Tips for Choosing the Proper Hiking Pants

convertible hiking pantsFew things are more impor­tant when hik­ing than being com­fort­able. A lot of time is spent debat­ing the ins-and-outs of the per­fect hik­ing shoe, but not near­ly enough effort goes into choos­ing the right pants. Com­fort and dura­bil­i­ty are impor­tant for keep­ing your hik­ing trip enjoy­able for your legs; oth­er­wise, you’ll over­heat and tire out before you bare­ly break a mile.

Two Types of Hik­ing Pants
There are two types of hik­ing pants, and nei­ther of them are den­im jeans. While you might look rugged and styl­ish in den­im, it doesn’t make sense to hike in them. They’re hot, uncom­fort­able when wet, and they don’t breathe well. Instead, you should be wear­ing con­vert­ible or stan­dard hik­ing pants.

Con­vert­ible hik­ing pants are able to tran­si­tion into shorts thanks to a zip­per that allows you to remove the low­er half of the pants. Ben­e­fits include more breatha­bil­i­ty, use in mul­ti­ple cli­mates, and they’re easy to remove. Of course, the added weight of the zip­pers mean they’re heav­ier when used as full pants.

Stan­dard hik­ing pants, just as they sound, work like nor­mal pants and can­not be con­vert­ed into shorts. They’re ide­al for cold­er cli­mates, offer a sleek­er appear­ance, and are gen­er­al­ly lighter than con­vert­ible pants.

So which should you choose? If you’re head­ing out on a longer hike in warm or hot tem­per­a­tures, con­vert­ible hik­ing pants can’t be beat­en. They’re great for mid­dle of the day jaunts and sum­mer excur­sions. Stan­dard pants are the way to go if you’re prone to hik­ing in the fall or win­ter. They’re also great for evening or night hikes when the tem­per­a­ture falls.

Qual­i­ty Counts
Buy­ing from big box stores might save you mon­ey upfront, but pur­chas­ing high-qual­i­ty hik­ing pants will save you more in the long run. That’s because well-made pants can last through years of use.

While most hik­ing pants are made with nylon, the big box pants are made with cheap­er nylon. This leads to pants that are stiffer, more eas­i­ly ripped, and noisy when they rub togeth­er. High­er qual­i­ty brands use high-qual­i­ty nylon for a soft­er touch that makes no sound. They’re also less like­ly to lose a but­ton after only a cou­ple of hikes.

hiking pants

The Right Fit
Find­ing the right fit is imper­a­tive if you want pants that will be com­fort­able on your hike. If they’re too tight you’ll find your­self chaf­ing, too bag­gy and you might trip over them. So what goes into the right fit?

For starters, mobil­i­ty is a key fea­ture on well-fit­ting pants. Always test-dri­ve a pair of pants around the store before com­mit­ting. Be sure that you can move eas­i­ly and that the pants are not so tight they’re restrict­ing your move­ment. Squat down and sit on a chair to make sure that they’re com­fort­able in the back and knees. You’ll also want to look for pants with a gus­set­ed crotch so they don’t chafe.

The pants should be loose enough that they’re not restrict­ing move­ment but not so loose that they’re just hang­ing from your legs and bare­ly touch­ing you. You might want to prac­tice jog­ging around the store in them to make sure you can com­fort­ably run, too.

Nec­es­sary Acces­sories
Final­ly, hik­ing pants don’t need to come with a wide vari­ety of acces­sories to make them worth­while. Most of your gear should be in your pack, but it doesn’t hurt to have a cou­ple of pock­ets on the sides so you can eas­i­ly reach your pock­etknife in a pinch.

Pants with elas­tic waist­bands are also a great alter­na­tive to using a tra­di­tion­al belt. Though they’re usu­al­ly lighter, they won’t pro­vide as much secu­ri­ty if you pack your pock­ets full of heavy equip­ment.

The less extra mate­r­i­al weigh­ing down your pants, the bet­ter.