How to Choose the Best Pants for Hiking Pants (Tips, Advice & Best Brands)

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Weather and climate can be unpredictable beasts that can change at any moment. When you spend a lot of time hiking outdoors you need to be sure that your first layer of defense (your clothing) is up for the challenge.

That is why finding the best hiking pants on the market should be a priority. Gone are the days of blue jeans and cotton socks. Now our outdoor hiking apparel is specifically catered to the task at hand with waterproofing, breathable fabrics, convertible options, and even UPF skin protection ratings.

With all of this information floating out there it can be difficult to pull the trigger on the best hiking pants for you. However, we are here to guide you through all of the aspects to consider and what to avoid while shopping for your next pair of hiking pants. 

Top 6 Best Hiking Pants

PRODUCTDESCRIPTION 
Best hiking pantsMen's Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pant
-Quick dry fabric
-UPF 50+
-Partial elastic waist
-Zippered security pocket
-Gusseted inseam for extra mobility
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Best hiking pantsMen's Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pants
-Rip stop Nylon Fabric
-Drawstring Cuffs
-Articulated Knees For Ease of Movement
-UPF 50+
-Water Resistant
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Best hiking pantsMen's prAna Stretch Zion Lightweight Pants
-Quick drying
-Water repellent finish
-UPF 50+
-Ventilated inseam
-Roll up cuffs
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Best hiking pantsWomen's Columbia Saturday Trail II Convertible Pant
-Nylon/Elastane fabric
-UPF 50+
-Articulated Knees For Maximum Comfort And Durability
-Mid Rise Waistline
-Water Repellent
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Best hiking pantsWomen's Arc'teryx Gamma LT Pant
-Built in Belt For A Secure Fit
-Reflective Logo for Low Light Visibility
-Drawstring Cuff
-UPF 50+
-Water resistant
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Best hiking pantsWomen's Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Pants
-Packable
-UPF 50+
-Water repellent
-Nylon/Spandex fabric
-Mid rise waistline
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Quick Answer: 10 Best Pants for Hiking


Things to Consider When Buying Hiking Pants


Pant Types to Consider

Divergent Travelers in Patagonia - Best Hiking Pants
Hiking in Patagonia

There are three main types of hiking pants that you are likely to run into while at your favorite outdoor retailer.

They all have their strengths and weaknesses and really just boil down to personal preference in what you choose. Let’s take a look at these types and break down exactly what they mean. 

  • Standard: These are the type of pants that we all expect. They start at the waist and end at the ankle giving you full leg protection from the elements. This hiking pant type is great for those trips that are beginning to fall in the fairly cold to extreme sun and heat. That is because they will protect your legs from harmful UV rays in the summer, keep you dry in the rainy season and keep you warm in the colder months. They are also great at protecting your legs from abrasion as well as bug bites. The only downside to these pants is they lack the versatility of convertible or roll-up pants.
  • Convertible: convertible pants are those that zip off into shorts. These are great for environments when the temperature can change quickly and you need the benefits of both pants and shorts. The versatility of convertible hiking pants is what makes them a favorite among hikers. They mean you carry one less item of clothing while on the trail and when the bottom gets dirty you can simply zip them off and rinse them in the nearest water source. Be aware though to transition you will need to take your shoes or boots off on the trail. Also, the zipper can sometimes cause chaffing.
  • Roll-up: Roll-up hiking pants generally come with buttons about mid-calf or with elastic around the ankle so they can easily be bunched up to allow airflow to your lower calf. This feature essentially allows you to transform your hiking pants into a pair of capris without the hassle of having to stop and remove your shoes in the process. While any pair of hiking pants can be rolled up the added elastic/buttons allow the pants to stay in place over long stretches. 

What is the Best Material?

David Stock hiking in the Atacama Desert in Chile
Hiking in the Atacama Desert in Chile

The majority of hiking gear and apparel are not made from some form of synthetic materials. That is because these materials such as nylon, elastic and polyester are light in weight, naturally breathable and very good at repelling water.

That is why hiking pants from these materials or a blend of them are the best choice. Rip-stop nylon gives you the durability you need to make it over miles of treacherous terrain while polyester will add a layer of softness and breath-ability while wicking away moisture from sweat, dew and light rain.

Hiking pants made from these materials are best for 3-season use, meaning Spring, Summer, and Fall. If you plan on making your trek through snow ridden mountains, you may want to look into hiking pants made from Merino wool.

This quality fabric has many of the same attributes as synthetics with the added benefit of extreme warmth and insulation. Be aware, however, that Merino wool pants will cost you a pretty penny and add to your overall pack weight. 

