With a focus on comfort, durability, and performance, we’ve found the best men’s pants for hiking and trekking.
The legs are the body’s primary mode of transportation, and pants are their first line of defense. Finding the best hiking pants for your objective can keep your legs comfortable, warm (or cool), and abrasion-free, keeping your mind on the trail ahead.
We focused on comfort, durability, construction, performance, and price, relying on the experience of our field testers. These folks tested pants across the Andean cloud forests, deep desert canyons, high mountain peaks, on long-distance trails, and even in everyday use. Pants have such innovative technology, with fabrics that can shed water, block the sun, deflect sharp sticks and rocks, and still perform after years of wear and tear.
While there isn’t a single pair of pants that work for everyone, we’ve tested a variety of pants and broken them down into relevant categories. If you need help determining what you need in your hiking pants, jump to our buyer’s guide at the end of this article, or check out our comparison chart and FAQ.
Author and lifelong gear tester Justin La Vigne has backpacked over 7,000 miles, including thru-hikes of the Appalachian Trail and Te Araroa in New Zealand. He also has a passion for mountaineering, having spent time in the North Cascades on Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier, as well as Denali in Alaska.
He has a different pair of pants for all of his outdoor endeavors, and for each season’s challenges. He’s pushed pants to their limits to hone in on their best utility.
Chris Carter, another contributor to this guide, has thru-hiked the Triple Crown of long trails in the United States. He has put thousands of miles on a variety of different hiking pants, through different climates and terrain, and knows what to look for in trekking clothes that need to last for months of torture.
We put each of the pants on this guide to the test on real-world adventures and feel happy recommending any of them for long hikes or demanding backpacking trips.
Hiking pants come in three main options: full-length, convertible, and roll-up. Full-length pants are a great option for complete leg protection, even in the summer. To combat overheating, most pants have mesh pockets or vents that provide ventilation.
Convertible pants are the ultimate 2-in-1. The legs zip off and can be worn as shorts or pants. They’re a great option for variable weather and multiday hikes where you want more options and less gear to pack, but it’s tough to find a pair that doesn’t look goofy. It’s also nice to be able to pull the legs off without having to remove your hiking boots — a luxury not all convertible pants offer.
Somewhere in between full-length and convertible lie roll-up pants. These have a tab, button, or drawcord that secures the cuff when rolled up.
The alpine-centric Arc’teryx Gamma is a heavier, more durable model that we’d hesitate to wear on the hottest summer days, but they also feature useful drawcords on the cuffs, so it’s easy to pull them up and get some airflow on the calves.
Drawcords around the ankles can keep the cuffs secured up around the legs. Pants without them will need to be rolled up.
Being able to move freely in hiking pants is a major concern. Whether running down the trail or scrambling up a rocky patch, you don’t want your pants restricting your movement.
This is where design features like a gusseted crotch, articulated knees, and stretchy materials prove useful. And because every body is shaped differently, it can be helpful to try on a few pairs before buying to ensure a snug (but comfortable) fit.
Some pants, like the Lightweight Hikers from Mammut, run slim and restrict movement. Conversely, we found that Black Diamond’s Alpine Light strikes a perfect balance of lightweight durability and mobility.
It’s also important to consider how comfortable your pants will be when wearing a fully loaded backpacking backpack. Make sure they fit you well so you don’t have to wear a belt to keep them up, as that could rub uncomfortably against your pack as your hike.
Just because you’re wearing pants doesn’t mean you’re safe from the sun’s damaging rays. If you are hiking on extremely sunny days, look for pants with rated UPF protection of 40 or 50.
A DWR coating doesn’t make pants completely waterproof, but it adds enough wet-weather protection to keep you dry while hiking through dewy brush or in light showers. DWR keeps water droplets on the exterior, allowing them to simply roll off.
DWRs will eventually wash out over time. For optimal performance, you’ll want to treat heavily used hiking pants on occasion. Nikwax Softshell Proof Wash-In is an easy way to keep your pants repelling water year after year.
