Women know the struggles in choosing hiking pants: fit, comfort, and storage considerations all can be difficult to dial in. But the market has improved significantly of late, with a range of designs that offer impressive performance and feature sets. Regardless of style, our favorite models are mobile, breathable, and durable for activities from casual day hiking to backpacking and even bouldering. Below we break down the best women’s hiking pants of 2021, from summer convertibles to mountain-ready softshells and form-fitting leggings. For more background information, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Best Overall Women’s Hiking Pant
Materials: 97% nylon, 3% spandex
What we like: A great combination of style and performance.
What we don’t: Drawstring causes bunching at the waist; too thick for hot weather.
With an excellent combination of style and performance, our favorite women’s hiking pant for 2021 is prAna’s venerable Halle. Sold in a variety of styles, we like the straight-leg version best: it has great stretch and mobility whether you’re on the trail or sitting around camp, manages to hold its shape even after days of use, and sports a cut that’s well-suited for activities like climbing with cuffs that don’t get in the way. Additionally, the nylon/spandex construction is durable and resilient, resists stains, and maintains a high-end look even after dozens of washings and multiple run-ins with cacti and rock. Tack on a great fit that’s easy to customize with multiple waist and inseam options, and the Halle is a versatile design that works well both on and off the trail.
All that said, the Halle is not without fault. We often complain about the meager storage on women’s pants, and the prAna is no exception, with shallow front pockets and a flat thigh pocket that’s too tight for a modern smartphone. Further, the Halle runs too warm for mid-summer hiking, with substantial, water-resistant fabric reminiscent of a lightweight softshell (for a thinner and more breathable option, check out the Arc’teryx Palisade below). Finally, while we love the full coverage of the mid-rise waist, we’ve found that the internal drawstring creates bunching right below the belly button that interferes with our pack’s hipbelt. But these complaints do little to dampen our love for the versatile and comfortable design. And for those looking for a different style, the Halle is also sold in bootcut, convertible, and skort options, as well as dedicated plus sizes... Read in-depth review
See the prAna Halle Straight See the prAna Halle Pant
A Close Second (and Great for Summer)
Materials: 94% nylon, 6% elastane
Waist: Built-in belt
What we like: High-end fit and finish and impressive feature set.
What we don’t: Expensive.
Many hikers opt for shorts or capris in the summer months, but if you prefer to keep your legs covered (we certainly do when bushwhacking), you’ll want a lightweight pant with minimal fabric and maximum breathability. Boasting Arc’teryx’s high-end fit and finish, the Palisade is one of the most premium hiking pants on the market and our favorite pick for warm days on the trail. Light nylon keeps weight low and air flowing, and the pants are quick to wick moisture and dry out when wet. In terms of features, the Palisade is one of the most well-appointed options here, with four generously sized, zippered pockets, an adjustable webbing belt (most designs come with empty belt loops), and a soft liner on the waist for comfort under a pack’s hipbelt.
Like most Arc’teryx products, the Palisade is slightly polarizing with its technical styling and trim fit, and not everyone is willing to spend $169 on a pair of hiking pants. But compared to the Halle above, the Palisade is much more versatile for summer use (the Halle runs warm), and we love its functional storage and streamlined waist. Within the hot-weather category, it’s also worth considering REI Co-op’s summer-specific Savanna Trails, which retail for only $55 but are noticeably less premium and lack the Palisade’s technical chops. Finally, Arc’teryx’s Creston Pant is an even lighter-weight option for $40 less, but its fit and feature set fall short.
See the Arc'teryx Palisade
Best Budget Women’s Hiking Pant
Materials: 96% nylon, 4% elastane
What we like: A great hot-weather option at a low price.
What we don’t: Unflattering fit and fabric tends to pill.
Many of the options on this list are approaching $100, but affordability isn’t the only reason we love Columbia’s popular Saturday Trail Pants. Made with lightweight nylon, the Saturday Trail is both breathable and quick to dry, making it a great choice for summer outings and travel. Comfort is a strong suit as well, with two-way stretch, a gusseted crotch, and articulated knees that lend mobility for both trail and camp activities. And like much of the competition, the Columbia sports built-in tabs to secure rolled-up legs and mesh-lined pockets for added venting. Added up, the Saturday Trail is a suitable hot-weather alternative to the Halle above for a considerable $29 less.
