me at the top of a mountain in ireland wondering -do you really need hiking pants

Do You Really Need Hiking Pants? (The Honest Answer ) 

If you’re wondering, do you really need hiking pants? Then you are not alone. 

Long answer short – If you’re a serious hiker, then yes, you need hiking pants!

It might not be necessary to have hiking pants if you are just starting out or if you are an occasional hiker. However, it is a worthy investment if you want to level up your hiking. 

me at the top of a mountain in ireland wondering -do you really need hiking pants

The right pants will provide comfort, and protection and save you money in the long run! 

Let us explore why and when you really need the pants. I will break down the benefits, what to avoid, and my personal recommendations below. 

At a glance, I will be taking you through the details of:

  • What Are Hiking Pants?
  • The Benefits of Hiking Pants
  • Factors To Consider Before Choosing Your Hiking Pants
  • What To Avoid When Buying Hiking Pants
  • My Recommendations
  • What Else Can You Hike In?

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What Are Hiking Pants?

So you are thinking of going hiking in the near future, or packing for a trip and might consider going hiking at a new place and you ask yourself:

  • Do I need hiking pants?
  • What kind of pants are good for hiking?
  • Should you wear pants when hiking or would gym shorts or yoga pants suffice? 

Those are great questions to consider that many people, even seasoned hikers, struggle with. 

First, we need to understand what exactly hiking pants are and how they are different from your go-to tights or gym shorts. 

Hiking pants are quick-drying and lightweight pants that are made especially for hiking and other outdoor activities. It is designed to endure rough terrains and keep your legs protected against the natural elements. 

This is why it is a popular choice among hikers, campers, backpackers, and other outdoor enthusiasts for its practicality and versatility. Most of the pants are also convertible, which means you can have two pairs of pants in one!

These pants are typically made from a blend of nylon, spandex, and polyester. 

Nylon is a water and stain-resistant material. 

The fabric is durable and flexible, yet breathable. The material has moisture-wicking properties that keep you dry by moving sweat and water away from your body.

The best part is that it has oil-resistant properties that help keeps those body odours at bay after that gruelling hike!

Spandex is a stretchy material that allows for great flexibility and movement. It is lightweight and is usually thinner than most materials. However, if it is too tight, it could restrict your movement and blood flow which is essential for hiking. 

Polyester on the other hand is lighter and more water-resistant compared to nylon. However, it is not as breathable and durable as nylon fabrics. It is not oil-resistant which could cause you to stink of sweat and body odor. 

When To Wear Hiking Pants

While these pants are generally comfortable for any occasion, you should definitely wear the pants when:

  • You are going for a long hike to keep you comfortable
  • Your hiking environment has plenty of thorns and/or overgrown branches or roots to protect 
  • It is extremely hot as the pants keep you cool and comfortable
  • You want to reduce the number of things that you carry in your hands as the pants usually have plenty of pockets and storage options
  • You want the option of converting your pants to shorts if it gets too hot. There are many convertible hiking pants that allow you to do this. 

The Benefits Of Hiking Pants

If you are tired of ruining your favorite tights or go-to workout pants, you are not alone! Now that we’ve covered what hiking pants are, let’s go through the benefits of hiking pants. 

So why wear these pants when you have many other comfortable workout pants? The pants are special because they are designed with various hiking needs in mind. 

There are a lot of benefits of wearing these pants when you are hiking:

1. Quick-Drying Material 

This is an essential feature of hiking pants. Moisture-wicking materials will ensure comfort by keeping you dry in damp or wet conditions.  

The pants made out of nylon are known to dry quickly and are known for not holding or absorbing water. This material would be appropriate for both hiking in warmer and moister regions as well as cold mountainous trails. 

2. Lightweight Fabric

These pants are made to be lightweight but tough. They are often by durable and lightweight fabrics such as nylon. Having lightweight pants for hiking is important as it ensures comfortable and constant movement throughout the hike. 

3. Comfortable Fitting

Most good-quality pants for hiking are roomy but not too loose. They are often fitted with an elastic waistband to ensure comfort. 

The fitting ensures that the pants do not pinch or bunch up. They are made to offer a comfortable fit that does not interfere with complex and constant movement even in difficult terrains.

4. Pockets And Storage

Most pants for hiking are generous with spacious pockets. This is particularly useful as you do not have to stop and unzip your bag for every little thing you need. 

This feature allows hikers to access their essential knick-knacks like maps, compass, lip balms, etc. 

