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Sure, your usual jeans or lululemon leggings work for casual hikes, but when you go off the beaten path or encounter bad weather, hiking pants are where it’s at. Generally water- and rip-resistant, not to mention boasting a few extra pockets, these trousers are a go-to for trekkers who want to come away from a day of hiking without being soaked to the bone or scratched to shreds by errant underbrush.
Hiking pants have come a long way in recent years — it’s not all baggy khaki cargo pants anymore. Instead, new textile technology has yielded a new generation of hiking pants that have bonus features, like lightweight materials that keep you warm in the winter, as well as trousers with built-in SPF to keep your lower half protected from the sun. You’ll also want the articulated knees and... gussets that allow for a full range of motion, whatever comes your way.
But don’t worry about finding the perfect pair on your own: We’ve rounded up the best hiking pants to kick off your next adventure — whether it’s taking you to your local arboretum or to the top of your next mountain summit.
01 of 09
When it comes to value, nothing beats the Patagonia Quandary, which combines a pretty moderate price tag with quality, durability and style. The DWR finish works wonders against both light rain and wind, and a blend of nylon (some of it recycled) and spandex gives hikers a full range of motion — plus, UPF 50 protection keeps hikers’ lower bodies shielded from penetrating UV rays. The material’s also great when it comes to breathability — which, given the lack of vents, comes as a nice surprise — and that’s helped by a moisture-wicking band around the waist.
The only tiny downside of these pants is the lack of lots of pockets, but this isn’t an issue for hikers bringing their own backpack. They also might not be the best for guys built a little larger, as the slim fit can be constricting around the thighs (Patagonia’s website recommends them for lean-to-medium builds). On the upside, the pants are also fairly sleek and streamlined — especially for this genre of trousers — so if you... happen to wear them when you’ve conquered the trail, well, we won’t tell.
02 of 09
If these look like the zip-off pants you wore during your summer camp days, that’s because they’re pretty much the same thing—but they’re timeless for a reason. These comfortable trail pants are a favorite among hikers and come in five different styles. With convertible legs easy to wear year-round, these pants are water-repellant and fast-drying, with plenty of stretch, as well as pockets for gear and side ankle zippers to slide off over bulky boots — though hikers on the go can also tighten the cuff with the help of the velcro strap, which keeps out bugs and debris.
These pants are also UPF 30, keeping legs and waists protected from the sun, though they’re great for winter when you add a base layer underneath (some swear by going a size up for base-layer room and extra moveability). Hikers also love how durable they are, with pairs lasting years for even the most avid hikers.
03 of 09
There are no other men’s trousers on the market that combine great quality with a price tag this low. Columbia is the first to earn the Skin Cancer Foundation’s seal of recommendation — exemplified in this model featuring Omni-Shade UPF 50, thanks to its UV-absorbent yarns. Wicking fabric keeps hikers dry and Omni-Wick technology actually pulls sweat away from the body, making these pants great for summer. When it gets really hot, hikers can zip off the lower-leg section of these convertible pants.
Guys hitting the trail have also said that these keep you pretty warm in the winter, too — especially with a base layer added. Another bonus with these pants is plenty of pockets, meaning you can either forgo a backpack or spread out the load a little more evenly (one of the pockets zips closed to hold your keys and other valuables). Some love these for bikepacking, too — the finish on the fabric means bike oil and latex tire sealant wipes right off.
04 of 09
These surprisingly stylish pants are one of the best all-rounders out there for women, with a flexible waist, tough 100-percent nylon panels in hard-wearing areas (including the knees) and mesh vents to help let out heat worked up during an intense hike. Plus, there’s a drawstring waist to avoid the bulk of a belt. Made from fully synthetic materials, the pants are breathable in the summer, great with a base layer in the winter and durable enough to withstand abrasions from scrambling or mountaineering.
