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Published Nov. 1, 2021

You need hiking pants that not only have the flexibility to step over logs and scramble over rocks, but also provide the level of protection necessary for the climate, terrain, and ecosystem. 

While you could throw on your jeans for a weekend out, having the best hiking pants can enhance your outdoor experience. Because if you’re dressed properly, you’ll enjoy your time outdoors more. And rugged pants designed with trail use in mind will last you for years to come. 

We’ve not only collected our top picks for the best hiking pants, but we’ve put together the information you need to make an educated purchase decision. 

Things to Consider Before Buying Hiking Pants

Like any part of your outdoor gear, your hiking clothing should check several boxes before you choose to buy them and then wear them on the trail. 

The best hiking pants are the ones you feel comfortable and confident wearing for the conditions you are hiking in. The following are the top considerations that can help you choose the best hiking pants for your needs. 

Style

When looking for the best hiking pants, the style of the pant will be an essential factor. Hiking pants will often fall into three categories: 

  • Convertible pants (zip off to go from pant to shorts)
  • Roll-up pants
  • Long or minimal design pants

The style of pants you choose will likely be a personal preference based on your intended use and how they make you feel while you wear them. For instance, I don’t like the feel of most convertible pants. I often opt for roll-up pants with similar versatility but a higher level of personal comfort. 

The style of the pant will also impact its versatility. Say you’re looking for pants you can wear in hot and cold weather. Some hikers prefer the convertible pants. But if the standard minimal, long pants are lightweight enough, they can still work for several seasons. 

Durability 

The material the pants are made from will impact their durability dramatically. At the moment, synthetic materials like nylon and polyester blends seem to be the best performing in the hiking pant realm. This is primarily because of their high melting point and lack of ability to break down in natural conditions. 

Other than the material itself, looking at the seams and reinforced areas is helpful. Pants meant for outdoor use tend to be more durable when they have reinforced seams, knee areas, and rear panels. These high-use spots are the easiest to rip when in use, so additional support helps them last longer. 

Keep in mind that when a fabric has a tighter weave and has reinforced panels, it may not be as breathable or comfortable to wear when hiking in hot weather. 

You can get a good idea of a pants durability by looking at verified customer reviews. Read through these to see if there are complaints regarding the durability or comments on how durable they are. 

Lastly, look at the companies repair policy. Most consumer-focused companies will have a repair policy in place for clothing to prolong the use of their product. 

Breathability 

The breathability of the pant is going to be especially important if you hike in warm weather conditions or a humid climate. However, a pant built specifically for hot weather hiking will not be optimal for cold or wet weather due to its breathability. 

So, if you’re looking for all-season pants, then you may have to sacrifice some breathability to allow for layering and cold/wet weather protection. 

Three-season and warm weather pants will feature things to help increase airflow, like mesh panels or mesh pockets. Another reason so many brands opt to make pants from synthetic materials is their ability to dry quickly while you sweat. 

The weight of the pant will tell you a lot about breathability. A lighter-weight pant tends to be more breathable. So, if you want summer hiking pants, look for a lightweight fabric with mesh vents. 

Protection

The three main areas to look for protection in hiking pants include water, insect, and sun. All three of these things are essential, especially for pants you use for multiple seasons. 

  • Water protection: Not all hiking pants are completely waterproof, and that’s not a bad thing. Looking for water-repellent pants can be tricky because it does impact breathability. If you want more water protection, look for DWR (durable water repellent) coatings. Pants with DWR coating will do a better job shedding water but will not prevent soaking. These coatings wear off with use and washing, so you’ll need to re-apply over time. If you don’t want to compromise breathability, you can also opt to carry rain pants to put on over your pants if needed. 
  • Insect protection: Wearing long pants will already have better protection from insects, but additional treatments like permethrin can help keep those bugs away even more effectively. Certain ecosystems, like ones with ticks, will make having treated pants more relevant. You can also treat clothing on your own, but understand the risks of these types of chemicals and treat pants away from children and pets. 
  • Sun protection: Pants will always give you more protection from the sun, but one way to know how much is to look at the UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating on the clothing. UPF ratings tell you how many ultraviolet rays can get through the material. Much like sunscreen, a higher UPF rating means better protection. Things that influence the UPF ratings include the type of fabric, how tight the weave is, and any chemical treatments or dyes. 

