How to choose the best convertible hiking pants for your needs
Convertible hiking pants are a fantastic piece of gear that can easily change from being a comfy pair of shorts in hot weather to a pair of long pants when the mercury drops.
Part long pants and part shorts, there’s nothing a good convertible hiking pant can’t do.
That being said, there’s a lot that goes into buying a pair of convertible hiking pants, so if you’re in the market for a pair, you’ll want to listen up to what we have to say.
To help you decide which pair you’ll want to buy, we made this buyer’s guide to the ins and outs of convertible hiking pants.
Before you make a purchase, keep an eye out for these key features:
When you’re out hiking and it starts raining, the last thing you want is to get soaking wet.
While you could just stop and put your rain pants on, you may be close to camp or in a precarious spot and decide to just keep on moving.
In these instances, water-resistant pants are critical.
Convertible hiking pants often have a DWR coating (durable water repellent) treatment to them, which helps make them a bit more water-resistant.
You won’t find many convertible waterproof pants, but there are many water-resistant options that also tend to be quick-drying if they do get wet.
Even if you’re wearing pants, you can still damage the skin on your legs from exposing them to the sun’s harmful UV rays. Luckily, many convertible hiking pants are made with sun-blocking fabrics.
Convertible hiking pants with sun protection usually have a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) or SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating associated with their fabrics.
If you hike somewhere where the sun frequently shines, this might be something to look out for.
Many hikers believe you can never have too many pockets for storing various pieces of gear and other bits and bobs.
The best convertible hiking pants usually have at least two hand pockets on the front, one or two back pockets, and one or two cargo pockets on the legs.
Although the quantity and style of the pockets on your pants is really a matter of personal preference, many hikers prefer to have at least one cargo pocket on the legs.
This is because they tend to be bigger (so they can hold something like a map) and are still accessible if you decide to go climbing or canyoneering and need to wear a harness.
Sizing and Fit
As with any piece of clothing, the best convertible hiking pants for you are the pair that fit you best.
Sure, a different pair of trekking pants might have an extra pocket or a slightly higher UPF rating, but if they constrict your movement so much that you can’t actually move forward up the trail, then what’s the point?
When buying convertible pants, be sure to get a pair that fits well. Gusseted crotch and flat seams make for excellent comfort.
If you try on a pair and it feels constricting or like the waistband will chafe, we can assure you that it won’t get any better after a few hundred miles on the trail.
Our advice? Get a pair that fits.
For many people, sizing pants is actually quite difficult.
Men’s convertible hiking pants are usually sized with a waist and inseam, but can also be sized on an S-XXL scale.
On the other hand, women’s convertible hiking pants tend to come similarly sized to regular women’s pants (sizes 0-26+) with some even coming in plus sizes.
Women’s plus size convertible hiking pants are actually much more common than you might think, with a large number of companies producing sizes above 12 and many extending to the size 26 range.
Ultimately, what’s most important in a pair of convertible hiking pants is to find a set that feels and looks good on you, and fits well with your hiking boots.
Water resistance, UPF, pockets, color, and many other metrics are great additional features that are nice to have, but none of these will improve the fit of your pants if you buy a set that’s just not right for you.
Conclusion: What are the best convertible hiking pants for you?
Although we never like to choose just one pair of pants to win our award as the best convertible hiking pants, there can be only one winner of our head-to-head roundup.
Our best overall pick goes to the Prana Stretch Zion Convertible Pants for their unparalleled comfort and excellent mobility.
This excellent mobility and comfort come from the Stretch Zion’s extremely stretchy fabric. Due to this stretchy nylon material, the Stretch Zion pants are a great men’s convertible hiking pants choice for any three-season outdoor activity.
Also, they hold up well over time, even when used in rough conditions.
In particular, we enjoyed how the Stretch Zion pants also came with a DWR finish for water resistance, even if they did have any added UPF protection.
If you’re looking for a pair of women’s convertible hiking pants, the Mountain Hardwear Mirada Women’s Convertible Hiking Pants are our recommendation.
Like the Stretch Zion, they offer great comfort and mobility due to their quality fabric and wide waistband.
These pants also came with just enough features to make the pants versatile without making them heavy and cumbersome or sacrificing style.
We also like that the Mirada is both water-resistant and offer UPF 50 protection from the sun.