Despite being well-built for the price, the Saturday Trail does come with some notable compromises. For starters, the fabric has a tendency to pill with use, especially in high-wear areas. And similar to the Halle above, the pockets are small and not very practical if you like to carry along a wallet or phone. And finally, although Columbia offers a variety of sizes from 2-16 with three inseam options, we found that the Saturday Trail’s fit to be a little unshapely, and the pant lacks an integrated belt or drawstring to dial things in. But for only $60 and often found on sale, the Saturday Trail is an adventure-ready option at a great price.
See the Columbia Saturday Trail
Best Leggings for Hiking
Materials: 87% polyester, 13% spandex
What we like: Excellent comfort, functional storage, and durable materials.
What we don’t: Doesn’t dry quickly and breathability falls short in hot weather.
Not everyone likes to wear traditional nylon hiking pants on the trail, and uber-comfortable and stretchy leggings (also referred to as tights) are a popular alternative. While your standard “athleisure” designs from brands like Lululemon and Athleta will certainly get the job done, a hiking-specific model offers sizable boosts in performance, convenience, and longevity. With a healthy number of options on the market, the Patagonia Pack Out Tights strike us as one of the most well-rounded, with a great assortment of storage, soft yet durable materials that hold their shape over time, a wide elastic waistband that limits bunching and friction under a pack, and the premium fit and finish we’ve come to expect from the brand.
That said, while we love the comfort of leggings and can’t argue with the style, there are some undeniable shortcomings when it comes to performance. In general, tights are less durable than traditional hiking pants and don’t offer the same amount of wind or water resistance. Further, due to the close fit, you’ll give up a fair amount of breathability—the Pack Out Tights in particular are too thick to wear on hot days, and their heavyweight fabric is slow to dry (Patagonia also makes a Lightweight version). But while you can certainly pay less for a pair of generic leggings, the Pack Out Tights are a mountain-ready alternative that you can still wear around the house and while working out.
See the Patagonia Pack Out Tights
Best of the Rest
Materials: 86% nylon, 14% spandex
What we like: Tough, wind-resistant, and breathable.
What we don’t: Not as versatile or well-made as the Halle above.
Seattle-based Outdoor Research knows a thing or two about rough weather, so it’s no surprise that the Ferrosi is one of our go-to pants for 3-season hiking. Despite being relatively lightweight, the Ferrosi’s softshell-like nylon has a sturdy and high-quality feel and is excellent for temperature regulation: it’s tough enough to cut the wind and shed a light rain but breathes when the thermometer starts to climb. The addition of 14 percent spandex means the pants move with you more than most (for comparison, the prAna Halle above only has 3 percent spandex), but the good news is that the Ferrosi still manages to hold its shape, even after multiple days of use.
From our experience, the Ferrosi and prAna Halle above 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 OR. If you add climbing to the mix or want a pant that can wear well around town and for travel, the prAna is the better option (the straight-leg version in particular). The Ferrosi’s quality is also a step down from the Halle: we’ve experienced pilling fabric, and the internal waist drawcord and cuff cinches strike us as simplistic and prone to failure over time. But for backcountry purposes, OR’s popular hiking pant is still one of our favorite designs.
See the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pant
Materials: 95% nylon, 5% spandex
What we like: High-quality fabric and great Patagonia fit and finish.
What we don’t: Drawcord adjustment isn't as good as a belt.
A traditionally styled, all-season hiking pant, the Patagonia Quandary checks all the important boxes in the performance category: it uses a tough but light fabric with a DWR coating, sports articulated knees and a gusseted crotch, and has a clean and unobtrusive look and feel. Like many of the other options here, the pants also boast a built-in tab and snap to keep rolled-up cuffs in place and are also available in convertible and short variations for true summer temperatures. And as we’ve come to expect from Patagonia, the fabrics are bluesign-approved, which means they’re safe for the environment, workers, and consumers.
In many ways, the Quandary is a simpler, more affordable alternative to the lightweight Arc’teryx Palisade above. Both are hot-weather options that offer good stretch and an athletic fit, but we prefer the belt adjustment on the Arc’teryx to the Quandary's internal drawcord, which is made of thin elastic and can be difficult to tighten. Further, we’re disappointed that Patagonia skimped on functional storage, with drop-in front pockets that barely fit a hand and only one zippered side pocket (compared to the Palisade’s two). That said, the Quandary wins out in value at less than half the cost of the Palisade, and some prefer the streamlined build.
See the Patagonia Quandary Pant
Materials: 94% nylon, 6% elastane
What we like: Style and performance in a lightweight package.
