Top 10 best hiking pants

Hiking pants are an important piece of hiking gear but one that we often take for granted. They have to be highly breathable and quick drying, easy to vent when you get too hot, but warm when the temperature drops. Fit, freedom of movement, and pockets are also key factors.  What about hiking pants that are bug resistant or provide a high degree of sun protection? All of these are important variables when choosing the best hiking pants.

What are the best hiking pants recommended by other hikers? We asked 525 hikers what hiking pants they prefer to wear when hiking and backpacking and found that their top picks include: Columbia’s Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants, prAna’s Stretch Zion Pants, Outdoor Research’s Ferrosi Pants, REI’s Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants, and my personal favorite, Rail Rider’s Eco Mesh Pants.

Here’s the full list of their top 10 picks:

1. Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants

Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants
Columbia’s Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants give you a convenient 2-in-1 function that saves weight and space, making them perfect for hiking and backpacking. Pant legs zip off in warm weather converting the pants to shorts with a 10 in. inseam, while lightweight nylon fabric keeps the pants breathable and quick drying. A gusseted crotch facilitates freedom of movement, while an elastic waistband and integrated webbing belt let you fine-tune the fit. Available for men and women. Click for more details and sizing.

2. prAna Stretch Zion Pants

PrAna Stretch Zion Hiking Pants
prAna Stretch Zion Hiking Pants stand up to hard wear, dry quickly and stretch so you can move freely. Quick-drying stretch-nylon fabric resists abrasion and wrinkles and has a durable water-repellent (DWR) finish to resist water and stains.The pant legs can be rolled up and held in place with snaps. A ventilated gusset allows complete freedom of movement while an adjustable waistband provides a comfortable fit that doesn’t slip. Available for men only. Click for more details and sizing.

3. Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants
Outdoor Research’s Ferrosi Pants are lightweight, abrasion resistant pants with a heathy mix of spandex for easy hiking and scrambling. A gusseted crotch and articulated knees enhance mobility, while a brushed tricot lined waistband keeps things comfortable. Fast drying, they’re also water-resistant, but lightweight enough for desert and hot weather hiking. Available for men and women. Click for more details and sizing.

4. REI Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants

REI Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants
REI’s Sahara Convertible Hiking Pants are affordable, lightweight nylon hiking pants with a plethora of zippered pockets so you don’t have to worry about dropping important items on the trail.  They also have color coded thigh zippers so you can easily tell the right leg from the left leg when converting back to pants, along with long ankle zips so you can switch between long pants and short ones without having to take off your hiking boots or shoes. While these pants are very popular, REI has tweaked their design recently with mixed reviews. They’re still an excellent value but I’d recommend trying a pair before committing to them for the long-term. Available in a wide range of sizes for men and women. Click for more details and sizing.

5. Rail Riders Eco-Mesh Pants with Insect Shield

RailRiders Eco-Mesh Pants
Rail Riders Eco-Mesh Hiking Pants are ultralight nylon hiking pants with unique mesh-backed side vents, running from the upper thigh to the ankle, that can be zipped open in hot weather or closed when it’s cool. When the zippers are closed, the Eco-Mesh Pants resemble a traditional pair of khakis, undetectable by your Mom’s clothing censor. But don’t let these stylish and innovative pants fool you. I’ve been using them exclusively for hiking and backpack since 2008 and swear by them. Their 100% safe permethrin Insect Shield treatment repels Lyme-disease carrying ticks and remains effective for up to 70 washes. Men’s sizes only. Click for more details and sizing.

6. Mountain Hardwear Mesa II Convertible Pant

Mountain Hardwear Mesa II Convertible Pants

Mountain Hardwear’s Mesa II Convertible Pants are lightweight and quick drying, with mesh pockets to facilitate rapid draining if you decide to swim in the shorts. A full-length inseam gusset aids mobility and an extra-wide, soft waistband keeps you comfortable. Zip off the legs for shorts with an 11” inseam. UPF 50 fabric blocks out UV rays. Men’s sizes only. Click for more details and sizing.