5. Protective Cover 

Besides protecting hikers from the sun, full-length pants would give you ample protection and avoid getting cuts and scrapes from sharp boulders and branches on the trail. 

Some pants also come with cuff or mesh fabrics to protect you from insect bites.

6. Quiet Material 

Do you find it a little annoying when your pants rustle against each other and make a swooshing sound? It could be very distracting not only to you but to others around you. This noise factor is particularly important if you wish to observe wildlife during your hike. 

These pants made out of nylon material are silent and make it possible to cause a disturbance to yourself, other hikers, and also the wildlife in the area. 

7. Multipurpose And Convertible

You can easily find convertible pants for hiking in the market nowadays. They come with a zipper that could convert the full-length hiking pants into hiking shorts. Fantastic! 

You can pack a lighter and also have the option to switch your pants into shorts when it gets warmer or use them as swimming shorts. This is one of the exclusive features of the pants for hiking that are unavailable with other pants. 

Some pants for hiking even come with a third zipper closer to the bottom that allows you to take off the lower part of the pants without having to take off your boots.

8. Insulation

If you are hiking in colder climates, your legs would be the least insulated compared to the rest of your body. 

These pants help add insulation despite being lightweight. There are various levels of insulation you can choose from when purchasing the pants.

Some pants even come with removable lining that could be easily removed, adding versatility when you go to warmer regions. 

Similar to snow pants, these pants work well to deflect wind chill! However, snow pants tend to be bulky. Heavier and generally not made for continuous long-distance wear. 

Factors To Consider Before Choosing Your Hiking Pants

Comfort is key when it comes to hiking. You do not want to be hiking a long trail with uncomfortable clothing no matter the weather condition. Comfort will affect your overall movement and attitude to an already mentally and physically challenging activity. 

In considering what makes good pants for hiking great, it always comes down to comfort!

1. Types Of Hiking Pants

There are several types of hiking pants available in the market nowadays. But I find that in general, there are two main types of pants you can choose from. Psst.. no one says you can’t have both types! 

The two main types are the standard and convertible pants. 

Standard pants for hiking are regular-fit full-length pants. Whether you are hiking in a warmer or colder climate, regular pants for hiking are lightweight and can offer protection from the elements. 

Convertible pants for hiking are like two-in-one pants. It allows you to transition your full-length pants into shorts! This is ideal for warmer climates.

The zippers make it easy to remove the lower half of the pants. However, bear in mind that these pants tend to be slightly heavier than the standard pants for hiking due to the addition of the zippers. 

So what kind of pants are good for hiking? That depends on what climate you’re hiking in. They are both perfectly appropriate for hiking. While the convertible offers versatility and comfort for warmer climates, the standard one is also an all-rounder.

2. The Perfect Fit 

Mobility is the top priority when it comes to finding the perfect fit. The pants must not restrict your movement. After all, you are going to be hiking under tough conditions for hours. 

It might be a little tricky to find a pair that fits just right. The best way to go about is to test the pants by sitting down, doing some leg stretches, and trying jogging around in them.

You have to make sure that the pants are flexible and do not restrict your movement. The key is to find a pair that are not too tight or too loose.

Extra details to look out for is whether the pants have a gusseted crotch. A gusseted crotch helps add extra mobility around the inner thighs and helps avoid chafing.

Elastic waistbands are also a good feature to have on these pants as they offer more mobility and flexibility around the hips. 

3. Good Quality Material

Most often than not, good-quality products also come with a higher price tag. You have to ask yourself are hiking pants worth it? Do you need it? If you answer yes, you then need to consider the cost per use for the pants.

How often do you hike and what kind of trails do you normally go to play a part in choosing the right quality material? 

If you are a casual hiker who goes once or twice a year, then you might not find it necessary to invest.

However, good-quality pants are often made out of high-quality nylon.

This means that the fabric is much softer, durable, and not noisy compared to a lower quality one which is often rougher on the skin and creates a lot of noise when you move.

Also, higher-quality pants are often made to last much longer than the lower-quality alternatives. 

Sure, you can find cheaper alternatives to almost everything nowadays, but might not be necessary to purchase the most expensive hiking pants on the market. Good quality hiking pants are softer and will last much longer than the cheaper alternatives. 

What To Avoid When Buying Your Hiking Pants

1. Cotton, Denim, And Silk

In terms of material, you should stay away from materials made out of cotton, denim, and silk. These materials are highly absorbent and can cause discomfort and chaffing when you inevitably sweat. 