What we don’t: Odd fit.
Unlike the pants above (leggings are an exception), Mountain Hardwear’s Dynama/2 Ankle features wide elastic waistband that fits comfortably under a pack’s hipbelt and minimizes chafing and discomfort on sweaty skin. Some women strongly prefer this over a traditional snap or button and zipper closure (ourselves included), and the boosts in convenience and comfort are hard to beat. Tack on an airy, lightweight stretch-nylon build, relaxed fit, and ankle-length crop, and you get a stylish pant that offers great breathability and mobility for hot-weather hikes, after-work boulder sessions, or just lounging.
However, while the Dynama/2 Ankle is fully serviceable for casual days on the trail, it does sacrifice some storage and lacks the technical capabilities for serious mountain pursuits. The drop-in hand pockets are deeper than most, and the zippered thigh pocket is a nice touch, but the pant forgoes rear pockets and lacks a functional spot to store a phone. Further, the tapered, ankle-length hem is challenging to roll up and leaves a small area of your legs vulnerable to branches and bugs. Finally, we’ve found sizing to be a bit odd—the pants were noticeably wide in the upper leg area for us and almost clown pant-like in look (we recommend sizing down). But if they fit you well, the Dynama/2 are a fun alternative to more traditional styles.
See the Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 Ankle
Materials: 94% nylon, 6% spandex
Waist: Built-in belt
What we like: Practical features at a low price.
What we don’t: Shallow pockets and fabric tends to pill.
For those who value function over form, the REI Co-op Sahara Convertible is a true utility belt of a hiking pant. The convertible style has long been popular for its convenience and versatility (you get a pair of shorts and pants in one), and the Sahara takes it even further with color-coded zippers on each leg and generous openings at the hem so you can make the switch without taking off your shoes. Tack on quick-drying fabrics with built-in stretch, an integrated belt, and nice array of storage options including cargo pockets at each side, and the REI Sahara is a great match for everything from hiking to traveling.
REI updated the fit on the latest version of the Sahara, which now features a slimmer profile and more flattering shape. However, some women will find the pants too snug, especially in the thighs, and the shallow cargo pockets no longer accommodate a modern smartphone. Finally, from a quality standpoint, the REI lacks the fit and finish of more premium models here: we’ve found the zippers particularly difficult to operate, and the lightweight fabric has a tendency to form holes and is prone to pilling. But value is a deciding factor for many, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a pair of equally capable convertibles for less.
See the REI Co-op Sahara Convertible
Materials: 68% cotton, 29% nylon, 3% spandex
What we like: A cotton alternative with good storage and nice styling.
What we don’t: Cotton is a poor choice for performance use.
Cotton is a rarity in the world of outdoor clothing, and largely for good reason: it’s heavier, often less durable, and holds onto water much more than nylon or polyester (if you’re working up a sweat in the cold, this can be especially dangerous). That said, it’s perfectly serviceable for dry environments like the desert, and we’ve found cotton to be softer than nylon and lend a classy look. Enter Kuhl’s Splash Roll-Up, which is a great match for everything from casual hikes to around-town use and even bouldering—in the right conditions, of course.
The Splash is one of the heaviest options here and feels stiff when you first put it on, but it will soften over time and conform in a way that you don’t get with nylon or polyester pants. Mobility does fall short of much of the competition, but the small amount of spandex in the build adds a bit of stretch. You also get a nice selection of pockets (including large and functional cargo storage), an internal drawstring to dial in fit, and tabs along the legs to secure the cuffs when rolled up. Again, the cotton build limits the Splash to dry climates, but there’s still a lot to like.
See the Kuhl Splash Roll-Up
Materials: 62% polyamide, 16% aramid, 12% elastane, 10% polyester
What we like: The ultimate performance tight.
What we don’t: Pricey and a bit thick for hot weather.
The Patagonia Pack Out Tights above are a high-quality design at a reasonable price point, but Fjallraven takes performance to the next level with the Abisko. At a steep $175, these trekking tights don’t come cheap, but as we’ve come to find over the years with Fjallraven, they do fill a unique niche in the market. In terms of the design, you get great freedom of movement with a stretchy mix of materials, as well as reinforced panels on the knees and butt for guarding against sharp rocks and damp ground. The net result is a legging that’s purpose-built for the mountains and capable of withstanding regular use and abuse.
