11 BEST Hiking Pants of 2021 [Men & Women] - Greenbelly Meals

11 Best Hiking Pants


Updated: June 9th, 2021

best hiking pants for backpacking

A dependable pair of hiking pants is one of the pieces of clothing that can make or break a hike. Keeping your legs protected while bushwhacking, forging through colder climates, or wading through streams—since your legs are the very things that are carrying you forward—is extremely important to ensure you’re prepared to go the distance.

In this post, we list out our favorite models this year. But before digging in, let's take a look at important buying considerations and why hiking pants win over shorts for hiking long distances.

Model Price Material Weight Type
Arc'Teryx Leffroy $119 Nylon, Elastane 9.7 oz Standard
Prana Stretch Zion $85 Nylon, Spandex 13.6 oz Roll-Up
Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pant $60 Nylon 10.8 oz Convertible
Outdoor Research Men's Ferrosi $60 Nylon, Spandex 12.2 oz Standard
KUHL Renegade $85 Nylon, Spandex 14 oz Standard
KÜHL Silencr $85 Polyester N/A Standard
Marmot Men's Arch Rock $75 Nylon, Elastane 10.1 oz Standard
Mountain Hardwear AP Pants $90 Cotton, Nylon, Elastane 7.2 oz Roll-Up
Patagonia Quandary $79 Nylon, Spandex 10 oz Standard
REI Co-Op Sahara $70 Nylon, Spandex 12 oz Convertible
RailRiders Backcountry Khakis $69 Nylon 14.3 oz Standard

Main Considerations


TYPE OF PANT: STANDARD, CONVERTIBLE OR ROLL-UP

There are three styles of hiking pants. Each style has its own characteristics that can be beneficial for your hike. 

  1. Standard: sleek and comfortable, they can be worn on the trail, around town, and even in casual work environments. Since there are no zippered attachments, this style would be a great option for those that experience chafing or discomfort from convertible pants. 

  2. Convertible: these “convert” to shorts by zipping off and detaching at the knee. This is a great feature for when you need to cool down or if you want to wear shorts only during the hottest part of the day. Most convertible pants can be zipped on and off without having to remove your shoes.

  3. Roll-Up: The bottom of the pants can be rolled up and secured by buttons or an elastic. This style is perfect for those that don’t like shorts, but still want a cooler option than a full-length pant. Rolling and buttoning the hems in place will help prevent them from getting dirty or frayed from dragging on the ground. They also can be terrific to use around camp.

different types of hiking pants
From left to right: standard, convertible and roll-up hiking pants



WARMTH:
 HOW THICK SHOULD HIKING PANTS BE?

Hiking pants come in different ranges of thickness.

  • Thinner pants are best for summer and arid, tropical climates. Most thin designs come with mesh pockets and vents to help keep you breathable and cool.

  • Thicker pants may have added insulation for warmth, and are best worn while hiking in fall, winter, or in higher elevations.

Something to keep in mind is the thinner a hiking pant is, the less durable, yet more breathable it will be. Still, most standard 3-season hiking pants are able to be worn all year round. All you need to do is add a base layer under them to help with insulation in the cold.

convertible hiking pants


SIZE AND FIT: HOW SHOULD I WEAR HIKING PANTS?

Hiking pants come in form-fitted or relaxed styles. Choosing the right style comes down to personal preference.

  • A more fitted pant will conform to your body and move with you, eliminating the chance of catching on objects and tearing.

  • A relaxed fit pant will give your legs more room, and may provide better defense against rubbing/chafing.

If you go with a more relaxed fit, be sure not to go too loose, as hiking pants naturally loosen after multiple wear’s, not to mention you’ll likely lose weight while out on the trail.

Also, when facing heavy winds, it’s probably better to not have your pants ballooning up or whipping around like a pair of windbreakers.

Length-wise, make sure the pants don't drag or snag while out on the trail.

best hiking pants

 

WATER-RESISTANCE: ARE HIKING PANTS WATERPROOF?

Most hiking pants nowadays are made from Nylon, Spandex, and Polyester. All three are water-resistant fabrics, but they're not waterproof.

