This page is meant to serve as a comprehensive overview for the right pants to wear during a hiking trip. Different kinds of pants are needed depending on the weather, trip difficulty, hike length, comfort and style needs, safety needs, your fitness level, sex and age.
Right Hiking Pants for the Weather
Cold or snowy weatherIn snowy weather you want pants that will withstand moisture so that you will not have the feeling of being soaked. Denim or many other materials can stick to your legs when wet, causing skin irritation and serious discomfort over a long walk. Here is an example of pants to wear during snowy or wet weather. They offer waterproof and breathable fully seam sealed protection.
Cold weather pants
If the weather is simply cold or windy, you need to have more rugged pants to keep you warm and be snug around your legs in order to minimize the wind-chill factor, and not have your pants flapping around, which can make you tired faster and simply be uncomfortable.
There are some great options out there for cold weather pant layers. The most common and effective, are capeline (Patagonia's proprietary synthetic material) and wool. Capeline is great because it keeps you warm, while wicking away moisture. It also drys extremely fast. Wool can be advantageous over capeline because it does not retain odor as much. Although modern wool is of much higher quality than it used to be, some people still find it itchy, prompting them to stick to capeline.
The best way to tackle cold weather is to have multiple layers of wool or capeline under your pants. These "long underwear" garments can be added or removed, and pack extremely well. Layering with high tech materials like these is the best way to keep your legs warm.
Warm of hot weather pants
Good weather requires the exact opposite from your hiking pants. What you want is something light but also something that will still provide your legs with SPF protection from the sun as well as shield them from being scratched by various branches or debris that may be found on the trail. Additionally, you still need the pants to be protective enough to provide some padding in case you slip and fall. Below are some nice hot weather pants.
If ticks are present in your area, long pants are a good idea, no matter the temperature. With modern materials, long pants can actually keep you quite cool.
The Patagonia Rock Guide pants are a great option because they are extremely lightweight and stretchy. Made of 96% polyester and 4% spandex, they allow awesome freedom of movement. Being so lightweight and stretchy means they won't drag you down like a pair of hot, sticky jeans will. After extensive testing, we have found these pants to be surprisingly durable. They withstood scrambling and sliding on everything from granite in the Sierras to quartz monzonite at Joshua Tree. These pants have been put through the ringer and have come out on top.
Another great thing about these pants is that you can throw some capeline (or wool) under them and be comfortable in 0 degree weather. They work as a protective outer layer for just about any climate, unless it's wet. Although they're not waterproof, they dry super fast. Your best bet for wet weather is to bring out the Goretex pants, though.
Wet of hot weather pants
When you're out on the trail, staying dry means staying happy. Often overlooked, a pair of waterproof pants can be a lifesaver. Pants made from trash bags would be completely waterproof, but there are other factors to consider when choosing a pair of wet weather pants. Your pants need to be durable enough to withstand moderate abuse. Depending on your use, the pants may be subjected to thick brush, abrasive rocks, or abrasion in the inner ankle area due to your boots rubbing each other with each step. Some pants feature a thicker material in places of high wear (inner ankle, knees, rear-end), but for most users this is unnecessary. A simple pair of Goretex pants will suffice for most hikers. Goretex is a fully waterproof material used by most manufactures of quality, waterproof clothing.
The most important thing to consider when looking for waterproof pants is how well they pack. This means how much room they will take up in your pack. Rain pants are only effective if you bring them with you (duh), and you will be much more inclined to bring them if they can go unnoticed in your pack.
Also, don't ever buy rain pants with insulation. What you want is a shell, meaning just the waterproof material. It may seem like a great idea to get a pair which is waterproof AND warm, but this leaves you with limited options when you start warming up. The best solution is to layer. The advantage of layers is that you can add and remove them to adapt to the situation.
Right Hiking Pants for Trip Difficulty and Length
During a short hike, just about any clothing will do. After all, you only have to endure the discomfort for a short period of time. The more difficult task is to find the right gear for longer trips. What you need is comfort, find fit, and protection for your legs in case you trip and fall. The last thing you want to have happen is to hurt yourself while hiking miles away from any real civilization. That extra padding or ruggedness from your pants can sometimes make a difference between getting up and hiking forward versus sustaining a serious injury.
Right Hiking Pants for Safety and Injury Protection
We can't stress enough how important it is to take every measure to protect yourself from injury on your trip. Having extra padding or blow resistance can make the difference between being injured and walking away from a fall. Additionally, denim, while not typically padded, is one of the most rugged materials that clothing can be made of. So while jeans are usually somewhat frowned upon for hikers, they can actually be pretty useful in helping protect you from injury.
Kids Hiking Pants
Kids usually just need something comfortable to run around and play. Parents usually need something affordable since your kids will likely muddy-up the pants and ruin them pretty quickly. We think we found the solution Take a look at our recommended pants that can also become shorts. The bottom of the pant legs can be unzipped. That means you are actually buying a pair of pants and a pair of shorts at the same time for a very reasonable price.
Men's Hiking Pants
A multi-purpose pair of hiking pants for men is generally light and comfortable and is not too tight around your legs. Ultimately you just want to have a good experience being in the outdoors. If it gets too hot, these particular pants have zip-off legs to be able to convert them into shorts. It is like buying two pieces of clothing in one!
Women's Hiking Pants
The particular pants selected for women below are aimed for comfort rather than anything else. The pants also provide SPF protection of 50. They are also thoughtfully designed to withstand moisture and have extra pockets to help you carry more items with you on your hikes.