A great pair of hiking pants offers comfort, freedom of movement, the versatility to perform well in a range of environments, and durability over the long haul. In terms of materials, many of today’s top pants are made from lightweight nylon for breathability and protection from wet and windy weather, and increasingly come with features like zip-off legs and articulated knees. Depending on the season in which you will be hitting the trails, thickness and breathability matters as well. Below are the best pants for hiking and trekking of 2017. For more information, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Materials: 86% nylon, 14% spandex
What we like: Tough, wind resistant, and good breathability.
What we don’t: Pockets run a bit small.
Women's: Outdoor Research Ferrosi
Seattle-based Outdoor Research knows a thing of two about inclement weather, so it’s no surprise that the Ferrosi is an excellent go-to pant for year-round hiking. All in all, the Ferrosi and prAna Stretch Zion below are the two leading men’s hiking pants for most conditions. If you plan on using these pants purely for trekking, we give the nod to the Ferrosi. If you add climbing to the mix, the stretchy prAna is the better option.
Despite being lightweight, the Ferrosi’s nylon shell has a sturdy and high quality feel. The fabric is excellent for temperature regulation: they’re tough enough to cut the wind and shed a light rain, but breathe when the thermometer starts to climb. One small pitfall of the Ferrosi is that it’s not quite as good for daily wear as the Stretch Zion: they don’t hide their hiking styling and the pockets are a little on the small side, particularly the front hand pockets and zippered thigh pocket. But for trail use, you won’t find a better pant.
See the Outdoor Research Ferrosi
Materials: 97% nylon, 3% spandex
What we like: Extremely versatile and stylish.
What we don’t: Breathability can be an issue in hot weather.
Women's: prAna Halle
Popular among the outdoors crowd for their comfort and versatility, the prAna Stretch Zion Pants wear well just about everywhere. Technically designed as a climbing pant, their flexibility and feature set, including a dual access zippered cargo pocket, makes them an excellent choice for hiking and backpacking. You get superior range of motion thanks to a gusseted crotch and stretchy fabric, and we really like the semi-slim fit that moves with you. To dial in the fit, a low profile waistband adjuster is located to the right of the top button.
The stretchy water resistant fabric resembles a lightweight soft-shell, making it a bit more substantial than standard fare hiking pants. This added thickness does make them run a little warmer during summer backpacking. On the flipside, the trustworthy shell fabric, along with its DWR coating, excels at longer backpacking trips where toughness and the ability to handle inclement weather is a must. The popularity of the Stretch Zions has spawned a huge color selection, meaning you can go with a standard charcoal or khaki or get a little weird and choose among the more colorful options. For hotter climates, prAna makes a convertible version of the Zion that zip off into shorts.
See the prAna Stretch Zion
Materials: 100% nylon, polyester mesh panels
What we like: Pockets galore and a great value.
What we don’t: Thin material and not as stretchy.
Women's: Columbia Silver Ridge
For casual hiking and even summer backpacking, you won’t find a better deal than the Columbia Silver Ridge pants. Despite the inexpensive price tag, these pants perform well with breathable and quick drying fabric (this also makes them popular among travelers). And with two deep and easily accessible cargo pockets and a zippered security pocket, you won’t be lacking in storage. What are the shortcomings of the Silver Ridge? Despite being tough for the price, the material won’t last forever and is thin for serious alpine use. In addition, the zippers certainly aren’t the smoothest we tested and zipping the legs back on takes a bit of practice. But for hikers and travelers on a budget, the Columbia Silver Ridge pants are the best value on this list. The convertible version is their most popular model, but you can also pick up the Silver Ridge Cargo.
See the Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible
Materials: 88% nylon, 12% spandex
What we like: Tough with great stretchiness.
What we don’t: Not everyone wants/needs large cargo pockets; a little heavy.
