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Top 10 Best Hiking Pants – 2017

Top 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.

What are the best hiking pants recommended by other hikers? We asked 525 hikers what hiking pants they prefer to wear when hiking and backpacking and found that their top picks include: Columbia’s Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants, prAna’s Stretch Zion Pants, Outdoor Research’s Ferrosi Pants, REI’s Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants, and my personal favorite, Rail Rider’s Eco Mesh Pants.

Here’s the full list of their top 10 picks:

1. Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants

Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants
Columbia’s Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants give you a convenient 2-in-1 function that saves weight and space, making them perfect for hiking and backpacking. Pant legs zip off in warm weather converting the pants to shorts with a 10 in. inseam, while lightweight nylon fabric keeps the pants breathable and quick drying. A gusseted crotch facilitates freedom of movement, while an elastic waistband and integrated webbing belt let you fine-tune the fit. Available for men and women. Click for more details and sizing.

2. prAna Stretch Zion Pants

PrAna Stretch Zion Hiking Pants
prAna Stretch Zion Hiking Pants stand up to hard wear, dry quickly and stretch so you can move freely. Quick-drying stretch-nylon fabric resists abrasion and wrinkles and has a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish to resist water and stains.The pant legs can be rolled up and held in place with snaps. A ventilated gusset allows complete freedom of movement while an adjustable waistband provides a comfortable fit that doesn’t slip. Available for men only. Click for more details and sizing.

3. Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants
Outdoor Research’s Ferrosi Pants are lightweight, abrasion resistant pants with a heathy mix of spandex for easy hiking and scrambling. A gusseted crotch and articulated knees enhance mobility, while a brushed tricot lined waistband keeps things comfortable. Fast drying, they’re also water-resistant, but lightweight enough for desert and hot weather hiking. Available for men and women. Click for more details and sizing.

4. REI Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants

REI Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants
REI’s Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants are affordable, lightweight nylon hiking pants with a plethora of zippered pockets so you don’t have to worry about dropping important items on the trail.  They also have color coded thigh zippers so you can easily tell the right leg from the left leg when converting back to pants, along with long ankle zips so you can switch between long pants and short ones without having to take off your hiking boots or shoes. While these pants are very popular, REI has tweaked their design recently with mixed reviews. They’re still an excellent value but I’d recommend trying a pair before committing to them for the long-term. Available in a wide range of sizes for men and women. Click for more details and sizing.

5. Rail Riders Eco-Mesh Pants with Insect Shield

RailRiders Eco-Mesh Pants
Rail Riders Eco-Mesh Hiking Pants are ultralight nylon hiking pants with unique mesh-backed side vents, running from the upper thigh to the ankle, that can be zipped open in hot weather or closed when it’s cool. When the zippers are closed, the Eco-Mesh Pants resemble a traditional pair of khakis, undetectable by your Mom’s clothing censor. But don’t let these stylish and innovative pants fool you. I’ve been using them exclusively for hiking and backpack since 2008 and swear by them. Their 100% safe permethrin Insect Shield treatment repels Lyme-disease carrying ticks and remains effective for up to 70 washes. Men’s sizes only. Click for more details and sizing.

6. Mountain Hardwear Mesa II Convertible Pant

Mountain Hardwear Mesa II Convertible Pants

Mountain Hardwear’s Mesa II Convertible Pants are lightweight and quick drying, with mesh pockets to facilitate rapid draining if you decide to swim in the shorts. A full-length inseam gusset aids mobility and an extra-wide, soft waistband keeps you comfortable. Zip off the legs for shorts with an 11” inseam. UPF 50 fabric blocks out UV rays. Men’s sizes only. Click for more details and sizing.

7. Kuhl Renegade Convertible Pants

Kuhl Renegade Convertible Mens
Kuhl’s Renegade Convertible Pants are made with a durable soft-shell fabric that feels like cotton but’s coated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish for added water resistance. The pants have a unique, zip-off system that eliminates the fabric flap found on other convertible plants, but keeps the zipper running smoothly and efficient. When unzipped, the pants turn into shorts with a 10″ inseam. A gusseted crotch and relaxed fit allow freedom of movement, while mesh pockets provide ventilation and rapid draining. Men’s sizes only. Click for more details and sizing.