(Note: all three materials also have natural UPF ratings reaching as high as 50+.)

To up the water protection of hiking pants, manufacturers normally treat them with an added DWR (Durable Water Repellent) agent. The DWR treatment creates a ‘shield’ on the pants fabric that makes water bead up and roll-off, similar to what happens on a rain jacket or an umbrella. 

Like all water-resistant gear, the DWR treatment of your hiking pants will naturally wear off in time. The butt and thighs of your hiking pants will usually be the first to show signs of this because that’s where water will first seep through.

Learn how to test and re-waterproof your hiking pants at the bottom of this post.

waterproof hiking pants


Best Hiking Pants


Arc’Teryx Leffroy

arcteryx best hiking pants

Price: $119

Material: 86% Nylon, 14% Elastane

Weight: 9.7 oz

Type: Standard

Created for hiking in hot weather, this minimal yet comfortable pair of lightweight pants has great breathability and plenty of stretch. Whether you’ll be scaling rock faces or bushwhacking, these pants will hold up and keep your legs protected. The pants are a fitted and durable style, yet their flexibility makes them nonrestrictive. The waistband comes with a webbing belt that fits comfortably and securely under your pack. These hiking pants have two mesh-lined pockets in the front and a thigh pocket with a zipper. There are no back pockets included on this style.

See at REI


prAna Stretch Zion

prAna best hiking pants

Price: $85

Material: 97% Nylon, 3% Spandex

Weight: 13.6 oz

Type: Roll-Up

Fashioned from prAna’s original Stretch Sion fabric that specializes in being light, durable, breathable, wrinkle-resistant, quick-drying, and UPF 50+, this standard fit pair of hiking pants has a simple design with plenty of hidden surprises. The ventilated inseam gusset, mesh pockets and roll-up snap in place convertible option gives your legs plenty of breathability, while the streamlined adjustable waistband ensures these hiking pants sit right where you want them. There is a cargo pocket that has angled dual-entry, two front and two back pockets, and any spillage or dirt on the material is said to just roll right off. This trekking pant option is best suited for warm weather, and can hold up to heavy abrasion.  

See at Amazon


Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pant

Silver Ridge best hiking pants

Price: $60

Material: 100% Nylon, Polyester Mesh

Weight: 10.8

Type: Convertible

This convertible pair of lightweight hiking pants has zippers to change the pants to 10 in. inseam shorts in a matter of seconds. The pants have a partial elastic waistband and outer adjustable belt that helps secure fit, along with a gusseted crouch made from ripstop nylon. The pants also have a UPF rating of 50+ to keep your legs protected when braving long treks under the sun’s rays. To keep you cool, there are mesh-lined, Velcro pockets for providing ventilated airflow. Being that these pants are thin and breathable, this straight leg style is best for hiking in sunny, hot weather. This hiking pant has been said to lack in flexibility however, limiting mobility if climbing or scrambling through rough terrain.

See at REI


Outdoor Research Men’s Ferrosi

Outdoor Research Ferrosi best hiking pants

Price: $60

Material: 86% Nylon, 14% Spandex

Weight: 12.2 oz

Type: Standard

These trekking pants provide lots of elasticity and durability for thru-hikers facing rugged conditions where ease of movement is essential. They are designed by OR to be strong and wind-resistant, and they include a high spandex makeup that allows for extreme flexibility. The pants also have a low-profile waist that will easily fit underneath a harness if climbing, and the drawcord ankle adjustments allow for securely sealing the bottoms of the pants if tucking them into boots or underneath of gaiters. The drawcords can also be used to shorten the pants if they are too long. The Nylon used to design these trekking pants is known for being tough yet still breathable. The pants are also fixed with articulated knees, a gusseted crotch, belt loops, deep front slash pockets, zippered back pockets, and a zippered cargo-style side pocket.