And if you don’t want pants with DWR, the Fjallraven Abisko Midsummer is a great option. Fjallraven steers clear of DWR and instead sells an aftermarket wax that you can apply to beef up the water resistance.
These additions start to creep up the cost of pants. Our budget choice, Columbia’s Silver Ridge Cargo Pant, doesn’t have a DWR, but it has UV protection and is an incredible value.
The little extras can really make or break a good pair of pants. Well-positioned cargo pockets, zippered pockets, belt loops, and built-in belts are some of the features available. Whether you want these or not depends on your personal hiking plans and style.
It truly depends on where you are going (dry desert, humid forest, bushwhacking), how long you will be out (hours, days, weeks, months), what the weather will be like, and your personal preference. We laid out plenty of options above that cover these variables.
For long-term use, you should be looking for a pair of pants that have durability, can repel water or dry out quickly, and has features you want (pockets, belt, leg zip-offs). It’s better to consider these options initially, even if you end up dishing out more money. The best hiking pants are the ones that meet your unique needs.
Again, this is a personal preference. One of our authors hiked with a guy on the Appalachian Trail who only wore shorts for the 2,000+ miles, no matter the weather. In contrast, he mainly wore pants to protect against mosquitoes, sun, and abrasions. If it was really hot, he converted his zip-offs.
If you’re in the Sonoran desert where temps are scorching you may want the option to convert to shorts, so cut-offs may be your best option. If you’re blazing through thick brush in the Alaskan backcountry, you definitely need to protect your legs from getting cut up, so the Fjallraven Abisko Midsummer Zip Off Trousers do the trick.
Do tires for your car matter? Go ahead and hike in your work pants, jeans, or sweatpants, and then try a technical pair from the list above — that should answer your question. If you are just getting started, try a pair of less expensive pants like the Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo Pant, then work your way up as you determine what features you’d prefer.
Jeans are not the best option because they are made of cotton and cotton does not wick away moisture. They’re also not breathable, have no stretch, and are quite heavy. In general, you’ll want to stay away from clothing made of cotton, linen, denim, or anything stiff.
It’s always best to wear and pack layers when hiking. You want to think of your body as an onion with the option to layer down. Loose clothing with breathability is ideal, ensuring that you’ll stay cool and wick away moisture. Having clothing that has UPF of 40-50 within the blend of materials can help with avoiding sunburn.
If you’re in buggy areas, having clothing with or treating your clothing with some type of bug repellent can help keep those pesky mosquitos, ticks, and sandflies away. Lastly, color is important. Keep your clothing, including your pants, on the lighter side, such as light beige, gray, or cream. Darker colors tend to absorb heat, while lighter colors reflect it.
Steve Graepel is a Contributing Editor and Gear Tester at GearJunkie. He has been writing about trail running, camping, skiing, and general dirtbagging for 10+ years. When not testing gear with GearJunkie, he is a Senior Medical Illustrator on the Neurosurgery Team at Mayo Clinic. Based in Boise, Idaho, Graepel is an avid trail runner, camper, angler, cyclist, skier, and loves to introduce his children to the Idaho outdoors.
Based in beautiful Chattanooga, Tennessee, Chris Carter is a Senior Editor for GearJunkie, while squeezing in side gigs as an adventure filmmaker and content creator in the outdoor industry. Drawing from his childhood in Africa, experience as a rock climbing and backpacking guide, ultra-marathon running, and years of extensive thru-hiking, he’s passionate about journalism that gets people into the wild. He has thru-hiked the Triple Crown of long trails in America: the Pacific Crest Trail (2018), the Continental Divide Trail (2021), and the Appalachian Trail (2021), and has explored, rock-climbed, and backpacked all over the world. He hopes to spread his love of adventure and travel through his writing, art, and videography.
More From GearJunkie
Follow Us On
Follow Us On
Sign up to receive GearJunkie content direct to your inbox.
Sign up to receive GearJunkie content direct to your inbox.