8. North Face Paramount Peak II Convertible Hiking Pants

North Face Paramount Peak II
The Paramount Peak II is the North Face’s most popular hiking pant. They have a light DWR (durable water repellent) finish to shed moisture and keep the midweight abrasion-resistant nylon exterior dry when exposed to light rainfall. The pants have a relaxed fit with large cargo pockets that close with velcro in addition to a cellphone pocket. When the legs are unzipped, the shorts have 10″ inseams, with an elastic waistband at the back and a front webbed belt closure. Men’s and women’s sizing is available. Click for details.

9. Ex Officio Damselfly Pants with Insect Shield

Ex Officio Damselfly
Ex Officio’s Damselfly Pants are made with ultralight nylon. They wick moisture and dry very fast with roll up legs (22″ inseam) and articulated knees for free movement. The waist closes with a draw string. The pants have a relaxed jean-like fit with angled side pockets and a hidden security zip pocket. Their 100% safe permethrin Insect Shield treatment repels Lyme-disease carrying ticks and remains effective for up to 70 washes. Women’s sizing only. Click for details.

10. Patagonia Baggies Shorts

Patagonia Baggies
Patagonia Baggies are the most popular hiking shorts we identified among hikers who prefer short pants over long pants or convertibles. Baggies are lined water shorts available in a variety of leg lengths ranging from 5-9″. Made with lightweight nylon, they’re fast drying and have an elastic waist for a comfortable fit.  Available for men, women, boys, and girls. Click for details and sizing.

Hiking Pant Length Preferences

When choosing a pair of hiking pants, the first question you want to ask yourself if whether you prefer wearing long pants, convertible zip off pants, shorts, leggings, or a skirt. While temperature and weather factors are likely to play a role in your selection, we were surprised to see how few hikers prefer wearing short pants (17.5%) vs pants with long legs or convertible, zip off legs.

Hiking Pant Style Preferences
Hiking Pant Style Preferences

While the obvious advantage of wearing hiking pants with convertible, zip off legs (43.6% is their adaptability in hot and cold weather, it’s surprising to see how many hikers prefer wearing hiking pants that are non-convertible, long pants (36.2%). If we combined those two populations, we see that 80% of those surveyed want the option to have long hiking pants. In addition to the obvious thermal reasons, I think that the added leg protection, sun protection, and insect protection are additional factors that favor the preference for long pants over short pants or hiking skirts.

About This Survey

This survey was conducted on the SectionHiker.com website which has over 300,000 unique readers per month, so a large pool of potential respondents. Readers were incented to participate in the survey in exchange for a chance to win a raffle for a piece of hiking gear.

While we’re confident that the results are fairly representative of the general hiking population based on the size of the survey results where n=525 people, we can’t claim that the results are statistically significant.

There are also a number of ways in which the results could be biased including: hikers who read SectionHiker.com might not be representative of all hikers, hikers who read Internet content might not be representative of all hikers, hikers who respond to raffle incentives might not be representative of all hikers, our methods for recording responses might have been unconsciously biased, and so on.

The author is an expert in statistical analysis, survey, and experimental design and is sensitive to these issues. However, given the size of the respondent pool and the very strong consensus among user responses, we believe that the survey results published here will be useful to hikers who are interested in learning about the popularity of different hiking pants.

Support SectionHiker.com, where we actually field test the products we review. If you make a purchase after clicking on the links above, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you.