Keep in mind that the Abisko Trekking Tights are overkill for casual use, and price is a deterring factor for many. The reinforced panels are nice, and we like the storage—one large pocket on the right leg, a smaller zippered pocket on the left, and a zippered pocket at the hip—but you’ll need to get out a lot to make the investment worth it. Additionally, the polyamide material is a bit denser than standard polyester and not as breathable in the heat. But overall quality and performance are top-notch, and the Abisko is also available in a lighter-weight (and less polarizing) “Trail” model that retails for $150. And prAna makes a similar design in their Rockland Legging ($89), although you sacrifice some storage and durability.
See the Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights
Materials: 89% polyester, 11% spandex
What we like: Fun styling and premium, high-performance fabrics.
What we don’t: Lacks functional storage and can be tough to nail fit.
Traditional hiking pants certainly have their place (and we’ve included many options here for that reason), but trail time doesn’t have to be synonymous with cargo pockets and drab colorways. For those who prioritize style but don’t want to sacrifice performance, Patagonia’s Happy Hike Studio pull-on jogger is an intriguing option. The soft knit waistband and relaxed fit are comfortable and great for wearing under a hipbelt, and the elasticized ankle cuffs add a playful and functional flair whether pushed up onto the calves or not. Additionally, the stretch-polyester material is durable, lightweight, and breathable, and a DWR finish and UPF sun protection add an extra dose of assurance against the elements. Added up, the Happy Hike Studio is fully capable for outdoor pursuits and comfy for wearing around the house too.
All that said, you do make some concessions with this non-traditional design. First, the Happy Hike Studio is limited on storage—you get two drop-in front pockets and two rear pockets (one has a zipper), but no thigh pocket or additional front storage for valuables or a phone. Second, you sacrifice the full coverage of a pant like the prAna Halle above, which can be an issue when bushwhacking or camping on cool nights (the design leaves your ankles exposed). And finally, like the Dynama/2 above, fit is a little tricky to nail (we recommend sizing down), which can lead to awkward looseness in some areas and tightness in others. But if the sizing works for you, the Happy Hike Studio is a playful option that can stand up to regular trail use.
See the Patagonia Happy Hike Studio
Materials: 88% nylon, 12% elastane
Waist: Built-in belt
What we like: Tough, mountain-ready build with great stretch.
What we don’t: Expensive and not all that versatile.
Arc’teryx’s Palisade Pant above is great for summer heat, but on a high-altitude trek through Peru’s Cordillera Huayhuash, we turned to the more serious Gamma LT. What sets this softshell pant apart is its impressive warmth and weather resistance, which come at an incredibly low weight. And durability is good too: we wore the Gamma LT every day for nine days straight while hiking, setting up camp, filtering water, cooking, and lounging, and the pants came home looking like new. Moreover, their 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, and the trim fit isn’t as accommodating as the more casual options here. All in all, the Gamma LT isn’t an all-around pant like our top picks—its technical shape is polarizing around town, and the softshell fabric is too warm for mild conditions. 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 Arc'teryx Gamma LT
Materials: 95% nylon, 5% elastane
What we like: Great styling, breathable, and cinchable ankles.
What we don’t: Limited storage and fabric isn’t very durable.
Technical fabrics and performance styling have their place, but for day hiking and traveling, we prioritize comfort and breathability above all else. One of our favorite designs in this category is The North Face’s Aphrodite 2.0, which combines everyday style with a light and airy build that’s wildly comfortable and quick-drying. The plush, rib-knit waistband feels great underneath a harness or hipbelt, and drawcords at each ankle give you the option of wearing the pant with a slight flare, cinched above your feet, or pulled up around your calves capri-style. All told, the Aphrodite is one of our favorite pants to wear for casual warm-weather adventures when we still want full leg coverage.
We’ve worn the Aphrodite 2.0 for everything from day hikes in Patagonia to multi-pitch climbs, but we don’t recommend it for demanding backcountry pursuits. The thin and lightweight materials aren’t particularly durable and have a tendency to snag, and you don’t get any wet-weather assurance in the form of DWR or wicking fabrics. Further, while we love the Aphrodite’s roomy hand pockets and hidden zippered stash, the lack of other storage can be limiting. But for the right uses—including casual hikes, travel, or performing camp chores—it’s hard to beat the combination of comfort and price.
See The North Face Aphrodite 2.0
Materials: Nylon/spandex blend
What we like: A hiking-specific model from one of the best in the business.
