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Published Mar. 30, 2022

Anyone who has been caught in a rainstorm, had their inseam rip as they sat on a rock during a break, or been swarmed by mosquitoes when the wind died down can appreciate the importance of hiking pants. But choosing from so many different models, for everything from casual day hikes to climbing, can be confusing. We’ve picked the best hiking pants out of what’s available today to help narrow the field: 

Things to Consider Before Buying Hiking Pants

Five best hiking pants laying on the ground
From left to right: KÜHL Freeflex Roll-up Pant, Helly Hansen Rask Softshell Pant, REI Co-op Savanna Trail Pants, prAna Halle Pant II, Royal Robbins Alpine Mountain Pro Pants. Laura Lancaster

Materials

Most hiking pants are made from nylon and/or polyester, with spandex or elastane for stretch. Some also incorporate specialty fibers like hemp or Tencel, a type of rayon made from wood fibers. One material that is virtually never seen in the best hiking pants is cotton, due to its tendency to retain moisture. 

Bug Protection

In general, pants made from nylon—especially ripstop nylon—will do a better job at keeping bugs (including mosquitoes) away from your skin than polyester. But, if you live in a place where the mosquito is recognized as the official state bird, then you should treat your hiking clothes with permethrin for an additional defense. Some clothing manufacturers now sell hiking pants with permethrin pre-applied which has the added bonus of lasting for additional washings over self application. 

Pockets

There can be huge variation between the pockets on men’s and women’s pants, with the men’s pants having adequate to (sometimes) excessive pocket coverage, while some of the women’s pants aren’t cut out to carry much more than some chapstick. In this review, if I’ve commented on pocket coverage, I’ll clarify which version of the pants were tested (the women’s picks in this roundup all have adequate to great pocket coverage), but it’s worth double-checking the manufacturer website to ensure the style you are purchasing has the coverage you need.

Best Overall: Royal Robbins Alpine Mountain Pro Pants 

Royal Robbins

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Key Features

  • Available in men’s and women’s styles
  • Sizing: up to 34.5-inch waist (W); 42-inch waist (M)
  • Weight: 11 ounces (W); 13.3 ounces (M)
  • Fabric: 88% polyester, 12% elastane
  • Closure: Snap-lock button, women’s version has an adjustable drawcord

Why It Made the Cut

Durable hiking pants that look great and are excellent at repelling water. The women’s version also had the most functional pockets of any model we tested.

Pros

  • Comfortable fit in a great cut that is a touch thicker than average
  • Durable 
  • Great pocket coverage
  • Made of recycled (88% polyester) plastic bottles

Cons

  • Lack of inseam sizing makes it hard to find the right length
  • No cuff adjustment
A person from the waist down walking in the woods wearing grey best hiking pants
These durable pants do it all. Laura Lancaster

Product Description

The Alpine Mountain Pros do it all. They are rugged enough to tackle brambly trails with just the right amount of flexibility for some scrambling, and after a hard day on the trail they still look good enough to head out for a post-hike beer. The tight knit of the fabric was surprisingly durable given the materials used. But they also feel soft against my skin. I liked that these were a bit thicker on average than the other pants in this review, making them more versatile for shoulder season adventures.

The pockets on the women’s version of these pants were the best of any we tried: the front-hand pockets are deep enough to fit a smartphone, one of the back pockets has a zipper for added security, and there were two deep, thigh pockets that were virtually unnoticeable when empty. 

Best Budget: REI Co-op Savanna Trails Pants

REI Co-op

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Key Features

  • Available in women’s styles only
  • Sizing: Up to 42.5-inch waist
  • Weight: 8 ounces
  • Fabric: 94% nylon, 6% spandex
  • Closure: Button closure 

Why It Made the Cut

The REI Savanna is a great pair of hiking pants at a reasonable price, even if they aren’t as flattering as the others in our test. 