Women’s: Kuhl Kliffside Convertible
Kuhl clothing has a distinctive look often with contrasting stitching, but it’s the durable fabric that won the Regengade Convertibles a spot on this list. The thoughtful mix of materials and solid construction makes the Renegade impressively tough, and the generous amount of stretch is a nice upgrade from their other Kuhl hiking pant we’ve tested, the Liberator Convertible.
As with the Liberator, the Renegade’s convertible design is among the best. We particularly like its low-profile styling that does a decent job of disguising the zippers. If you’re the type that likes to carry a number of gadgets in your pockets or will be using the pants for travel, the Liberator offers a ton of storage options. In addition to the standard two front and rear pockets, you get cargo pockets at both sides that have another set of “compartment pockets” inside for stowing valuables. This may be overkill for those prefer to hike without being weighed down, but we appreciate the unobtrusive design nonetheless.
See the Kuhl Renegade Convertible
Materials: 88% nylon, 12% spandex
What we like: More of a performance slant than the REI Sahara.
What we don’t: Less stretchy than the prAna Stretch Zion and the same price as the OR Ferrosi.
Women's: REI Screeline
REI makes fantastic tents, but their clothing hasn’t always been up to snuff with other outdoor gear brands. Enter the Screeline, which is a more tailored and functional pant than the popular REI Sahara Convertible. As the name suggests, the Screeline is stretchy in a similar way as the prAana Stretch Zion (although not quite as stretchy), making it a popular option for climbing and hiking. The nylon panels in the knees and butt help with durability and the fabric breathes well and dries quickly. If you haven’t yet tried REI clothing, this might be a good time to give it a shot.
The reason the REI Screeline isn’t ranked higher is the competition in this price range. Our top pick, the OR Ferrosi, is the same price, and the prAna Stretch Zion is just $5 more. Both are proven pants and just hard to beat. But if you get the Screeline on sale or with a member coupon, they are well worth it. Again, we prefer the performance fit of the Screeline over the roomier Sahara, and the quality and design seem to be a step up as well.
See the REI Screeline
Materials: 86% nylon, 14% elastane
What we like: Premium build and breathability.
What we don’t: Pricey for a lightweight hiking pant.
Women's: Arc’teryx Sylvite
Many trekking pants from technical brands like Arc’teryx are heavy and almost shell-like in feel. That’s why we were so excited when the Lefroy was released, which is one of the company’s lightest pants at less than 10 ounces and built specifically for warm conditions. The Lefory breathes extremely well with AirPerm fabric, has a good amount of stretch, and a great fit that isn’t too baggy or too tight. You can use this pant for hiking and backpacking and it also makes a good option for travel.
If you’re planning on a full slate of summer hiking or want a pant that will last for years, the Arc’teryx build quality is worth the extra cost. The company always seems to pay attention to the small details and the Lefroy is no exception. However, these pants are considerably more expensive than other lightweight options like the REI Screeline and budget Columbia Silver Ridge. The Screeline in particular are a very viable competitor with similar stretch and breathability, and the Silver Ridge will cost you half as much or even less.
See the Arc'teryx Lefroy Pant
Materials: 96% nylon, 4% spandex
What we like: Stretchy and a great fit.
What we don’t: No waist adjustment for those in between sizes.
Women’s: Patagonia Quandary
A quality climbing pant often makes for a wonderful hiking trouser, and the Patagonia Quandary is a great example of this. Patagonia checks off all the important boxes: articulated knees, gusseted crotch, and a tough but light fabric with a DWR coating. More, the fabric is bluesign approved, which means the pants are sourced from and made with sustainable materials. In many ways, the Quandarys are very similar to the ever-popular prAna Stretch Zions above. Both offer excellent stretch and a just right fit that pleases climbers and hikers alike. Priced the same as the Stretch Zion’s as well, your final decision may just come down to fit. And lacking the small waist adjustment that you get with the prAnas, we give them the edge—but only slightly.
See the Patagonia Quandarry Pant
Materials: 93% nylon, 7% spandex
What we like: Excellent fit and breathability.
