The Best Hiking Pants of 2019
|Price||$54.73 at REI|
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|$54.99 at MooseJaw|
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|$79.00 at REI|
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|$48.93 at REI||$60.86 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Affordable, very light and mobile, very breathable, comfortable||Comfortable fit and fabric, very versatile, perfectly functioning features||Supple and mobile, DWR coating works great, fair price||Excellent water resistance, good ventilation options, versatile||Comfortable, versatile for hiking, sports or casual wear, great pocket options, great fit|
|Cons||The fit of the waist is off so needs a belt, sometimes too thin and breathable||Not much ventilation, fabric absorbs water in a heavy downpour||Not many pockets, slim fit may not be awesome for larger adults||Hard to get things out of pockets, not stylish||Stitching gives way over time, seam stitching not top notch, crotch zipper too short|
|Bottom Line||For versatility and comfort while hiking in any conditions, the Ferrosi can’t be beat.||A favorite pair of hiking pants, as they are simply the most comfortable.||An awesome pant for 14er day hikes and chilling at the brewpub afterwards.||This comfortable, well-ventilated pair of pants comes with a full complement of features.||A versatile model that covers a wide range of sports.|
|Rating Categories||Ferrosi||Prana Stretch Zion||Patagonia Quandary||Sahara Convertible||Stretch Zion Convertible Pants|
|Comfort And Mobility (35%)|
|Venting And Breathability (20%)|
|Water Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||Ferrosi||Prana Stretch Zion||Patagonia Quandary||Sahara Convertible||Stretch Zion Convertible Pants|
|Weight (in oz)||9.4 oz||13.6 oz||10 oz||11.2 oz||16.6oz|
|Material||86% nylon / 14% spandex 90D stretch woven ripstop||97% Nylon / 3% Spandex||94% nylon (62% recycled) / 6% spandex with a DWR finish||94% nylon, 6% spandex||97% nylon, 3% spandex, woven|
|Water Resistance||DWR finish||DWR finish||DWR finish||DWR finish||DWR finish|
Best Overall Hiking Pant
Outdoor Research Ferrosi
A great pair of hiking pants are comfortable, offer a high degree of mobility, keep you cool as you work up a sweat while hiking, and are versatile enough to be worn in the rain or the sunshine. With all this in mind, we found the Outdoor Research Ferrosi to be the best pair of hiking pants we tested. They are made of durable ripstop fabric, and the incorporation of a higher-than-average 14% spandex ensures that they are mobile enough for hiking, running, yoga, or high stepping on rock. They are also very light, thin, and highly breathable, making them an ideal choice for hot weather. The ankle cuff cinch cords add a lot of versatility, allowing the wearer to easily roll them up to calf or knee height for more ventilation. To keep out the muck and debris, you can also cinch the cuffs tight around your boot tops if you forgot your gaiters at home. They are also one of the most affordable pairs making them our favorite overall model.
The super thin 90D ripstop fabric is without a doubt the most breathable that we tested, but on the flip side it means that they are not ideal on cold or windy days where they don't provide quite enough protection for skinny legs. We also couldn't help but notice that the waist sizing is a bit off. These pants want to sit lower on the hips. For our testers, they needed to wear their typical wait size with a belt to make them functional. OR markets these pants as an alpine climber's dream, but we thought they worked even better as all-purpose hiking pants that especially shine in hot weather.
Read Review: Outdoor Research Ferrosi
Best Bang for the Buck
REI Co-op Sahara Convertible
As one of the least expensive convertible pants that we tested, the REI Co-op Sahara Convertible is one of the best values around. Despite the low price, this pair is highly water resistant and comes loaded with more features than most of the competition. It has six pockets, including two deep ones in the front, two rear, and two cargo pockets on the side. The integrated belt features a flat face that is comfortable under a backpacking waist belt. Side zippers on each leg facilitate an easy conversion from pants to shorts without the wearer having to remove footwear.
