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 2018. For more information, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks. A popular alternative to hiking pants are tights, including a range of yoga, running, or trail-specific designs, and we’ve dedicated a section below to our top hiking tights.
Materials: 86% nylon, 14% spandex
Weight: 10.7 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Tough, wind resistant, and good breathability.
What we don’t: No built-in belt; pockets run a bit small.
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/Halle below are the two leading 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 of an all-around pant as the Stretch Zion: they don’t hide their hiking styling, don't have a built-in belt, 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 Men's Outdoor Research Ferrosi See the Women's Outdoor Research Ferrosi
Materials: 97% nylon, 3% spandex
Weight: 13.6 oz.
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Extremely versatile and stylish.
What we don’t: Breathability can be an issue in hot weather.
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 Men's prAna Stretch Zion See the Women's prAna Halle
Materials: 100% nylon, polyester mesh panels
Weight: 12.6 oz.
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Pockets galore and a great value.
What we don’t: Thin material and not as stretchy.
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 Men's Columbia Silver Ridge See the Women's Columbia Silver Ridge
Materials: 88% nylon, 12% spandex
Weight: 14.2 oz.
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Tough, nice fit, and well made.
What we don’t: A little heavy hauling in a pack, and a little less stretchy than the prAna’s.
REI makes fantastic tents, but their clothing hasn’t always been up to snuff with other outdoor gear brands. Enter the Screeline, which is their best fitting and most functional pant by a wide margin. As the name suggests, the Screeline is durable and 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 stand up to rough use, and the fabric—along with well-disguised mesh openings at the back of the knees—breathes pretty well and dries quickly even while backpacking in the summer heat. 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, lighter, and does even better in the heat, and the fully-featured 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 fit and toughness to any pants we’ve tried over the years from REI, and the quality and design seem to be a step up as well.
See the Men's REI Co-op Screeline See the Women's REI Co-op Screeline
Materials: 86% nylon, 14% elastane
Weight: 9.9 oz.
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Premium build and breathability.
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. 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 has our favorite fit on this list 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 OR Ferrosi and budget Columbia Silver Ridge. The Ferrosi in particular is a very viable competitor with similar stretch and breathability—although it doesn’t have a belt like the Lefroy—and the Silver Ridge will cost you half as much or even less.
See the Men's Arc'teryx Lefroy See the Women's Arc'teryx Sylvite
Materials: 88% nylon, 12% spandex
Weight: 17 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Tough with great stretchiness.
What we don’t: Baggy fit and heavy.
Kuhl clothing has a distinctive look often with contrasting stitching, but it’s the durable fabric that won the Renegade 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. 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 See the Women's Kuhl Kliffside
Materials: 94% nylon, 6% spandex
Weight: 10 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Stretchy and a great fit.
What we don’t: Drawcord adjustment isn't as good as a belt.
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 Quandary is a lighter and simpler alternative to the ever-popular prAna Stretch Zion above. Both offer good stretch and a just-right athletic fit that pleases climbers and hikers alike, although we prefer the belt adjustment on the prAna's to the Quandry's drawcord. The Patagonia's 3-ounce weight savings and streamlined design may appeal to travelers and summer hikers, but we still prefer the more versatile Stretch Zion for most uses.
See the Men's Patagonia Quandary See the Women's Patagonia Quandary
Materials: 88% nylon, 12% elastane
Weight: 12.3 oz.
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Tough, mountain-ready build with great stretchiness.
What we don’t: Expensive.
Arc’teryx’s Lefroy pants above are a great match for summer heat, but on a recent trek through Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash, we turned to the more serious Gamma LT. What sets this softshell pant apart is its fantastic stretchiness, durability, and weight. We wore it all day in the alpine for 9 days while hiking, setting up camp, filtering water, cooking, and lounging, and it came home looking like new. More, the Gamma LT’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 $189, the Gamma LT is far and away the most expensive pant on our list. For most 3-season backpacking trips, you can spend significantly less and be just as pleased with the performance. We also found that the metal fastener on the integrated belt can cause some discomfort underneath the hipbelt of a pack, although this likely won’t be a problem for everyone. All in all, the Gamma LT isn’t an all-around pant like our top picks, but for alpine adventures when you need a step up in toughness and weather protection without adding much weight, it’s a terrific option.
