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 and stretchy nylon for mobility 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 matter as well. Below are our favorite hiking pants of 2023. For more information, see our comparison table and buying advice after the picks. Of note: This article includes picks for both men and women, but we’ve also written a dedicated round-up on the best women’s hiking pants.
- Best Overall Hiking Pant: Outdoor Research Ferrosi
- Best Budget Hiking Pant: Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo
- Best Convertible Hiking Pant: Kuhl Renegade Convertible
- Best Softshell Pant for Alpine Use: Arc'teryx Gamma
- Best Rain Pant for Hiking: Marmot PreCip Eco
Best Overall Hiking Pant
Materials: 86% nylon, 14% spandex
Weight: 10.7 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Standout fabric that's stretchy, breathable, and tough.
What we don’t: Doesn’t come with a built-in belt; not as around-town-friendly as some.
We’ve tested a wide range of hiking pants over the years, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better combination of comfort and performance than with Outdoor Research’s Ferrosi. Featuring the brand’s signature Ferrosi Fabric, this semi-trim-fitting pant provides an excellent mix of weight, durability, stretch, and all-around mobility. In addition, it excels at temperature regulation: We’ve found it’s tough enough to cut the wind and shed light rain but dries quickly and breathes when the thermometer starts to climb. It’s worth noting that the Ferrosi was recently updated, with highlights including a bump in sustainability—the fabric is now bluesign-approved and 46% recycled—but the winning formula has gone largely unchanged for years, which is a good thing.
The Ferrosi takes our top hiking pants spot for 2023, but we do have a couple nitpicks with the design. First off, you don’t get a built-in belt, and the drawstrings along the inside of the waistband are a less effective solution (they’re harder to quickly access and adjust if you need to tighten or loosen the fit). Additionally, the thin fabric and basic pocket layout make the Ferrosi less appealing than alternatives like the Prana Stretch Zion II below for everyday wear and travel. That said, for hitting the backcountry, it’s as good as it gets on the market currently. Of note: The Ferrosi line has expanded recently and now includes a convertible option, jogger and travel variations, and the climbing-ready climbing-ready Crux Pant that features reinforced Cordura on the knees.
See the Men's Outdoor Research Ferrosi See the Women's Outdoor Research Ferrosi
Best Budget Hiking Pant
Materials: 100% nylon, polyester mesh panels
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Great value and lots of pockets; breathes well in the heat.
What we don’t: Awkward fit and materials won’t last forever.
For casual hiking and even summer backpacking, the Columbia Silver Ridge is a great value in a hiking pant. Offered at a reasonable $60 and often available for considerably less on Amazon, these pants perform well with breathable and quick-drying fabrics (this also makes them popular among travelers). Storage isn’t lacking either, including deep and easily accessible hand pockets, three massive cargo pockets (two at the back and one on the right leg), and a zippered security pocket on the left thigh. All in all, we’ve been pleasantly surprised with the performance and comfort of these pants, and the generous storage layout is the cherry on top.
What are the shortcomings of the Columbia Silver Ridge? Despite being reasonably well built for the price, the materials feel relatively thin and don’t provide as much weather protection as some of the pricier options on this list. In addition, the zippers certainly aren’t the smoothest we tested, and the cheaper materials won’t hold up as well as the more premium designs here. Finally, many users report issues with the fit, including tightness around the waist and upper thighs and a roomier cut lower down. This makes the Silver Ridge more prone to swishing on the trail, and we prefer a more tapered design for long days outside. But it’s hard to argue with the price or vast color and size options, which is why we’ve included the Silver Ridge here. And for those who want zip-off capabilities, the pant also is also offered in a convertible variation for $5 more.
See the Men's Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo See the Women's Silver Ridge 2.0
Best Convertible Hiking Pant
Materials: 95% nylon, 5% spandex
Weight: 1 lb. 1 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: A versatile pant with ample storage; holds up well to rough use.
What we don’t: Slightly baggy fit and a bit heavy.