Best Overall Hiking Pants: Prana Stretch Zion

Key Features 

  • Weight: 13.6-14.2 oz
  • Materials: 97% nylon, 3% spandex
  • Water Resistance: DWR finish 

Why It Made the Cut

Prana Stretch Zion pants were chosen as the best overall hiking pants because of their durability, versatility, and general comfort while in motion. 

Pros 

  • Features: built-in-belt and good pockets
  • Durable: primarily nylon material 
  • Flexibility: great for hiking and climbing

Cons 

  • Breathability: DWR treatment keeps it water-resistant but not as breathable

As you may have gathered from the name, the Prana Stretch Zion pants are incredibly stretchy. The stretch built into the pants makes them highly versatile, and gives you more freedom of movement when hiking. These pants are designed with a semi-slim cut meant to move with you, making them perfect for things like rock scrambling, high stepping, and other high-mobility movements. 

They have a DWR treatment, and this does impact the breathability to an extent. The materials are relatively lightweight, so these pants can still comfortably be worn in warmer months. There is an additional roll-up feature for further venting. 

The fabric of the pant itself is still thick enough to be mighty durable. Walking through brush or using these for rock climbing would be a perfect fit, and your pants will stand up to these types of field tests. Overall, they are extremely durable and versatile, and what they lack in breathability, they make up for in performance. 

Best Hot Weather Hiking Pants: Arc’teryx Lefroy

Key Features 

  • Weight: 10.2 oz
  • Materials: 86% nylon, 14% elastane
  • Water Resistance: not treated

Why It Made the Cut

The Arc’teryx Lefroy pants are comfortable next to your skin when hiking in hot weather, are quick-drying, and exceptionally breathable. 

Pros 

  • Style: relaxed, minimal, long pant design
  • Comfort: loose-fitting with freedom of movement
  • Durable: quality materials

Cons

  • Features: lack of pockets
  • Protection: no waterproofing

The Arc’teryx Lefroy pants are a top pick for best hot weather hiking pants. They have a low profile, making them versatile for wearing around town and on the trail. The lightweight materials allow for a higher level of breathability, but the quality of the fabric keeps them durable for years of use. 

They are relatively loose-fitting pants, but they are not so baggy to be uncomfortable or snag while hiking. Their cut provides an excellent range of motion for most outdoor activities, and the material blend is comfortable against your skin even in temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit. 

With their high level of breathability and intentional design for warm weather, they do not have a water-resistant treatment of any kind. The materials are quick-drying and moisture channeling, though, so if they do get wet, they won’t stay that way for long. The biggest gripe some users have about these pants is the lack of back pockets. This can be a pro or a con, pending your need for pant pockets, but the minimal design made less room for extensive pockets. 

Best Winter Hiking Pants: Patagonia Simul Alpine Pants

Key Features 

  • Weight: 13.6 oz
  • Materials: 91% recycled polyester, 9% spandex (double weave)
  • Water Resistance: DWR finish 

Why It Made The Cut

Made for the mountains, the Patagonia Simul Alpine Pants are the top pick for the best winter hiking pants with a DWR treatment, enough room for a base layer, and big leg openings to slip over boots. 

Pros 

  • Warm: built for cold-weather sports
  • Mobility: good range of motion
  • Durable: durable materials and dual weaved fabric

Cons 

  • Functional Flaws: previous batches have some manufacturing flaws (according to customer reviews)

Patagonia has long been known in the outdoor industry for crafting top-of-the-line outdoor clothing, and their Simul Alpine Pants are the ideal pant for cold weather hiking. If you need to trudge through the snow, get caught in a storm, or just hit a cold breeze, these pants have the protection you need. 

There is plenty of room under the pants to add a base layer for adventure in the middle of winter, but they also function well for warmth on their own in mild winter weather. They have a DWR finish and a double weave of spandex to increase water resistance and warmth. 

Since these pants are intended for cold weather use, they do not have optimal breathability. Wearers will get hot when hiking in warmer weather. 

To make the pants more versatile, they have a slightly longer pant legs. And the wide bottoms make it so they can fit over hiking boots. The pants should fit snuggly to your boots to keep them from collecting snow as you walk. Like most other winter weather clothing, adjustability is ideal for layering. The zip fly adjustable waist provides a customizable fit to tighten and loosen the waist as needed. 

Best Hiking Pants for Men: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants

Key Features 

  • Weight: 12.2 oz
  • Materials: 86% nylon, 14% spandex
  • Water Resistance: DWR finish 

Why It Made the Cut

The OR Ferrosi Pants are an affordable option for hikers in search of versatile and durable pants that will keep them comfortable during several hiking seasons. 