Because they are not moisture-wicking, it holds on to water and will add extra weight when you are hiking. The added weight will mean that you are using more energy and might result in you getting tired sooner than you would like. 

Silk and cotton are usually thin and can tear easily if caught on rocks or branches. Although comfortable, these materials are generally unsuitable for vigorous activities. 

2. Heavy And Bulky Pants

I mentioned how it is important to find pants with the right fit. Heavy and bulky pants will add unnecessary weight and may cause you to get tired much quicker. 

They will also be more likely to bunch up or rub too much against your skin and cause painful chaffing. You should also avoid loose pants as they might shift or keep sliding down as you like. 

My Recommendations For The Best Hiking Pants

Best Hiking Pants: Outdoor Research Ferossi

In my opinion, the best hiking pants are the Outdoor Research Ferrosi. It is mostly made of high-quality nylon and spandex making it stretchy, tough, and breathable.

It is quick-drying and works well at shielding against wind and light rain. These pants are also made of 46% recycled material!

Best Convertible Hiking Pants: Kuhl Renegade Convertible 

If you are looking to get convertible pants for hiking, I’ve got you covered.

The best convertible pants for hiking on the market right now are the Kuhl Renegade Convertible pants. It is made of 95% nylon and 5% spandex. The fit is roomy and has ample storage for your knick-knacks. 

Best Hiking Pants on a Budget: Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo 

Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo pants are the best if you are on a tight budget. It is made out of 100% nylon and has polyester mesh panels for breathability.

It is comfortable for both hiking and backpacking. I give these pants extra points for the number of pockets available and their affordability. 

What Else Can You Hike In?

The kind of pants you wear during a hike depends on the nature of your hike and it is a personal choice at the end of the day. 

Are these pants necessary? While there are many benefits to wearing these pants during a hike, it won’t make that much of a difference if you are taking a leisurely stroll in nature. 

You could get away with wearing just about any type of pants. The best options are always the pants that you are comfortable in.

This may range from casual daily pants like cargo pants and jeans to exercise pants like yoga pants, trek bottoms, and joggers.

Anything that is comfortable and you wouldn’t mind getting dirt on is perfectly acceptable. This is especially true if you are not hiking in any harsh climates, there are plenty of options for pants to wear. 

If you are a casual hiker, you may wonder about what do you need hiking that is as important as pants. Well, I think that proper footwear is as important as comfortable pants. 

If you are thinking of going on a more challenging hike with rough terrain or climate, you may need to prepare more appropriate clothing as well as footwear.

Pants are not the only clothing decision you need to consider.  Do you need hiking boots? Do you need hiking socks? What about jackets? 

These are all important questions to consider before embarking on more serious hikes. However, it will vary depending on the nature of the hike and your personal choice at the end of the day.

Making preparations in advance can make your hike more comfortable and safe. 

FAQ

Do You Need Pants For Hiking?

YES, you do need pants for hiking.You need comfortable and sturdy pants for hiking in order to move about freely through the trail. The type of pants might vary according to the weather and trail conditions.

Do remember that thin materials can easily tear when you are going through boulders and branches. Tight or loose pants can also restrict your movement.

Do Hiking Pants Matter?

Yes, it matters because they are comfortable, lightweight, and dry quickly. Pants will affect your movement whilst hiking, thus choosing the right pair is essential. If you hike frequently, it would be worth investing in a nice quality pair of pants for hiking. 

Is It Ok To Hike In Jeans?

Wondering if it is ok to hike in jeans? Jeans are not ideal for hiking. Jeans fall short compared to hiking pants in many ways, including their heavy material, breathability, lack of insulation, and flexibility. However, if you are going on a shorter trail and the climate allows for it, then hiking in jeans should be okay. 

What To Wear Instead Of Hiking Pants? 

So, what to wear instead of pants for hiking? You can wear any pants that are comfortable, breathable, and nonrestrictive. Stay away from cotton materials and non-moisture wicking materials as they can weigh more if you get wet. Pants that are too tight or too loose can also restrict your movement and affect your hiking experience. 

Now that you know why and when do you really need it, are you ready to level up your hiking adventure? 

The right apparel and equipment can make a big difference to your hiking experience! 

As you can see, you don’t have to compromise fashion for function with all the different options available out there. 

Let me know in the comments below which hiking pants are your favourite and why.

If you have recommendations I could add to the list, feel free to share. I would love to hear from you and have more options to choose from!

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