The primary drawback to this pair of pants is the configuration of the various pocket closures. The velcro flaps are not secure enough, and one of the zippered pockets is not quite wide enough, making it a little trickier to remove items. All things considered, we are delighted with the performance of the Sahara Convertible and would recommend it to anyone who prioritizes versatility and functionality with a touch of value.
Read Review: REI Co-op Sahara Convertible
Top Pick for Climbing
Prana Stretch Zion
For years, the Prana Stretch Zion has been one of our favorite pairs of pants for hiking and trekking. They are also far and away our favorite model to wear while climbing, a testament to their durability and versatility. We love the cargo pocket with zippers on both sides, enabling us to easily reach phones or topo while sitting at a belay. We also enjoyed the small, but practical waist tightener that means these pants can be worn without a belt. This feature is especially beneficial for typical weight loss after a week or two on the trail. Combined with the softest and most comfortable, stretchy fabric of any of the models we tested, it is no wonder that these pants are one of the highest scorers in our overall rankings. If you prefer convertibles with zip-off lower legs that turn the pants into shorts, we still highly recommend the Stretch Zion Convertible, which is essentially the same pant.
While these were our absolute favorite pair of pants for climbing, they are not without their flaws. The fabric is a bit heavy and densely woven for hiking in hot weather. They are much more effective when the temperature is on the cooler side. They also aren't as water resistant as most, so if wet weather is in your future, look elsewhere. If comfort is your top priority, then we would recommend trying on the Prana Stretch Zion. If you want to save money and don't need a cargo pocket or cuff snaps, we highly recommend the Prana Brion, which uses the same comfortable fabric, but in a simpler design that we think also looks a bit better around town.
Read Review: Prana Stretch Zion
Top Pick for Versatility
KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible
The most versatile hiking pant will be able to keep you cool as you traverse the blistering heat of the Mojave Desert just as well as it protects you from the chill winds high in the Sierra. If you are looking for that one pair that can handle it all, look no further than the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible. We found its heavy, stretchy nylon is optimal for shielding against both wind and sun, not to mention trailside brush and abrasive dirt and rock. The option to convert them into shorts makes the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible a perfect choice for mountain travel where temperatures fluctuate rapidly, and we loved wearing them as shorts by day, and pants once the sun dipped lower in the sky.
The primary concern with this model is the zipper around the legs which allows for the pants-to-shorts conversion rubs across the upper thigh. We were also surprised to find that the front button often came undone by itself with a bit of pressure and stretch. With their durable fabric and stylish fit, these pants take "do everything" to a new level. We think they are a fantastic choice for a variety of activities besides hiking. Whether traveling, camping, climbing, or working in the yard, these pants fit and performed with a consistency we haven't found in other pairs.
Read Review: KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible
Top Pick for Wet Weather
Most of the pants that we tested for this review claim to have some durable water repellent (DWR) coating applied to help them shed water before it absorbs into the fabric, but only the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant accomplishes this task efficiently, making it our Top Pick for Wet Weather. It's made of a stretchy blend of nylon and elastane that is more similar to a lightweight technical mountain pant than most of the other models.
Despite being the most water resistant in this review, these pants are not waterproof, and cannot be substituted for actual rain pants in a downpour. We also found the nylon fabric to be a bit more abrasive against the skin compared to its smoother and softer counterparts — a trait we often noticed when putting them on, but then immediately forgot as we got on with our day. The Perimeter Pant balances supple mobility and breathability with more than adequate water resistance for most hiking adventures, and although it wasn't one of the highest overall scorers, it's our first choice if we know that rain is on its way.
Read Review: Arc'teryx Perimeter
Notable for Incredible Durability
Fjallraven Vidda Pro
If bushwhacking and scrambling are more your speed in the outdoors than staying on the trail, we recommend checking out the unique Fjallraven Vidda Pro, made with a tried-and-true design from the backwoods of Sweden. The most interesting feature of these pants is that their high-cotton fabric is meant to be impregnated with Fjallraven's Greenland wax, in much the same way that one might wax their skis, to increase their durability and water resistance.