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38 comments

  1. Rail Riders are insect selective too!
    Their 100% safe permethrin Insect Shield treatment repels Lyme-disease carrying ticks

  2. I bought a pair of RailRiders Ecomesh about 3 years ago and honestly, they are the worst hiking pants that I own. The fit is terrible – the legs are cut narrow and there is something about the cut that I find really restricts movement (I’m 6’2″, 180 pounds with skinny legs, so not exactly overstuffing the pants), even when driving. The whole mesh behind the zipper gimmick is really only useful for making the legs wider and the pants fit somewhat better. At least on my 3 year old pants, the mesh is not a fine mesh, but more like an open mesh laundry bag material that does little to block insects, particularly deer ticks here in the mid-Atlantic. I realize that the pants are InsectShield treated, but I’ve sat and watched ticks crawling up the legs of these pants for at least 5-10 minutes – so the permethrin treatment isn’t exactly instant acting and gets worse with more washes. I just don’t trust these pants with the zippers open in tick-infested areas (basically the whole northeast US) I wore my EcoMesh pants yesterday on a hike and decided that they are not even going in the loaner gear box, but to Goodwill instead. I actually have a couple of other RailRider products – a winter pant that fits even worse than the EcoMesh pant and a couple of nylon web belts that started to fray on the edges after two or three uses. I’m over RailRiders – there are far better options for the price.

    I love the Prana Stretch Zion pants and have a few pair, but the material is heavy and they definitely are too warm for summer hiking. I use them for hiking in the late fall to winter where they are excellent.

    The best pants that I’ve used are the ExOfficio BugsAway Ziwa convertible pant. Light material, nice array of pockets, and a generous but not baggy fit. So far, they show no signs of wear and are cooler than the EcoMesh without the need for a gimmicky mesh insert. They are a near perfect pant, so I’m kind of surprised not to see them here.

    • Not one of the 525 hikers we surveyed even mentioned them.

    • I just bought 6 more pairs of RailRiders last night. :-) Big sale. But pants are one of those things that you have to try to get right. Not all pants work for all people. As for the tick prevention. Just wearing LONG pants is probably the most effective thing you can do to prevent Lyme. The Eco-mesh pants are thin and well-ventilated enough that I can get by with them in the middle of summer. The Insect Shield is just a bonus.

      • Hey if they work for you, go for it! The ExOfficio Ziwas may be marketed as travel clothing rather than hiking/backpacking gear, but they are worth a look.

        Agree completely about the long pants being the most effective means of preventing Lyme, but my issue with the EcoMesh was that the mesh is too large to really serve as a barrier to entry for black legged ticks and the permethrin is not instant acting, resulting in large areas with no physical or chemical barrier to ticks. The NB bubble just passed NJ and its amazing how many hikers are in shorts and upon speaking to them, are clueless about the banner year for ticks we’re having in the NE. Even if a hiker is doing regular tick checks, they’ll probably miss a black legged tick. They seem to worry about bears and noro, but not Lyme.

      • How much did you pay?

  3. I used convertible pants until I found the RailRiders Eco-Mesh. After several years of use, my first pair has acquired a few rips and tears and I bought a couple more, relegating the original pair to bushwhacking adventures. For me, the fit is fine and the mesh size doesn’t bother me. I figure anything that gets through the mesh has still had plenty of contact with the treated material and will get more as I continue walking. Of course, I don’t hike much in areas where tiny insects are a problem.

  4. Not meaning to be picky…you say 90 percent prefer long pants but my math gets that to about 80 percent…did I miss something?

  5. Phew….I just thought I hadn’t had enough coffee on a Monday morning. Since I am way over the 40 mark it is always difficult to tell if it’s me or not…cognitive function is dropping and knee pain increasing in direct ratio…since it’s a math morning!

  6. Phil

    Gotta ask if the railriders give good ventilation is the mid atlantic states during the summer. I know it gets hot up ithe the northeast, but there are times when I think of wearing long pants almost impossible during the summer months.

    If there is others in this area who use them please chime in. I’m intrigued by the ability to use a side zip to dump heat, and also the ability to repel ticks in the area, but to confese I sweat like a beast.
    Thanks

    • I sweat like hell too when it’s humid, but mostly on my back and not so much down below. One of the really nice things about these pants is how amazingly fast they dry when you do get wet, say after you ford a river.

