How To Choose The Best Hiking Pants

How To Choose the Best Hiking Pants for Your Next Adventure

The best hiking pants can make your outdoors experience more comfortable and enjoyable. An outdoor trek is only as good as the gear you carry and the activewear you have on. To have a truly enjoyable experience—whether you're hiking through forests or walking through marshland—you have to be comfortable. That’s why choosing the best hiking pants is not something to be taken lightly.

Tons of factors go into choosing hiking pants: the weather you’ll be hiking in, the kind of terrain you’re exploring, what activities you have planned, and, of course, personal preferences and comfort.

Table of Contents

Factors to Consider

Climate & Weather Conditions

There are hiking pants for all types of weather. If you’re hiking in the desert or in other places that have intense heat, you may want to opt for shorts. However, pants can offer you full protection from the sun’s rays. Lightweight, ventilated pants that can convert into shorts might be your best bet. Moisture-wicking material is also a great option for outdoor activities in hot climates.

On the other hand, trekking through cold or wet climates calls for different types of pants and materials. Thicker pants that are well-insulated are your best bet for a hiking outfit that is both functional and comfortable. 

Terrain & Activities

Similar to climate, when you’re choosing the best hiking pants for your next trip, consider the kinds of activities you’ll be doing. Hiking can involve a lot—maybe you’ll be camping, fishing, or bouldering, too.

For higher-impact activities, choose outdoor pants that are crafted from a hardy material and are rip-resistant. If you’re fishing or going on a longer hike, pants with a lot of pockets will be handy for easy access to fishing gear or snacks. If you know the terrain you’ll be on is rife with vegetation, longer pants would be a great choice to protect you from any stray thorns or insects.

Personal Preferences & Comfort

Of course, it all comes down to what you feel your best in. Consider the weight of the material, color, style, and versatility before deciding on hiking pants. Hiking pants are an investment, so going to stores and trying on multiple pants before you make a purchase can help you find the perfect pants for your outdoor activities.

hiking pants in the woods

Materials Matter

Not all hiking pant materials are alike. Here are some key features to think about when choosing hiking pants:

  • Breathability & Moisture-Wicking: Is it breathable? Breathable, moisture-wicking materials will help keep you cool and comfortable in hotter climates, or for longer hikes when you know your body will be sweating more.
  • Durability and Abrasion Resistance: Durable materials have double the benefits. They’ll protect you if you're hiking through thick vegetation and brambles, where you’re more likely to get scraped up. Because of their abrasion resistance, they will last longer than regular pants that wear and tear after some time. 
  • Stretch and Mobility: Hiking is an activity that requires constant movement. Regular pants are not built to be flexible in the same way hiking pants are. A slightly stretchy, yet durable, fabric is what most hiking pants are made of. Mobility is especially important to consider if you’ll be hiking in rocky terrain, where some climbing or bouldering may be involved.
  • Weight and Packability: For those outdoors enthusiasts who go on longer hikes or are out in the wilderness for days, the weight and packability of your pants truly matter. You’ll already be carrying a pack laden with other gear—meals, hiking poles, maybe a sleeping bag, a first aid kit. The last thing you want is more weight on your body. That’s why lightweight hiking pants are generally preferred by hikers.
  • Quality and Sustainability: Many hiking pants are marketed as quality, only for you to wear them a couple of times and find a new rip, or for them to be falling apart after a mere year of use. When shopping for new pants, make sure the seller is reputable and truly offers good quality pants. You can do this by checking the reviews or by seeing where they source and make their goods.

Protection and Functionality

Water Resistance

Water-resistant pants are great for hikes where stream crossings are involved, or if you’ll be doing any fishing. Water resistance is also an important quality to consider if you know you’ll be hiking in the snow or rain.

Quick-Drying Properties

Similar to water resistance, pants that can dry quickly are essential to hiking in humid conditions or if you’ll be near bodies of water. 

UPF Protection

Perhaps one of the most important characteristics of pants, UPF protection helps shield your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. You wear sunscreen on your face, so why not put the same care towards your legs when you are outdoors?

Cooling Fabric

Unlike breathable, moisture-wicking fabric, cooling fabric has an extra element of heat protection woven into the fabric. Clothing made with cooling fabric allows regulated evaporation, which helps release body heat quicker, keeping you cool for longer.

Bug and Insect Repellency

There’s no way to avoid them. Bugs are a big part of nature, and if you’re hiking, you’re bound to encounter them. Apart from bug spray, add an extra level of protection with hiking pants that can repel insects. Insect repellent clothing is especially helpful when hiking in areas that have poisonous bugs or ones that may carry diseases, like ticks.

Odor Protection

Many times, going on a hunt involves a good amount of hiking. When hunting, masking your odor is essential so you go undetected by wildlife. Add extra odor protection when you shop for hiking clothes that mask your scent.

Ability to Layer

Everyone knows that body temperature and climate changes as you continue on your outdoor adventure. Maybe you start on a hike early in the morning, and you need warmth because it’s cold. By midday, you’re sweating and need cooler, more breathable apparel. Choose your hiking pants with layering in mind so that you can be prepared for the climate changes of your day. 

Design and Features

Not only will the fabric type you choose help you be most comfortable on your hike, but different design features can come in handy, too. The following features can help you store the essentials, have the most optimized mobility, and aid in blending into your environment—particularly helpful for hunting excursions.

  • Zippered pockets to prevent any gear or snacks from falling out
  • Reinforced knees for extra durability
  • Articulated knees for optimal mobility
  • Different color and camouflage options to match the terrain you’ll be in
hiking pants with zipper pocket

    Find Your Perfect Fit

    Finding the best hiking pants for you doesn’t have to be complicated. Use this checklist to make sure you’re doing all the right things to ensure the best fit for your pants:

    • Check sizing charts
    • Measure your body to ensure accuracy when choosing a size
    • Try the pants on before your hike to test mobility and fit
    • Look for brands offering returns and warranties
    • Check the reviews to see if pants fit true to size, or if you’ll need to size up or down
    • Properly follow all care and washing instructions

    The Best Hiking Pants: Our Picks

    Best Hiking Pants for Men

    Looking for the best men’s hiking pants? We love the Men’s Insect Shield® Solair Lightweight Pants. These are the ultimate summer pants, and are great for hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping alike. They have advanced cooling technology and boast a world-leading UPF rating of over 50. They also come with built-in odor protection and Insect Shield® to repel mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, and more.

    Best Hiking Pants for Women

    FORLOH’s pick is the Women’s Insect Shield® Solair Lightweight Pants. They have all the same features as the men’s pants, but with a fit more accommodating to women. You’ll be able to hike, fish, hunt, and camp with ease in these pants. They also come in three different colors.