With this unique design comes a few notable downsides. These pants are heavy and trap heat far more than their competition. They are also quite expensive and offer an atypical style for a pair of hiking pants. These pants are high-quality, reinforced, and ethically sourced, and they will thrive as a do-it-all option for the rough wearer who's into hunting, bushcraft, and winter ranching. While they weren't the highest scorers in our nylon-heavy review, they set themselves apart for their durability and toughness — notable and admirable qualities for any pair of pants.
Read Review: Fjallraven Vidda Pro
Analysis and Test Results
We tested these pants in a variety of locations, including the Cascades of Oregon, the desert of Southern Utah, the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The majority of our testing took place on hikes and camping adventures, where we used these pants as intended. To accurately rate each product, we tested them in five separate metrics that we feel are critical for assessing the performance and quality of any pair of hiking pants: comfort and mobility, venting and breathability, versatility, water resistance, and features. For metrics that required additional or fine-grained testing, we devised more controlled experiments.
For each metric, we assigned pants a score from 1-10. These scores are weighted based on each parameter's relative importance to the overall function of a pair of hiking pants. Combining the scores of all of the metrics, each model earns a score between 0-100. In all cases, we rated pants based on their performance compared to the competition. With this in mind, scores are relative to other products that we reviewed; the highest scoring model is the best-of-the-best in our opinion, a lower scoring model is still a top choice that might be lacking in a particular area. We carefully consider the weight of each metric relative to the others, but we recognize that each wearer is going to have different priorities. If, for example, versatility is most vital to you, we encourage you to not just look at a product's overall score, but to also focus in on that specific metric within the individual reviews to discover how each product performed at a more granular level.
An important consideration while shopping for new clothing or equipment is value. While the adage, "You get what you pay for" often rings true, our years of testing experience have taught us that the highest priced products are often not the highest performing, and with a little research, consumers can usually find great products for less than their retail price. This fact becomes increasingly important for those who are working hard to outfit themselves with an entire backpacking or trekking kit. Choosing the best value for all of the necessary purchases could end up saving you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Most of the pants in this review fall relatively close to each other in performance as well as price, and so there are many solid choices if you are searching for the best value.
Comfort and Mobility
For us, the most critical consideration for any piece of clothing is how comfortable it is. We find that when we are comfortable, we are able to focus more on what we are doing than what we are wearing.
In the context of hiking pants, comfort means that the pair moves and flows as you move; never obstructing, never pinching, never rubbing, never annoying, never distracting. Our thinking is that if it isn't comfortable, the rest of the metrics probably don't matter nearly as much; it doesn't really matter whether the pockets are deep enough or if the stitching in the rear is durable if you are not going to wear the pants in the first place.
Comfort goes hand-in-hand with mobility. Hiking pants need to be able to move and bend with you and not restrict movement. The pants we reviewed are primarily made with nylon that typically incorporates some smaller percentages of stretchy material, such as spandex or elastane to facilitate user mobility. Still, others include some cotton to improve the feel against the skin.
Some pants, such as the Patagonia Quandary have a slim fit, but compensate with an increased stretchiness, maintaining mobility for the wearer. On the other hand, a couple of pairs, such as the Fjallraven Vidda Pro pants, offer minimal stretch in the fabric and promote mobility with a looser, more relaxed cut.
The most comfortable pants were constructed using a soft material that felt great against the skin and had stretchier, more mobile fabrics. The cut is also an essential factor but could be heavily dependent on the body type and shape of the wearer. The Prana Stretch Zion models do the best job of incorporating all these factors, providing the most comfortable, mobile, and relaxing fit. The very similar Prana Brion, which uses the same fabric and has the same cut as the Stretch Zion, likewise scored at the top of the list. Close behind is the stretchy Patagonia Quandary, as well as the similarly stretchy Outdoor Research Ferrosi, which only missed out on a top score for comfort because the waist sizing was a little peculiar. Overall, Comfort and Mobility accounted for 35% of a product's final score.