What we don’t: Pricey and tough to find in the U.S.
Women's: Rab Helix
UK-based Rab is well known by European hikers but not fully on the radar of those across the pond. We love Rab gear for its performance fit, simple styling, and toughness. Their pants have been reliable partners of ours on adventures around the globe, including places like Patagonia and Norway. The Vertex is Rab’s lightweight mountain trekking pant and has the lightest feel of any model on this list. It’s a terrific option for everything from easy hikes to backpacking and climbing.
The Vertex is quick drying, comfortable, and made of a single weave soft shell fabric, which increases wind resistance. And despite being labeled as a three-season pant, the Vertex offers decent wind and weather protection even on chilly days. Pockets are a bit scarce, but you still get two zippered hand pockets at the front and one zippered thigh pocket. The right hand front pocket does have a hang loop with a plastic clip, making for quick and easy drying at a campsite. Perhaps the biggest drawback to Rab is its price, which sits about $20 higher than comparable models from OR and prAna. Availability is also a challenge, as only select retailers in the U.S. carry the brand.
See the Rab Vertex Pant
Materials: 65% polyester, 35% cotton
What we like: Very tough and durable.
What we don’t: We have a hard time getting over the cotton in the G-1000 blend.
Women's: Fjallraven Vidda Pro
The Vidda Pro from Swedish company Fjallraven is a different breed. It’s very rare in 2017 to see hiking pants with cotton—or any outdoor gear for that matter—but the Vidda Pro is made from Fjallraven’s tough G-1000 material that is 35% cotton, which is less than ideal in terms of water resistance. And at 21 ounces, the pant is heavier than any of the options above. But for certain outdoor uses—serious bushwacking in particular—the Vidda Pro can make a whole lot of the sense.
This is by far the toughest hiking pant on this list with fully reinforced knees and butt. More, the thickness of the G-1000 fabric allows you to move through brush and slide over rocks without worrying about tears. You also get a decent amount of extra warmth and protection for downtimes and sitting around camp at night. We don’t love the Vidda Pro’s for hikers and backpackers covering a lot of ground, but for off-trail jaunts (think fishing and hunting) they are an interesting option. For waterproofing, Fjallraven recommends applying their environmentally-friendly beeswax for added protection. We like the concept but it lacks in practicality.
See the Fjallraven Vidda Pro
Materials: 50% nylon, 43% polyester, 7% spandex
What we like: Super tough and water resistant.
What we don’t: Heavy and overkill for most conditions.
Women's: Outdoor Research Cirque Pant
Without intending to open a new can of worms, certain types of cold weather hiking and bushwhacking beckons a more serious pant than the options above. For this reason, we’ve added a technical softshell to this list: the Cirque from Outdoor Research. This pant offers an impressive mix of protection from the elements and mobility: it’s water resistant, breathable, and tough enough for off-trail adventuring that might tear some of the lighter weight pants to shreds (the face fabric of the Cirque is a burly 90D). For hiking, the double-weave stretch fabric allows for much better range of movement and breathability than you get with a rain pant or hardshell.
Keep in mind that the Cirque is a specialty pant. It’s listed as being ideal for “high-energy climbing, mountaineering, and ice climbing,” so it’s clearly built with alpine conditions in mind. The pant is water resistant but not waterproof (for a true rain pant see the Marmot PreCip below), meaning that it will eventually soak through in sustained downpour. And at nearly 20 ounces, it weighs roughly double most lightweight hiking pants on this list. But for fall, winter, and spring hiking in nasty or off-trail conditions, the Cirque can be your bomber hiking pant. It doubles well for snowshoeing and spring skiing.
See the Outdoor Research Cirque Pant
Materials: 96% nylon, 4% elastane
What we like: Great price for a soft-shell hiking pant
What we don’t: Can be too hot for summer use.