See the Men's Arc'teryx Gamma LT See the Women's Arc'teryx Gamma LT
Materials: 96% nylon, 4% spandex
Weight: 8.4 oz.
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Very light and packable.
What we don’t: Button fastener fell off early on in the test.
Trimming weight from their popular Terra pant, Montane’s updated Terra Pack has a streamlined and feathery ultralight build. The impressively low 8.4-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. 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 the lightest on our list, but 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 6 days into the trip. This was a letdown as we appreciated the ability to taper the bottom hem and secure it above our boots.
See the Men's Montane Terra Pack See the Women's Montane Terra Pack
Materials: 65% polyester, 35% cotton
Weight: 21 oz.
Belt included: No
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.
The Vidda Pro from Swedish company Fjallraven is a different breed. It’s very rare in 2018 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 Men's Fjallraven Vidda Pro See the Women's Fjallraven Vidda Pro
Materials: 50% nylon, 43% polyester, 7% spandex
Weight: 20.5 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: 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 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 over 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 Men's Outdoor Research Cirque See the Women's Outdoor Research Cirque
Materials: 94% nylon, 6% elastane
Weight: 10.1 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Lightweight and a good price.
What we don’t: Not that stretchy and small leg openings don’t fit well over boots.
For hiking in hot weather, the Marmot Arch Rock offers impressive temperature regulation at a decent price. For $10 to $15 less than the competition, the Marmot’s have a full suite of features like articulated knees, a gusseted crotch, and a hand-sized zippered closure along the right pant leg. They also are among the lightest hiking pants on our list at just over 10 ounces, but managed to hold up well while hiking and scrambling in Utah’s canyon country. In temperatures topping 80°F, they kept us nearly as comfortable as the premium Arc’teryx Lefroy’s above.
Despite good performance in hot weather at a value price, we have the Arch Rock toward the bottom of our list because they just aren’t as versatile as the competition. The pants are too thin for true 3-season use, significantly less stretchy than the OR Ferrosi, and can’t match our top picks in build quality. More, they have a surprisingly small opening at the bottom of the leg, which is difficult to fit over standard hiking boots like our Salomon Quest 4D 3’s. The lack of stretch in that area is a notable oversight and limits the Arch Rock’s optimal compatibility to low-top hiking shoes.
See the Men's Marmot Arch Rock
Materials: 96% nylon, 4% elastane
Weight: 13.1 oz.
Belt included: No
What we like: Great price for a soft-shell hiking pant
What we don’t: Can be too hot for summer use.
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 on the Royce Peak, 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 Men's Columbia Royce Peak See the Women's Columbia Saturday Trail
Materials: 100% nylon
Weight: 15 oz.
Belt included: Yes
What we like: Durable and includes a belt.
What we don’t: Baggy fit and lower quality materials.
Year after year, one of the best selling hiking pants is The North Face Paramount Trail 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 Trail does come in about $30 cheaper than the Kuhl Renegade Convertible above.
However, in testing the Paramount Trail’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 Trail 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 $70 pant should. If you prefer a generous fit or have an allegiance to The North Face, give the Paramount Trail a look. Otherwise, we prefer the options above.
See the Men's North Face Paramount Trail See the Women's North Face Paramount Peak
Materials: 100% nylon, NanoPro waterproof membrane
Weight: 9 oz.
Belt included: No
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.
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 Men's Marmot PreCip See the Women's Marmot PreCip
Materials: 71% polyester, 29% elastane
Weight: 6.5 oz.
What we like: Excellent performance, build quality, and storage.
What we don’t: Not quite as soft as a yoga pant.
For serious hikers in the market for tights, you might as well go with the best. The Arc’teryx Sunara can pretty much do it all, from hiking and trail running to casual wear around town. We love their breathability, which helps you stay comfortable in a range of temperatures. And it’s hard to knock the build quality or styling: the polyester and elastane blend is stretchy and soft, the pants have minimal seams, and they should last as long as any pair of tights on this list.
A nice bonus with the Sunara is storage: you get both a low-profile phone pocket on the side of one thigh, along with a small stash pocket for a card or key. We’ve known hikers who actually sew their own phone pockets on the outside of their hiking tights, so this is a super handy feature for taking pictures while on the trail. For similar quality but more warmth, try the Arc’teryx Stride Tight for cool conditions or the Trino Tight for the alpine.
