I consider myself lucky to have hiked across several countries. With experience, I’ve learned the secret to dressing perfectly for any hike.
Hiking pants are an essential part of your outdoor wardrobe and shouldn’t be taken for granted. They’re light as a feather compared to your everyday jeans and keep you comfortable.
But finding the right pair can be quite confusing considering the variety of options available. Worry not!
This guide will simplify it for you.
I’m sure you know the general rule of dressing according to the weather.
But the weather on the trail hardly ever stays true to our predictions. Thankfully, modern hiking pants come in blended fabrics and most of them are suitable for all types of weather.
Whatever fabric you choose, make sure it dries up quickly unlike cotton. Some of the best fabrics for hiking clothes include merino wool, nylon, and polyester.
If you’re going to hike through areas infested with bugs or insects, opt for fabrics treated to repel them.
Don’t opt for thin and stretchy fabrics as they’re easy to wear and tear.
The pants should fit your body well, not just at the waist, but until the ankle.
The pants shouldn’t be too long for your legs because the extra cloth can make your feet trip on the trail. To protect your legs from crawling creatures, the bottom of your pants should have an elastic closure.
Along with a good fit, you must see that your knees get enough space to move freely on uneven terrain. Materials like spandex will offer you both fit and freedom without much bagginess.
Pants with regular cut are more breathable making them perfect for summer hikes, while slim cut ones prevent abrasion.
Do you want your pants to double as shorts?
If your answer is no and you’re willing to pack a pair of shorts, you can go for standard hiking pants.
But if you want to cut down your luggage and avoid changing clothes often, you’ll love convertible hiking pants.
They come with a zipper that allows them to convert into capris or shorts (or both). Before you buy one, decide on what length your pants should modify into and make sure the zippers don’t hurt your skin.
Since convertible pants have zippers, they’re slightly heavier than the standard ones. But the comfort outweighs (pun intended) it.
All hiking pants come with pockets and it’s our favorite thing about them. But they must be functional and shouldn’t hinder your hiking pace.
Handwarmer pockets are the same on both hiking and regular pants. Cargo pockets are usually large enough to fit your gadgets.
You can also look for side pockets to carry a snack and secure pockets to store things that you can’t afford to lose (like a key).
Pockets can be closed with zippers or buttons. This is up to your preference.
Keep in mind that the pants should feel comfortable when the pockets are loaded.
Pants with insulation keep you warm and prevent your body’s temperature from dropping too low.
Though insulated pants come in both natural and synthetic materials, natural duck down is clearly a winner due to its high fill power.
However, goose or duck down must be dry cleaned, and those who find it hard prefer synthetic insulation. Plus, synthetic materials have better compressibility than down.
Hiking pants with insulation are either lined or padded. Padded ones are warmer than lined pants, but don’t use them unless the weather is very cold. Thick padding implies more heat and more discomfort.
All the points we’ve discussed so far can be compromised here and there. But that’s not the case with quality.
Good-quality hiking pants can be expensive but they last for years. So, consider them as an investment for a great hiking experience.
Those you find in big box stores may say ‘nylon’ in the specs but it’s not pure and cannot withstand extreme conditions. Nothing’s worse than your pants ripping off on the trail!
You can find examples of high-quality hiking pants in my article on best hiking pants. Consider those if you’re serious about hiking.
First of all, do you need waterproof pants? Unless you’re hiking in the rain, waterproof pants can be a bad choice.
It goes without saying that any material with water resistance is less breathable. So, wearing waterproof pants to hike under the scorching sun can burn your legs to a cinder.
But in normal weather conditions (when it’s neither cold nor hot), you can wear waterproof pants to tackle a quick shower from the clouds.
Remember that the waterproof coating wears off and you should get the pants reproofed a couple of days before your hike.
There’s no harm in overlooking the waterproof factor too. You can carry a pair of rain pants and wear them over your hiking pants when needed.
Ultraviolet Protection Factor
Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) is a measure of how much ultraviolet radiation can seep through the fabric and reach your skin.
For hiking in humid conditions, choosing materials with a good UPF (at least 30) is crucial to protect yourself.
UPF clothes have a special weave structure and are sometimes treated with UV-inhibiting ingredients for maximum efficiency.
Though cotton is considered the best material to wear during summers, its high absorbing and slow drying properties make it a terrible choice for hikers. With sun protective hiking pants made of synthetics like nylon or spandex, you get to enjoy better benefits than cotton.
I hope you find this guide helpful. If you have suggestions about hiking pants, drop them in the comment box for your fellow hikers to see.
You can also check out our posts on: What to Wear While Hiking in Cold Weather, The Best Shoes for Hiking In Wet Weather, How to Insulate A Tent for Winter Camping,Liquid Drywall Review in 2021: Advantages and How it Works?