Kuhl clothing has distinctive styling in general, but it’s the durable fabric and well-sorted zip-off design that won the Renegade Convertibles a spot on this list. The thoughtful mix of materials and solid construction make the Renegade impressively tough—ours still look like new after extensive use—and the generous amount of stretch is a nice upgrade from another popular (but since-discontinued) Kuhl hiking pant we’ve tested, the Liberator Convertible. The fit of the Renegades is a little baggy for our tastes, but those that like a relaxed cut should find them perfectly suitable.
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 Renegade 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 Men's Kuhl Renegade Convertible
Best Softshell Pant for Alpine Use
Materials: 88% nylon, 12% elastane
Weight: 11.8 oz.
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Tough, mountain-ready build with great stretchiness.
What we don’t: Expensive and runs warm in mild temps.
Outdoor Research’s Ferrosi above is a great match for summer heat, but on a trek through Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash, we turned to the more serious Arc’teryx Gamma. What sets this softshell pant apart is its fantastic stretchiness, durability, and weight. We wore it all day in the alpine for nine days while hiking, setting up camp, filtering water, cooking, and lounging, and it came home looking like new. Moreover, the Gamma’s high-quality softshell fabric was stretchy enough to layer comfortably over thermal pants in the cold evenings and retained its shape through it all.
At $180, the Gamma is far and away the most expensive pant on our list. For most three-season backpacking trips, you can spend significantly less and be just as pleased with the performance. In fact, you’ll likely find it overkill if temperatures rise, as the burly build can’t match the breathability of a much-thinner alternative like the OR Ferrosi or Patagonia Quandary (below). All in all, the Gamma lacks the versatility of our top picks, but for alpine adventures or shoulder seasons when you need a step up in toughness and weather protection without adding much weight, it’s a terrific option. And a final note on fit: It’s worth consulting the sizing chart. We ended up going down a size and wound up with a just-right-for-us trim cut.
See the Men's Arc'teryx Gamma See the Women's Arc'teryx Gamma
Best Rain Pant for Hiking
Materials: 100% nylon, NanoPro waterproof membrane
Weight: 8.1 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Waterproof and includes zippered pockets at a good price.
What we don’t: Great for storms, but not breathable enough for all-day and active use.
All of the pants above are traditional hiking designs (or a softshell in the case of the Arc’teryx Gamma), but we wanted to include at least one true rain pant. The Marmot PreCip Eco—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 as an outer layer around camp for an extra dose of wind protection and warmth. With a waterproof NanoPro Eco membrane and fully taped seams, these pants will keep you dry when the going gets tough unlike anything else on this list. And the ankle-height side zips make it relatively easy to slide them on and off (a full-zip PreCip Pant is also available for another $20).
Keep in mind that rain pants are not a replacement for the options above, and they are best used as a supplementary and/or emergency layer in wet and inclement weather. Although relatively comfortable, the PreCip Eco won’t move as well with the body as a stretchy nylon blend (plus, the rigid fabric is more prone to tears). 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 for multi-day trips or 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 Men's Marmot PreCip Eco See the Women's Marmot PreCip Eco
Best of the Rest
Materials: 94% nylon, 6% elastane
Weight: 9.9 oz.
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Premium build, great trim fit, and highly breathable.
What we don’t: Pricey for a lightweight hiking pant.
Many trekking pants from technical brands like Arc’teryx are heavy and almost shell-like in feel (like the Gamma above). That’s why we were so excited by the Gamma Quick Dry, which is one of the company’s lightest pants at around 10 ounces and built for warm conditions. The Gamma breathes extremely well with its TerraTex fabric (and dries fast, too), offers a good amount of stretch, and has our favorite fit on this list that isn’t too baggy or too tight. The tapered leg design won’t be for everyone, although we personally like it, especially when paired with low-top shoes. All told, you can use this pant for three-season 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, Arc’teryx’s build quality is worth the extra cost. The company always seems to pay attention to the small details, and the Quick Dry is no exception. However, these pants are considerably more expensive than other lightweight options like the OR Ferrosi and budget Columbia Silver Ridge above. The Ferrosi in particular is a very viable competitor with similar breathability and a little more stretch—although it doesn’t have a belt like the Gamma and is undeniably less premium-feeling—and the Silver Ridge will cost you less than half as much. In the end, the Gamma’s value (or lack thereof) pushes it slightly down our rankings, but we still think it’s a fantastic all-around option. For more variable temperatures, check out the Gamma Lightweight Pant, which features slightly heavier and stretchier fabric (14% vs. 6% elastane), fewer pockets (3 vs. 5), and a roomier fit.
