Are hiking pants worth it?

Are hiking pants worth it?

Are hiking pants worth it?

No doubt the answer is YES!

To find out if hiking pants are really worth the investment, I turned to the hiking community. With nearly 50 responses from experienced campers and hikers, I got my answer. While 60% of respondents said hiking pants are definitely worth it, about 28% said they hiked with a different pair of pants, and about 12% said they wear both.

So, since about 72% of respondents said they actually wear hiking pants, it's safe to assume that hiking pants are worth it. Especially considering that hiking pants are a modern invention. Many people are making the switch!

Why hiking pants are worth it?

1. Comfortable

Hiking pants are one of the most comfortable pants a person can wear. Hiking pants are lightweight - so lightweight that it's easy to forget they're even there. Plus, hiking pants - if sized correctly - are roomy, too. With hiking pants, you never have to worry about the pants "rippling" or rubbing against your skin (which often happens with blue jeans on longer hikes).

Hiking pants basically allow for unlimited flexibility. Hikers who go off trail or scramble along cliffs will greatly appreciate this advantage. In addition, hiking pants often have elastic cuffs. While these aren't exactly fashionable, they are comfortable because the pants can move with the hiker's movements.

Hiking pants are flexible and breathable, which makes them very comfortable for hiking. When hiking, regardless of the length, you want to be comfortable, able to move easily and avoid chafing.

Hiking pants are designed to fit rather loosely against the body. With the right fit, your hiking pants shouldn't rub against your skin, constrict your legs, or ride up in places where they don't belong.

Also, most hiking pants have an elastic waistband or drawstring so that the pants can follow your body's movements.

In contrast, jeans are often fairly static in size. Jeans get stretchier over time, but many are also a bit more rigid. While this makes jeans more durable, it also means they are less comfortable.

2. Dry quickly

Unlike jeans or cotton pants, hiking pants are designed to dry quickly. Hiking pants made of nylon do not absorb water, so they dry within minutes of getting wet.

This quick-drying feature is great if you plan to hike in wetlands, across streams, or in humid climates. It's especially good if you're hiking in an area known for unpredictable weather, such as the mountains or the southern tropics.

Nothing hurts a long hike more than having to hike for miles in wet pants.

Men's Lightweight Hiking Trekking Camping pants

3. Lightweight

    When it's 80 degrees and humid outside, you definitely don't want to be drowning in sweat and fabric. Hiking pants are lightweight and breathable, making them a great choice for hiking in the heat.

    I did a quick weight comparison and found the hiking pants to be almost half the weight of my jeans. You can go lighter, especially if you're just hiking in shorts without pant legs (mine are removable).

    4. Can be versatile

      Maybe it's not as fashionable, but hiking shorts with detachable pant legs are totally worth it. As many experienced hikers know, temperatures can be colder in the morning and then heat up throughout the day.

      If you start the day with shorts, you may be sweating by the time the sun through reaches its peak. However, if you opt for shorts, you might be too cold in the morning. The solution? Detachable pants.

      With detachable hiking pants, you can zip off each of the pant legs and come out with a pair of shorts. Thanks to this unique feature, you have pants and shorts in one.

      I know that sounds weird and like it's no big deal, but it's really a handy feature that makes hiking so much more comfortable.

      5. Hiking with style

        While zip-off legs may not be the most stylish feature, some brands of hiking pants can be quite stylish. In fact, some hikers (and even non-hikers) wear their hiking pants while walking around town. With this convenience and style, you can wear your hiking pants pretty much anywhere.

        Some brands offer stylish hiking pants for both hiking and everyday wear. So if you're looking for a more versatile pair of hiking pants, they may be worth checking out.

        The truth is, hiking pants are considered the new "hiker's hip." Perhaps to a fault, our persona for a backpacker or a hiker includes someone with these fancy hiking pants.

        women's convertible hiking pants

        6. Have a lot of pockets

          When you're out for a day of hiking, it's nice not to have to stash everything in a day bag. Luckily, hiking pants can have lots of pockets, so you have endless options for keeping your phone, wallet, keys, lip balm, and other items secure.

          However, try not to overstuff your pockets, or your pants may become heavy and counteract the lightweight nature of your pants.

          Or if you're like me, ignore this advice and rip holes in the bottom of your hiking pants pockets. I'm not very good at manual labor, but I was able to fix them.