What we don’t: Expensive and not everyone needs so many pockets.
Gap-owned Athleta is a yoga pant giant, but they’ve expanded into the hiking world with the Headlands Hybrid Cargo. This tight is one of the priciest in its class, but it’s also one of the best-equipped. There are a total of six zippered pockets, and the nylon/spandex fabric is a top performer in terms of balancing toughness and breathability. It’s worth noting that the Headlands is best considered a hybrid pant/tight as it has a burlier feel and slightly looser fit than a standard legging, although that doesn't diminish from its comfort or performance.
What drops the Athleta Headlands Hybrid down our rankings is value. At over $100, it’s pricey even among hiking tights and doesn’t have enough to show for it. The fabric isn’t quite as robust or confidence-inspiring as the Fjallraven’s above, and the sheer number of zippered pockets makes it less appealing for everyday use than the Patagonia Pack Out. Further, the tights’ thick fabric is overkill on anything other than shoulder-season hikes and cold camp nights. But it’s hard to argue with Athleta’s stylish fit and finish, and those who value secure storage will likely find the Headlands Hybrid worth the investment.
See the Athleta Headlands Hybrid Cargo Tight
Materials: 87% nylon, 13% elastane
What we like: Legging-like look that doesn’t compromise on performance.
What we don’t: Limited and non-zippered storage.
For a legging-like style and fit that doesn’t sacrifice performance, the Arc’teryx Sabria is an enticing option. The well-rounded design uses tough nylon that performs on par with the other technical hiking pants on our list, but the elastic waist, tapered legs, and trim build lend a decidedly feminine shape. And perhaps equally importantly, you don’t give up any mobility with the pants’ articulated knees, gusseted crotch, and four-way stretch (the 13 percent elastane blend is higher than most options here). We also love the airy, fast-drying fabric and mesh-lined pockets, which do a great job keeping you cool and allowing airflow.
Our biggest gripe with the Sabria is its limited storage, which includes just two thigh pockets that close with flaps rather than zippers. Even compared to many leggings on our list (including the six-pocket Athleta Highlands above), the Sabria’s storage falls notably short, and the trim build means bulky items like a smartphone will dig into your thigh. And with such a close fit, you don’t get the option of layering long underwear underneath when the mercury drops. But it’s hard to argue with Arc’teryx’s premium quality and fit, and especially for activities like alpine trekking and rock climbing.
See the Arc'teryx Sabria
Materials: 87% polyester, 13% spandex
Waist: Built-in belt (internal)
What we like: Affordable and come in a range of sizes and cuts.
What we don’t: Fabric lacks a premium feel.
REI Co-op’s in-house offerings aren’t particularly premium or stylish, but they get the job done, and often at a fraction of the cost of competing models. For just $70 (and often found on sale), the Kornati combines lightweight and stretchy fabrics with a roll-up design, resulting in a comfortable pant that gets the job done for short day hikes, travel, or just sitting around camp. You get great functionality with five pockets, and REI makes it easy to dial in fit with an internal elasticized belt and a wide array of sizes, including dedicated petite, plus, and tall options.
Compared to similarly lightweight styles like the Arc’teryx Palisade and Patagonia Quandary above, the REI lacks a premium feel and is less performance-focused with no DWR finish. And unlike the Palisade and Quandary’s more trim-fitting silhouettes, the Kornati has a roomier cut (despite REI’s trim-fit designation) that won’t win you any style points in town but is great for those who like a looser feel. All told, there’s nothing cutting edge about the Kornati Roll-Up, but we love supporting REI, and the Co-op makes purchasing easy with free shipping (for orders of $50 or more), easy returns, and over 150 stores across the U.S. for those who prefer to shop in person.
See the REI Co-op Kornati Roll-Up Pants
Materials: 62% cotton, 36% nylon, 2% spandex
What we like: Great styling and functional storage.
What we don’t: Similar to the Kuhl Splash above, the cotton build is fairly limiting.
The prAna Kanab is a bit of an outlier on this list, but we have to admit it’s one of our favorite casual options. Like the Kuhl Splash Roll-up above, the Kanab features a mostly cotton build, which limits its appeal for performance use but scores high marks in style, comfort, and fit. Fashion-forward hikers will love the pull-on jogger design, and the soft knit waistband and gusseted knees are great for comfort and mobility on the trail. And unlike many similar designs, prAna didn’t skimp on storage, including two deep hand pockets, two rear pockets, and a zippered stash pocket on the right thigh that easily accommodates a modern smartphone.