See the Men's Arc'teryx Gamma Quick Dry
Materials: 100% polyester
Weight: 14.4 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Clean crossover design for hiking and daily use.
What we don’t: None of the pockets have closures; does not come in a women's version.
Kuhl makes a dizzying array of hiking pant models, and there are more quality options aside from the popular Renegade Convertible above. For something a little different, the sleek Silencr hits the sweet spot between performance and casual wear. The softshell material is tough, comfortable, and resists the elements well including a DWR finish. But the design of this pant is so streamlined and clean that it’s easy to wear around town. It’s true that the Silencr isn’t as mountain-ready as other softshell models like the Arc’teryx Gamma above or Outdoor Research Cirque II below, but we love the crossover appeal.
Our biggest gripe with the Kuhl Silencr pant is that none of the pockets have closures or even clips. With two large, drop-in style side pockets along with four standard pockets on the front and back, the storage options are plentiful, but none allow you to securely stow your electronics or wallet. This isn’t a deal-breaker for us, however, and the Silencr still has a lot going for it in terms of versatility. For a hiking pant that can be worn every day and excels at travel—and is available in both tapered and full-leg fits—it’s a nice option.
See the Men's Kuhl Silencr
Materials: 95% nylon, 5% elastane
Weight: 13.5 oz.
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Great organization, built-in belt, and sustainable construction.
What we don’t: ReZion fabric looks and feels cheaper than the original Stretch Zion.
It’s always risky business updating a legendary line, but Prana dove in and gave their extremely popular Stretch Zion a full revamp for 2022. The “II” utilizes an all-new fabric—their more sustainable ReZion blend—and sees a number of changes, including a new button closure and slightly different fit. Importantly, they retained a lot of what made the pant popular in the first place: There’s plenty of stretch in the construction, the built-in belt is helpful for dialing in fit, and you get ample pockets for hiking and travel. On paper, there’s a whole lot to like about Prana’s latest effort.
Now for the bad news: We think the latest Stretch Zion II is less competitive than the original. We count ourselves among the legions of Stretch Zion fans—the pant was our top-rated hiking design for years—but the new one looks and feels cheaper. To start, the updated ReZion fabric lacks the supremely soft and comfy feel of the original. The replacement is less softshell-like and silkier and smoother, plus it’s oddly shimmery in the sun (this was true for us in both the Black and Dark Iron colorways). In addition, the standard model has a more pronounced flare at the bottom, which led to a lot of annoying pant-leg swishing. We also tried the “Slim Pant” version, which resolves the pant-leg issue, but the trim fit elsewhere will be polarizing for some. In the end, there are still a fair amount of positives with the updated model, but it has lost its status as our favorite hiking option.
See the Men's Prana Stretch Zion II See the Women's Prana Halle II
Materials: 65% polyester, 35% cotton
Weight: 1 lb. 3.7 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Classic Fjallraven build that's tough, durable, and now more breathable.
What we don’t: Thick and not ideal for covering long distances.
It’s rare in 2023 to see hiking pants with cotton—or any outdoor gear for that matter—but the Vidda Pro from Swedish company Fjallraven is a different breed. This pant is made from Fjallraven’s tough G-1000 material that is 35% cotton, which is heavier than most other options on this list, and we all know that it doesn’t exactly shine in terms of water resistance (for waterproofing, Fjallraven recommends applying their environmentally friendly beeswax for added protection). On the flip side, the thickness of the G-1000 fabric allows you to move through brush and slide over rocks without worrying about tears. Simply put, the toughness and durability can’t be beat.