Women's: Columbia Saturday Trail
A surprise inclusion on this list, the Columbia Royce Peak offer great cool and even cold weather performance at a very good price. This budget softshell won us over with their excellent fit and stretch. They shed water and rain well, and were our favorite pants for winter activities when you don’t necessarily need a seam-sealed waterproof option, like snowshoeing. A gusseted crotch and articulated knees that deliver excellent range of motion and comfort are notable features at this price point. A nice, low profile mesh pocket along the outer hem is both great for storage and can be unzipped to release hot air while hiking. One feature missing, particularly for the style of pant, is a drawcord cinch along the bottom of the pant legs to better seal out the elements. Outside of that minor complaint, we highly recommend the Royce Peak’s for 3-season (non-summer) outdoor use.
See the Columbia Royce Peak
Materials: 100% nylon
What we like: Durable; includes a belt.
What we don’t: Baggy fit and lower quality materials.
Women’s: The North Face Paramount 2.0
Year after year, one of the best selling hiking pants is The North Face Paramount Peak II Convertible. With an all-nylon shell with a DWR coating, zip-off legs, and an included belt for adjusting the fit, these pants do the job for most hikers who don’t need a serious performance piece. It doesn’t hurt to have The North Face name behind them, and the Paramount Peak II does come in about $20 cheaper than the Kuhl Renegade Convertible above.
However, in testing the Paramount Peak II’s we were struck by the fact that these pants fall short in just about every measureable category. Our biggest complaints center on fit. We prefer a more tailored, athletic cut for hiking—and understand the appeal of a relaxed fit—but the Paramount Peak is so baggy that it almost feels like wearing a ski pant. More, the excess fabric makes a noticeable swishing sound at each step that quickly becomes an annoyance. Finally, the all-nylon construction doesn’t stretch and generally feels cheaper than an $80 pant should. If you prefer a generous fit or have an allegiance to The North Face, give the Paramount Peak II a look. Otherwise, we prefer the options above.
See The North Face Paramount Peak II
Materials: 100% nylon, NanoPro waterproof membrane
What we like: The only waterproof pant on this list.
What we don’t: Great for storms, but not breathable enough for all-day use.
Women's: Marmot PreCip
All of the pants above are traditional hiking designs (or softshells in the case of the OR Cirque), but we wanted to include at least one true rain pant. The Marmot PreCip pants—from the same line as the popular rain jacket with the same name—can be worn over your hiking pants when the rain hits or even over a pair of long underwear if you expect it to continue all day. With a waterproof NanoPro membrane and fully taped seams, these pants will keep you dry when the going gets tough unlike anything else on this list.
Keep in mind that you probably won’t want to wear the PreCip as your primary hiking pant for extended periods of time. Although comfortable, rain pants won’t move as well with the body as the nylon blends above. And of course, the waterproof membrane won’t breathe nearly as well either. But at less than 9 ounces, the PreCip is great to have in your pack on hiking days with mixed conditions. We also like the fit, which is baggy enough for layering but still works well when you’re on the move.
