Hiking pants are an important piece of hiking gear but one that men often take for granted. They have to be highly breathable, durable, quick-drying, and easy to vent when you get too hot, but warm when the temperature drops. Fit, freedom of movement, and pockets are also key factors. What about hiking pants that are insect resistant or provide a high degree of sun protection? All of these are important variables when choosing the best hiking pants.
|Make / Model||Leg Style|
|KUHL Renegade Convertible Pants||Convertible|
|REI Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants||Convertible|
|Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants||Convertible|
|Arc'teryx Gamma Pants||Full-length|
|prAna Stretch Zion II Pants||Roll-up|
|Patagonia Quandary Pants||Full-length|
|Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pants||Convertible|
|Eddie Bauer Guide Pro||Convertible|
|RailRiders Eco-Mesh Pants||Full Length|
|Duluth Dry On the Fly Cargo Pants||Full Length|
However, no one pant will suit everyone’s body type. Some hikers prefer a slimmer fit that reduces extra fabric while others feel more comfortable and airy with a looser fit. Particular features to look for include articulated knees and a gusseted crotch, lots of pockets, and venting options such as roll-up legs or convertible pants. With these variables in mind, here are the top 10 men’s hiking pants we recommend.
1. KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible Pants
|View at REI||View at Backcountry|
2. REI Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants
3. Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants
|View at REI||View at Amazon|
4. Arc’teryx Gamma Pants
|View at REI||View at Amazon|
5. prAna Stretch Zion II Pants
|View at REI||View at Backcountry|
6. Patagonia Quandary Pants
|View at REI||View at Backcountry|
7. Outdoor Research Ferrossi Convertible Pants
8. Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Convertible Hiking Pants
9. RailRiders Eco-Mesh Pants
10. Duluth Trading Company Dry on the Fly Pants
Hiking Pants Selection Criteria
Consider these variables when buying hiking pants.
Weight & breathability
For summer hiking, you want a breathable, lightweight fabric that will help you stay cool. You may want three-season pants, or ones you can layer for winter, but if you plan on hiking at the height of summer, buy for that. Overheating will make you miserable, or worse. Most hiking pants are fully synthetic, which helps them dry out quickly when you sweat. Some also incorporate mesh panels and/or pockets to help airflow.
Long pants, convertible pants, or roll-ups
Your choice will depend on both your comfort preferences and the type of hiking you’ll be doing. If it’s going to be hot, and you are backpacking with just one pair of pants, convertible pants will give you the most options for day and night. But if you know you will not want shorts, because of sun exposure, bugs, or terrain that will beat up your legs, convertible pants are unnecessary and will add bulk. In other words, consider your terrain and habits when you choose. If you do choose convertible pants, test the zippers and look for ankle zips, too, which let you take the lower legs on and off without removing your shoes. An alternative to fully convertible pants, roll-up legs–typically held up with a snap or button–can provide extra ventilation on a hot day.
Pockets and Extra Features
Extra features can make a good pair of pants into a great pair of pants. Secure, well-designed pockets give you easy access to essentials like your phone or map without rummaging through your pack. Well-placed waistbands won’t chafe under your pack’s hip belt. Reinforced pant cuffs can help prevent fraying.
You’ll also want to look for stretch, especially if you’ll be hiking in scrambly terrain. If you have to get your legs up and over obstacles, you’re going to want to give in the fabric. Most of the pants listed here blend nylon with spandex or elastane to provide that stretch, but the ratios differ. Typically, the higher the spandex or elastane content, the more flexible the fabric. A cotton blend can also offer good mobility, as with the Mountain Hardwear AP Pants and the Fjallraven Vidda Pros on our list.
Aside from the durability of the fabric itself–which you learn through gear reviews along with trial and error–features that increase durability include reinforced seams as well as reinforced knee and rear panels. Heavier fabrics, or those with a tighter weave, may be more durable, but that also needs to be balanced against breathability in the summer months.
All clothing will provide some protection from direct sun, but some fabrics provide more than others. Many manufacturers have started listing UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) ratings on their clothes. This tells you how much of the sun’s ultraviolet rays penetrate the material. For example, if a garment’s UPF rating is 50, that means 1/50, or 2 percent, of the sun’s UV rays, reach your skin through the cloth. UPF 20 means that 1/20, or 4 percent, of the sun’s rays, get through. The higher the rating, the better the protection. Fabric type, weave, dyes and added chemical treatments can all affect UPF.
