A painful blister due to a bad pair of hiking boots can ruin a lovely day on the mountain. A chafed leg, knee, groin, or waist can make every movement, even sitting, absolute agony. Hiking requires a wide range of movement, and every part of your body needs the right gear to keep you comfortable so that rashes, scrapes, falls, and abrasions don’t turn a hike into days of ongoing pain. While the amateur climber will focus on their footwear, old hands on the trail know that a pair of hiking pants can be their true deliverance.
Your pants of choice need to be able to breathe, since sweat can make any contact point with your clothing worse and cause untold issues down the line or up the slope. They should be durable enough for your outing, whether bouldering or doing some rock climbing as you amble along. They should be able to help cut wind and rain without being constricting. Often they should offer the opportunity to transform into shorts when a mountain stream is just too inviting to pass up. Above all, they should be comfortable. That’s why we found the 9 best hiking pants around.
5.11 TacLite Pro
Pro: Additional belt loops
Con: Tend to run baggy
Carry-All: 5.11 has a long track record of making tactical pants, but what is good for recon missions isn’t necessarily going to be the right fit for mountain climbing. The TacLite Pro certainly has tactical elements built into it, but these are still hiking pants through and through. They’re made in the TDU (replacement for BDU) vein with a poly/cotton ripstop frame and plenty of storage space with cargo pockets for phones or Handheld GPS. There’s even an external place for your folding pocket knife. Able to perform in hot and humid climates, these are ideal for hikes or forced marches in the warmest conditions.
Columbia Silver Ridge
Pro: Stretch band on the waist reduces need for adjustment
Con: Thighs are a bit binding on high steps or long strides
Everyman: You want to climb a mountain, then you want to go to the bar. No, come to think of it, you just want to sit on the couch. Do you need different pants for all of these activities? A pair of trekking pants that are comfortable enough to go to the beach, go to the pub, go on a mountain bike ride, or just wear for a lazy day are an oddly rarefied breed. The Silver Ridge is the convertible weekender pants that are solid for day treks, but just as happy in a hammock. 100% ripstop nylon gives you 50 UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) sun protection, moisture wicking and evaporation, and durable comfort, but they don’t make a big deal about it.
Pro: Leg, zippered, and rear pockets
Con: Crotch can fit tight
Casual Comfort: Not every guy’s skin is made of cast iron and oak bark. Some men have to get the sensitive shaving creams and need to protect themselves from any fabric that is going to rub them raw. In the world of hiking pants, these guys will want the Wayfarer. We were shocked that a pant with 86% nylon and 14% elastan could feel this good, but thanks to Salomon’s skin shield, they never scratched, scuffed, grated, or marred the daintiest of testers. Plenty of pockets and adjustment straps on the side make these standouts for long trips and baby smooth skin.
Outdoor Research Ferrosi
Pro: Elastic cuffs
Con: Small pockets
Amazingly Airy: Whisper thin yet able to fight off the challenges of the mountain, the Ferrosi are good for backpackers and climbers alike who often find themselves weighed down or overheated by their pants. They’ll cut through breezes and some heavier gusts, but never mistake these for winter or even hard autumn protection. You’ll be happy the nylon and spandex body is in your quiver when the mercury starts to climb and heat dissipation is the order of the day.
prAna Stretch Zion
Pro: Comes in standard and convertible models
Con: Slim fitting and narrow
Scale Model: Made primarily to go along with rock climbing shoes, carabiners, and a sturdy length of rope, the Zion does much more than your average set of tights or trousers. Mostly made of nylon with 3% spandex for a little more elasticity, combined with the gusseted crotch, it makes for a snug pant that can also move with your body. Like a lightweight softshell, these still have a little more heft than your average set of hiking pants. A little warm for some summer hikes, the DWR coating slathers the exterior making long trips more cozy and dry.
Marmot Cruz Convertible
Pro: Dries rapidly
Con: Stitching fails after repeated, arduous use
Alternator: We didn’t believe that a convertible pant could ever be used in the winter. Rather than packing these away when the snows fly, just zip the legs back on and head out. The nylon body both resists moisture and wind without packing on the pounds so that these won’t take up much space in your hiking backpack. Zippers at the knees change these to lightweight shorts, and those on the ankle cuffs accommodate ski boots with aplomb for mid-season downhilling. 50 UPF rating and a gusseted crotch for better movement make the Cruz a winning convertible.
Mammut Base Jump Advanced II
Pro: Smooth joint movement
Con: No included waist adjustment
Adventurer: Easy to wear, able to stand up to the elements both at home an afar, in many ways the Base Jump Advanced II are the perfect pair of trousers for the outdoors. The fabric is Schoeller 3XDRY which resists water and stains while simultaneously wicking fabric away from your body so that it dissipates easily on hot, wet days. You even get a full 30+ UPF so that the sun won’t bake your body. Slippery cloth fights off abrasions, avoids literal wear and tear, and feels good against your skin.
Pro: Look new even after abuse
Con: Climbing and scrambling wear shows quickly
Taste Maker: Pants built for the backcountry don’t typically hide their rugged nature, but the Gamma is an oddly stylish duck. Much more than a pretty face, when donning them, you’re sure to notice their silky feel and the urbane cut, but underneath they are more than capable of laughing off rain, sleet, snow, and cutting wind like a running jacket. A match for a wide range of activities, these are literally able to go straight from work to a 15 mile endurance trek without batting an eye.
Pro: Pant cuffs prevent scree ingress
Leg Armor: Fjällräven means “Arctic Fox” in Swedish, and these pants earn that name with every snag they shrug off and jagged edge they keep from cutting into your delicate flesh.They use a patented cotton/polyester blend that is known as G-1000. Despite sounding like it’s about to kill John Connor, it makes the Keb pants good for trekking in harsh conditions, ventilates well, and can even be waxed should you need to amp up the wind and water resistance. Take them to Alaska, take them cragging, take them along the fjords, pack them with your ice axes, and wear them every day. You’ll be fine.