See the Marmot PreCip Pant
|Outdoor Research Ferrosi||$79||86% nylon, 14% spandex||10.7 oz.||No (available)||No|
|prAna Stretch Zion||$85||97% nylon, 3% spandex||13.6 oz.||No (available)||Yes|
|Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible||$60||100% nylon||12.6 oz.||Yes||Yes|
|Kuhl Renegade Convertible||$99||88% nylon, 12% spandex||17 oz.||Yes||No|
|REI Screeline||$79.50||88% nylon, 12% spandex||14.3 oz.||No (available)||Yes|
|Arc'teryx Lefroy||$109||86% nylon, 14% elastane||9.9 oz.||No||Yes|
|Patagonia Quandary||$79||96% nylon, 4% spandex||11.2 oz.||No||No|
|Rab Vertex Pant||$100||93% nylon, 7% spandex||9.8 oz.||No||No|
|Fjallraven Vidda Pro||$150||65% polyester, 35% cotton||21 oz.||No||No|
|Outdoor Research Cirque Pant||$150||93% nylon/polyester, 7% spandex||20.5 oz.||No||No|
|Columbia Royce Peak||$60||96% nylon, 4% elastane||13.1 oz.||No||No|
|The North Face Paramount Peak II||$80||100% nylon||13.8 oz.||Yes||Yes|
|Marmot PreCip Pant||$80||100% nylon, NanoPro||9 oz.||No||No|
- Articulated Knees and Gussets
- Integrated Belts
- Water Resistance
- Best Uses
- Convertible and Roll Up Pants
Hiking pants are typically made of a nylon blend, and, to be honest, the materials listed on the specs sheet often mean very little. You can only learn so much about how the pants will perform by knowing that it’s made of 97% nylon. As a result, our recommendations are pretty basic when it comes to materials. Depending on your priorities, we suggest looking for some elastane (spandex) for better range of motion. The added give in the material is a real boon on the trail. Pants that are particularly stretchy, like the aptly named prAna Stretch Zion (and women's prAna Halle), also make for excellent climbing and bouldering pants.
A common type of hiking pant is the lightweight nylon softshell, which combines sufficient protection from windy and wet weather with decent overall durability and breathability. These pants also have that extra “give” that we so appreciate. A very lightweight pant like the popular Columbia Silver Ridge is made with 100% nylon and doesn’t have much stretch, making it better suited for more casual endeavors like travel and easier day hiking.
We also have three outliers on this list. The Fjallraven Vidda Pro is made with a tough G-1000 material that is 35% cotton, a rarity these days in the outdoor industry. To boost the water resistance, Fjallraven recommends adding a bees wax treatment to exterior. The second is the Outdoor Research Cirque, a true softshell pant that is ideal for wet weather and bushwhacking. The third is the Marmot PreCip, a rain pant that is the only waterproof option of this list but lacks in breathability for extended treks.
Pockets aren’t for everyone—we often prefer to not overload our hiking pants with excess bulk—but organization can be a plus for some. Hiking pants will typically offer a few of good storage options, in the form of a cargo pocket or two. One standout in our group is the Kuhl Renegade Convertible. These pants have creative storage options with large zippered thigh and compartment-style pockets. The various sizes means you should be able to find a spot for just about anything you decide to throw in. But if you’re like us, a simpler design like the single side pocket you get with the prAna Stretch Zion or Halle is plenty.
Two wonderful design features to look out for in your hiking pant search are articulated knees and gussets built into the crotch of the pants. Articulated knees mimic a person’s walking motion by creating a natural bend in the knee area of the pants. In contrast to a traditional, straight-legged pant, the improved range of motion is immediately apparent. A gusset is a patch of diamond shaped fabric that runs along the inner thigh of the pants, replacing a standard seam. As with an articulated knee design, the extra fabric improves range of motion and general fit and comfort.
Originally popular with climbers that required a good fit to perform at peak levels, these features have trickled down nicely into the hiking pant world. There are extra costs associated with the greater complexity in constructing the pants, so short day hikers on well-maintained trails with flatter grades or those on a budget can probably go without either. But the very tangible benefits can be enjoyed by just about everyone, so we highly recommend stretching the budget and choosing pants that include both. It just makes for a more comfortable wear.
Dialing in the fit can often be a difficult thing, so those that fall in-between sizes (like yours truly) really appreciate a waistband with a little adjustability. Enter the integrated belt. One of our favorites is the prAna Stretch Zion, which has a low profile small adjuster made of webbing at the front of the pants that resembles a shortened belt. The downside of an integrated belt, particularly one that wraps all the way around your waist, is the extra bulk, which can potentially interfere with a pack’s hip belt. The Columbia Silver Ridge has a full-length belt as well as some elastic in the waistband, which strikes us as a bit more than necessary.