Pros

  • Lightweight, comfortable fit
  • Excellent at repelling water
  • Low price
  • Comes in plus sizes

Cons

  • Unflattering cut
  • Wrinkles easily

Product Description

I’ve worn the REI Savanna Trails everywhere from southwestern canyons to shoulder-season slogs in the Cascade Range and these pants function as well, if not better, than other, more expensive picks. The high nylon content means they are quite durable—after several seasons of use, mine are none the worse for wear—while the stretchy fit of the spandex makes it easy to layer underneath when the weather turns chilly. These pants also repelled water better than much of the competition, making them a top pick for sunrise hikes with brushy sections. 

Unlike the other picks for best hiking pants we’ve tested, the Savannas come in both petite sizes and plus sizes, making it more likely that you’ll find something that works for you. The biggest ding is that the cut is quite baggy, and these pants run large compared to other picks on this list (size down if you’re between sizes). They are also more apt to hold onto wrinkles, which might be an annoyance if you are traveling off-grid for an extended period of time. 

Most Comfortable: prAna Halle Pant II

Key Features

  • Available in women’s styles only
  • Sizing: Up to 44-inch waist
  • Weight: 12.3 ounces
  • Fabric: 95% recycled nylon; 5% elastane
  • Closure: Double buttons with drawcord
  • The men’s Stretch Zion Pant II is the equivalent to the Halle collection

Why It Made the Cut

The lightweight cut of the Halle Pant II was a great choice for warm days when I wanted a bit more leg protection than running shorts.

Pros

  • Loose, comfortable fit 
  • Rollup buttons helped create extra airflow on hot days
  • Uses recycled nylon
  • Comes in plus sizes

Cons

  • Right side-seam zip pocket was difficult to use and may be too small for some smartphones
  • Repels water less effectively than other pants in this test

Product Description

I wore the prAna Halle Pant II on multiple hikes this spring and found them to be the most comfortable in our best hiking pants lineup. This was thanks to a soft knit and a loose cut that was also flattering. These pants also incorporated a roll-up cuff—which I prefer to the men’s style of convertible pants—which worked great when I had worked up a sweat and needed a bit more airflow.

In the water repellency test, these pants absorbed water more readily than the others we tested. These are not the pants we’d pick for a hike through morning dew–soaked brush. That said, their airy fit means that they are unlikely to hold sweat on hot days. 

The size and shape of the Halle Pant II’s right side-seam pocket perfectly fit my 5.7 inch x 2.7 inch smartphone—although it may be too small or a tight fit for larger models. The side zip entry helped keep the phone from jostling around while I hiked, but I had to stop to access the phone to prevent it from accidentally falling on the ground. 

Like the Savannas, these also come in plus sizes. The equivalent men’s pant is the Stretch Zion Pant II.

Best Cargo Pants: Outdoor Research Men’s Ferrosi Cargo Pants

Outdoor Research

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Key Features 

  • Available in men’s sizes only
  • Sizing: Up to 42-inch waist
  • Weight: 11.25 ounces 
  • Fabric: 86% nylon, 14% spandex
  • Closure: Button closure with drawcord

Why It Made the Cut

The Ferrosi Cargo Pants were a great mix of comfort and utility, functioning just as well at the base of the climb as they did at the top. 

Pros

  • Comfortable fit that is true to size
  • Protected against the cold on windy days
  • Rugged enough to withstand the trail

Cons

  • Front-facing cargo pockets sometimes got in the way of hiking
  • Button snaps were difficult to use on the go

Product Description

I sent the Ferrosi hiking pants out with a tester on a six-mile out-and-back with 2,400 feet of elevation gain in eastern Washington State. They reported back that, like the other Ferrosi pants, the fabric of these pants felt light, but durable and true to size. Not only did these pants breathe well enough to prevent overheating on the hike up, but the tester reported that “the situation at the top of Umtanum Ridge was quite windy and these pants blocked the wind as effectively as a pair of rain pants.”

Rather than a belt, the Ferrosi has a drawstring at the waist to help users dial in that perfect fit. The one drawback to these pants is that the pockets are more forward-facing than usual, which got in the way on long uphill climbs. Those side pockets also incorporated snap buttons (rather than the zipper found at the back pocket), which felt less secure.