It’s worth noting that we’ve included the Vidda Pro Ventilated version here. This design takes the original and adds side zips between the thigh and knee for dumping heat, along with stretch fabric on the insides of the legs for better mobility. Both are positive changes in our opinion and make the pant more versatile. We still don’t love the Vidda Pro Ventilated for hikers and backpackers covering a lot of ground, but for off-trail jaunts (think fishing and hunting) or extra warmth and protection around camp, it’s an interesting option. For a lighter option from Fjall but without the venting, check out their new Vidda Pro Lite ($155).
See the Men's Fjallraven Vidda Pro Ventilated
Materials: 95% nylon, 5% spandex
Weight: 10 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Well-built and good-looking crossover hiking and travel pant.
What we don’t: Thin build is best only in the summer months.
Billed as a lightweight hiking and travel pant, the Patagonia Quandary balances performance and casual needs. And we’ve found it checks all the important boxes: clean styling, articulated knees, gusseted crotch, and a tough but light fabric with a DWR coating and 50+ UPF rating for sun protection. Further, Patagonia leads the charge in sustainable measures, and the Quandary’s nylon is 65% recycled, and the fabric is bluesign-approved, which means the pants are sourced from and made with sustainable materials.
In many ways, the Quandary is a lighter and simpler alternative to the Prana Stretch Zion II above. Both offer good stretch and an athletic fit that pleases hikers and urban explorers alike (note: The Patagonia is cut tighter), but we prefer the belt adjustment on the Pranas to the Quandary's internal drawcords. And for those that prioritize pockets and organization, the Stretch Zion gets the clear edge. Finally, although the Patagonia's 3.5-ounce weight savings and streamlined design may appeal to warm-weather backpackers, we still favor the more versatile and tougher Stretch Zion for most uses.
See the Men's Patagonia Quandary See the Women's Patagonia Quandary
Materials: 63% nylon, 26% polyester, 11% spandex
Weight: 14.5 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Softshell build is very durable; reasonable price.
What we don’t: Not ideal for hot conditions.
Most hikers head straight for a lightweight nylon pant, which is the makeup of many of our choices above, but we can tell you firsthand that a burlier softshell is underrated. Here’s the story: The REI Activator 3.0 feels thicker than a true summer pant and weighs a bit more than popular models like the OR Ferrosi or Columbia Silver Ridge, but you get more for it. The softshell fabric is noticeably burlier yet still supremely comfortable, and we’ve worn multiple generations of this line start to finish on long trail days. It’s tough and helps block out those sharp branches you walk by, handles camp with ease (both in sitting on rough ground and providing a boost in warmth), is water- and wind-resistant, and hikes as well as any pant on this list.
The biggest concern with a softshell pant like the REI Activator is that it will run warm. In practice, we’ve taken it on hikes up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit and have not experienced any overheating, which is a pleasant surprise. We wouldn’t bring the Activator on a true summer or desert hike in hot conditions, but it’s a nice three-season pant that can take you all the way down to near freezing. All in all, we can’t help but love the versatility and performance boost of the Activator, which has made it one of our go-to trekking pants.
See the Men's REI Co-op Activator 3.0 See the Women's REI Activator 3.0
Materials: 94% nylon, 6% elastane
Weight: 9 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Great in warm temps and a good value.
What we don’t: We prefer the trimmer fit of the Ferrosi above.
For hiking in hot weather, the Marmot Arch Rock offers impressive temperature regulation at a decent price. For $10 to $20 less than the competition, the Marmot has a full suite of features like articulated knees, a gusseted crotch, and a hand-sized zippered closure along the right pant leg. It’s also among the lightest hiking pants on our list at just 9 ounces but managed to hold up well while hiking and scrambling in Utah’s canyon country. In temperatures topping 80 degrees Fahrenheit, they kept us nearly as comfortable as the premium Arc’teryx Gamma Quick Dry above.
Despite good performance in hot weather at a value price, we have the Arch Rock midpack on our list because it isn’t as versatile as the competition. The pant is too thin for true three-season use and noticeably less stretchy than the popular Outdoor Research Ferrosi. Additionally, the fit lands a little too far on the baggy end of the spectrum for our tastes, although that’s mostly a matter of personal preference. And for those that land in between sizes (like our 31-inch-waisted tester), you may have a hard time getting an ideal fit (the 30 was snug, while the 32 required a belt). But the price is right, and the Arch Rock lines up really nicely for those looking for a highly breathable design.