Compared to the similarly styled Patagonia Happy Hike Studio and Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 above, the Kanab lags behind in performance due to its cotton build, and we wouldn’t recommend it for overnight trips or when rain is in the forecast. Cotton is overall less durable than nylon or polyester too, but prAna did add double-layered fabric at the knees, so you have a bit more protection and assurance for activities like bouldering. To be clear, the Kanab isn’t built for hardcore adventures, but it’s one of the best-looking pants here and fully serviceable for day hikes, camping, and more casual outings into the woods.
See the prAna Kanab
Materials: 96% nylon, 4% elastane
What we like: Simple and versatile for both town and trail.
What we don’t: The most streamlined design on our list.
Rounding out our lineup is another quality budget option: the Columbia Just Right Straight Leg Pants. Priced at just $60 (the same as Columbia’s own Saturday Trail above), these pants are minimalist to a T, including just one small pocket along the left thigh, a streamlined waist with no belt loops, and a standard cut with simple stitching down the front of each leg. But all the basics are there: the lightweight nylon build keeps mobility and breathability high, and the pants use an in-house coating to repel light moisture. Importantly, we’re a big fan of straight-legged hiking pants, and we think Columbia nailed the design with the clean look and ankle drawstrings to convert to a jogger on the fly.
Columbia is a major step down in both quality and performance from brands like Arc’teryx or Patagonia, but we regularly turn to them for good all-around reliability at a low price. Don’t expect years of regular use or a premium fit and finish, but the Just Right is a nice option for casual recreationalists and weekenders who don’t demand a lot of their gear. It’s worth noting that Columbia also offers the Just Right in a capri version for $5 less, but we think the straight leg variation is the more versatile style (you can use the hem cinch to adjust the length when you need to).
See the Columbia Just Right Straight Leg
|prAna Halle Straight||$89||97% nylon, 3% spandex||Drawstring||5||Unavail.|
|Arc’teryx Palisade||$169||94% nylon, 6% elastane||Built-in belt||4||9.3 oz.|
|Columbia Saturday Trail||$60||96% nylon, 4% elastane||n/a||5||11.2 oz.|
|Patagonia Pack Out Tights||$89||87% polyester, 13% spandex||Elastic||3||10.8 oz.|
|Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants||$80||86% nylon, 14% spandex||Drawstring||5||9.5 oz.|
|Patagonia Quandary Pants||$79||95% nylon, 5% spandex||Drawstring||5||9.3 oz.|
|Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2||$75||94% nylon, 6% elastane||Elastic||3||4.1 oz.|
|REI Sahara Convertible||$70||94% nylon, 6% spandex||Built-in belt||6||Unavail.|
|Kuhl Splash Roll-Up||$85||68% cotton, 29% nylon, 3% spandex||Drawstring||6||13 oz.|
|Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights||$175||88% polyamide, 12% elastane||Elastic||2||9 oz.|
|Patagonia Happy Hike Studio||$79||89% polyester, 11% spandex||Elastic||4||8.9 oz.|
|Arc’teryx Gamma LT||$189||88% nylon, 12% elastane||Built-in belt||5||10.9 oz.|
|The North Face Aphrodite 2.0||$70||95% nylon, 5% elastane||Elastic||3||8 oz.|
|Athleta Headlands Hybrid Cargo||$108||Nylon/spandex blend||Elastic||6||Unavail.|
|Arc’teryx Sabria||$125||87% nylon, 13% elastane||Elastic||2||6.7 oz.|
|REI Co-op Kornati Roll-Up Pants||$70||87% polyester, 13% spandex||Built-in belt||5||11.4 oz.|
|Prana Kanab||$79||62% cotton, 36% nylon, 2% spandex||Elastic||5||Unavail.|
|Columbia Just Right Straight||$60||96% nylon, 4% elastane||Drawstring||1||9.6 oz.|
- Hiking Pants: Performance vs. Casual
- Hiking Pant Materials
- Waist Closures: Built-in Belts, Drawstrings, and Elastic
- Hiking Pant Weight
- Articulated Knees and Gussets
- Water Resistance
- Thickness and Durability
- Sizing and Fit
- Convertible and Roll-Up Pants
- Hiking Shorts and Capris
On our list above, we’ve broken women’s hiking pants into two distinct categories: performance and casual. We wanted to represent the full spectrum of pants that we (this article was curated by two female editors) and other women choose to wear on the trail. Pants in our performance category are your standard hiking fare and include technical fabrics, functional and often generous storage, and convertible or roll-up legs to keep you cool on warm days. These are our first choice for serious hiking: they’re breathable, generally water-resistant, durable enough to put up a fight against sharp rocks and plants, and offer great coverage and freedom of movement. Some of our favorite performance-oriented options include the prAna Halle and Arc’teryx Palisade, and the Fjallraven Trekking Tights also fall into this category due to their technical fabrics and design.