See at Outdoor Research


KUHL Renegade

KUHL renegade best hiking pants

Price: $85

Material: 95% Nylon, 5% Spandex

Weight: 14 oz

Type: Standard

With all the useful features of cargo pants without actually being cargo pants, the KUHL renegades are practical and storage-friendly. The specialized DURALUX fabric used in their design is made to withstand scratches, rips and tears while still feeling as soft as cotton. Thanks to their durable build, these hiking pants are ideal for climbing, or forging through rough terrain and sunny climates while out in the backcountry. The pants have a UPF rating of 50+ to block UV rays, and a DWR finish for added protection against water. The gusseted crotch and articulated knees improve the range of motion, and the unique eight-pocket design of these hiking pants allows for plenty of storage. Two of these eight pockets are specially designed cell phone pockets, including one for ‘stealth’ and one for a ‘3D cell phone.’

See at KUHL


KÜHL Silencr

KUHL silencr best hiking pants

Price: $85

Material: 100% Mechanical Stretch Polyester

Weight: N/A

Type: Standard

The KÜHL brand is known for its high-quality gear that’ll last for years, and the Silencr hiking pants are no different. They’re an athletic, full-fit pant with a range of flexibility thanks to the four-way stretch build, articulated knees, and gusseted crotch. They’re made from KÜHL’s exclusive REFLEX rip-stop, soft-shell fabric that offers optimal sun protection with a UPF rating of 50. The inside of the pant is soft to the touch and highly moisture-wicking, while externally the fabric is durable and treated with a DWR agent for water resistance. The pants have a tapered fit, a waistband that’s lined with soft micro-chamois material, and 7 un-zippered pockets—two of which are designated drop-in cell phone pockets. The pants run true to size and their comfortable fit has made them a favorite for many both on and off the trail.

See at REI


Marmot Men’s Arch Rock

Marmot Arch Rock best hiking pants

Price: $75

Material: 94% Nylon, 6% Elastane

Weight: 10.1 oz

Type: Standard

Fixed with a moisture wicking DriClime waistband that helps wick away sweat, a UPF rating of 50 to keep harmful UV rays away, and a durable water-resistant finish, these hiking pants are ideal for hiking through wet or dry climates. With articulated knees, and a gusseted crotch, the elasticity in these pants gives you plenty of ability to move freely. So, whether scaling rocks or scrambling that last leg of the trail, these pants are sure to allow for plenty of movement. They’re extremely abrasion-resistant for weighing in at just 10.1 ounces. They also have a reinforced pant hem that reduces the chance of fraying. Although designed for hot weather, these hiking pants can be used in any season or climate, just be sure to add a base layer underneath in cooler temps.

See at Amazon


Mountain Hardwear AP Pants

Mountain Hardwear best hiking pants

Price: $90

Material: 75.0% Cotton, 23.0% Nylon, 2.0% Elastan

Weight: 7.2 oz

Type: Roll-up

These are great all-around pants for a day spent hiking, climbing, biking, or doing anything active.

They’re stretchy, which makes them very comfortable. This also allows them to have a slimmer, articulated fit. The slim fit makes these stylish, but some may find the slimmer cut on these pants to be too tight for their liking.

These pants are made of a very durable blended canvas. However, this fabric is 75% cotton, which will absorb moisture and not dry as quickly when wet. The material might be a little warm for hot days in the sun, too. These pants have three zippered pockets, two in the back, and one on the right hip.

Beyond that, though, these don’t have many technical features. They’re a good all-around pair of pants that you can wear out to the bar after a day spent hiking.

See at Amazon


Patagonia Quandary

Patagonia quandary best hiking pants

Price: $79

Material: 95% Nylon, 5% Spandex

Weight: 10 oz

Type: Standard

A great option for lean and medium builds, this environmentally conscious hiking pant prides itself on being a Bluesign fabric approved product. To earn this title, this means that all materials used in the garment's production must be safe for the environment, workers and end-use customers. This all-season, wrinkle-resistant hiking pant has a wicking mesh internal waistband, a UPF rating of 50+, handwarmer pockets, and a gusseted crotch and front and back knee articulation for easy mobility. There is also a hidden drawcord so you can easily adjust the size specifically to you. The pants have reinforced belt loops and plenty of pockets including two front drop-in, two rear (one zippered and one drop-in), and a zip side cargo pocket.