See the Men's Marmot Arch Rock
Materials: 86% polyester, 14% spandex
Weight: 11.1 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Very stretchy and durable build with zippered storage for all five pockets.
What we don’t: Thick fabric is too hot for summer-time temps.
A recent addition to Patagonia’s hiking pant line, the Terravia Trail combines a durable yet stretchy build with a very functional storage layout. Starting with the stretch, this slim-fitting pant includes a healthy dose of spandex (14%) for excellent mobility and all-around comfort. They’ve even incorporated elastic into the waistband to give it a jogger-like fit and feel. That said, the Terravia is still sufficiently trail-ready with a highly durable and abrasion-resistant exterior, DWR coating for shedding light moisture, and zippered closures on five pockets. And with zippers at the bottom of the cuffs and a small metal hook to secure to your laces, the lower legs of the pant can be tuned to fit over anything from low-profile trail runners to bulky hiking boots.
What’s not to like with the Terravia Trail Pant? For one, the sheer number of zippers in the design has us concerned about its long-term durability (and we’ve unfortunately had a number of Patagonia zippers fail on us recently). Further, the fabric is among the thickest on this list, and we found it ran hot when backpacking in temperatures above about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Finally, the 31-inch inseam is a polarizing choice: Most pants either offer a standard 32-inch inseam or a 30-inch option, so this in-between length may not work for some folks. But if the sizing is good for you—it was spot-on for our tester—and you like the security of zippered storage, the stretchy and comfortable Terravia has plenty of appeal.
See the Men's Patagonia Terravia Trail
Materials: 98% cotton, 2% elastane
Belt included: No (drawstring)
What we like: Tough, comfortable, and one of the most stylish options here.
What we don’t: Cotton-heavy build limits the pants’ backcountry appeal.
Athleisure brand Vuori is a relative newcomer to the outdoor scene, but many folks love their products’ balance of fashion and function. True to form, their Ripstop Pant here is easily one of the most stylish options on the market, combining super durable materials and practical storage in a modern and good-looking package. In a departure from standard nylon and polyester constructions, the Ripstop’s cotton-heavy build does limit its backcountry appeal—we don’t advise bringing the pants along on multi-day outings into the wilderness or into unpredictable weather (Colorado’s notorious mid-day thunderstorms, for instance). But the Ripstop excels as a summer day hiker and looks right at home at après, which is a winning combination for many.
Comfort is another highlight of the Vuori Ripstop’s design (and many cotton pants in general). It can’t match the mobility of performance options like the Patagonia Quandary, Prana Stretch Zion, or Outdoor Research Ferrosi above, but the touch of elastane (2%) and gusseted crotch offer enough give for most activities. We also found the unique waistband design—including an exterior drawstring and elastic along the perimeter—to be very functional for dialing in fit. The biggest deterrent for many will be the lack of performance chops: Cotton doesn’t breathe all that well and holds onto moisture when wet, which is a bad combination for high exertion and warmer temperatures. But the Ripstop Pant has its place as a casual option that can hold its own on easy to moderate day hikes, and we certainly appreciate the toughness and confidence-inspiring build quality.
See the Men's Vuori Ripstop See the Women's Vuori Ripstop
Materials: Nylon w/stretch
Weight: 9.9 oz.
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Super light and packable; includes a removable belt.
What we don’t: Button fastener fell off early in our test.
Trimming weight from their popular Terra pant, Montane’s Terra Pack has a streamlined and feathery ultralight build. The impressively low 9.9-ounce weight is largely due to the proprietary Vector Lite fabric, which we found breathes well and offers excellent stretch for scrambling and crouching to take photos (a plus while backpacking Peru’s Huayhuash Circuit). The pant also has one of the more customizable fit systems with an elasticized waistband, both a button and snap closure, and a removable belt. Along with an athletic cut and articulated knees, the Terra Pack scores highly for trail comfort for those moving fast and light.
