How to choose to the best hiking pants for men?
Choosing a pair of hiking pants will depend largely on your body shape, the season you’re hiking in and your own preferences.
There are, however, a few universal attributes to take into consideration before buying.
The most important of these are as follow:
Comfort and Mobility
The material your pants are made of is the single greatest determiner of the pants’ comfort, mobility and durability.
Unlike in other sports, when hiking we may well be on the move for several hours, if not days, on end. Comfort is all-important.
The factors that contribute to a pair of pants’ comfort levels are numerous and include several of the features listed below.
Materials-wise, the most comfortable options are usually a combination of nylon and elastane or spandex, which together offer a softer feel and more flexibility than polyester or nylon alone.
These pants also offer better performance than models containing any cotton in their construction as cotton tends to carry moisture and lacks breathability.
As with comfort, several factors give a pair of pants optimal flexibility.
In terms of materials, however, the inclusion of spandex or elastane will provide unrestricted movement – essential when making high and long steps and for providing an overall greater range of movement.
Generally speaking, the higher the spandex or elastane content, the more flexibility and mobility your pants will offer.
Hiking usually entails a little bit of rough and tumble for any item of gear. This is particularly true for your pants.
On a day out hiking, your pants will most likely face brushes or scrapes with scrub, branches, rocks and mud, not to mention exposure to the elements.
To ensure they don’t fall apart a few months down the line, look for a pair of pants boasting ripstop materials and reinforced patches on the inner ankles, seat and knee areas.
While most hikers will carry an additional pair of hard or softshell waterproof hiking pants in their backpack, water resistance in your regular hiking pants is highly desirable.
If you happen to be hiking in light showers or high humidity, wearing pants with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish will allow you to leave the second pair of pants in your pack.
Knowing that those you’re wearing can deal with an hour or two of light precipitation.
Several “bonus features” – some of which have become all but standard in hiking pants – can enhance your pants’ performance from mediocre to magnificent.
The most notable of these are as follows:
While having pockets may seem like a given, the construction and size of those pockets can vary greatly.
The ideal pair of pants for most will have larger pockets for stowing maps, a GPS device, a camera and/or any other bits and bobs you like to have at hand.
Other important features are the type of closure the pockets use and the interior construction.
Look for at least one pocket with a zipper, button or velcro closure in which you can stash important accessories while on the move.
On the inside, a mesh interior not only feels better against your thigh (they tend to chafe less in sticky conditions) but also provides an added source of ventilation.
Some pants feature zip-off legs that allow you to convert them into shorts.
This is super handy if you’re hiking in high temperatures or setting off early on spring or summer days and need to cool down come sunrise.
Although not essential, another nice, handy feature included in many zip-off pants are long ankle zippers that let you take off the bottom section without removing your boots.
Other pants feature a roll-up or button-up bottom, which lets you convert them into 3/4 pants when things start heating up.
A gusseted crotch is, essentially, an expansion of the material used in the crotch area which provides for greater range of movement. For guys, this feature is all but essential!
This feature is more of a money-saver than anything else. When weighing up the options, factor in the additional outlay required for a lightweight belt if the pants don’t already have one built in.
These create a natural bend in the knee area that conforms to the shape of your knee and offer a greater range of movement and less restriction, particularly when moving uphill.
Some hiking pants include a very handy ventilation zip to the side of the thigh area.
Although this is by no means a deal maker or breaker, it’s a very useful feature to have and lets you regulate your temperature while on the move.
What are the best men’s hiking pants for your needs?
The hiking pants you choose will ultimately depend on your needs and personal preferences.
That said, high performance and value for money are traits desirable to any would-be buyer.
Our review has found the Prana Stretch Zion Pants to narrowly edge out the best of the rest.
These pants boast pretty much every desirable quality and feature you could look for in a pair of hiking pants.
They’re light, durable, very comfortable, convertible and offer great breathability and water repellency.
Two other pants ran the Zion to a close, photo-finish.
The Columbia Silver Ridge offer great value for money and boast that ever-useful zip-off lower leg, but lacked the water repellent finish and mobility-enhancing stretch offered by the Zion’s spandex materials.
The Outdoor Research Ferrosi, likewise, offer good value for money despite a loftier price tag but fell short due to their lack of an integrated belt and articulated knees.
Each of the pants reviewed above offer something a little bit different and sure to serve you well on your future hiking adventures.
For those looking for a pair of hiking pants that offer the best combination of practicality, versatility, performance and price. The Prana Stretch Zion are truly hard to beat.