But let’s face it: hiking pants aren’t particularly stylish, and finding the right fit can be difficult. For these reasons, many women will opt instead for pants in our casual category, which look and feel great both on and off the trail. Casual pants are designed for non-technical outdoor use, often featuring thinner or less durable fabrics (sometimes even cotton), fewer pockets, and often less coverage (ankle-length designs like the prAna Kanab are increasingly popular). Most trail leggings, like the Patagonia Pack Out Tights, fit into this category as well. For casual jaunts on the trail and day hiking in particular, lifestyle pants get the job done, and it’s hard to ignore the style component. Some of our favorite picks include the Patagonia Happy Hike Studio, Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2, and aforementioned prAna Kanab.
Hiking pants are typically made of a nylon blend, and all 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 women who tend to size their pants on the tight side. The added give in the material is also 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 is one of the stretchiest hiking pants available (86 percent nylon and 14 percent spandex), while the legging options here (like the Patagonia Pack Out Tights) allow great mobility as well.
We’ve also included a small handful of outliers on this list. The Kuhl Splash Roll-Up is made with 68 percent cotton, a rarity these days in outdoor clothing. Cotton absorbs water more than nylon or polyester (and thus is not appropriate for colder weather), but the summer-specific Splash is made with thin fabric that will keep you cool when wet and dry out quickly in the sun. And then there are softshell pants like the Arc’teryx Gamma LT, which are thicker and more weather-resistant. Softshell pants are ideal for alpine conditions, wet weather, and bushwhacking, but they will feel overkill in the summer heat.
Ladies, we get it: trying to find a pair of hiking pants that fits well is a daunting and often futile task. Regardless of body shape, it seems that there’s always an area that’s too tight or too loose. Our best advice in finding the ideal fit for you is to start with the waist design, whether it be an integrated belt, drawstring, or fitted elastic waistband. Many pants will often come with belt loops as well, but we prefer a built-in style over the bulkiness of an added belt.
Built-in belts, like that on the Arc’teryx Palisade, are made of webbing, feature a low-profile adjuster, and can be found on the inside or the outside of the waistbelt. A drawstring functions similarly but ties shut, thereby adding a bit of extra bulk near your belly button. Finally, an elastic waistband, often found on leggings like the Patagonia Pack Out Tights or pants like the Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2, is the most low-profile solution that, unlike integrated belts or drawstrings, won’t get in the way of your backpack’s hipbelt. Pants with elastic waistbands generally forgo the standard zippered fly and button closure, but they’ve recently gained popularity for their comfort and good all-around fit.
All of the hiking pants on this list have at least one pocket, and most sport upwards of four or five. Front and back pockets are very common, as are streamlined side or thigh pockets, and often a few will be equipped with a zipper for extra security. While pockets aren’t for everyone—we don’t like to overload our hiking pants with excess bulk—organization can be a big help on the trail, especially when it comes to items like a phone or Chapstick. In fact, one of our biggest gripes when it comes to women’s outdoor clothing is the lack of functional storage—while men’s pants might have deep front or cargo pockets, women’s pants generally feature shallow openings that can’t even fit a modern smartphone. We call out storage when relevant in the write-ups above, but two of our favorite designs for stowing the essentials are the prAna Kanab and Arc’teryx Palisade.
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). Most pants on our list above weigh between 9 to 11 ounces and have never felt overly bulky or cumbersome on the trail. If you plan to carry a pair of pants on a backpacking trip or want a particularly lightweight feel that will keep you moving quickly, some of our favorites include the Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 (4.1 oz.) and the Arc’teryx Sabria (6.7 oz.). 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-4.5-ounce Outdoor Research Cirque II (not featured here) may be worth it. To help highlight differences in weight, we've included the numbers in our comparison table above.
