The Best Hiking Pants (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021
Enjoy the great outdoors in comfortable yet functional pants.
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BY Andra DelMonico / LAST UPDATED ON February 24, 2021
A hiker needs gear he or she can rely on when scaling the best nature has to offer. Clothes are a big part of this equation, and pants are an important (yet often overlooked) part. A good pair of hiking pants needs to be utilitarian; they need to have enough pockets to hold all the essentials you need for a long hike. They must also be durable and be able to withstand the rigors of extreme temperatures, harmful radiation from the sun, sweat, water, dirt, and anything else one might encounter during a hike.
Pants are crucial for a hiker's movement since pants that are too tight and restrict leg movement are a huge liability on the trail. Aside from movement, a good pair of hiking pants (or any pants, for that matter) must be comfortable to wear and use. The right pair is indispensable for a satisfying hike and covers various situations. We've rounded up some of the best hiking pants on the market to fit all your needs.
These lightweight pants are durable and water-repellent. They come in 15 colors. For maximum comfort, they have an adjustable waistband, ventilated inseam gusset, and roll-up leg snaps.
- Machine washable
- Provides UPF 50+ sun protection
- Features cargo pockets
- It has a bell bottom leg shape, which may be a turnoff to some people
- The leg length is hard to fit
Feel comfortable in these cargo hiking pants. They come in six colors and are made of 100 percent cotton. The waistband has a button closure.
- Features six pockets
- Has a relaxed silhouette and is machine washable
- These pants are not breathable or as lightweight as other options
These convertible hiking pants are made from 100 percent nylon. The waistband has a button closure and partial elastic detailing. There are zippers on the legs for converting these pants to shorts.
- Provides UPF 50+ sun protection
- Offers a classic fit with Velcro mesh pocket bags
- They have a slim fit through the thighs
- Stitching can come loose
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Benefits of Hiking Pants
- Increased comfort. Wearing hiking pants will help you to be more comfortable while hiking. The material is lighter weight, so you’re carrying less and expel less energy. The pants flex, move, and has stretch in all of the necessary places to make it easier to hike uneven terrain.
- More pockets. Having pants with a lot of pockets means you can carry more on your person. This is ideal for carrying the essentials that you want to have quickly and easily within reach.
- Protection. A full-length pair of pants when hiking will protect you from scrapes and cuts that you could get from thorns, rocks, or other hazards. They can also protect you from the sun while being breathable to keep you cool.
Types of Hiking Pants
This style of hiking pants looks and fit like standard pants. The only difference is that they are made of different materials and have features that make them more comfortable for hiking. These pants are ideal if you’re looking for pants that can be versatile. They’re also good if you plan to hike in colder climates or more rural locations.
These pants look like standard pants, but midway down the legs are zippers or some other attachment. You can then remove the bottom portion of the pants and turn them into shorts. These are great if you plan on hiking somewhere with a warm climate. When you get to your destination or want to take a break, you can unzip the pants and have increased ventilation.
This style of hiking pants also has adjustability features. However, instead of removing a portion of the legs, you’ll roll them up from the bottom, turning the pants into shorts or capri pants. This is nice because you won’t have separate leg pieces that you need to carry. However, they may not be as cool as the convertible style.
Founded in 1938, the Columbia brand has grown to become a worldwide supplier of outdoor sporting goods and clothing. Its commitment to quality and innovation makes it a trusted brand for enthusiasts. Check out the Columbia Men's Rapid Rivers Pant for comfort, performance, and protection.
Founded in 1974, this smaller outdoors sporting goods company commits to environmental sustainability. This makes them smaller than other companies, but still successful within the industry. Climb your next mountain in the Marmot Men's Scree Pant for dependable performance.
The North Face
Founded in 1966, The North Face is one of the most well known outdoor recreation product supply companies. Its product line consists of gear, footwear, and clothing. Product durability and consistent quality make it one of the most popular brands. These North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Capris will keep you cool and comfortable while on the trails.
Hiking Pant Pricing
- Under $50: You can find a decent pair of hiking pants for under $50. They may have fewer features but are a great option for day hikes. The material will be breathable and dry quickly.
- $50 to $100: Most high-quality hiking pants fall into this category. They are made of lightweight fabrics and have several desirable features.
- $100 and up: Hiking pants in this category are considered top-of-the-line pants. They tend to have the most innovative features. You’ll also find hiking pants with specialty uses in mind in this price range.
The majority of hiking pants today come in synthetic materials such as nylon and polyester. The material your hiking pants are made out of should have a slight stretch in them to make it easier to move, so look for elastane in the fabric. You’ll also want the material to be breathable, water-resistant, and fast-drying. For colder weather, look for fabric that’s a heavier weight to help keep you warm, but also dry.
The longer and further you hike, the more important weight will be. Summer pants will be lighter than winter pants. For short day hikers, you’ll be fine with heavier pants. If you plan to hike for longer, then you’ll want to consider lighter weight pants to help give you more stamina.
Buy pants that are big enough to give you a decent amount of mobility. This means they should be slightly baggy. However, you don’t want them to be too baggy to where they need a belt or could get caught on plants and brush. Articulated knees and a gusset in the crotch help your pants give you more mobility without increasing the size. Each brand has its own sizing chart, so you’ll want to confirm your correct size before buying a pair of pants.
- Breathability. The pants you choose should be breathable and wick sweat away to help you stay cool and dry. However, you should also look for ventilation zippers that will allow you to adjust to your needs of the moment. More vents mean more breathability, but it also means more zippers and more weight.
- Water Resistance / Waterproof. Waterproof pants are an essential addition to your rain gear. The warmer weather and sun help the pants dry, and you’re not at risk of hypothermia. Winter pants tend to have more water resistance to help keep you dry in a light rain shower. This lets the water bead up and roll off instead of soaking through.
- UPF. While clothing provides a certain amount of sun protection, it isn’t enough protection for all-day exposure, and you could end up sunburned. Buying hiking pants with UPF protection will ensure you’re protected from the full spectrum of the sun’s rays. The higher the UPF rating, the more protective the clothing will be.
Best Hiking Pants Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- You may need more than one type of hiking pant. You’ll want to match your pants to the kind of hiking and climate that you’ll be hiking in.
- Try your pants on and move around to test them out before you go hiking in them. Bend, flex and move in all directions to test your range of motion.
- Pay attention to the care instructions of your pants. If they have special water-resistance treatment, they may require special care to protect that treatment. Not caring for them properly can damage the pants and cause them not to work as intended.
Q: What pants are best for hiking?
The best pants for hiking are ones that fit you, are lightweight, breathable, and can keep you dry. They should be protective and flexible enough to make it easy to move about in them. There should also be plenty of pockets for carrying gear like survival knives or a water bottle.
Q: Are convertible pants suitable for hiking?
Convertible pants are great for hiking. They give you flexibility in how you wear them so that you can adapt to your hiking environment. You can add or remove the leg sections as you need them.
Q: What should you wear hiking on a hot day?
The best thing to wear on a hot day while hiking is a lightweight pair of pants, durable and comfortable shoes, a lightweight shirt, and a hat. You’ll want clothing that will protect you from the sun, but also prevent overheating by being breathable.
Q: What is the best clothing for hiking?
The best clothing for hiking allows you to move freely while also protecting you from potential hazards. It can keep you either cool or warm, depending on the climate. It should also help keep you dry by either drying fast or wicking sweat away from your body.
For dependable and performance-minded hiking pants, then prAna Stretch Zion Pants won’t let you down. If you’re looking for more affordable pants, the Wrangler Authentics Classic Twill Relaxed Fit Cargo Pants are both budget-friendly and versatile.