10 Best Hiking Pants

10 Best Hiking Pants

Hiking pants are an important piece of hiking gear but one that we often take for granted. They have to be highly breathable and quick-drying, 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 bug resistant or provide a high degree of sun protection? All of these are important variables when choosing the best hiking pants.

Make / ModelLeg StyleGenderPrice
Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking PantsConvertibleM | F$60
prAna Stretch Zion PantsRoll-upM$85
REI Sahara Convertible Hiking PantsConvertibleM | F$70
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible PantsConvertibleM | F$90
Kuhl Renegade Cargo Convertible PantsConvertibleM$99
Fjallraven Abisko Lite Trekking TrousersFull LengthM$170
Mountain Hardware AP PantsRoll-upM | F$90
Arc'teryx Palisade PantsFull-lengthM | F$159
RailRiders Eco-Mesh PantsFull LengthM$89
Fjallraven Vidda Pro PantsFull LengthM | F$150

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 hiking pants we recommend for 2020.

1. Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants

Columbia’s Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants are versatile summer hiking pants designed with hot days in mind. Their wicking, quick-drying fabric offers UPF 50 sun protection, and the legs zip off to convert into shorts with a 10-inch inseam. Their fit features a partial elastic waist, an adjustable outer waistband and a gusseted crotch that makes it easier to clamber up and over the trail’s obstacles. Pockets include a zippered security pocket on the left leg. A good value, they boast the most affordable price on this list before any sales or discounts.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

2. prAna Stretch Zion Pants

prAna Stretch Zion Hiking Pants get rave reviews for comfort, fit and durability, with an abrasion-resistant nylon/spandex blend designed to stretch when you scramble and climb. The quick-drying fabric also features a water-repellent (DWR) finish and UPF 50+ sun protection. For heat relief, the pants have a ventilated inseam gusset and roll-up cuffs held with snaps. Other handy features include an adjustable waistband and an angled dual-entry cargo pocket. Read our review.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

3. REI Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants

REI’s Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants are made of a lightweight, quick-drying stretch nylon fabric with a water repellent (DWR) finish and UPF 50+ rating. Convenient features include two cargo pockets and a hidden passport pocket; convertible pant-legs with color-coded zippers for when you are ready to convert your shorts back to pants; and reinforced cuff backs. Read our review.

Check out the latest price at:
REI

4. Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible Pants

Outdoor Research’s Ferrosi Convertible Pants, made from nylon/spandex woven ripstop fabric, are abrasion resistant but also lightweight, breathable and quick-drying, with good stretch. Like other pants on this list, they are DWR treated, with a UPF 50+ rating. Unlike the Ferrosi Pants on last year’s list, though, these convert to 10-inch inseam shorts, making them more versatile on hot days. Other features include a gusseted crotch and a zippered thigh pocket.

Check out the latest price at:
Outdoor Research | Moosejaw | Amazon

5. Kuhl Renegade Cargo Convertible Pants

Kuhl Renegade Cargo Convertible Pants have a soft, cotton-like feel, but are made from a nylon/spandex fabric blend that’s abrasion-resistant, water-repellent (DWR-coated) and fast-drying. The convertible pants’ zippers don’t have a flap over them, for a less bulky, more streamlined design, while ankle zips make it easier to get the lower pant legs on and off without messing with your footwear. Additional features: UPF 50 sun protection, dual cargo pockets, mesh pocket bags and a gusseted crotch.

Check out the latest price at:
REI

6. Fjallraven Abisko Lite Trekking Trousers

Fjallraven Abisko Lite Hiking Pants

Fjallraven’s Abisko Lite Trekking Trousers have rear mesh vents from the waist down to the knees and along the inner thighs to keep you cool in hot and humid weather. Tough enough for off-trail use, the Abisko Lite trousers have four pockets: two traditional “chino style” hand pockets and two rectangular, flat cargo pockets, one on each front thigh. The Cargo pockets have a zipper closure with a fold-down zipper tab and a soft liner interior good for storing a smartphone, a lighter, compass, map, or small snacks. A zip-off model is also available. Read our review.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon 

7. Mountain Hardwear AP Pants

Mountain Hardwear AP Pants offer a slimmer fit with lots of stretch, thanks to a breathable 75% cotton/23% nylon/2% elastane blend and articulated knees. The cotton content makes it better suited to hotter, dry climates. The roll-up pant legs fasten with snaps. Five pockets include two zippered back pockets and a slide-in front cellphone pocket. As a bonus, the pants have reflective trim to enhance your visibility at night.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

8. Arc’teryx Palisade Pants

Arc’teryx Palisade Pants were designed with long hikes and rugged terrain in mind. The lightweight, fast-drying nylon/elastane fabric stretches well and offers articulated patterning and a gusseted crotch to boost mobility. There is an adjustable, built-in webbing belt for a better fit. All five pockets are zippered, including two thigh pockets. Typically pricier than most of its competition, Arc’teryx markets itself as precisely designed, high-performance gear.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

9. RailRiders Eco-Mesh Pants

Railriders Eco-Mesh Pants

RailRiders Eco-Mesh Pants are lightweight nylon pants with zippered mesh side vents for ventilation instead of zip-off convertible legs. They’re designed for use in very hot desert conditions and pretreated with Insect Shield to prevent mosquito and tick bites. Constructed out of two-ply, 3-oz. Duralite nylon fabric, they are fast drying with a UPF rating of 30. The fit is enhanced by elastic side panels at the waist, and sports two on-seam front pockets, and 2 zippered back pockets.