Two helpful design features to look out for in your hiking pant search are articulated knees and gussets built into the crotch. Articulated knees mimic a person’s walking motion by creating a natural bend at the knee. In contrast to a traditional, straight-legged pant, the improved range of motion is immediately noticeable. 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. There generally are extra costs associated with the greater complexity in construction, so day hikers sticking to well-maintained trails with flatter grades or those on a budget can probably go without them. But in our opinion, there are real benefits to these features, and they do add a major boost in comfort on the trail.
The higher a fabric’s water resistance, the lower its breathability, so no one wants their hiking pant to be truly waterproof. But depending on the model, hiking pants can actually be pretty decent performers in the wet. When it comes to water resistance, many performance options have a durable water repellent (DWR) coating, which makes the droplets bead up and roll off. And, as long as you avoid a more casual cotton construction (like that of the Kuhl Splash Roll-Up or prAna Kanab), 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, which is reason enough for us to recommend sticking to hiking pants on all but the most extreme rainy days.
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, so it’s important to know what you’re looking at. From our list, pants like the Arc’teryx Palisade and Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 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 and prAna Halle. And thicker pants like the Arc’teryx Gamma LT 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 softshell-style pants (like the prAna Halle and Arc’teryx Gamma LT) are tough enough that we had few concerns brushing up against and squeezing between rocks and brush on the trail. And both the Patagonia Quandary and OR Ferrosi have surprising levels of durability despite their lighter feel. Finally, truly summer-specific pants like the TNF Aphrodite 2.0 and Mountain Hardwear Dynama/2 are more tear-prone and should be restricted to more casual hiking and backpacking.
We’ve put up with our fair share of baggy, ill-fitting hiking pants over the years, but the good news is that the market has improved significantly of late. Outdoor clothing brands like prAna, The North Face, and Patagonia all have the fit concept down quite well, and REI and Columbia have recently redesigned of a number of their offerings to bring them in line with the competition. To help you get the closest fit, many brands allow you to customize sizing both in terms of waist and inseam—for example, our top-rated prAna Halle comes in 11 waist sizes (00 to 18) and three different inseam options (short, regular, and tall), along with three plus sizes. We still recommend trying before you buy—and we do call out sizing and fit discrepancies in the write-ups above when possible—but all in all, we’re happy to see progress being made.
When you’re hiking in the heat, it can be nice to have the option of converting your pants to shorts (via zip-off legs) or securely rolling them up into capris. On our list above, we feature one style of convertible pant, the REI Co-op Sahara, and a few models that are offered in convertible variations (the Outdoor Research Ferrosi and Columbia Saturday Trail, for example). While they’re a bit of an outdated style, there’s no denying the added functionality and versatility. However, convertible pants are not for everyone: the extra zippers can be a pain to use, they add weight and bulk, and, due to the additional pinch points the zippers create, the fit is often baggier.
As a result, roll-up pants are becoming more and more popular, especially for women. The big benefit here is that you don’t have to fuss with zippers or risk losing your pant legs—all that’s required is a low-profile button and some tabs to secure the cinched hem, and you get many of the ventilating benefits of a zip-off design. Alternatively, some women’s pants incorporate drawstring cinches at the ankle, including the Outdoor Research Ferrosi and The North Face Aphrodite 2.0, so you can keep the hem off your hiking shoe or even pull the pant leg up around your calf.
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, shorts, or something in between? Choosing full-length pants gives you better protection from the sun and helps keep dirt and rocks from getting into your shoes. Further, they're the obvious pick for technical hikes or summit bids to reduce the number of scratches or cuts when brushing against rocks or branches (and the good news is that many now convert into capris with integrated tabs). That said, we love shorts and capris for day hikes on well-maintained trails. Both styles are cheaper (typically around $10 to $20 less than a comparable pant) and offer better freedom of movement and ventilation. And convertible pants are the obvious middle ground, although they come with a fair number of downsides, which we cover above.
The good news for those that want to pick up a pair of shorts or capris is that many of our favorite pants are offered in these styles. In general, these versions have a similar fit, fabric blend, and pocket layout as their full-length counterparts. We love Patagonia’s Quandary shorts, which come in two different inseam options (5” and 7”) and have deep front pockets that even fit a large phone. Other favorites include the Mountain Hardwear Dynama Bermuda Short and REI’s Sahara Shorts. And if you want a superlight and breathable option, a trail running-specific model can do the trick (we've worn a range of styles from Salomon, Brooks, and Patagonia). The biggest downside with running shorts is the lack of pockets, and you do give up some durability with their thin polyester constructions.
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