Finding the right pair of hiking pants can be a challenge, but once you know what to look for you will be glad you found the pair for you. If you have ever wore jeans or sweats then you know how uncomfortable it is to wear the wrong pants. There are many factors to look at when finding a pair of hiking pants, so what makes a good pair of hiking pants?
A good pair of hiking pants are made of durable materials to withstand the wear and tear from trails, offer comfortable temperatures and breathability, provide flexibility for your legs to move and scramble, and are a great fit with your lower body.
Knowing exactly what details to look out for when shopping for hiking pants is important for your comfort. Getting the wrong pants can leave your legs feeling constrained, too warm, sweaty, or even cause chafing. I used to hike in joggers, but it became quickly evident that they were too tight and too hot. It can feel overwhelming at first and the nuances can seem minor between regular pants, but we will cover everything you should look for so you can find the right hiking pants for your legs.
Top 8 Considerations Before Buying Hiking Pants
One of the biggest differences between hiking pants is traditional hiking pants or convertible hiking pants. Traditional hiking pants are one fabric from top to bottom. There are no adjustments and they are typically more fitted in the lower leg area. Some traditional hiking pants have a buttoned strap to allow you to roll your pants up and keep them up.
With convertible hiking pants they have zippers at the knee to allow you to convert them from pants to shorts. This allows you for greater flexibility on your hike. For example, you could use convertible hiking pants in the Summer and hike with long pants during the cold morning and change them to shorts as the day warms up. I have been hiking with convertible hiking pants and they have helped me hike very comfortably over the years.
The next thing to think about before buying your hiking pants is the fit. There are some hiking pants that can feel very baggy and loose. Some hiking pants may feel too tight around the waist. Some can feel too tight around your thighs or your ankles. Keep these things in mind because any discomfort you feel when trying them on will be magnified each step you take on your hike. Finding well fitting hiking pants that fit to your waist, thighs, calves, and ankles is very important for a comfortable hike.
Another important aspect to consider is durability of the pants. Checking reviews for the brand of pants you are about to buy is important. Some hiking pants can be more affordable upfront but cost you more money in the long run if they easily tear and get shredded while out on the trail. The seams of hiking pants from good brands are very strong and flexible. They are designed to withstand stretching while you move your legs up steep steps and to quickly flex if you need to scramble on slick rock.
If your body naturally gets hot then one of the most important things to look into is the breathability of the pants. If you generate a lot of heat as you hike then you need good airflow to your legs with breathable hiking pants. If you hike with pants with non-breathable materials then your legs will get hot and sweaty quickly. This will make for very uncomfortable hiking. Pants such as jeans and sweats are non-breathable and trap all the heat your legs will generate. This is one reason why its so important to get a good pair of hiking pants. The excess sweat from bad pants can lead to chafing or blisters from the moist areas.
The type of fabric your hiking pants are made of is very important. You want to completely avoid anything made of cotton. Cotton is very absorbant and takes a long time to dry. Imagine your sweat or if you get a bit of rain then your pants will become completely soaked and likely be wet during your entire hike. The materials you want to aim for is nylon. Nylon is breathable and flexible material which is perfect for hiking. Nylon will flex enough for you as you move and stretch your legs on a hike.
Something you might not think about is the amount of noise your pants make as you walk. Finding pants that make minimal noise is important for your sanity during a hike. Imagine hearing a plastic parachute rubbing constantly for more than a few hours. This will drive you nuts. A good pair of hiking pants will make minimal noise when hiking so that you can enjoy the peace and quiet of the trail.
The way the waist portion of hiking pants is very important. Some hiking pants have loops for a belt, while some has an elastic band to hug your waist, and some will have pull strings. Finding out what is most comfortable for your waist is very important. Having hiking pants that are too tight at the waist can constrict blood flow to your legs. I have found using hiking pants with the loops that fit my waist very closely has worked very well. Since the pants fit my waist closely I do not need to use a belt. This has allowed me to eat a lot and not worry too much about not being able to fit my pants on a hiking or camping trip.
Something that may seem minor is the pockets on your hiking pants. Depending on your needs you can have more or less pockets. The typical design for hiking pants is two side pockets at the thighs and two cargo pant style pockets at the knees. This allows you more storage for quick access items such as your phone, wallet, tissues, or snacks. If you have a daypack with a waist strap and waist pockets then you won’t need hiking pants with many pockets. Using hiking pants with many pockets has come in handy for traveling as I can fit my phone, wallet, passport, and other necessities.
As you can see there are many factors to consider when looking for a good pair of hiking pants. Having the right pair of hiking pants makes a huge difference. You want to avoid getting just any hiking pants as the wrong pants can make for a very unpleasant day out on the trail. Now you know to look out for many factors such as convertibility, durability, breathability, fabric, fit, and waist design.
Thinking about those things will help you find the best hiking pants that work for you. It took me a few different hiking pants before I found ones that are my go-to for almost every single hike. You can adjust your pants based on the season and there typically are general hiking pants and cold weather hiking pants. Enjoy your journey to finding the best hiking pants for you!