The thin fabric makes the Terra Pack one of the lightest on our list, but it also surprised us with its versatility. The pant showed no signs of wear following an extended trek through rough terrain, and the DWR coating shed light rain and snow. One item that didn’t hold up was the button fastener at the bottom of the leg, which fell off just six days into the trip. This was a letdown as we appreciated the ability to taper the bottom hem and secure it above our boots. Outside of that durability hiccup, we think the Terra Pack is a well-rounded yet impressively ultralight option.
See the Montane Terra Pack
Materials: 85% nylon, 15% elastane
Weight: 10.2 oz.
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Nice mix of weight, breathability, and toughness; highly adjustable belt.
What we don’t: Only offered in four waist sizes and one inseam length.
Black Diamond is a climbing company at its core, but plenty of their mountain-ready gear translates nicely to hiking and backpacking. The Alpine Light Pants are a great example: The very stretchy build is comfortable on the trail, and BD hit a really nice mix of breathability, weight (the pants pack down quite small), durability, and weather protection. For reference, they were our go-to pant for a recent trip to Patagonia and held up extremely well to wild swings in temperature and conditions. The Alpine Light is a bit spendy at $125, and we don’t love the organization—the thigh pocket is located in an awkward spot that makes is pretty useless while hiking—but overall, we think it’s a solid effort.
Unlike many of the apparel specialists above, Black Diamond only offers the Alpine Light
Pants in four waist sizes (S-XL) and just one inseam length. As such, there’s a decent chance you’ll end up with an in-between or less-than-ideal fit. That was true for us: The medium was baggier in the legs than we prefer and lacked the tailored cut that we’re able to get with alternatives from KÜHL, Prana, Patagonia, and others. The good news is the built-in belt is easy to use and has a wide adjustment range, but we’d much prefer a larger slate of available sizes. That said, if the Alpine Light works for you, it’s a well-built and versatile three-season option.
See the Men's Black Diamond Alpine Light See the Women's BD Alpine Light
Materials: 96% nylon, 4% spandex
Belt included: No
What we like: Available in a wide range of sizes; easy-to-remove legs.
What we don’t: Strange fit and no integrated belt.
REI Co-op has an interesting history with hiking pants and the lineup frequently changes. We really liked the Screeline in years past, but that model has been discontinued (at least for the time being). And the Activator 3.0 above is a very solid softshell option, but it’s not a traditional hiking pant for warm spring and summer conditions. The Co-op’s biggest seller is the Sahara, which is an attractively priced convertible pant at $80 but has its fair share of shortcomings, which is why it’s included so far down this list.
What are our concerns with the latest Sahara Convertible? Past versions were on the normal to baggy end of the spectrum, but REI went in the other direction here with a regular fit and a flared bottom (making it prone to swishing on the trail). Additionally, the pant no longer includes an integrated belt, which is a feature that we really appreciate. Finally, the belt loops are surprisingly small and reportedly only work with narrow designs. Taken together, the Sahara certainly aren’t the worst hiking pants out there, but we prefer the convertible options from Columbia and Kuhl above. For 2023, REI expanded their offerings with the Trailmade Pant ($70), which drops the convertible feature and simplifies the pocket layout.
See the Men's REI Sahara Convertible See the Women's REI Sahara Convertible
Materials: 50% nylon, 43% polyester, 7% spandex
Weight: 1 lb. 5.8 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Alpine-ready build that's super tough and water-resistant.
What we don’t: Heavy and overkill for most conditions.