Pros 

  • Mobility: great stretch
  • Comfort: all-day wear
  • Durable: ripstop fabric 

Cons 

  • Three-Season: not suitable for cold weather

This style of Outdoor Research pants contains a higher level of spandex to help increase their mobility and stretch for even the highest steps while you hike. They are made with ripstop fabric to increase durability and prevent any rips on the trail. Making these pants the best hiking pants for men.

The material is very light and relatively thin, making them great for warm weather and shoulder seasons if you have extra layers. They are not the best hiking pant for cold weather and may even be chilly if the wind picks up, and temperatures drop. 

To make them even better performers in warm weather, there is a built-in drawcord cuff to allow you to roll them up and sinch them down on your calf. Some wearers experience the waist loosening after several wears, and a belt may be necessary for extended days wearing the same pair of pants in the backcountry.  

Best Hiking Pants for Women: Mountain Hardwear Dynama Ankle Pants

Key Features 

  • Weight: 8.46 oz
  • Materials: 94% nylon, 6% elastane
  • Water Resistance: DWR finish 

Why It Made the Cut

The Dynama Ankle pant made by Mountain Hardwear is an excellent women’s outdoor pant with plenty of stretch and mobility without the unnecessary tightness of leggings. 

Pros 

  • Fit: loose but feminine fit
  • Function: stretch and storage
  • Material: breathable and odor-resistant

Cons 

  • Length: ankle pant (pro to some)

Women’s hiking pants can be hit or miss because of body size and functionality. As our pick for best hiking pants for women the Mountain Hardwear Dynama Ankle Pants took these factors into account when designing these pants. The design of the pants is flattering on most body types and the length makes them usable for both petite and long-legged ladies. 

These are pants you can wear for days on the trail and then out on the town as you return to civilization. The style of the pant is just one part of this design though. They are extremely functional and allow for an ideal range of motion when hiking, climbing, and more. 

Although they do not cover your ankle, they do provide quality UPF protection and water resistance without compromising breathability. Due to the fabric weight and pant length, these pants are only suitable for mild weather but can easily be used during three seasons. What’s more is that they have deep, usable pockets (a rarity in female clothing). 

Methodology

Hiking pants are among the most important part of your setup in the backcountry. After all, if you aren’t comfortable, protected, and able to move freely, it is hard to enjoy your hike. 

The best hiking pants on our list were picked using a variety of criteria, including: 

  • Functionality: What features do they have to make them optimal for hiking? Does the style fit my needs? Are the additional features optimizing performance? Are the pockets in a location that makes them easy to access? Are the materials used functional for the environments I’m hiking? What type of protection do they provide?
  • Mobility: Is the material restrictive to my movement or will it stretch? Are the waist and seams in good locations for a wide range of movement?
  • Durability: What type of fabric is used? Is it ripstop? Are there reinforced seams? Does it have a double weave of any material? Are there weak spots in high-use areas? Does the company have a warranty or repair policy?
  • Versatility: Can I use these pants during multiple seasons? Does the style allow for pant conversion of any kind? Are they stylish to wear outside of hiking?

Other helpful considerations were if any recycled materials were used, general sustainable practices by the company, and a deep dive into verified customer reviews to get a full picture of use. 

FAQs

Q: Can I wear jeans hiking?

Yes, you can wear anything hiking, but jeans won’t be very comfortable or safe to hike in pending the climate and weather forecast. Jeans are made from cotton, meaning they are heavy, not as breathable, and they hold onto moisture. 

Q: Is it bad to wear shorts while hiking?

No, you can wear shorts while hiking. The time of year, weather conditions, and location you are hiking can make it bad to wear shorts. For instance, if you are hiking in the summer but you will be going through an area that has a lot of ticks or shrubs you have to walk through, shorts are not the most sensible option. 

Q: What should you not wear while hiking?

You should not wear materials like cotton that are not moisture resistant, antimicrobial, and take a long time to dry. Look for clothing that is flexible, breathable, dries quickly, and is comfortable to wear during physical activity. 

Final Thoughts on the Best Hiking Pants

Everyone will have a different top pick for their favorite hiking pants, and there are several deciding factors to help drive your decision. Our top picks for the best hiking pants for all seasons and body types take style, versatility, durability, and protection into account. With those factors driving your decision, it is easy to narrow down the best picks for your next adventure. 

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