7. Kuhl Renegade Convertible Pants

Kuhl Renegade Convertible Mens
Kuhl’s Renegade Convertible Pants are made with a durable soft-shell fabric that feels like cotton but’s coated with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish for added water resistance. The pants have a unique, zip-off system that eliminates the fabric flap found on other convertible plants, but keeps the zipper running smoothly and efficient. When unzipped, the pants turn into shorts with a 10″ inseam. A gusseted crotch and relaxed fit allow freedom of movement, while mesh pockets provide ventilation and rapid draining. Men’s sizes only. Click for more details and sizing.

8. North Face Paramount Peak II Convertible Hiking Pants

North Face Paramount Peak II
The Paramount Peak II is the North Face’s most popular hiking pant. They have a light DWR (durable water repellent) finish to shed moisture and keep the midweight abrasion-resistant nylon exterior dry when exposed to light rainfall. The pants have a relaxed fit with large cargo pockets that close with velcro in addition to a cellphone pocket. When the legs are unzipped, the shorts have 10″ inseams, with an elastic waistband at the back and a front webbed belt closure. Men’s and women’s sizing is available. Click for details.

9. Ex Officio Damselfly Pants with Insect Shield

Ex Officio Damselfly
Ex Officio’s Damselfly Pants are made with ultralight nylon. They wick moisture and dry very fast with roll up legs (22″ inseam) and articulated knees for free movement. The waist closes with a draw string. The pants have a relaxed jean-like fit with angled side pockets and a hidden security zip pocket. Their 100% safe permethrin Insect Shield treatment repels Lyme-disease carrying ticks and remains effective for up to 70 washes. Women’s sizing only. Click for details.

10. Patagonia Baggies Shorts

Patagonia Baggies
Patagonia Baggies are the most popular hiking shorts we identified among hikers who prefer short pants over long pants or convertibles. Baggies are lined water shorts available in a variety of leg lengths ranging from 5-9″. Made with lightweight nylon, they’re fast drying and have an elastic waist for a comfortable fit.  Available for men, women, boys, and girls. Click for details and sizing.

Hiking Pant Length Preferences

When choosing a pair of hiking pants, the first question you want to ask yourself if whether you prefer wearing long pants, convertible zip off pants, shorts, leggings, or a skirt. While temperature and weather factors are likely to play a role in your selection, we were surprised to see how few hikers prefer wearing short pants (17.5%) vs pants with long legs or convertible, zip off legs.

Hiking Pant Style Preferences
Hiking Pant Style Preferences

While the obvious advantage of wearing hiking pants with convertible, zip off legs (43.6% is their adaptability in hot and cold weather, it’s surprising to see how many hikers prefer wearing hiking pants that are non-convertible, long pants (36.2%). If we combined those two populations, we see that 80% of those surveyed want the option to have long hiking pants. In addition to the obvious thermal reasons, I think that the added leg protection, sun protection, and insect protection are additional factors that favor the preference for long pants over short pants or hiking skirts.

About This Survey

This survey was conducted on the SectionHiker.com website which has over 300,000 unique readers per month, so a large pool of potential respondents. Readers were incented to participate in the survey in exchange for a chance to win a raffle for a piece of hiking gear.

While we’re confident that the results are fairly representative of the general hiking population based on the size of the survey results where n=525 people, we can’t claim that the results are statistically significant.

There are also a number of ways in which the results could be biased including: hikers who read SectionHiker.com might not be representative of all hikers, hikers who read Internet content might not be representative of all hikers, hikers who respond to raffle incentives might not be representative of all hikers, our methods for recording responses might have been unconsciously biased, and so on.

The author is an expert in statistical analysis, survey, and experimental design and is sensitive to these issues. However, given the size of the respondent pool and the very strong consensus among user responses, we believe that the survey results published here will be useful to hikers who are interested in learning about the popularity of different hiking pants.

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