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Hiking is a serious job for your legs. The best hiking pants make that job easier. While normal pants can lead to chafing, sweat, chills, reduced mobility or all of the above, hiking pants provide breathability, comfort, storage and stretchy mobility. In other words, they’ll improve your hikes, not make them harder.
Despite the benefits of hiking pants, they’re sometimes overlooked when shopping for hiking gear. But the right pants are just as important as good boots or proper outerwear when hitting the trail — whether you’re embarking on a 15-mile trek or just taking a long stroll by the campsite.
Luckily, hiking pants have gotten more advanced, too. The best hiking pants feature materials for regulating temperature, waterproofing, UV-blocking technology and, of course, plenty of pockets. Below is a quick guide to finding the right pair, as well as our top picks for the best hiking pants.
What Are the Best Hiking Pants?
Not all hiking pants are made for the same trek. Quite the opposite, as hiking pants come in an array of styles for different weather and preferences. So, first you’ll want to decide how and when you’ll be using a pair of hiking pants. What weather are you hiking in? Are you more of an off-trail scrambler or a long-distance trail hiker? How much pocket storage do you need? If you’re in warm weather, do you like zip-off or roll-up pants? Here’s a rundown of all these considerations.
Material: Most hiking pants use a blend of nylon and spandex or elastane. More nylon means more durability and protection against rogue branches or stumbles. More spandex or elastane, on the other hand, means better mobility and more comfort on long hikes.
Temperature Control: Keeping your legs cool on hot days and warm when it gets cold is essential. Most hiking pants are designed for a specific type of weather, so be sure to note what season a pair is made for. Keep a lookout for added tech like lining in winter pants or sweat-wicking properties in summer hiking pants. Also be sure to note if a pair of pants is wind-resistant, as this can be a major plus.
Waterproofing: Water-resistant hiking pants usually use a durable water repellent (DWR) coating. Even if you’re hiking in dry weather, waterproofing is nice to have in case of showers or splashes from puddles, creeks and so on.
Sun Protection: When you’re out on the trail for hours, the UV rays can actually get through thick hiking pants and damage skin. Some hiking pants have an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating, which denotes their ability to block sunburn-inducing UV rays.
Adjustability: Hiking pants come in three varieties: full-length, zip-off, and roll-up. Full-length pants don’t have any features for easy adjustability when it gets extra hot, or when you want to wade through some water. Zip-off pants let you remove the bottom halves of the legs, and roll-up pants have a dedicated button, tab or drawcord that keeps rolled-up pant legs in place.
Pockets: If you’re like us, you carry a lot of stuff on hikes. Be it your phone, keys, snacks or anything else, ample and ergonomic pockets make carrying it all much easier.
Versatility: The comfort and durability of hiking pants makes them great for other activities like climbing, boating or even outdoor yoga. Some of the best hiking pants are made to support these other uses.
1. prAna Stretch Zion
prAna might be best known for yoga gear, but the company actually makes great outdoor clothing as well. The brand’s Stretch Zion pants are some of the best hiking pants, and they work just as well for climbing and yoga too. The real secret to the Zion pants is their balance of comfort, performance and durability. Although the pants only have 3 percent spandex, they’re very stretchy for maximum mobility.
They also feature UPF 50+ for sun protection, a DWR finish for water-resistance and leg snaps for keeping the bottoms rolled up if need be. Not to mention they could easily pass for normal cargo pants, making them a great companion for errand-running or traveling.
2. Fjallraven Abisko Midsummer Trouser
Hiking in the heat gets much easier with these Abisko trousers from Fjallraven. The pants use Fjallraven’s G-1000 Air Stretch fabric (a polyester-cotton blend) that’s super lightweight and equally breathable. On the sides, there’s also zippered vents to increase airflow when needed.
The Abisko pants don’t skimp on convenience either. Two leg pockets and zippered waist pockets offer ample space for your gadgets, knife, snacks and other necessities. Overall, they’re one of the most breathable, comfortable pairs of hiking pants around.
3. Patagonia Quandary Convertible Pant
If you’re a fan of convertible zip-off hiking pants, these Patagonia Quandarys are a great choice. They quickly turn into shorts via zippers just above the knee. But even in full-length mode, the pants are light and breathable enough to handle most hot days. Thanks to a spandex-nylon construction, articulated knees and a gusseted crotch, they’re also very stretchy for easy movement.
The pants do have sun protection thanks to a UPF treatment, so no need to worry about burns. They don’t have a DWR finish, but the quick-drying fabric means you can still wade through a creek without a hitch.
4. Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants
These Ferrosi hiking pants from Outdoor Research are among the best pants for all-around, use — especially in the summer. They feature an 86 percent nylon, 14 percent spandex build which, in unison with a gusseted crotch, and articulated knees, provides some impressive stretch in all directions. This makes the Ferrosis one of the most versatile pairs of hiking pants, as you can easily use them for light climbing, yoga or jogging.
Although they’re stretchy and extra lightweight, the pants still have some toughness in the form of UPF 50+ sun protection and water-resistance for light showers or splashes. When the temperatures rise, a drawcord cuff lets you secure the pants higher up the leg. Pocket space is on the sparse side, although some hikers (especially those with a pack) like the minimalism.
5. Arc’teryx Gamma LT Softshell Pant
For chillier weather and tough mountain terrain, we recommend Arc’teryx’s Gamma LT pants. The pants utilize a soft shell that keeps your legs warm while (somehow) staying breathable and lightweight. Water-resistance is also top-notch thanks to a DWR coating on top of a tight knit fabric.
Like most of Arc’teryx’s high-end outdoor products, the Gamma LTs shine for overall build quality. The nylon-elastane fabric is built to last, even against rocks, snow, rain and anything else the mountain might throw at you.
6. REI Co-op Sahara Guide Convertible Pants
Another zip-off convertible pant worth considering is the Co-op Sahara from REI. The build is on the stretchy side with 12 percent spandex, offering top-notch mobility for jogging or scrambling over rocks. The fabric is designed to fend off rain with a DWR finish and dries very quickly when it does get wet (or, say, when you wash the pants while backpacking). You also get protection from the sun thanks to a UPF 50+ coating.
We’re also fans of the Sahara pants’ elastic waistband and internal drawcord adjusting the size. And although they look quite minimal, the pants provide enough storage options via hand pockets with an edge for clipping tools, zippered back pockets and a zippered thigh pocket.
7. Kuhl Deceptr Pant
If you’re looking for a pair of hiking pants that double as everyday trousers (say, for traveling or running errands) check out these Deceptrs from Kuhl. They look like a normal pair of chinos, but they’re really made of a trail-ready Tufflite fabric (nylon/polyester/spandex). This special fabric is both stretchy and durable enough for tough hikes, boasts water-repelling powers with a DWR finish and even helps to block UV rays.
The Deceptrs’ fit like a typical pair of chinos with a tapered, slim look, but the stretchy fabric mean they’re comfortable in any scenario. Pocket space is decent as well with two front pockets, back pockets, a coin pocket and a dedicated stealth smartphone pocket.