For warmer days, the fabric comes with UPF 50 protection, but on rainy ones, the material dries super quickly (unfortunately, however, the nylon panels aren’t as water-resistant as the rest of the fabric—especially after a few washes—which can be problematic in heavy downpours). Hikers also love the looser fit, without being baggy, for mobility and the ankle drawstrings that keep gravel and insects out of hiking boots.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
It’s hard to beat Columbia for product quality at reasonable prices, so it makes sense they’d offer one of the best plus-size hiking trousers on the market, with sizing going up to 3X. The blend of nylon and elastane offers two-way comfort stretch, while the brand’s proprietary Omni-Shade technology outfits hikers with UPF 50+ sun protection thanks to UV-absorbing yarns and ceramic reflectors. These mid-rise pants are also quick-drying (up to five times more so than untreated fabric), and they’re both stain- and water repellant — though keep in mind they’re better for a light rain than a total downpour.
Like other well-loved hiking pants, these feature toggles around the ankles to keep out debris. Although they’re great for three-season hiking, some also layer them over thermal tights in the winter for a little extra insulation. With the sleek, casual silhouette these pants offer, you can head to the craft brewery after you’re done with the day’s hiking adventure without anyone... guessing you’re just off the trail.
06 of 09
These best-selling hiking pants offer both breathability and weather resistance, thanks to their incredible durable Gore Tex material — so expect to be able to bring these along on many adventures to come. They’ll hold their own in a rainstorm, plus offer plenty of mobility in the material to move around in. Two side zippers add even more ventilation, though having just one pocket might disappoint some. The pants’ Paclite technology allows these 12-ounce pants to be compressible (the singular pocket doubles as the pants’ stuff sack), which is great for backpackers looking to save space.
Somewhat unusually, they feature three-quarter-length slippers, but it’s a favorite with reviewers because they can fit easily over bulky footwear and eliminate the need for Velcro flaps, which aren’t as comfortable if you’re wearing a pack. All in all, if you’re going to buy one pair to protect you from the rain — whether you’re hiking, biking, or heading straight up a mountain — make it these.
07 of 09
If you don’t mind small (but plentiful) pockets, these pants will be your best friend on hot days. They’re incredibly thin, with plenty of stretch and move-ability, yet insanely durable when it comes to fighting off rocks, abrasions and stray branches. The 86 percent nylon, 14 percent ripstop spandex lets the wind ventilate lower bodies while still blocking occasional chilly breezes and resisting water, and they look sharp enough for a post-hike beer.
Those who are climbing will love these, too: The pants feature a harness-compatible waist (the low-profile waistband fits excellently under a tight harness), and drawcord ankle holes are great for over boots. Plenty of movement-mirroring stretch helps even the most enthusiastic of hikers and climbers secure just the right foothold, and the soft inner-waistband lining is a plus with backpackers. Be warned, however: The waistband does stretch out over a few years (by a not-insignificant few sizes), so you’ll either need to replace them or... wear a belt (which might not be an option for those wearing a harness or using backpack straps).
08 of 09
You might recognize this Swedish brand from the trendy, colorful backpacks — but the company goes beyond leisure and light-outdoors gear to make a darn good hiking pant that’s built tough to withstand the elements. Among the company’s most well-loved offerings are the expensive but well-crafted Fjallraven Keb hiking pants, which are designed for alpine hiking that require a bit of scrambling or climbing now and again. They feature G1000 Eco fabric in the seat, knee and inner-lower leg to increase durability and decrease abrasion-related wear.
The pants are known for being water-resistant to start, but you can make them even more so by treating them with Fjallraven’s wax. Close-fitting but not tight, these trousers also have articulated knees and seats and stretch inserts for extra movement, plus ankle cuff adjustments. The proprietary and patented G-1000 cotton-and-polyester blend keep these pants durable, breathable and resistant against rough terrain ( and water, though you’ll have to... wax them). Some women also find these fit well.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Yes, it’s annoying that these aren’t labeled unisex, but they fit both boys and girls just fine. This seven-pocket pair is a pint-sized version of the adult favorite — think heavy-duty cotton work pants, but better. Its breathable fabric is great all year round, but the best part is that the material on these pants just keeps on going: Well-made construction will stop whatever abrasions, sharp edges and grit that comes their way — and what else do you really want from a pair of hiking pants for curious kids?
For little hikers who are always getting into something, there’s two-way stretch enhanced by articulated knees, with a water-repellent finish for splashing around in puddles. The fabric also provides UPF 50+ sun protection to keep lower bodies safe from harmful rays. Speaking of the sun, these convertible pants unzip at the knees, making these a perfect choice for those heading off to summer camp.