See the Women's Arc'teryx Sunara Tight
Materials: 79% nylon, 21% elastane
Weight: 7.4 oz.
What we like: Tough and well-thought-out tights for hiking.
What we don’t: Not quite as breathable as the Sunara above and lacking a phone pocket.
The North Face has a surprisingly large collection of outdoor-oriented tights, and our top pick for 2018 is the Progressor Hybrid. Unlike some of the more trail running and yoga-oriented models on this list, the Hybrid has hiking firmly in mind. Notably, they are made primarily of nylon, which is slightly less breathable than polyester but more durable, and The North Face even added thicker panels on the thighs and seat. The result is a first-rate hiking tight that can stand up to serious use and abuse on the trail.
We’re curious as to the future of The North Face Hybrid Hiker (it appears to be discontinued), which was heavier at 11.2 ounces but had a similar nylon construction and was extremely popular among the hiking crowd. It’s possible that the Hybrid Hiker was too thick for most summer adventuring and therefore the Progressor Hybrid is the better tight for most people. The North Face does offer Winter Warm tights for the shoulder seasons and cold weather, along with its Perfect Core series for the gym and more casual use.
See the Women's The North Face Progressor Hybrid
Materials: 90% nylon, 10% spandex
What we like: A nice option for those who like compression; good styling.
What we don’t: Not as hiking-centric as other options on this list.
Seattle-based Oiselle has been making big strides in the running world of late, and we like their Hawkeye 3/4 tights for hiking too. The key feature is compression: the top portion of the pant provides extra support, which runners and other athletes claim helps with injury prevention and recovery (you’ve likely seen the compression sock fad among runners and compression sleeve fad among basketball players). And the lower half of the Hawkeye is less supportive but more breathable to help keep you cool.
All in all, we like the compression concept used here, and particularly if you plan on using the tights both for hiking and running. In addition, Oiselle has good styling overall—the Hawkeye certainly looks sleeker than the hiking-centric The North Face Progressor above and REI Screeline below. Keep in mind that the Hawkeye have a 3/4 cut and therefore leaves the ankle exposed, which is fine for those staying on trail but means less ankle protection if you’re moving through brush or branches. Further, the zippered pocket along the waistband can be a source of irritation when rubbing against the hipbelt of a loaded pack (it shouldn’t be an issue for day hiking, however).
See the Women's Oiselle Hawkeye 3/4 Tight
Materials: 86% polyester, 14% spandex
Weight: 10 oz.
What we like: Well made with lots of features.
What we don’t: Perhaps a little too much storage.
REI has a made a solid effort overall with the Screeline Hiking Tights (not to be mixed up with the Screeline Hiking Pants above). They’re functional, made with a comfortable yet reasonably durable polyester and spandex blend, two large storage pockets, and scuff guards on the lower legs to prevent wear. And they’re well built—REI continues to improve its in-house line of clothing, which is now very competitive with the top brands.
There are two main reasons we have the REI Screeline Tights ranked here. The first is the double pockets, which seem like a little too much storage for our taste. We really appreciate the one phone-sized pocket on the Arc’teryx Sunara above, but having two large stretch pockets seem unnecessary (are you really going to carry your phone and snacks in your pants while hiking?). Second, most REI gear hits at least a moderately lower price point than the competition, but the Screeline are relatively pricey at only $10 less than the Arc’teryx Sunara and almost the same as the Oiselles.
See the Women's REI Co-op Screeline Hiking Tight
Materials: Nylon, Lycra
What we like: Super soft and comfortable.
What we don’t: Limited durability for serious hiking.
Gap-owned Athleta specializes in yoga clothing, but their tights (and other products) are popular for all kinds of uses. The reason we have them here is comfort: if you plan on staying on the trail and won’t be brushing up frequently against rocks or branches, the Salutation 7/8 is an extremely cozy option. In terms of performance, these tights are stretchy, breathe well, and even claim UPF 50+ protection from the sun.
The biggest downside of the Athleta Salutation is their casual nature. Most people wear them in the gym, yoga studio, or casually around town, and they just don’t have the outdoor chops of the models above from Arc’teryx, The North Face, and REI. But as we mentioned previously, for standard day hiking where you don’t plan on getting off trail or putting them to the test, the Salutation should get the job done and keep you quite comfortable along the way.