Pant Fit & Mobility 

Negotiating a mountain Pass in Patagonia
Negotiating a Mountain Pass in Patagonia

The fit and mobility of the best hiking pants tend to go hand in hand. The fit should be loose enough that you retain full range of motion when you have to scramble over boulders or jump rocks to get across that stream.

At the same time letting airflow throughout to prevent sweat build-up. However, they should not be so baggy that they cause wind resistance, get caught on brush or are just noisy with each step.

Choosing a pair of hiking pants that are too tight is also not the best option. These can become constricting reducing your mobility when you need it the most and can lead to chafing which can absolutely ruin a long-distance trip. 

Choosing pants with higher proportions of spandex and/or elastane will help the pants stretch and move with you without your legs having to fight with the fabric. Some other good fit features to look for are articulated knees and gusseted crotches.

Articulated knees simply mean that the fabric is cut to match the shape of the leg, again, allowing the pants to move with you instead of against you.

Hiking pants with gusseted crotches are those diamond fabric swatches that also increase overall mobility and prevent tears in this high-stress area. 

Weather/Waterproofing 

Hiking on a snowy pass in Patagonia
Crossing a snowy pass in Patagonia

As we discussed earlier, hiking pants made from polyester and nylon are going to have some inherent water resistance and moisture-wicking capabilities.

However, an added DWR (durable water repellent) coating will give you even more protection against the elements. Most hiking pants come pre-treated with this coating making them great for hiking soggy areas like in the Appalachians.

Though, this is not a lifetime guarantee. Eventually, this water-resistant coating will wear off through washing and general wear and tear, and you will have to reproof your pants using something like Nikwax.

It is recommended to go with the highest waterproofing possible even if you have spare rain pants because a wet pair of pants can drastically and quickly reduce your overall body temperature.

Note that no pair of hiking pants are completely waterproof and still have the potential of leaving you completely waterlogged after a torrential storm or full submersion in the water so make sure they are quick drying as well.

How wind resistant or weatherproof your hiking pants are will greatly depend on the materials chosen and how much material is used. If you opt for extremely lightweight rip-stop nylon, you may run the risk of a strong burst of cold air filtering through the fabric and hitting your legs.

On the other hand, hiking pants made from Merino wool blend will strongly resist the wind and keep you warm and comfy throughout your hike. That is why it is so important to evaluate the climate you will be hiking in prior to your purchase. 

Fabric UPF Rating 

Lina Stock hiking in Kyrgyzstan
Hiking in the Tian Shan Mountains in Kyrgyzstan

Even if you choose to go with standard hiking pants, that doesn’t mean you are fully protected from the harmful UV rays beating down on you. In fact, most standard clothing materials still let in a large number of UV rays that we are unaware of.

That is why when you are spending your days in the full blast of the sun, finding hiking clothes with a decent UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) is crucial.

The rating works like this. If you have hiking pants with a UPF rating of 30, that means that while 30 units of UV light fall on the fabric only 1 unit of UV radiation is allowed to pass through the material to your skin.

The highest UPF rating currently available is 50, although a UPF of 25-30 is perfectly suitable for most people.

This should not be confused with an SPF rating. SPF refers to the sun protection factor and measures the amount of time it takes the skin to burn. 

While most people have never been burned under their shirt or pants, those with extremely fair skin, those taking medications such as antibiotics and those traveling to high altitude, the tropics or on water or snow would definitely benefit from this added layer of protection. 

Pants Pockets

David Stock hiking in Kyrgyzstan
Hiking in Kyrgyzstan

Pockets are a nifty little feature that can surprisingly make or break a pair of hiking pants. If you are mainly using your pants for day hikes you may benefit from the easy access and holding capabilities of the standard 4 pockets plus the two cargo pockets near the knees.

This will allow you to be able to quickly grab out your map, compass, phone or other accessories that you would prefer not to have to jostle around in your pack.

Even if you are lugging a backpacking pack with multiple external pockets you may find the extra storage space helpful.

This means you will be able to drop your heavy gear down to run up the hill for the perfect photo op. Zippered pockets are by far the best option so your belongings will stay securely in place as you hike. 


Best Hiking Pants – Our Recommendations


Men’s Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pant

Best Hiking Pants

The Silver Ridge Convertible features zip-off legs, converting to a 10-inch inseam short. Perfect for all-day hikes where lower-leg protection is necessary at times, and a cool breeze is necessary at others.

Made of nylon ripstop with an advanced wicking fabric and UPF 50, these pants keep you cool and dry.

The ultimate moisture management technology for the outdoors. Omni-Wick quickly moves moisture from the skin into the fabric where it spreads across the surface to quickly evaporate—keeping you cool and your clothing dry.

SPECS:

  • Quick-dry fabric
  • UPF 50+
  • Partial elastic waist
  • Zippered security pocket
  • Gusseted inseam for extra mobility

Check Men’s Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pant price at Columbia.