Fabric treated with insect repellents such as Permethrin can help keep the biting critters away. This can be especially helpful in high tick season. Few of the pants on our list this year are treated with repellent, but it is not a hard process to do on your own. (Permethrin is known to be dangerous to cats, so if you treat clothing at home, be careful with the chemical. Once you have finished treatment, however, the clothes are safe.) See here and here for info on treating clothes yourself.
Durable water repellent (DWR) coating is common in hiking pants, as you’ll notice in our top ten list. It won’t make the pants waterproof, but it will help them shed water, and delay, if not prevent a soaking. That said, the coating wears off with wear, tear, and washing, so you’ll eventually need to refresh or re-apply it, which you can do safely at home with the right products.
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Philip, Another great article! Big fan of your content, coverage, and real-world assessments.
I’d like to put a plug in for the LL Bean Cresta Hiking Zip-Off Pants. I have two of these and have put many miles on each. They fit well, wick, and are very comfortable.
Again, love your content, newsletters, and in-depth reviews.
Kind regards, Chuck
Prana Stretch Zions, I think the fit change between I and II models is quite significant. I fits more loose, which helps a lot in warm weather, while II is more fashionable with slimmer fit, but considerably more stuffy if warm.
..yes, I sorely miss unfashionably loose fitting options for summer hikes!
Zion IIs are also “scratchier” and have a plastic feel to the fabric. I’m a huge fan of Zion I, but not at all a fan of Zion IIs.
My impression so far has been similar, but to be frank, I think the difference is pretty minor. The new fabric seemed to pill faster. So, I think the old fabric seems better, but I would still buy new pants if the fit was the same.
Unfortunately, Prana also stopped making the convertible versions of the Zion. I wish I had bought a second pair, as they are my go-to pants.
How about listing country of manufacture in future articles? This is very important for many of us
My go-to hiking pants are a pair of Arborwear Ascender pants. While designed for climbing trees, they crossover well to hiking due to their durability and flexibility.
Great writeup, as usual! Thanks for imparting your wisdom on us!
I have the Arc’teryx Gamma Pants and am very happy with them, except they’re a bit of a hotbox when the temps get over 70 or so. Do any of these recommendations on you list rate better/worse for hot conditions?
As you said, Philip, some folks prefer roomy, while others prefer a slimmer fit. In my mid-60s now and retired from both military and federal wildlife LEO careers, I’ve adopted healthier eating habits, and am now at the same weight that I once was in my early 30s. All of my baggy clothes – including name brand outdoors wear – goes to my sister for her Poshmark (whatever the hell that is!) sales. I like a slimmer fit, (not just for aesthetics) as I find baggy-fit pants become extra “ounces” in my pack, and in wet conditions (rain, heavy dew, stream fords) just a floppy nuisance around my ankles. I really like synthetic “active pants”…and I do have two pair of slim cut Patagonia Quandary pair that are great. I recently bought a pair of “zip offs” (on sale) from a company that I discovered last year on the internet, (buying their shorts); it is based in Australia: Thousand Miles. I wore the pants recently while doing volunteer seabird colony research off the coast of Maine…they are light, sturdy, warm when needed and cool as the sun climbed. I look for a few things in “hiking pants”: a crotch gusset, sewed-in ventilation in the gusset, and “matched” zip off cuffs, and / or a drawstring at the cuffs, or gathered cuffs.. as always mi hermano, excellent articles! Stay safe..
I have several of these, all fine, and I keep coming back to an old pair of Mountain Hardware convertibles. Interesting to me that one of the current models didn’t make the cut?
An issue for me is always finding a long inseam. RailRiders are great that way.
Thanks, as always!
Thru hiked the Colorado Trail in a pair of Montane Terra Pack Pants and have been wearing often ever since. Very nice super light, yet durable hiking pant. I recommend giving them a try.
Really hard to get the right fit in Montane clothing sometimes because they’re sized for brits. I’ve tried.