See at REI


REI Co-Op Sahara

REI Sahara best hiking pants

Price: $70

Material: 94% Nylon, 6% Spandex

Weight: 12 oz

Type: Convertible

Made for hiking in hot climates, the REI Co-Op Sahara convertible pant is lightweight and designed with flat seams that prevent rubbing and chafing. The pants pack down to a tiny size, and the color-coded zippers on the thighs can help distinguish the right leg from the left leg when re-attaching the zippered bottoms. These hiking pants have a UPF rating of 50+, elastic along the back of the hips to allow for more mobility, and they have reinforced bottom cuffs to withstand wear-and-tear from abrasion of hiking boots or the trail. The REI Co-Op Sahara recently released a new version of this pant, and it is said to run small and not be as stretchy or flexible as the previous.

See at REI


RailRiders Backcountry Khakis

Railriders best hiking pants

Price: $69

Material: 100% Nylon

Weight: 14.3 oz

Type: Standard

Sophisticated enough to wear from the backcountry straight into town, these soft yet durable nylon trekking pants are ready to be worn anywhere. The pants have a gusseted crotch, articulated tailoring through the knees for ease of movement, two zippered back pockets, and deep front slash pockets with a built-in safety zip pocket to stash your valuables. Designed to be tough and wrinkle-free, the durable material used in this design also dries within a matter of minutes. The RailRiders backcountry hiking pants are made to provide all-purpose reliability and comfort, no matter where you decide to wear them.   

See at RailRiders


Hiking Pants Design and Features


Hiking pants come complete with a wide range of additional features to help with comfort and fit.

  • Belt and Elastic Waistbands: Integrated belts and drawstrings can help fit pants to those that are in between sizes, or provide a range of sizing options in case you change size while out on the trail. Make sure that the integrated belt, drawstrings, or adjustable side straps don’t sit awkwardly against your backpacks hip straps as this will cause some very uncomfortable rubbing/chafing.

  • Pockets: Because many hiking pants are created with lots of pockets of various sizes, they’re great for carrying maps, gadgets and other little gizmo’s you want easily accessible instead of tucked away in your pack. Most styles have several zippered pockets on the front, back, and outer thighs (similar to cargo pants).

  • Articulated Knees: An articulated knee in a pant means there is an excess of fabric in the front and back of the knees of the pant. This extra fabric allows for improved stretch and range of motion when hiking uphill or climbing.

  • Gusset Crotch: As for the seams at the crotch, it’s important to look for a gusset which is an extra patch of fabric sewn in where the four seams of the crotch meet. This piece of fabric takes stress off the seams, aiding in durability and overall range of motion.

  • Extra Fabric along the thighs: If rubbing/chafing is a major concern, there are hiking pants with extra fabric throughout the thigh to allow for more room and breathability.

hiking pants with pockets


Hiking Pants vs Shorts


Let’s talk about why hiking pants are better than a pair of shorts, tights, rain pants or cargo pants for hiking.


Warmth: When temperatures plummet below 40°F, or your heading into higher elevations or colder climates, having your legs fully covered will help insulate and protect you from frigid winds and snowfall. There are many hiking pants that are wind-resistant, or that come offered with fleece-lined insulation for additional warmth. But if you want to stick with a 3-season hiking pant, then you can easily take these pants into winter with you by pairing a moisture-wicking baselayer underneath of the pants for added insulation.


Protection: Although hiking pants are quick-drying and breathable, there’s no denying how great a pair of breezy shorts can be when hiking in hot weather. However, if you're hiking through rough terrain or your legs need added sun protection, then pants have got you covered. Literally. One of the top benefits of hiking pants is their added protection. When hiking in shorts or a thin pair of tights, you have little or no barrier against your skin and things like poison ivy, ticks or mosquitoes. If your hike requires bushwhacking or rock scrambles, your knees and the skin on your legs will also thank you if they're safely shielded under a thick pair of hiking pants. 

hikers in hiking pants and shorts atop a mountain
© Aaron "Wankles" Ibey


Versatility: Because hiking pants come with features such as roll-up tabs, zippers, mesh pockets and vents, they can be worn every day in various climates, whereas rain pants, for example, are only designed to be used over your clothing for added protection in heavy rains. They also include many pockets, just like a good pair of cargo’s, although they’re lighter and more fitted.


