You never know what you might face out on the trail. Howling wind. Pouring rain. Blazing sun. Bitter cold. When we make the choice to venture into the wilderness in search of adventure, we do so with the knowledge that Mother Nature can throw anything at us.
Bottom line: you need a pair of hiking pants that will propel you forward, not hold you back. We went in search of the best hiking pants of 2020, and we these are the ones that truly impressed us the most.
The right pick for your next adventure depends on your own needs. Whether you’re looking for the most lightweight, the most water-resistant, the most comfortable or the most durable hiking pants out there, any pair on this list deserves consideration.
1. prAna Stretch Zion Pant
The prAna Stretch Zion Pant gets top marks across the board. Comfy, stretchy, cool, breathable and lightweight, these pants make for a trusty trail companion. Named for Zion National Park (quite a namesake to live up to), these hiking pants come in a variety of rugged colors, and are reasonably fashionable by hiking pant standards.
You probably wouldn’t wear them to a fine dining restaurant, but you won’t feel out of place at the local brewpub if you want to knock a couple back after the trail. The pockets (including one cargo pocket) are well designed to hold all your stuff without getting in the way.
The water-resistant fabric (97% Nylon and 3% Spandex with a DWR coating) does a great job shedding moisture. Will they keep you dry in an all-out downpour? Not quite. But you’ll be happy with your choice when your morning hike takes you through a dewy field of tall grass.
The pants also have a UPF of 50+, which offers nice sun protection, and the ventilated inseam gusset and roll-up leg snaps offer extra comfort during hot days on the trail. The sizes tend to run a little big compared to most hiking pants, so if you typically wear a size 34 waist, you might find that a 33 fits better.
2. Arc’teryx Lefroy Pant
Some hikers might understandably balk at the notion of spending over $100 for a pair of hiking pants, but there are times when you really do get what you pay for. The Lefroy Pant by Arc’teryx is a prime example. From trail to summit, this pant has several qualities that all add up to make it our clear premium pick.
It starts with the Aequora AirPerm™ fabric, which is lightweight and comfortable on the skin. It’s also quick-drying and durable, but most importantly it’s breathable enough to allow easy evaporative cooling, keeping you dry and comfortable as you work up a sweat.
The Arc’teryx Lefroy Pant is also trim and stylish, which makes it great for casual wear. They fit true to size and despite being a bit more close-fitting than most hiking pants, they have an easy give to them that allows a full freedom of motion without ever being baggy or cumbersome.
The pockets are functional and accessible, though there is no back pocket, which might take a little getting used to for some. The pants also come with an embedded belt buckle, so your belt won’t get in the way and cause discomfort under a heavy pack.
3. Jessie Kidden Men’s Hiking Pants
The Jessie Kidden Men’s Hiking Pants offer an incredible value as a cold weather hiking pant. With a polar fleece inner lining and a wind-resistant, waterproof outer shell, these pants are designed with skiers and snowboarders in mind, but are equally suited to keeping you warm and dry on the trail any time the mercury dips below freezing.
You definitely wouldn’t want to wear them during the warmer months, but for comfort, durability and protection from the elements in wintertime, they’re tough to beat. The fleece layer is soft to the touch, so you’ll be comfy as well as warm.
These are not pants for blending in with a crowd. They’re made for rugged outdoor use, and they very much look the part. Jessie Kidden Men’s Hiking Pants have a casual fit that’s relatively slim to keep cold air out, but they’re flexible and have extra give around the knees so you can move freely.
Ripstop fabric makes them wear and scratch resistant, and they have two slant pockets and a zippered rear pocket to keep all your stuff secure on the slopes or on the trail.
4. Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants
Convertible pants aren’t for everyone. They have a reputation for having uncomfortable zippers that essentially transform ill-fitting pants into ugly shorts. Let’s just say we’ve been burned before.
That being said, the Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants are really a cut above the convertible pants of yesteryear. Not only do they have a comfortable zipper (no more chafing at the knees!) but it’s located at just the right height. That makes this the rarest of things: a pair of zip-offs that actually work equally well as pants or as shorts.
There are other features to like about these pants too. They’re made from a breathable, 100% Nylon wicking fabric that keeps you cool and pulls away moisture. They feature hook-and-loop closure pockets, along with a zipper security pocket.
They offer UPF 50 sun protection. They include a partial elastic waist and gusset detail for extra comfort and mobility.
Let it be said, these pants will not win you any fashion awards. But you’re on the trail, not a runway, and the Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants are for the hiker who values function over form.