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 II 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 II 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 II is a specialty pant. It’s listed as being ideal for “high-energy alpine climbing, mountaineering, and ice climbing,” so it’s clearly built with alpine conditions in mind. The pant is water-resistant but not waterproof, meaning that it will eventually soak through in sustained downpour. And at over 1 pound 5 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 Men's Outdoor Research Cirque II See the Women's Outdoor Research Cirque II
|Outdoor Research Ferrosi||$99||86% nylon, 14% elastane||10.7 oz.||No (available)||No|
|Columbia Silver Ridge||$60||100% nylon||Unavail.||No (available)||Yes|
|Kuhl Renegade Convertible||$109||95% nylon, 5% spandex||1 lb. 1 oz.||Yes||No|
|Arc'teryx Gamma||$180||88% nylon, 12% elastane||11.8 oz.||No||Yes|
|Marmot PreCip Eco||$80||100% nylon, NanoPro membrane||8.1 oz.||No||No|
|Arc'teryx Gamma Quick Dry||$160||94% nylon, 6% elastane||9.9 oz.||No||Yes|
|Kuhl Silencr||$99||100% polyester||14.4 oz.||No (available)||No|
|Prana Stretch Zion II||$95||95% nylon, 5% elastane||13.5 oz.||No||Yes|
|Fjallraven Vidda Pro||$175||65% polyester, 35% cotton||1 lb. 3.7 oz.||No||No|
|Patagonia Quandary||$89||95% nylon, 5% spandex||10 oz.||No||No|
|REI Co-op Activator 3.0||$100||63% nylon, 26% polyester, 11% spandex||14.5 oz.||No||No|
|Marmot Arch Rock||$80||94% nylon, 6% elastane||9 oz.||No||No|
|Patagonia Terravia Trail||$129||86% polyester, 14% spandex||11.1 oz.||No||No|
|Vuori Ripstop Pant||$98||98% cotton, 2% elastane||Unavail.||No||No|
|Montane Terra Pack||$105||Nylon w/stretch||9.9 oz.||No||Yes|
|Black Diamond Alpine Light||$125||85% nylon, 15% elastane||10.2 oz.||No||Yes|
|REI Co-op Sahara Convertible||$80||96% nylon, 4% spandex||Unavail.||Yes||No|
|Outdoor Research Cirque II||$159||50% nylon, 43% polyester, 7% spandex||1 lb. 5.8 oz.||No||No|
- Hiking Pant Materials
- Articulated Knees and Gussets
- Integrated Belts and Waist Adjusters
- Water Resistance
- Thickness and Durability
- Convertible and Roll-Up Pants
- Crossover Hiking/Everyday Pants
- Hiking Pant Fit
- Hiking Pants vs. Hiking Shorts
- Women's-Specific Hiking Pants
Hiking pants typically are made of a nylon blend, and most of the options here have at least a small amount of built-in stretch via elastane (spandex). A higher percentage of elastane will result in a stretchier feel, which can be especially nice for those who tend to size their pants on the tight side. The added give in the material also can be a real boon on the trail, and even more so when it comes to setting up a tent and moving around camp. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi and Patagonia Terravia Trail are two of the stretchiest hiking pants available (86% nylon and 14% spandex), while the Fjallraven Vidda Pro Ventilated are all polyester and cotton and have no give.
In addition to nylon hiking pants, there are a few softshell pants on this list such as the Arc’teryx Gamma, REI Co-op Activator, and Outdoor Research Cirque II. These essentially are tougher and more weather-resistant pants that are ideal for alpine conditions, cooler weather, precipitation, and bushwhacking. For truly wet weather, however, it might be worth opting for a fully waterproof model like the Marmot PreCip Eco, which is a rain pant that will keep you dry but lacks breathability for extended treks.
Unlike other types of outdoor gear, for most hikers the exact weight of their pants isn’t a top consideration (after all, you're not usually carrying them on your back). We’ve worn pairs ranging from 8 to 17 ounces on everything from day hikes to multi-day treks, and only the 1-pound-1-ounce Kuhl Renegade Convertible felt a little heavy on the trail. And if you’re like us, you bring a single pair of pants and clean it along the way. However, if you will be carrying pants in your backpack, lightweight and packable designs like the Outdoor Research Ferrosi (10.7 oz.) and Montane Terra Pack (9.9 oz.) are great options. On the other end of the spectrum, for high-alpine adventures when you need added weather protection and durability, taking on extra weight for a pant like the 1-pound-5.8-ounce Outdoor Research Cirque II may be worth it. To help highlight differences in weight, we've included the numbers in both our product specs and comparison table.
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 II or Halle II 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 comes with the Prana Stretch Zion II—its low-profile, small adjuster is made out of webbing and 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 backpack’s hipbelt. A more minimalist alternative is a pant with a drawstring closure along the inside of the waistband (Patagonia’s Quandary and OR’s Ferrosi have this), although we’ve found them to be less user-friendly (it’s hard to make quick adjustments) and functional overall than a belt-like design.
