Hiking pants for both men and women have a variety of features ranging from zippers just above the knee that allow long pants to be converted to shorts, to small holes in the crotch that improve ventilation. Picking and choosing among these features to suit your own needs is a matter of personal preference, but there are 9 features that should be considered key features to look for in hiking pants including material, water resistance and 7 others. Here’s a brief summary of those key features along with links to hiking pants that illustrate them. Following that is a list of 7 top hiking pants for men and 7 top hiking pants for women so that you can compare these and other key features across a broad range of pants.
Ideally you will need only one pair of pants while hiking. The right pair of pants will protect you from sun and heat, moderate cold, wind, rain, and brush along the trail. All of the pants included here are suitable for most any outdoor activity including backpacking and climbing as well as hiking. Plus, they make great travel pants.
What Fabric are the Hiking Pants Made Of?
Look for pants made of a mid-weight nylon that will be comfortable between about 40 and 85 degrees. Nylon is durable and provides excellent protection against abrasion. A small amount of spandex or elastane incorporated into the weave will enable the pants to stretch with your movement. Pants with spandex or elastane tend to be fit tighter. Pants without either of those materials tend to fit looser and baggier the type of fit being largely a matter of personal preference. The prAna Stretch Zion Convertible Pant is an example of a pant that has a stretchy nylon / spandex weave allowing for wide range of movement.
Hiking Pants Water Resistance
Look for pants with a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating applied to the outside. This is a chemical coating that helps the fabric shed water upon contact. DWR coating can lose its effectiveness over time but can be easily reapplied with Nikwax TX Direct Waterproofing or similar products. The North Face Paramount Peak Convertible Men’s Hiking Pants have an effective DWR coating.
Convertible Hiking Pants
Convertible pants have zippers that allow you to remove the bottom of the leg and convert the pants into shorts. Some convertible pants have vertical zippers on the outside bottom of the leg. This allows you to slip the pant leg off over your footwear The North Face Paramount Peak Convertible Pant has both of these zip features. In addition, the zips are color coded to prevent any confusion when restoring the pants to their full length.
Snap-Up Pants Legs
This feature allows you to roll up the pants legs for warmer weather hiking or for wading through streams. The prAna Stretch Zion Pants have this feature.
Reinforced Seat and Knees
Reinforced seat and knees provides an extra measure of durability in a high abrasion areas. 5.11 Men’s Tactical 74273 TacLite Pro Pant has these features.
Gusseted Crotch and Crotch Ventilation Holes
A gusseted crotch provides an extra measure of comfort in the crotch area. Arc’Teryx Gamma LT Pants have a Gusseted Crotch. Small holes in the crotch area increase ventilation. The prAna Stretch Zion Pant has both of these this features.
Waist Tightening System with Belt Loops
Look for a waist tightening system that allows you to cinch up the pants without wearing a belt. Belt loops should also be present in case you have a reason to wear a belt. The prAna Stretch Zion Pant has this feature.
Hiking Pant Pockets
Generally speaking the more pockets the better. But the number and construction of pockets is a matter of personal taste. Look for front pockets, cargo pockets and back pockets with button flaps. Look for velcro and or zippers. Be satisfied that the pockets are deep enough. Look for special pocket features. The North Face Paramount Peak Convertible Men’s Hiking Pant for example, has a small zippered pocket on the right hand side in addition to the regular side pocket that is useful for securing important, hard-to-replace items like keys, driver’s licenses or credit cards.