Durability: Hiking pants are thick and abrasion-resistant, making them much more durable than a pair of tights or yoga pants. When facing tough terrain, overgrown trails or bushwhacking, hiking pants will hold up much better to wear-and-tear, snagging or piling. Some hiking pants also come designed with double reinforced knees or padding in the butt for added durability.

hiker wearing hiking pants in front of lake
Photo: @envirodave


Range of motion: Hiking pants aren’t nearly as restrictive as they might first appear. Since hiking pants are made with flexible materials such as spandex, a good pair will allow you a significant range of motion. As long as you focus on picking a hiking pant designed with spandex or another elastic material, you’ll be able to bend, move, scale that mountain or climb that boulder with ease.


Cost: Hiking pants don’t run cheap, but before their cost has you running back to those shorts or tights, let’s talk a bit about why a pair might just be worth the investment. First off, buying a pair could save you space in your pack. Since hiking pants come offered in full length, convertible zip-off or roll-up styles (meaning they can transition from pants to shorts or capris) they can end up being a real 2-for-1, or maybe even 3-for-1, option. Also, you may be surprised to find that it could end up costing the same as buying a durable baselayer and shorts combo to create your own makeshift pair of hiking pants.


Breathability: 
Since many hiking pants today now come equipped with zippered or mesh-lined panels for added breathability, they’re becoming more practical to use even while out in hot or humid conditions. Also, you can roll up your pant legs—or unzip the attachments in the case of convertible pants—to give your legs some extra airflow. 


thru-hiker wearing hiking pants
© Danielle "Giggles" O'Farrell (@withthewildthings)


Maintenance and Care


How to Wash

Your hiking pants are likely machine washable. Check the tag to make sure, and if they are, throw them in the wash. However, like most synthetic fabrics used for exercise, your hiking pants will probably benefit from using a sport wash. Sport wash is a laundry detergent specifically designed for synthetic fabrics used in athletic clothing. Synthetic fibers have a tendency to hold on to smells from sweat and oils, and sport wash will help with that.

How to Dry

Hiking pants usually dry quickly. So, after washing your pants, you can let them air dry quickly. Most hiking pants are also safe to put in the dryer (check the tags to make sure). If they are dryer safe, put them in at a low temperature, ensuring all zippers and buttons are closed first.

How to Iron

If you want to iron your hiking pants you should do so with the iron on a very low heat setting and use a pressing cloth. Nylon should not be ironed at a temperature above 275 F, which is usually iron heat level 1. Polyester fabrics can be ironed at a slightly higher temperature, 300 F (iron level 3). But again, be careful not to let the iron get too hot.

How to Re-Waterproof

Like all water-resistant gear, the DWR treatment of your hiking pants will naturally wear off in time. The butt and thighs of your hiking pants will usually be the first to show signs of this because that’s where water will first seep through.

If you think it’s time to re-waterproof your pants, you can always first test this by sprinkling a few drops of water on them. If the water sinks into the fabric and creates a dark circle, then it’s time for a fresh DWR treatment.

Apply a tech wash product like Nikwax for a great environmentally friendly, water repellent option.

Note that, sometimes, the heat of your dryer can re-activate the water-resistance of your hiking pants (side note: always be sure to read the washing instructions of your particular garment first).


Some photos in this post were taken by Jonathan Davis (@meowhikes)



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By Katie Licavoli: Katie Licavoli is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast who specializes in articles, blog posts, gear reviews, and site content about living the Good Life spent exploring The Great Outdoors. Her favorite days are ones in nature, and her favorite views are any with mountains.
About Greenbelly: After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

Affiliate disclosure: We aim to provide honest information to our readers. We do not do sponsored or paid posts. In exchange for referring sales, we may receive a small commission through affiliate links. This post may contain affiliate links. This comes at no extra cost to you.



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