Venting and Breathability
We love hiking pants for their ability to protect from the wind, sun, cold, and brush. However, do enough physical activity in them and you are going to get hot and sweat. The best hiking pants are going to shield the wearer from the elements while keeping them cool and dry. Breathability is the ability of the fabric to allow heat and moisture to escape from the inside of the garment to the outside world. Venting refers to the features included in a pair of pants that facilitate the release of heat and moisture.
Throughout our testing, we found again and again that venting is a highly effective design element that facilitates cooling when overheating in a pair of pants. Features like zippered vents, mesh-lined pockets, and rollable cuffs factored heavily into a product's score. Most of the pants feature a tight, nylon weave that severely limits direct air transfer — good for wind protection, but not as efficient for breathability.
To test venting and breathability, we primarily relied on field testing. Much of this time was spent in the direct rays of the desert sun, where we could quickly work up a sweat. We also decided to test all the pants in a more controlled situation, running up the same steep hill in the sun, working up a sweat, paying close attention to how effectively each pair kept us cool relative to the others. Though it is challenging to quantify these results numerically, the quality of each model's breathability became apparent.
Not surprisingly, the pants made of the lightest and thinnest fabric tended to be the most breathable, while the pants with the most mesh and zippered vents cooled us off the quickest and prevented us from getting too sweaty in the first place. The OR Ferrosi is the lightest, thinnest, and by far the most breathable pair in this test, making them a top choice for wearing in hot climates. The REI Co-op Screeline is the clear winner regarding its ventilation options, thanks to its generous mesh vents, especially behind the knees. The KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible also had a variety of vents, not to mention the ability to zip off the lower legs to turn the pants into shorts. The pants that we found to be the least breathable were also the thickest and heaviest and had the fewest vents. With its extraordinarily dense and heavy G-1000 fabric and no vents, the Fjallraven Vidda Pro is a pant designed exclusively for cooler weather. Venting and Breathability accounted for 15% of a product's final score.
Versatility is the ability to protect the wearer and keep them comfortable in a variety of conditions and activities. The most versatile pants should be able to handle intense sun, heat, wind, rain, cold, bugs, and brush.
Convertibility (from pants to shorts) increases a pant's versatility. In general, pants that were convertible scored higher for versatility, and we also considered how easy it was to take off and replace the legs. We tested a handful of convertible pants for this review, including the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible, The North Face Paramount Trail Convertible, the Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible and the REI Sahara. However, a couple of other pairs, such as the Prana Stretch Zion and The North Face Paramount 3.0 are also available in convertible options.
We also assessed how appropriate each pair is for activities other than hiking. We took them swimming (we don't bring our bathing suits on thru-hikes), stretching out with some yoga, rock climbing, and on long days traveling. In these activities, we considered the durability of each pair, as well as their style. While these pants are designed for hiking, it is nice to be able to wear them around town if need be, and this factor also contributed to a pant's versatility score.
Made with durable nylon and offering many venting options as well as the ability to convert into shorts, we found the KUHL Renegade Cargo Convertible to be the most versatile pair of pants that we tested for this review. They kept us cool while hiking uphill in the sun, and were also thick enough to protect us from the cold and wind. We also liked wearing them around town and while working outside. They also proved to be an adequate climbing pant as well. A close second was the Prana Stretch Zion, which we found to be slightly warmer, and also comes in a convertible option. Lastly, The North Face Paramount 3.0 was a sleek and stylish pant that served us well whether out hiking with a pack on or traveling the world. Its light and the stretchy fabric offered excellent protection from the wind and sun and is also sold in a convertible option. Overall, versatility accounts for 15% of a product's final score.
