When going on a hike, wearing the proper gear can make or break your experience. Even though I believe that it’s perfectly okay to hike in jeans, read on to find out why hiking pants are now my number one choice.
Hiking pants are worth it because they’re comfortable, lightweight, and dry quickly. After asking the hiking community for their opinions on hiking pants, we found that about 60% of hikers prefer to wear hiking pants over any other type of pant.
Not only do hiking pants offer comfort, but some hiking pants are even designed to convert into shorts. Furthermore, the fabric makes these pants a good choice for hiking in nearly all weather. To learn more about the purpose of hiking pants, what makes them so special, and other options for hiking legwear, read on.
Why Hiking Pants Are Worth It
To find out if investing in hiking pants is truly worth it, I reached out to the hiking community. With nearly 50 responses from seasoned campers and hikers, I got my answer. While 60% of people believe that hiking pants are totally worth it, about 28% reported that they hiked in other pants, and around 12% said they wear both.
So, with about 72% of our responders saying that they do in fact wear hiking pants, it should be safe to conclude that hiking pants are worth it. Especially since considering that hiking pants are a modern invention. Many people are switching!
Hiking Pants Are Comfortable
Hiking pants are flexible and breathable, which makes them very comfortable to hike in. When going on a hike, regardless of the length, you want to be comfortable, move easily, and avoid any chaffing.
Hiking pants are designed to fit more loosely against the body. When properly fitted, your hiking pants shouldn’t rub against your skin, constrict your legs, or ride up in places they shouldn’t.
Additionally, most hiking pants have elastic or draw-string waistbands which allows the pants to follow the movement of your body.
In contrast a pair of jeans is often pretty static in its size. Jeans are getting more and more stretchy as time goes on, but many are going to be be a bit more rigid. This helps jeans be more durable, but it means they’re less comfortable.
Hiking Pants Dry Quickly
Unlike jeans or cotton pants, hiking pants are designed to dry quickly. Hiking pants that are made from nylon won’t hold water, which allows them to dry within minutes of getting wet.
This quick-drying feature is great if you plan to hiking in wetlands, across streams, or in wet climates. It’s especially good if you’re hiking in an area that’s known for unpredictable weather, such as in the mountains or southern tropics.
Nothing sours a long hike more than having to hike for miles with wet pants.
Hiking Pants Are Lightweight
If 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, which makes them a great choice for hiking in the heat.
|Pants Type||Weight (oz)|
|Regular Cut Jeans (male) (33-32)||21.1|
|Cargo Zipper Sportswear Hiking Pants (similar to this one from Columbia on Amazon)||13.3|
|Generic Gym Shorts||6.3|
I did a quick weight comparison, and as you can see from this table, my hiking pants are almost half the weight of my jeans. You can go lighter especially if you just hike in shorts without the pant legs (mine are removable)
Hiking Pants Can Be Versatile
Maybe it’s not as fashionable, but the hiking pants with the removable pants legs are absolutely worth it. As many seasoned hikers know, the temperatures can be colder in the morning and then heat up at the day goes on.
If you start the day by wearing pants, you might become drenched sweat by the time the sun reaches its peak. But if you decide on shorts, you might be too cold in the morning. The solution? Convertible pants.
With convertible hiking pants, you can zip off each of the pant legs and come out wearing shorts. Thanks to this unique feature, you have pants and shorts all in one.
I know this sounds weird and like it wouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s really a convenient feature that makes hiking so much more comfortable.
Hike In Style
Even though the 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 they run around town. With such comfortability and style, you can wear your hiking pants pretty much anywhere.
The truth is, hiking pants are considered the new “hiker hip.” Perhaps to a fault, our persona for a backpacker or a hiker includes someone with those fancy hiking pants.
Hiking Pants Sometimes Have Lots of Pockets
When you’re out hiking for the day, it’s nice to not have to stow away everything in a day bag. Luckily, hiking pants can have lots of pockets, so you’ll have endless options to securely store your phone, wallet, keys, lip balm, and other belongings.
However, try not to overfill your pockets, otherwise your pants may become heavy and counteract the lightweight feature of your pants.
Or if you’re like me, you ignore this advice and rip holes in the bottom of your hiking pants pockets. I’m not amazing at needlework but I was able to fix them up. 😁
I really love having pockets on the pants, though. When I’m hiking I like to have my camera accessible and my Sony HX-80 fits in a cargo 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 available when I need it helps me take more memories with me of the amazing sights I’ve seen.
Hiking Pants Are Quiet
Have you ever been walking in thick cargo or snow pants and heard that loud crunching sound of the pant legs rubbing against each other? This may not be the first benefit that comes to mind, but hiking pants are quiet and make no sound while you’re hiking. This feature allows you to hike in peace and quiet.
