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How do I Choose the Best Hiking Pants?

By Susan Grindstaff
Updated May 23, 2024
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Many factors involved in selecting hiking pants come down to personal taste, and if the hike is going to be of short duration in very safe terrain, the type of clothing and gear you choose is of less importance. For longer hikes, however, these choices can sometimes be a matter of survival. It is a good idea to choose hiking pants that are durable and can provide protection against environmental elements and that can accommodate fluctuations in temperature.

When choosing your clothing for hiking, you should purchase pants that are adaptable to both day and night. Temperatures at night can often plummet, and you should be sure your clothing offers ample protection. Many styles of hiking pants come with lower leg sections that can be removed with zippers or snaps. During warmer temperatures, these pants can be worn as shorts, and when the air begins to cool, they can quickly transform back into pants. In many cases, this type of convertible clothing costs a bit more, but because of their versatility, purchasing this type of hiking pants may actually save you money in the long run.

Durability of construction is another important factor in choosing hiking apparel. Check to be sure that most of the seams are double stitched. Double stitching helps reinforce seams, and this is especially true for seams exposed to a lot of stress. For instance, when climbing, squatting, or even taking long strides, the inseam of pants absorbs most of the physical pressure, and good-quality hiking pants will have an inseam with double stitching. Pockets and center back seams are also areas that absorb a lot of stress and consequently should be reinforced.

Though natural fiber fabrics often offer a greater degree of comfort, in practical terms, synthetic fabrics are typically much better suited for hiking apparel. You should look for hiking pants made of fabric that will resist moisture and tears. If you are caught outdoors in the rain, wearing water-resistant clothing will help to protect you from the elements and the risk of developing hypothermia.

Finally, comfort and practicality should not be overlooked. Hiking pants should ideally be a good, comfortable fit, neither too tight nor too loose. Since you will likely find yourself in various bodily positions, test the fit of the pants while standing, sitting, and squatting. If they are uncomfortable in any of these positions, it is a good idea to select a different size or style. For practical purposes, hiking pants should have as many pockets as possible, with at least two of them having zippers or snaps for closure.

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Discussion Comments
By andee — On Jun 02, 2011

I purchased a pair of wool hiking pants once, but found that I have only worn them a few times and don't really like them all that much. The worst part is they are not very easy to clean. You can get pretty dirty sometimes when you are hiking, and I want something that I can easily throw in the wash.

They are very warm, but I also found them to be too hot for me. When I hike, I would rather be too cool than too hot, and the wool pants were too hot for me. They were also a bit bulky, which made it a little uncomfortable too.

There are advantages to wool pants in certain situations, but I found that they just don't usually work best for me and the hikes I take. It is nice to have so many other choices of hiking pants to choose from though.

By John57 — On Jun 01, 2011

Our family loves to hike in the Rocky Mountains and have tried many different kinds of hiking pants through the years. When we are purchasing all of our hiking gear, the pants and boots are two of the most important purchases.

You want something that is light weight, but that will also not rip or tear very easily. The best pants depend on how long you will be hiking, the terrain and what you think the weather will be like for the entire hike. Many times there can be quite a difference in the temperature range in just a few hours, so you need to find something that will work best for the entire hike.

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