Men’s prAna Stretch Zion Lightweight Pant

Best Hiking Pants

The stretch Zion pant is constructed from our original stretch Zion fabric and woven with a durable water repellent finish. This standard fit pant has a ventilated inseam gusset, and roll-up leg snaps maximize air circulation. Complete with cargo pocket and UPF 50+ sun protection. 

SPECS:

  • Nylon/Spandex blend
  • Quick-drying
  • Water repellent finish
  • UPF 50+
  • Ventilated inseam
  • Roll-up cuffs
  • Dual entry cargo pocket

Check Men’s prAna Stretch Zion Lightweight Pant price at prAna.


Men’s Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pant

Best Hiking Pants

These two-in-one bottoms feature zip-off lower legs, making them ideal for hiking and backpacking. They’re never too hot but always block the shiver-inducing wind and light rain on the trail.

The highly breathable softshell construction offers stretch for smooth movement and tough, abrasion-resistance for rough and rugged rock and trail environments.

With different colored zip-off lower leg zippers, you won’t spend precious minutes when things cool down trying to match the correct lower pant-leg with the appropriate leg.

SPECS:

  • Ripstop Nylon Fabric
  • Super Durable Adjustable Pant
  • Drawstring Cuffs
  • Articulated Knees For Ease of Movement
  • UPF 50+
  • Water-Resistant

Check Men’s Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pant price at Amazon


Women’s Columbia Saturday Trail II Convertible Pant

Best Hiking Pants

The Columbia Saturday Trail Convertible Pant was made for the outdoor-loving woman it’s the ultimate outdoor staple. Crafted of a soft nylon and elastane fabric, these pants remain lightweight, yet durable, no matter the weather or activity.

High-quality materials and expert craftsmanship are the backbones of Columbia’s women’s apparel.

The technology featured in these pants is necessary for the outdoors. The exterior layer is made up of Columbia’s signature protection fabrics: a combination of water and stain repellent capabilities and UPF 50 to help block and shield from UVA and UVB sun rays.

The Columbia Saturday Trail Pant is also durable and comfortable zip-off legs allow you to go from pants to shorts almost instantly; the gusset detail, comfort stretch, and articulated knees provide you with a personalized fit.

SPECS:

  • Nylon/Elastane fabric
  • UPF 50+
  • Articulated Knees For Maximum Comfort And Durability
  • Mid Rise Waistline
  • Water Repellent

Check Women’s Columbia Saturday Trail II Convertible Pant price at Columbia.


Women’s Arc’teryx Gamma LT Pant

Best Hiking Pants

Versatile, lightweight and hard-wearing the Gamma LT Pant provides light weather protection, air permeable comfort, and excellent mobility. The abrasion-resistant Fortius DW 2.0 fabric combines quick-drying nylon with elastane fibers for performance stretch.

A brushed polyester waistband improves next-to-skin comfort, and the women’s specific design, articulated construction and gusseted crotch offer exceptional freedom of movement while hiking, climbing, guiding and backpacking.

SPECS:

  • Built-in Belt For A Secure Fit
  • Reflective Logo for Low Light Visibility
  • Drawstring Cuff
  • UPF 50+
  • Water-resistant

Check Women’s Arc’teryx Gamma LT Pant price at Amazon


Women’s Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Pant

Best Hiking Pants

This lightweight pant will keep you moving swiftly on the hills, but also keep you comfortable while hanging around at camp. Since these pants are so lightweight, they easily pack down so there is no need to worry about it taking up a ton of space in your backpack.

Additionally, this pant offers two zip cargo pockets on either side to protect your valuables from being lost on the trail.

Best suited for slightly curvier women, this pant rises to your mid-waist, sitting just below the natural waist, and offers moderate curvature in the hips and thighs. With added UPF 50+ sun protection and a water repellent outer material, you have nothing to worry about with these pants!

SPECS:

  • Packable
  • UPF 50+
  • Water repellent
  • Nylon/Spandex fabric
  • Mid-rise waistline

Check Women’s Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Pant price at Amazon


Lina and David Stock in Northern Wisconsin

Not finding what you are looking for? Check out our favorite places to go shopping for travel gear.

  • Shop Columbia – The industry leader in outdoor apparel and products; You can find anything from great jackets, gloves, hats, shirts, and travel pants.
  • Shop REI – They offer some of the best outdoor gear around. We love REI since they have a year Love it or hate it no questions guarantee.
  • Shop Moosejaw – Has a huge selection of outdoor gear at killer prices.
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About David Stock

I have always been an outdoorsman so becoming an adventure traveler was just the next natural step. I love nature, I love to get off the beaten path and I like to explore. I enjoy scuba diving and cars. And yes, Lina and I have a naked dog.



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