No hiking pant that you’d want to bring along on a summer backpacking trip will be truly waterproof. The reasons for that are the same reason you don’t often find yourself hiking in a fully waterproof jacket unless it’s actually raining: they just don’t breathe as well. So how good are hiking pants when the rain starts to fall? Depending on the model, they can actually be pretty decent performers. And as a result, we often prefer to keep our hiking pants on rather than swapping out for a rain pant even in a rain shower.
Most hiking pants shed light rain pretty well, thanks to a durable water repellent coating (you’ll often see if listed as DWR), which makes the droplets bead up and roll off. And, as long as you avoid a more casual cotton construction, the nylon blends aren’t very prone to soaking up moisture. If and when they eventually soak through, drying time isn’t too shabby either, reason enough for us to recommend sticking to hiking pants in all but the most extreme rainy days (and this is coming from a group of Seattleites).
How thick the material is will play a big role in a hiking pant’s best uses. You’ll see anything from tropical and summer ready thin pants all the way to medium thick softshell pants in the “hiking pants” category, so it’s important to know what you’re looking at. Below we’ve broken down all of our top picks into categories based on seasonality. Keep in mind, throwing on a pair of baselayers underneath can make many 3-season pants very agreeable in the wintertime as well.
- Men’s: Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible, Arc'teryx Lefroy
- Women’s: Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible, Arc'teryx Sylvite
- Men’s: OR Ferrosi, Kuhl Liberator, prAna Stretch Zion, Rab Vertex
- Women’s: OR Ferrosi, Kuhl Liberator, prAna Halle, Rab Helix
- Men’s: Columbia Royce Peak, Outdoor Research Cirque
- Women's: Columbia Saturday Trail, Outdoor Research Cirque
Beyond temperature considerations, thickness often correlates with durability and tear resistance. Most of the softshell pants like the Columbia Royce Peak, prAna Halle and Stretch Zion, and OR Ferrosi are tough enough that we had few concerns brushing up against and squeezing between rocks and brush on the trail. Both the Kuhl Liberator and Splash Roll Up have surprising levels of durability despite their lighter feel. Truly summer-specific pants like the Columbia Silver Ridge are more tear prone and should be restricted to more casual hiking and backpacking.
With the ability to zip-off and convert into shorts, convertible pants are a popular choice for year-round hikers and outdoor adventurers. The benefits are readily apparent: a 2-in-1 style means you don’t have to pack extra clothing, and it's a quick process to increase leg ventilation. It’s no wonder nearly every pant that made our “best of” list has a convertible model.
And while we do appreciate the flexibility a convertible pant brings, in use, it’s still not for everyone. Outside of the potential qualms that some have about the look, zip-off pants are often not as practical as you’d probably think. The extra zippers can be a pain to use, and no matter the design, they add weight and bulk. And in designing a pant that has to accommodate the additional pinch points the zippers create, you’ll often get a baggier fit. One of the better designs on the market, the Kuhl Liberator is still a bit bulkier feeling than a standard hiking pant, even with its low profile zippers. As a result, roll up pants are becoming more and more popular in both men’s and women’s styles. The big benefit is you don’t have to fuss with zippers, all that’s required is a low profile button and some tabs to secure the pant legs, and you get many of the ventilating benefits of a zip-off in a ¾ length.
Finding the right fit in hiking pants can be a tough task, particularly in the past when the options were more limited. At that time, we found that the Rab brand was one of the few offering a more agreeable cut that didn’t feel excessively baggy. Nowadays there are a number of pants that hit that sweet spot for us, with an athletic fit that isn’t overly tight. Outdoor Research, prAna, and Rab all have this concept down quite well, and Columbia has recently changed the fit of a number of their pants to bring them in line with the competition. For a more relaxed fit, the Kuhl Liberator strike us as a good balance of a bit of extra space without swishing around like a pair of old windbreakers. One pant that we nearly omitted from this list in part due to its too baggy fit is the über popular North Face Paramount Peak II. Its excessively loose and bulky fit had a serious impact on its trail performance.