Hiking Pants Review – Our Top FAQsPosted by Whole Earth | 03.17.2018
Thinking about buying a pair of hiking pants? Is it time to retire your favorites after years of great memories? Or perhaps you’re considering an upgrade to pants created specifically for hiking and backpacking to see if they’re as great as you’ve heard from friends on the trail. Not surprisingly, what constitutes a perfect pair of hiking pants varies with the maker and the wearer. At Whole Earth Provision Co., we’ve been answering customer questions for almost 50 years, and we have three questions that can help you choose the best hiking pants for you:
What’s the best fabric for trail conditions?
What’s the best length?
What extra features do you need?
Today’s hiking pants for men and women are primarily blends of nylon and a stretch material such as spandex or elastane. A small percentage of stretch material significantly adds increased mobility and comfort. In fact, it’s not unusual to see pants made of these fabrics used for both trails and for everyday wear. Comfort rules. If you’re planning to be in a hot or warm weather environment, a cotton, nylon and stretch material blend may be your best bet, since cotton adds breathability to the fabric.
If you can reasonably expect rain or showers, a durable water repellent or DWR coating helps to make your hiking pants water-resistant. This finish won’t keep you from getting soaked in a downpour so don’t forget your rain jacket or poncho if you’re headed into stormy weather.
If you’re caught in a storm or get soggy crossing a stream or kayaking out on the water, a quick drying material may be just what you’re looking for. Some blends dry more quickly than others. Cotton and spandex slow the drying process. Generally speaking, if you expect to get wet, look for quick drying pants with a high nylon content.
If your hiking pants are going to be worn exclusively in a cold weather environment, long pants are the way to go. But if you’re heading out into cool or cold mornings and warm or positively hot afternoons, you might want to consider pants that roll up or are convertible. Roll up pants are secured with snaps or loops and buttons on the lower leg to keep the pants’ legs from unrolling. Without these aids, nylon blend pants tend to slide back down your legs and return to their long pants’ selves.
Convertible hiking pants for men and women offer the greatest flexibility. You can begin the day with long pants; and, as the day warms up, you can unzip the lower leg portions of the pants and wear shorts for the rest of the day. Some folks find the seam that joins the upper and lower legs uncomfortable. Companies have different ways of joining the seams, and you may find one to be more comfortable than another.
And finally, what extra features will increase your hiking pants’ performance? Here are a few to consider.
How many pockets do you need? What will you be carrying that should be close at hand without having to burrow into your backpack each time you need it? Are the pockets deep enough to hold these items? How are the pockets secured? Velcro, snaps and buttons are popular, but for your most important items, a zippered pocket may be a necessity. And finally, are the pockets sensibly located and comfortable or do they inhibit movement?
Are the pants strategically ventilated for warm weather adventures? Or do they include ankle closures to keep cold air away from your legs in winter?
Do the hiking pants have an adjustable waistband? If so, you won’t need a belt and its added weight. Do the pants have a gusseted crotch and articulated knees? These features give added mobility. How about reinforced knees and cuffs? They add to the lifespan of your pants by using extra layers of fabric in the areas that are often the first to wear out.
Do you need pants with SPF, sun protection factor? Many of today’s hiking pants are made with materials that protect against UVB rays. And if you’re traveling in areas with biting or otherwise annoying bugs, consider fabrics that have bug repellents woven into the material.
How are the pants cut? Do they fit your physique? Pants that are too tight or uncomfortable won’t encourage you to enjoy time outdoors. Another consideration if you’re hiking in cold weather, are the pants roomy enough to allow you to wear a base layer and still move comfortably?
If you consider your answers to these questions when searching for your next pair of hiking pants, we think you’ll be pleased with the pair you ultimately choose.
At Whole Earth you’ll find pants and shorts for men and women for all kinds of activities and occasions, from casual work pants to “dress” shorts for outdoor parties, as well as shorts and pants for the trail. You’ll find a great selection online and in our brick and mortar stores.