Check out the latest price at:
RailRiders

10. Fjallraven Vidda Pro Pants

Fjallraven Vidda Pro Pants are designed for rugged hiking, mountaineering, and hunting. They are made from Fjallraven’s G-1000 fabric: a 65% polyester/35% cotton mix that the company recommends treating with Greenland Wax to reach the level of water- and weather-proofing you want. They have extra reinforcement on the rear and knees and an adjustable, elastic pant bottom. There are pockets galore: 2 hand pockets, a map pocket, a multi-tool pocket, and an internal phone pocket. Need durable while you perform trail maintenance? Here you go. Read our review.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Moosejaw | Amazon

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 a three-season pant, or one 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.

Stretch

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.

Durability

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.

Sun protection

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.

Insect protection

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.

Water protection

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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21 comments

  1. I have gone almost exclusively to hiking in PrAna Stretch Zion pants. Yes, they are comfortable, but the main reason is the integrated belt. If I wear pants that require a regular belt, my pack hip belt seems to push down on it and take my pants down with it! I also have the Stretch Zion shorts. The only complaint I have about them is that the cargo pocket is smaller than the cargo pocket on the pants. Smart phones get bigger all the time, and the pocket on the shorts is a tight fit whereas it’s an easy fit on the pants.

    • A built in belt is key, especially under a backpack because it means your pants aren’t always falling down.

    • I’ve found that on the convertible version, the main left pocket holds my phone pretty securely. Of course, it’s not waterproof.

  2. “None of the pants on our list this year are treated with repellent…” The RailRiders are. With a builtin belt and all zippered pockets, they’d be 100% perfect in my book, instead of only 99% perfect.

    Do people really carry cargo in cargo pockets? To each his own but for me the front of my thighs has always seemed a lousy place to carry anything.

    • Damn editor was sleeping on the job again.

    • As for cargo. I carry lots.

      • Am I missing something? I don’t see real cargo pockets that expand to actually carry something on any of these pants. I feel like we’ve gone from practical to hipster to walk around the city looking outdoorsy.

      • I think you’re missing something. Half of those pants have lots of cargo pockets.

    • I carry cargo IF the pockets are on the side. I don’t like pockets on the thigh, which is why, judging by the photos on their website, I won’t buy Fjallraven pants, even though some have the integral belt.

  3. Prana Zion and OR Ferossi are my go to hiking pants. I prefer the Pranas below 60 degrees because they are thicker. Much warmer than that and they get a tad uncomfortable for me. The Ferossi’s are nice and thin with great stretch. I also like the durability of the Zions and will wear them bushwhacking or hunting. The built in belt is also fantastic and something I miss when I wear my Ferossi pants.

    Might give those RailRiders a try when I need a new pair of pants. I like the idea of the full length venting.

  4. I definitely prefer roll-up pants to convertibles. Much easier to deal with, and you don’t have to worry about losing one of the legs somewhere (hasn’t happened to me but I worry that someday it will). They are especially superior when the temperature drops suddenly and you just have to unbutton and roll down the legs rather than mess with tricky zippers that never seem to work right when you’re suddenly much colder.

    I’m sad that REI discontinued their Sahara roll-up pants but I have a few that are now starting to fit me again (since I’ve lost weight recently) so that’s good. The Prana Zions are okay but like I commented on a previous blog you wrote about them, the pockets on the women’s version are much smaller than on the men’s version and that was a bummer to discover. Also, like others here, I agree that they’re a bit heavy for wearing when the weather’s warm.

    • I forgot to mention my caveat, though, which is that roll-up legs roll up high enough to make the pants into shorts. Capri-length legs don’t do much to cool me off, and unfortunately a lot of roll-ups seem to only go that far. Hence the reason I love my old Saharas.

  5. I’ve worn the REI Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants for 20+ years. I wear a ‘real’ belt with them, as I find the belt they come with slips, and comes loose. My only ‘complaint’ about them is every time I wear out a pair the newer pair have a different zippered pocket arrangement.

  6. I no longer wear shorts for hiking. I love my rail riders zip mesh sides. Keeps me as cool as shorts but keeps bugs off my legs. They are thin and campfire sparks have left a few small holes. In shoulder seasons I can wear smart wool underneath and stay warm.

  7. The RailRiders are the real deal. I was skeptical until the first time I unzipped mine on a hot day. Not quite as cool as shorts, but close (and better sun protection). I must have about 500 miles on my pair. Look good as new. One note–the pant legs feel just a bit longer than advertised (I have a regular inseam which works fine, even though I’m 6’1″ and would generally take a long inseam).

    • I still only get one year out of those including patches.

      • I really like my RailRiders EcoMesh pants but the fabric is pretty delicate. I mostly stay on trails but being inherently clumsy, mine have many patches. When patching, don’t try iron on… I put an iron shaped hole through both sides of the leg on one pair. I should have had a cup of coffee first!

        Although these pants work great for me, I can see why some would feel the durability doesn’t suit them.

  8. I’s like to add DULUTH TRADING CO. “DRY ON THE FLY” PANTS. They come in light weight with Spandex for stretch and heavier weight nylon. And they all come in either cargo pocket style or plain pants.

    ALL Duluth Trading Co. pants, whether cotton or synthetic, have a gusseted crotch and are very high quality construction – equivalent in my opinion to Rail Riders but less expensive.

  9. I’m tall, and a bigger boy compared to others. One brand I didn’t see mentioned was the Eddie Bauer Guide Pants. Being tall, I don’t have as many options, but compared to REI or Columbia, they are my favorite pair I’ve ever worn. They’ve held up pretty darn good, are reasonably priced, and for me, they have talls and big boy sizes!

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