          I really love having pockets on my pants, though. When hiking, I like to have my camera handy and my camera in a pocket in my hiking pants. I'm willing to accept that my hiking pants aren't the most fashionable, but being able to have my camera on hand when I need it helps me take away more memories of the amazing sights I've seen.

          7. Cool protection for the legs

            Because hiking pants are breathable (sweat doesn't get trapped inside the pants), hiking pants keep legs cool while protecting them from twigs, thorns, and other hazards while hiking - especially off-trail. Off-trail hikers will quickly appreciate how the pants protect the skin while still keeping the legs cool.

            8. Quiet

              Have you ever hiked in a thick pair of cargo or snow pants and heard the loud crunch as the pant legs rub together? This may not be the first benefit that comes to mind, but hiking pants are quiet and don't make any noise while you're hiking. This feature allows you to hike in peace.

              That's true! Maybe you won't be able to sneak up on a deer any better, but it's nice to have one less distraction while you're hiking or adventuring in general.

              Important features of good hiking pants.

              1. Quality plays a big role

              Buying from big stores may save you money up front, but buying a quality pair of hiking pants will save you more in the long run. That's because a well-made pair of pants can last for years.

              Hiking pants get a lot of wear and tear. They get dragged over rocks, have thorns and twigs snapped against them, and still have to cover mile after mile.

              Because of this, poor quality hiking pants are a recipe for unpleasant things happening along the way. These inconveniences can range from a button popping off to a leaking pocket to large tears in the pants themselves.

              While most hiking pants are made of nylon, the pants from the big stores are made of cheaper nylon. These results in pants that are stiffer, tear more easily, and are noisy when they rub together. Higher quality brands use higher grade nylon for a softer feel that doesn't make noise. They are also less likely to lose a button after just a few hikes. A high-quality pair of hiking pants will feel almost "the blanket soft" when touched. Likewise, high-quality pants - when you rub the fabric together - don't make a noise.

              So if you're going to buy hiking pants, I suggest spending a little more money on quality pants rather than dealing with the problems of cheap pants. A quality pair of pants will last much longer, and you will enjoy wearing them day after day, mile after mile.

              men's winter hiking pants

              2. Right fit 

              The right fit is essential if you want pants that will fit comfortably on your hike. If they are too tight, they will chafe you, if they are too loose, you may trip over them. So what makes for the right fit?

              First of all, freedom of movement is an important feature of a well-fitting pair of pants. Always test a pair of pants in the store before committing. Make sure you can move easily and that the pants aren't so tight that they restrict your movement. Squat down and sit on a chair to make sure the pants fit comfortably at the back and knees. Also, look for pants with a gusset in the crotch so they don't chafe.

              The pants should be loose enough that they don't restrict movement, but also not so loose that they just hang down your legs and barely touch you. You may want to go jogging in the pants to make sure you can run comfortably.

              3. Weight

              Weight is a factor that carries more weight in the purchase decision for some than others.

              What I mean by this is that a day hiker may be much happier to carry a little extra weight in their hiking pants than a day hiker or backpacker who is going for a week or more.

              Generally speaking, the more suitable a pair of hiking pants is for warm weather, such as summer hiking pants, the lighter they will be. As mentioned earlier, the material used also plays a big role.

              Obviously, in the summer, the material is usually less thick than a pair of hiking pants you'll need to wear in the winter, when it's usually colder.

              I'm a little hesitant to say this because even in areas with hot weather, the temperature can drop when night falls. A desert is a good example of this.

              It's very hot during the day, but at night it's much cooler, sometimes very cold. Similarly, in certain places in winter, it can be very cool in the shade on a sunny day, but hot in direct sunlight.

              For an average day hiker, weight should not be a major concern and you can choose what feels comfortable for you. For a backpacker, it's definitely a more important factor to consider, as you'll likely want the lightest and most efficient option possible.

              4. Size

              Everyone has their own preference for sizing, of course. First and foremost, of course, you want your hiking pants to feel comfortable. I think that being able to move well in your pants is very important, so a certain amount of comfort is a good thing. However, you shouldn't overdo it here either.

              You definitely want good mobility in the crotch and knee area. When you're hiking over different terrain, you'll be moving these areas the most and in a variety of positions, so of course you want to have some freedom of movement.

              Some pants specifically have things like pre-curved knees and crotch gussets, so you'll want to pay attention to those as well, as they offer more mobility and added abrasion resistance.

              As a general rule, hiking pants for summer tend to be cut a little wider than those for winter. This makes sense, as you need more ventilation when temperatures are high.

