When it comes to deciding what to wear on your legs for outdoor adventure, the struggle is alive and well. Depending on who you ask, dedicated hiking pants are either an absolute necessity or a waste of money. I tend to lean on the side of necessity—while it may seem easy to throw on a pair of gym shorts or yoga pants, in certain situations these just won’t cut it. Of course, it all depends on what you plan to do in your pants. After all, an hour-long nature walk and a thru-hike will require different apparel. Hiking pants are important for those of us who rock climb, bike, camp, boat, zip line and otherwise trek our way through nature.
Whether you’re shopping at Patagonia or rummaging through your local Goodwill for pants for your next excursion, there are some qualities you’ll really appreciate in your hiking leg wear once you hit the trail. Here are some things to remember when making your decision.
Hiking Pants Checklist
- Water-resistant or moisture-wicking materials will keep you dry.
- Quick-dry fabrics are essential.
- AVOID cotton!
- Versatility is key…
Temperature: Do they convert to shorts or capris? Can you throw a base layer under these for winter hikes?
Activity: Do these pants have enough stretch to wear for biking or yoga? Are they comfortable for everyday use?
Style: How will you feel walking into a bar or the grocery store in these pants?
- Look for durability in materials and seams.
- Check for quantity and accessibility of pockets.
- Make sure the pants stay up around your waist. Most hiking pants have a button or snap and a tightening system or belt.
- Consider the amount pants will protect you from the elements, like the sun mosquitoes, or poison ivy.
Top Men’s Hiking Pants
Here’s a look at some of the most-trusted styles in the men’s hiking community. Make sure you pay attention to the pros and cons of each pair.
Men’s Patagonia Quandary Hiking Pants
Patagonia’s Quandary Pants are a versatile style designed to be suitable for climbing but essentially well equipped for any outdoor activity you have in mind. Patagonia did their best to think of just about everything you might and encompass it in one pair of pants. A strong but lightweight and quick-drying fabric (nylon/spandex blend) with a durable water repellent finish means you don’t have to worry about getting a little wet in these pants. And with 40 UPF sun protection, not even the strongest rays are a threat.
Patagonia Men’s Quandry Pants are appropriate for all seasons, and an articulated knee and gusseted crotch allow for full range of motion in any activity.
Unless you need ample pocket space, these pants have enough room to store your essentials, with two front pockets, two back pockets, a coin pocket, and one thigh-zipped pocket. Some hikers may be concerned that these pockets can’t be converted to shorts—they’re not zip-offs and you won’t be able to roll them up very high on your leg.
That being said, they’re so breathable that you may not miss your shorts! Though $80 might seem like a lot for a pair of pants, Patagonia is know for quality and durability, so its likely these pants will be well worth your money.
Men’s Prana Stretch Zion Convertible Hiking Pants
If you really want the option to convert from pants to shorts, check out Prana Stretch Zion Convertible Pants. Satisfactory for everything from yoga to thru hikes to casual dinners, these stretchy pants are known for their adaptability and comfort. You can easily throw a pair of long underwear under the nylon/spandex woven legs, so winter temperatures are not a problem unless you’re in the extreme cold.
Some hikers warn that these pants are slightly too baggy and that the stitching isn’t as durable, but if you can get these on sale ($50-$65) at online retailers like CampSaver and MooseJaw, they really can’t be beat.
Top Women’s Hiking Pants
For women, the choices are also ample and varied. Most women prefer pants with a rather slim (but flexible) fit, but others prefer a looser design.
Marmot Women’s Lobo’s Convertible Hiking Pants
One of my favorite pairs of women’s hiking pants is the Marmot Women’s Lobo’s Convertible Pant. Unlike many convertible hiking pants made for women, this pair is comfortable, versatile, and flattering. These pants not only zip-off to a 9” short, they can also be rolled up to capris.
Water-repellent, light weight fabric is breathable and flexible, and you’ll find plenty of pockets for your trail necessities. These pants have a contoured fit, in the back, while remaining loose in the leg. While their retail price is $78, you can find them on sale at Zappos for $62.
Prana Women’s Meme Hiking Pants
The Prana Women’s Meme Pant is another favorite in the women’s hiking department. These stylish pants feature a fitted leg (“skinny” ankle), but the stretchable, durable fabric makes them ideal for hiking, traveling, and climbing. While not your best option for activities like yoga, these pants are nonetheless versatile featuring quick-dry and water-resistant fabric (nylon/spandex).
Surprisingly, the prAna designers also managed to stitch-in a total of seven pockets in these form-fitting trail pants! There’s no doubt you’ll feel comfortable walking off the trail in these and stepping right into your favorite pub or eatery. PrAna also manages to keep their prices on the lower side, so you can purchase these for just $45 online at prana.com