It’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.
What Are Hiking Pants, Exactly
Hiking pants specially designed to be lightweight, durable pants and are designed for the hiker, backpacker, camper, and all around outdoor enthusiast. These pants are made to endure tough terrain and to keep your legs protected while you traipse around.
What Are Hiking Pants Made Of?
Hiking pants are typically made from nylon, but some pants may have mixtures of nylon, spandex, and polyester. Because both nylon and polyester have their pros and cons, you’ll likely find pants that are a combination of nylon and polyester fabric.
Nylon has many benefits, including water resistance, stain resistance, and durability. This fabric is also very flexible and breathable, so it moves with your body instead of against it. Nylon fabric has moisture-wicking properties, which means it moves sweat and water away from your body and keeps you dry. Additionally, nylon is naturally oil-resistant, so you won’t smell so bad after that long hike.
Polyester is another popular fabric for hiking pants. This fabric is also more water resistant than nylon and relatively lightweight, but it may not be as breathable on a hot day and is not quite as durable as nylon. Polyester is also not resistant to oils, so once you sweat, your body’s odors become trapped in the fabric and cause it to stink.
How Much Do Hiking Pants Cost?
According the the hiking community, there are many places you can go to find hiking pants. Generally, you can find hiking pants between $30 and $100. However, some pants can cost as much as $350.
If you are looking to buy name brand hiking pants, try checking outdoor stores during the off-season. If you’re lucky, you may be able to hit some sales and get your pants for half off.
Here is a list of some other places you can go to find hiking pants:
- REI: $35 to $100
- Eastern Mountain Sports: $50 to $300+
- Cabela’s: $30 to $55
- Bass Pro Shop: $30 to $80
- Dicks Sporting Goods: $40 to $100
Is It Bad To Hike In Jeans?
While not everyone chooses to hike in jeans, there are definitely worse choices when it comes to choosing a hiking pant. Some hikers feel strongly about not hiking in jeans, but in my opinion, jeans work just fine for hiking. In short, it doesn’t matter what “everyone” says, go ahead and hike in your jeans!
Sometimes we get hung up on looking the part when really we can just go walking. Jeans actually have some advantages that other pant types don’t.
Due to their thick fabric, jeans can be pretty durable and provide decent protection against the elements. So if you’re going for a hike in a wooded area, your jeans will likely protect you from stray branches and bushes.
Of course, many hikers opt for a more lightweight, synthetic pant for more comfort and stretch. Additionally, jeans do not dry quickly; if you get your jeans wet, you’ll likely stay wet for a long while. That being said, if you decide that jeans aren’t your choice of hiking pant, there are many other options to explore below.
While I believe that you can hike in what ever pant suits your style, click here to find out why I no longer hike in my jeans.
What Else Can You Hike In?
According to the hiking community, there are many options for pants to wear while hiking. While nearly everyone agrees that wearing pants in general is a good idea, many people specifically told us what kind of pants they wear while hiking:
- Running Shorts
- Basketball Shorts
- Cargo Pants
- Hunting Pants
Regardless of the pant you choose to wear, it really depends on the hiker and nature of the hike. If you plan on going on a leisurely walk in the woods, then you’ll probably be fine wearing just about anything.
However, if you’re going on an intense backpacking trip, it may be worth it to invest in more durable hiking pants. But of course, your choice of legwear is ultimately up to you.
Pants are not the only clothing decision you need to make for your hiking trip. Because you’re probably going to spend the day on your feet, you’ll want to choose the right footwear. For more information on what to wear on your feet, feel free to check out my other pages for tips on choosing between hiking boots and hunting boots and my thoughts on hiking in running shoes.
A Note On Cotton
One tip that many of those in the hiking community feel strong about is to avoid pants and other outdoor clothing that’s made of cotton. Why? Because once cotton gets wet, it stays wet.
If you’re out on a long hike in the woods and all of a sudden those dark gray clouds come rushing in, you’re in trouble. Even once the sun comes out, your cotton clothing will be wet and uncomfortable for the rest of your trip.
Cotton also doesn’t have good insulation, so if the weather is cold, your cotton clothes won’t do much to protect you. There’s even an old saying that goes around the hiking and camping communities: “cotton kills.”
Thousands of people wear cotton while hiking, backpacking, and a thousand other outdoor activities. Cotton is only truly dangerous in extreme cold temperatures, or moderately cold but extremely wet conditions.
If you’re not in those conditions, chances are you probably won’t die if you do happen to wear cotton–but you’ll likely be chilled and uncomfortable.