5. Patagonia Quandary Hiking Pants
Patagonia has earned its place at the top of the outdoor gear food chain. They make comfortable, durable trailwear backed by their lifetime “Ironclad Guarantee,” and the Patagonia Quandary Pants are a worthy addition to their lineup. They’re designed with movement in mind, using a lightweight and breathable 95% nylon (65% recycled) and 5% spandex fabric that allows ample mobility.
The fabric also has a tight weave, which gives it some stretch and allows it to cut the wind nicely. UPF 40 sun protection is a nice addition, and these were some of the most water-resistant pants we tried on this year. Kudos to the water-shedding DWR treatment.
Overall, the design favors simplicity. The two handwarmer pockets, two rear pockets and zippered side leg pocket have room for the basics, but you’ll probably end up keeping your maps and snacks in your backpack instead.
The Patagonia Quandary Pants have a slim fit that makes them one of the more stylish pants on this list.
One thing to note is that the Quandary Pants’ trim cut is best for hikers of light to medium build. They can feel a little restricting if you have a lager frame, especially around the hips and thighs.
6. Outdoor Research Men’s Ferrosi Pants
We haven’t come across many pants more lightweight and comfortable than the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants. They’re made of 86% Nylon along with 14% Spandex, which gives them an abundance of stretch and give.
When you find yourself in a situation on the trail that requires your full range of motion, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants won’t hold you back. It helps that they’re designed with a gusseted crotch and articulated knees for movement-mirroring stretch. We also found them to offer excellent abrasion resistance.
The fabric is extraordinarily breathable, able to keep you cool on the hottest days. The flipside of that coin is that they don’t provide much insulation when the weather turns cool. But even though their cut is trim (they almost have a dressy look compared to most hiking pants) they’re just loose enough to accommodate a base layer should you want one on winter hikes.
Water resistant and quick-drying, the Ferrosi Pants have UPF 50+ sun protection and a set of pockets that are practical if somewhat understated. They also have draw-cord cuff closures, which do a great job keeping out mud and debris on rough trails.
7. BenBoy Men’s Hiking Pants
BenBoy Men’s Hiking Pants are what you put on when you’re expecting to run into some serious weather out on the trail. They’re designed with snowshoeing, skiing and mountaineering in mind, with a warm fleece lining and a waterproof, windproof outer layer.
The material is 92% polyester and 8% spandex, and these are truly the most water-repellant pants we’ve come across in some time. They’re warm too, and you’ll be glad you chose them when you find yourself facing sleet and snow on the trail. They’re a bit heavier than most of the hiking pants we’ve seen, but that’s to be expected with this level of insulation.
We also really liked the pockets on the BenBoy Men’s Hiking Pants. Four secure zipper pockets have plenty of room for necessities, and the elastic waistband with adjustable belt keeps them snug yet comfy.
Actually, they’re very comfortable overall, especially considering how durable they are. Sizing can be tricky—they’re sized small, medium, large and extra large rather than by waist measurements—but once you zero in on your size, these can keep you safe and dry for years to come.
As far as style goes, let’s just say you’ll be spotted as a serious outdoorsman right away.
Hiking Pant FAQs
Are hiking pants worth it?
They certainly are. Quality hiking pants are lightweight, water resistant, comfortable and tough. They not only make hiking more comfortable and more enjoyable, but safer.
The help keep you warm and dry, and give you a handy place to store essential gear. For serious hikers and backpackers, investing in good quality hiking pants is a must.
Are convertible pants good for hiking?
There are a couple different schools of thought on this. On one hand, many hikers enjoy the ability to quickly switch between pants and shorts as weather conditions change. On the other hand, many convertible pants are uncomfortable and poorly designed.
They might lack sufficient pocket space, the seam can be at an inconvenient height, and the zipper often rubs up against the knee, causing irritation on a long hike. So if you choose convertible pants, be sure they’re good ones.
Whether or not convertible pants are good for you also depends on how often you’ll really “convert” them. It’s a feature that some hikers end up using seldomly if ever.
Should I hike in shorts or pants?
There are pros and cons to each, so choose based on your preference, and the conditions you expect to be hiking in. Shorts offer freedom of movement, and they’re certainly cooler when you’re hiking during the hot summer months.
But pants will keep you warmer as temperatures drop or you reach higher elevations, and they also protect your legs from hazards like thorns and poison ivy. Most good quality hiking pants also provide water resistance when hiking in wet conditions.
Can you wear jeans when hiking?
It’s really not a good idea. As rugged and long-lasting as jeans may be, they are not well suited to hiking. On the trail, jeans are hot, heavy, uncomfortable, and they chafe like nobody’s business.
Jeans offer no water resistance, and they become even heavier and more uncomfortable when they get wet. They also take forever to dry, and because they are typically made of cotton, they lose all insulating ability when wet.
That can make jeans downright dangerous if you’re hiking and the weather turns cold.