See the Women's Athleta Salutation 7/8 Tight
|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|
|REI Co-op Screeline||$80||88% nylon, 12% spandex||14.3 oz.||No (available)||Yes|
|Arc'teryx Lefroy||$109||86% nylon, 14% elastane||9.9 oz.||No||Yes|
|Kuhl Renegade Convertible||$99||88% nylon, 12% spandex||17 oz.||Yes||No|
|Patagonia Quandary||$79||94% nylon, 6% spandex||10 oz.||No||No|
|Arc'teryx Gamma LT||$189||88% nylon, 12% elastane||12.3 oz.||No||Yes|
|Montane Terra Pack||$105||96% nylon, 4% spandex||8.4 oz.||No||Yes|
|Fjallraven Vidda Pro||$150||65% polyester, 35% cotton||21 oz.||No||No|
|Outdoor Research Cirque Pant||$150||50% nylon, 43% polyester,
|Marmot Arch Rock||$70||94% nylon, 6% elastane||10.1 oz.||No||No|
|Columbia Royce Peak||$60||96% nylon, 4% elastane||13.1 oz.||No||No|
|The North Face Paramount Trail||$70||100% nylon||15 oz.||Yes||Yes|
|Marmot PreCip Pant||$80||100% nylon, NanoPro||9 oz.||No||No|
Hiking Tight Comparison Table
|Arc’teryx Sunara Tight||$85||71% polyester, 29% elastane||6.5 oz.||Thigh, internal||7/8|
|The North Face Progressor Hybrid||$85||79% nylon, 21% elastane||7.4 oz.||Hip||Full|
|Oiselle Hawkeye 3/4 Tight||$78||90% nylon, 10% spandex||Unavail.||Hip||3/4|
|REI Co-op Screeline Hiking Tight||$75||86% polyester, 14% spandex||10 oz.||Thigh (2)||Full|
|Athleta Salutation 7/8 Tight||$79||Nylon, Lycra||Unavail.||None||7/8|
- Articulated Knees and Gussets
- Integrated Belts
- Water Resistance
- Best Uses
- Convertible and Roll Up Pants
- Hiking Pants Fit
- Hiking Tights
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.
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 17-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 ounces), Arc’teryx Lefroy (9.9 ounces), and Montane Terra Pack (8.4 ounces) 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 20.5-ounce Outdoor Research Cirque 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 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 backpack’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. From our list, pants like the Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible and Arc'teryx Lefroy excel in hot temperatures with their thin, breathable fabrics. Many of the core models above are designed for 3-season use, like the Outdoor Research Ferrosi, prAna Stretch Zion, and REI Co-op Screeline. And thicker pants like the Columbia Royce Peak and Outdoor Research Cirque are great for shoulder seasons and light winter use. Keep in mind, throwing on a pair of baselayers underneath can make many 3-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 Columbia Royce Peak, prAna Halle and Stretch Zion are tough enough that we had few concerns brushing up against and squeezing between rocks and brush on the trail. Both the Arc'teryx Lefroy 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.
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. One pant that we nearly omitted from this list in part due to its too baggy fit is the über popular North Face Paramount Trail. Its excessively loose and bulky fit had a serious impact on its trail performance.
Not everyone wants to wear traditional nylon hiking pants on the trail, and particularly among the younger crowd, we’ve noticed an emergence of tights. This can take a lot of forms, from standard yoga/stretch pants—think Athleta or Lululemon—to more serious trail running models and even hiking-specific options from brands like The North Face and Arc’teryx. Any of these can be viable depending on your intended use, and you certainly can achieve high levels of comfort without the weight or bulk of a traditional hiking pant.
Keep in mind that many tights, and particularly of the casual variety, are not as performance oriented as the pants on this list. The nylon or polyester may be decently breathable and wick some moisture, but it won’t be as abrasion resistant or tough overall. But for those staying on trail—think casual day hiking and uses that don’t involve rubbing up against rocks or crashing through branches—a fine argument can be made for tights. It’s worth nothing that of course, both men and women can wear hiking tights, but aside from trail running and baselayer models, the market generally is geared toward women and listed that way by most manufacturers and retailers.
Back to Our Top Hiking Pant Picks Back to Our Hiking Pant Comparison Table