoor products, Arc’teryx uses only top-of-the-line materials in their gear.

This also means that Arc’teryx is known for their very high prices, but the durability and quality are second to none.

When it comes to hiking pants, Arc’teryx specializes in high performing trousers that are specifically made for different pursuits. While some of their pants are made for shorter day hikes, their more technical models are built using high-end softshell fabrics for more remote mountain pursuits.

Due to their prices, Arc’teryx caters to a fairly narrow section of the outdoor industry, but they are a fan-favorite among professional outdoor athletes and guides because of their exceptional high quality.

In recent years, however, they have broadened their range of clothing to include some slightly more affordable options that are great for the everyday adventurer.

 

Prana

Prana logo

Started out of their garage in Carlsbad, California, Prana was founded in 1992 by Beaver and Pam Theodosakis as a way to produce more sustainably minded clothing for outdoor pursuits.

Over the years, Prana has gained a lot of popularity among climbers, yoga enthusiasts, and other outdoor recreationalists, due to their versatile product line that works well for both technical pursuits and everyday wear.

Although much of their clothing is designed for climbing and yoga, Prana has a fantastic lineup of hiking pants that are comfortable and functional without being overly technical or pricey.

Within the greater outdoor industry, Prana has carved out a niche for itself as a sustainably minded organization that works to produce Fair Trade and environmentally-friendly clothing for a wide range of pursuits.

 

Outdoor Research

Outdoor Research logo

This Seattle-based Outdoor Research has been making top-of-the-line outdoor gear and apparel since 1981. The privately owned company was founded by Ron Gregg, a former nuclear physicist who left behind the world of scientific research in order to join an expedition to climb Denali in 1980.

During the expedition, Gregg survived in an open bivouac high on the mountain, during which his partner had to be evacuated due to extensive frostbite on his feet. After this experience, Gregg was determined to make better gear for people adventuring in the world’s most extreme environments.

These days, Outdoor Research is known for making innovative gear for an array of outdoor pursuits. Although they’re best known for their gloves and gaiters, the company makes a great lineup of hiking pants, with different models available for a variety of specific outdoor conditions and environments.

 

Fjallraven

Fjallraven logo

Fjällräven is a Swedish-based outdoor gear company that was started by Åke Nordin after he found that he was routinely disappointed by the backpacking gear he had during his youth.

Using his mother’s sewing machine, Nordin created a range of gear for his adventures, including backpacks, tents, and apparel.

Although Fjällräven is most popular in the Nordic countries and the rest of Europe, they are gaining more traction in North America as a manufacturer of quality outdoor equipment.

Currently, Fjällräven is best known for their lineup of high-end hiking trousers, which come in a wide range of styles to suit any environment.

Unique among hiking pants manufacturers, many of Fjällräven’s trousers are made with their proprietary G-1000 fabric, which is a polyester/cotton blend that can be waxed for maximum water resistance.

Although Fjällräven’s pants are quite expensive, they are incredibly popular for their impressive durability in rough conditions.

 

Hiking Pants FAQ

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we get about hiking pants:

 

Why wear hiking pants? Are they really necessary?

If you’re wondering why you should buy specialty hiking pants instead of just wearing a pair of jeans or track pants that you have in your closet, you’re not alone. However, while hiking pants might just seem like regular trousers, they are purpose built for the conditions you’ll face in the mountains.

While your track pants and jeans might be just fine for wearing around town, they are generally made from cotton, which will make you colder if it gets wet.

Although this might not seem like a problem in the hot summer months, if you get caught out in the rain while wearing cotton clothing, you can put yourself at risk for developing hypothermia, a potentially life-threatening condition.

Hiking pants, on the other hand, are made from lightweight fabrics, like ripstop nylon, that are specially designed for use in remote environments. These trousers will keep you warm and comfortable, even when wet.

Plus, they are often made with UPF fabrics and water-repellent treatments that offer even more benefits for frequent outdoor adventurers.

 

How do I wash hiking pants?

Since hiking pants usually deal with a lot of use and abuse, it’s important to wash them often. The best advice we can give for washing a pair of hiking pants is to follow the directions listed by the manufacturer.

Generally speaking, however, the best way to wash hiking pants is to put them in the washing machine with a delicate detergent. Wash on a cold-water cycle with and then either lay the pants flat to air dry or tumble dry with low heat.

 

Can I use ski pants for hiking?

In the colder winter months, you may be tempted to wear your ski pants for a hiking trip. However, ski pants are really not ideal for hiking for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, most ski pants that are made for use at a ski resort are not designed for highly aerobic activities. This means that they will not breathe well, so you’ll likely get very sweaty very quickly if you try to hike in them.

Additionally, ski pants are often made with quite a bit of insulation. While this is nice to have when you’re sitting on a ski lift, even on a cold winter’s day, insulated pants will cause you to overheat very quickly.

Therefore, it’s best to get a lightly insulated pair of winter hiking pants for cold weather hiking instead of simply using your ski pants.

 

What should I  wear with hiking pants?

Hiking pants are designed to be worn on their own, with no other lower-body layers. However, if you’re expecting particularly cold conditions, you can always layer your hiking pants with a pair of long underwear.

Alternatively, you can put a pair of rain pants on top of your hiking pants for added weather protection in wet conditions.

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