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 (like the Marmot PreCip Eco) 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. From our list, pants like the Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo and Marmot Arch Rock excel in hot temperatures with their thin, breathable fabrics. Many of the core models above are designed for three-season use, like the Outdoor Research Ferrosi, Prana Stretch Zion II, and Kuhl Renegade. And thicker pants like the Arc'teryx Gamma, REI Co-op Activator 3.0, and Outdoor Research Cirque are great for the alpine, shoulder seasons, and even light winter use. Keep in mind, throwing on a pair of baselayers underneath can make many three-season pants very agreeable in the wintertime as well.
Beyond temperature considerations, thickness often correlates with durability and tear resistance. Most of the softshell-style pants like the Patagonia Terravia Trail, Prana Halle, and Prana Stretch Zion are tough enough that we had few concerns brushing up against and squeezing between rocks and brush on the trail. Both the Marmot Arch Rock and OR Ferrosi 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 many pants that made our “best of” list have 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 Renegade 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.
Many of the pants on this list are hiking-centric and look more at home on-trail than off. That said, we do appreciate a hiking pant that can double down for everyday use or be worn for travel. In particular, outdoor clothing brands like Kuhl and Patagonia (depending on the model) tend to cross over well as everyday pants. Even more capable hiking models like our top-rated Outdoor Research Ferrosi can pull double duty around town, although the thin fabric and basic pocket layout make them less appealing for everyday use than options like the Prana Stretch Zion II. And our Fjallraven Vidda Pros look so unique that we always jump on an opportunity to wear them. The point is, if you like to wear your hiking pants around town, there are a number of good options for that.
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 Arc'teryx all have this concept down quite well, and REI and Columbia have 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 Renegade strike us as a good balance of a bit of extra space without swishing around like a pair of old windbreakers.
We appreciate when companies go the extra mile toward creating more sustainability built products, and the most common practice in the hiking pant world is the use of recycled fabrics. Many of the picks above are made with at least some recycled content, including designs like the Prana Stretch Zion II (95% recycled nylon) and Outdoor Research Ferrosi (46% recycled material). Other measures to look out for include certification to the Fair Trade standard, bluesign-approved materials, and PFC-free DWR coatings that forgo the use of harmful perfluorocarbons. Leading brands of the sustainability movement include Patagonia, REI Co-op, and Prana, although most of the companies above have started incorporating at least some of these practices into production.
If you're heading out on an overnight backpacking trip or the weather is iffy, pants are the obvious choice. But hikers that hit the trail in the warm summer months are left with a difficult decision: Pants or shorts? Choosing full-length pants give you better protection from the sun and help keep dirt and rocks from getting into your shoes. Further, they're the preferred selection for technical hikes or summit bids to reduce the number of scratches or cuts you get when brushing against rocks or branches. But we love shorts for day hikes on well-maintained trails. Shorts are cheaper (typically about $10 to $20 less than a comparable pant), and offer better freedom of movement and ventilation. The final option is convertible pants, which give you the ability to swap between styles, although they come with a fair number of downsides (we cover those in detail in the convertible pant section above).
The good news for those that want to pick up a pair of hiking shorts is that many of our favorite pants are offered in this style. In general, the shorts versions have a similar fit, fabric blend, and pocket layout as their full-length counterparts. From the models we've worn, we think Prana's Stretch Zion are one of the best. Other favorites include the Outdoor Research Ferrosi and Kuhl's durable Renegade. And if you want a superlight and breathable option, a trail-running-specific short can do the trick (we've worn a range of styles from Salomon, Brooks, and REI). The biggest downside with running shorts is that you give up some durability with their thin polyester constructions.
Our picks above were selected based on the experiences of both male and female testers, and you’ll notice that wherever available we link to both the men’s and women’s versions. That said, due to this category’s noteworthy variation in styles, we’ve also created a unique round-up of the best women’s hiking pants. In this article, you’ll find many of the same models here (names and colorways often differ) in addition to a variety of women’s-specific hiking pants and trail-worthy leggings.
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