Best Convertible Pants: KÜHL Renegade Cargo Convertible 

Key Features

  • Available in men’s styles only
  • Sizing: Up to 42-inch waist
  • Weight: 17 ounces
  • Fabric: 95% nylon; 5% spandex
  • Closure: Snap button closure

Why It Made the Cut

Easy-to-use zippers made it a snap to switch between shorts and longer pants on spring days with variable weather patterns. 

Pros

  • High placement of the convertible zippers meant they were never in the way while hiking
  • Zips at the cuff allow you to take off the lower legs without taking off your shoes
  • Durable, water-resistant fabric

Cons

  • No drawcords or attached belt at the waist

Product Description

The tester for the Renegades was a convertible pants skeptic, at least until he took these out for a few spring day hikes. He reported back that during a hike up Tiger Mountain in Washington State’s Issaquah Alps they were easier to use than expected, mimicking the feel of non-convertible hiking pants when the lower section was attached and zipping off easily when he was ready to convert them. Whereas other convertible pants have a fit that is a hair too relaxed, the Renegades “felt surprisingly lightweight,” and were form-fitting without ever riding up on steep climbs. 

While the pocket placement on these has a traditional cargo style, they were slanted more toward the back of the leg, which kept them out of the way. One thing to note about these pants is that they don’t come with a built-in belt or a drawstring cord—something to keep in mind if you plan to size up to accommodate a base layer. The tester also noted that these ran small, so if you are in-between sizes or looking for a more relaxed fit, consider sizing up. 

FAQs

Q: Do I need hiking pants?

Plenty of people don’t use hiking pants—opting instead for leggings, running shorts, or even jeans—but there are a few reasons why hiking pants are worth the investment. As anyone who lives in tick country knows, long pants are essential for avoiding serious illnesses like Lyme disease. Similarly, while many women hike in leggings, I’ve found that mosquitoes are quite adept at biting through the thin fabric. Jeans, well—we’ve all hiked in jeans at one time or another. But the reality is that in a surprise squall or misstep in a creek could leave your jeans wet and chafing you all the way back to the trailhead. The best hiking pants are a worthwhile investment if you plan to go out on day hikes more than a couple of times per year. 

Q: How much do the best hiking pants cost?

Hiking pants can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 or more, with the higher range dominated by more technical hiking pants, suited for off-trail scrambles. 

Q: What is the best fabric for hiking pants? 

Hiking pants are typically made out of a combination of nylon and/or polyester (for durability) and spandex (for stretch). When looking at pants made from nylon and polyester (which are partially derived from oil and may introduce microplastics), we recommend steering toward ones with a high percentage of recycled fibers, like our best overall pick, the Royal Robbins Alpine Pro Pants

A woman walking through the woods wearing brown best hiking pants
prAna Halle II are idea for warm-weather hiking. Laura Lancaster

Methodology

The best hiking pants evaluated in this roundup—seven different pairs from five different brands—were worn on spring day hikes around the Pacific Northwest with at least 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Two testers, Adam Tycaster and Dave Vanderzee, were used for the men’s pants, both with years of experience hiking and backpacking on trips ranging from a single-day hike of the 17-mile Enchantments trail in Washington State to the Pacific Crest Trail. 

Conditions during testing varied from frosty mornings to unexpected showers to early summertime temperatures. Pants were evaluated on comfort, ease of movement, weight, fit, and skin feel. I also separately tested the pants for water absorption (to see how they would perform in heavy rain conditions) and wrinkliness. Another consideration was cross-over appeal—whether the pants in the test could be used for multiple activities or whether they would be appropriate for casual wear. Finally, I considered the functionality of each pants’ features (pockets, drawstrings, roll-up buttons).

Final Thoughts

Companies like Outdoor Research, Patagonia, prAna, Columbia, KÜHL, Arc’teryx, Mountain Hardwear, and Fjallraven have spent years perfecting the best hiking pants, and the efforts show. Most hiking pants available for purchase today will function in a wide range of environments, and protect you from sun, bugs, rain, and wind. Hone in on the details that matter most to you (durability? pockets? comfort?) before making a final selection. 

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