    • Check out Ex Officio’s Sandfly pants too. They are cooler than the Eco-Mesh’s but also more fragile.
      https://sectionhiker.com/ex-officio-bugsaway-sandfly-pants/

      • Switched from EcoMesh to sandfly for this years hike
        Cooler than EcoMesh and like them for very hot weather but pockets are not secure. Fabric is slick and stuff comes out too easy to trust on a trip
        Added Velcro to all pockets. Worked well but scratchy. If I was doing it again I would use the Velcro Omnitape product. (There is a tiny patch of Velcro on the factort version but it is inadequate)

    • This past weekend on the AT in Georgia, I had on RR’s Bushwacker Weatherpants (not the lightest pants, but certainly not heavy) with IS and Journeyman shirt with IS. It was not hot (mid-70s) but it was humid. Both shirt and pants were soaked by mid-hike both days. But they both dried well overnight in a shelter. The pants don’t have the mesh, of course, but the shirt does. Mesh or no-mesh, I sweat profusely and I’m sure I’d have soaked the Eco-Mesh pants, too. I can’t imagine that a strip of mesh on each leg would have any effect on how wet with sweat the pants became.

      • The Bushwhacker Weatherpants are almost too warm for me to wear even in the dead of winter. I can’t imagine what they’d be like in Summer. The Eco-mesh pants don’t have extra layers of fabric on the knees and seat either and are a LOT cooler. Really.

      • FWIW, I’ve read a bunch of trail journals by PCT hikers who use the EcoMesh pants out west. But the temperature conditions on that trail are all over the place.

      • They are thicker, but I tried them out precisely because there is enough jungle-like growth this time of year to get your legs ripped to shreds by briars. I also have some of their versa-tac light and ultra-light pants that I can try, too. But even using Columbia Silver Ridge pants, I’m drenched from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet. Just goes to show why there wasn’t a single answer in the survey, I suppose!

  7. I’m surprised the North Face Women’s Paramount convertible pants didn’t make the list. I see them on women all the time. I like that they give the option of full length, mid-calf and shorts. And the colour coordinated zippers are idiot proof.

  8. And which have zippers on land legs so you don’t have to take books off when you convert to shorts???

  9. I love the O.R. Ferrosi pants. Super light and breathable, very stretchy. I either wear running shorts or these pants. I gave up convertible pants a long time ago because I could just wear lighter, more comfortable pants all day, or wear shorts and then use 2.5oz windshell pants at dusk and dawn for extra warmth. I’ve heard great things about the Prana stretch Zion so I’d love to try those out some day. Thanks for putting up this list!

  10. I missed the survey, but my favorites are the prAna Stretch Zion. Expensive, but they work well for me. They fit me well, and the stretch makes them very comfortable for rough hiking. They are bit warm, but I do most of my hiking in Alaska, so that isn’t usually a big issue. I did use the zip off version on a trip to Death Valley, and they worked OK (for me) up to about 80F. Prior to getting the prAnas, my favorite was the REI Sahara (no stretch but the fit and cost were right). I tried Rail Riders awhile back and found the fit was terrible for me. Binding when I took a high step. Kind of like boots, with pants the fit is a very individual thing. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.

  11. Thanks for the list. The RR Eco-Mesh hadn’t appeared on my radar yet. Checking their website, most sizes are “unavailable.”

    Looking through the comments, i guess one person’s comfortable, well-fitting clothes are another’s gunny sack. Different strokes.

    My $.03…

    At 6’1″, ~185, i don’t have tree-trunk thighs, but i’ve yet to find a convertible/zip-off pant where the zipper seam didn’t annoying drag on the front of my thigh, especially going uphill.

    I tried a pair of ExOfficio Nomad pants i found somewhere online on markdown. Lightweight, and seemingly strong material. They fit so well and seemed so well made, i quickly ordered two more pairs, having learned my lesson over the years that just about any item of clothing i really like will be discontinued or “improved” to the point of being unusable. There are two small strips of elastic on either side of the waistband which helps adjust to seasonal weight changes. Small demerit is the sewn-on waist button rather than a snap.