              I always like a certain amount of width in my hiking pants. However, I've found that some more modern hiking pants that use the spandex combination mentioned above are quite snug but still very flexible in terms of movement.

              Overall, and this may be somewhat obvious, but in terms of sizing aim for what feels comfortable to wear and pay a pit of extra attention to the knee and crotch areas.

              A little baggy pant can be good for hotter times of the year as air can circulate a bit better, but don't go too crazy as too much and it will be a pain for example flapping in heavy winds.

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              Necessary accessories for hiking pants.

              Finally, hiking pants don't have to come with a lot of accessories to make them worthwhile. Most of your gear should be in your pack, but it doesn't hurt to have a few pockets on the sides so you can easily reach your pocket knife in a pinch.

              Pants with an elastic waistband are also a good alternative to a traditional belt. Although they're usually lighter, they don't provide as much security when you're packing your pockets full of heavy gear.

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

              1. Attached belt

              Many hiking pants come with a belt. However, some have the belt permanently attached. I suspect most people like a permanently attached belt. I, however, don't. First, I rarely use a belt - so a belt attached to the pants is not ideal. And second, when I do use a belt, I want to be able to remove it from my pants - not have it essentially "sewn" into the waistband. Which style you choose will depend on your hiking needs, but before you buy hiking pants, check to see if the belt (assuming the pants come with a belt) is removable or if the belt is "sewn" firmly into the waistband of the pants.

              2. Elastic waistband

              Many hiking pants have elastic waistbands, but not all. I don't like pants without at least a "little" flexibility in the waistband. Aside from making the pants usable due to weight fluctuations, the ability of the waistband to move and "flex" as I move makes the pants much more comfortable. However, I know that many people don't like elastic waistbands (for reasons I've never quite understood!). So deciding whether to buy hiking pants with elastic waistbands is a matter of personal preference. When buying hiking pants, just pay attention to what type of waistband the pants use.

              men's convertible hiking pants

              3. Waterproof

              I am a little wary of hiking pants that are categorized as waterproof. In terms of hiking, waterproof capability should usually be treated using your rain pants in my opinion.

              However, some element of waterproofness in thicker hiking pants for fall/winter can be a good thing to have. It just means that in a lighter rain shower, you don't have to get out your rain gear and put it on.

              Some hiking pants are waterproof. Waterproof hiking pants have a layer of Goretex, or similar types of membranes applied that still allow the pants to breathe while keeping the rain out. Not surprisingly, waterproof hiking pants are more expensive than the non-waterproof models.

              For hikers who spend a lot of time in wet weather, waterproof hiking pants are a must. This is especially true for backpackers. But for "fair-weather" day hikers, having waterproof hiking pants may not justify the extra cost.

              For summer hiking, I don't worry too much about the waterproofness of hiking pants. If the pants have good breathability and they get a little wet, they usually dry out pretty quickly in the high temperatures of summer.

              If the rain is too heavy, I just pull the rain pants over the hiking pants until it passes.

              As I mentioned earlier, I always prefer waterproof rain pants as an outer layer over my hiking pants in heavy rain, but that's not always as comfortable in certain scenarios, such as very humid conditions.

              Depending on where you're hiking, you'll need to figure out which structure works best for your needs.

              4. Color

              Color is important. Hiking pants come in many different colors, but again, dark colors absorb heat, light colors reflect heat. For this reason, almost all lightweight summer hiking pants are gray, beige, cream, etc. A much better color for high temperatures.

              If you are hiking in the winter, darker hiking pants can help absorb heat from the sun and keep you warmer. It may sound a bit over the top, but it actually has an effect.

              For someone who is going for long periods of time, such as trekkers and backpackers, this is something to really think about as the wardrobe you can carry on your back is limited.

              women's convertible hiking pants

              5. Insect screen

              This is also something that many should consider. Hiking pants with the insect repellent will help keep bugs at bay. This can be a real problem in many places, and so anything that can help with this is worth considering.

              If you are planning to go on a hiking adventure, such as to the Amazon or elsewhere, then such features are much more important to protect you from various mosquitoes.

              However, mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, gnats and midges are never too far away in most parts of the world.

              I think most places will have some kind of explosion of bugs/mosquitoes, etc. at some time of the year in their cycle. So insect repellent technology can certainly be a consideration.

              Of course, this is always just a tool to protect yourself from mosquitoes. You need a proper mosquito repellent as your main line of defense. The insect repellent in your hiking pants is just a bonus and should never serve as your main shield.

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