On a multi-day backpacking trip, chances are good that rain will be in the forecast at some point. Quality water resistance is a huge bonus for a pair of hiking pants, but it is also important for those day hikers that happen to live in a wet climate. We also consider wind resistance when assessing a hiking pant's performance, but we have found that all the pairs that we tested are functionally wind resistant because of their tightly woven fabrics.
Most of these pants are designed to keep you as dry as possible while remaining lightweight and comfortable, but are not specialty rain layers, and are not waterproof. Most of them come with a Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coating applied to the outside. This chemical coating helps the fabric shed water, preventing it from absorbing into the material. It is worth noting that these layers break down and wear off over time, especially if you wash your pants frequently in the washing machine, so if you are heading out on a long trip with an older pair of pants, you should apply a new DWR finish before you begin.
To test water resistance, we wore these pants outside as often as we could in poor weather. Testing conditions ranged from hiking in rainy, snowy mountains to sunny and dry in the desert. To determine how these pants performed in precipitation, we also conducted a shower test: we put the pants on and jumped into a shower at different flow rates. Using a misting spray nozzle to spritz the outside of the pants lightly helped us understand exactly how much airborne water a pant could effectively repel before getting soaked. Things we looked for were how well the DWR coating worked after three months of testing and washing, whether the fabric tended to absorb water, how wet our legs got inside the pants, and how long the pants took to dry out after being hung up.
The most weather resistant pant is the Arc'teryx Perimeter Pant, which we awarded our Top Pick for Wet Weather. The DWR coating does a great job of shedding water even after a lot of wears, and the slippery nylon fabric doesn't absorb water like many of the others. It also dries out quickly since very little water gets absorbed in the first place. The Patagonia Quandary performed nearly as well, incorporating an effective DWR coating with non-absorbent and fast-drying stretchy nylon weave fabric. We were intrigued by the performance of the wax impregnated Fjallraven Vidda Pro pant, which eschews the now-standard chemical DWR coating in favor of a more natural and customizable treatment. Weather resistance accounts for 15% of a product's final score.
The final category that differentiates the best pairs of hiking pants from the rest is each pair's set of features. These are the thoughtful design elements that (hopefully) enhance a wearer's experience. Each pair has their own set of unique features, including the type and number of pockets and their location, waist tightening systems and belts, the pants-to-shorts conversion zipper, vertical cuff zippers, cuff roll-up buttons, cuff tighteners, ventilation holes, and crotch zippers. Some of these features were functional additions that inspired our adoration, while others were superfluous or frustrating.
Our primary focus during testing was whether the features that were included proved to be practical and functional. For example, having the option to convert a pair into shorts is useful, but we also rated this feature on how well the lower leg zippers functioned and how they looked and felt. We did a similar analysis of pocket layout and location, as well as for waist tightening systems.
In short, the more useful and functional features a pant included, the higher the score. Products that received a lower rating either included few useful features, or the ones that were included didn't function nearly as well as competitors.
Our Top Pick for Versatility, the KUHL Renegade pant also boasts the best feature set. It has a ton of pocket options for those who like to have all their trail trinkets handy and organized, as well as excellent ventilation and the ability to convert to shorts. The Prana Stretch Zion has fewer pockets than the KUHL pants, but the design and execution of its features are nearly flawless. We love the small, low profile waist tightener that allowed us to backpack and climb without wearing a belt. Features account for 15% of a product's final score.
Hiking pants offer a large handful of benefits, often for activities beyond hiking and backpacking. With so many options on the market, the challenge is trying to decide which ones to buy. While comfort is usually a top priority, the climate in which you spend most of your time can dictate what features are most important to you. We hope that our review of the most highly rated and popular hiking pants will help you make the best choice for your needs. Happy trails!
— Andy Wellman & Ben Applebaum-Bauch