    Also recently got pair of Beans Cresta something-or-other which also fit great and seem solid. Haven’t worn either these or the Nomads enough to comment on durability.

    For cooler weather, i’m liking my Marmot Scree pants. Medium weight, stretchy material, not too tight, not too loose. These would be too warm for summer, but just right for shoulder seasons. Kind of magically, they seem to insulate a bit when it’s cooler, but don’t feel too warm when it’s warmer. With a thin base layer, these are good down into the teens, if you’re moving. The pocket zippers seem a bit delicate; i torqued one and bent a few teeth. (Learned too late that it helps to hold back on bottom when zipping up.) Marmot repaired it quickly under warranty, even though it really was my fault. Thumbs up, Marmot!

    When it’s warm, i still prefer the comfort and freedom of shorts. I don’t hike in many tick-laden areas, so i take my chances. I do like the Patagonia baggies. Most “hiking shorts” seem too snug and/or too long to me. “Shorts” shouldn’t come down to the knee. I have an old pair of REI shorts that are similar, but even a bit baggier (a plus) and a less stiff material. Sadly, no longer available.

  12. I’ll agree with the #1 Pant.. Love them… In the Spring and Summer I either where these or a Pair of Nylon Gym Shorts… My only complaint is because of a Hernia my Stomach sticks out a bit but my legs are Skinny and I feel like I am wearing a pair of balloons or those old Riding Pants from the 30’s… The current pair I paid $60 dollars to have the excess Material Removed….. In winter and fall I will switch back to my Military Issue Pants which are much warmer, stand up to Cross Country Hiking better than any Pant out there and are an all around Sport Pant… and I don’t have to worry about melting them sitting next to a Fall or Winter campfire…..

  13. Why any company that makes zip-off leg pants would NOT include a side zipper so you can get them on and off without taking off your boots is beyond me (I can think of any number of scenarios where it would be deadly to have to do so). And the only brand that seems to, REI, has changed the design enough so they don’t wear as well and are a little too slim for ease of movement in rugged terrain. Any of you have solutions to that conundrum?

  14. Hi, I’m setting off to do the Bibbulmun Track soon I’ve been looking at zip-off convertible pants – in every case the shorts are too long. I like to wear shorts, not something that is flapping almost at my knees. Tempted to have a go at altering a pair of long pants and putting the zip a couple of inches higher up.

  15. I bought a pair of Wrangler Outdoor stretch pants but I have not hiked in them yet. Do you have any reviews on this type of pants?

    • I believe they’re nylon. That’s ultimately all the matters. If they fit and you like them that’s what’s important.

      PS. Try using the search box on my home page or the manufacturer page on the main menu bar which lists all of my product reviews by manufacturer.

  16. Though the top rated pants are quality pants, I think many hikers would do themselves a great favor by using pants, like you use, with Insect shield. Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever are not taken seriously enough. Just because a hiker does not know anyone with such Tick borne diseases does not mean that they or a friend does not have it incubating in their body. Test are poor and only about 50% accurate and the “bullseye” rash does not appear in many cases of tick bite. Symptoms some time take a long time to show. Insect Shield and other such clothing treatment should be worn by most hikers for preventative reasons. I now, like you, wear Rail Riders but there are less costly alternatives. If I had worn such pants back in 2005, I most likely would not have gotten Lyme

  17. I cannot stand to wear any kind of baggy-cut pants that resemble MC Hammer’s parachute pants (sorry Millennials…—-I regressed to the early 1990s!) So, for a 2018 AT Thru hike, I just ordered a couple pair of convertible pants to try out: TNF Paramount 3.0s….and a pair of Marmots (can’t recall model)….both promise to have a tapered cut, slimmer cut. While I assume I will use my Patagonia Baggies or running shorts exclusively once warmer weather sets in, I want the convertibles for the early and late phases of my Thru hike. Just in case neither of these work out…..anybody out there more experienced (probably all of you!) have other “slimmer cut” solutions???

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