We hikers tend to be a bit on the picky side when it comes to gear selection and purchases.
When it comes to buying the best hiking pants, however, many of us are far more lax and prone to a ‘anything goes’ kind of approach.
Given that our legs are doing most of the work when we’re hiking, this overly casual approach is a strange one.
Understandably, with so many options out there, the selection process can be confusing. So confusing that plumping for the first decent-looking pair of pants that come to hand in the outdoor shop is easily forgivable.
Forgivable, yes, but also likely to land you with a pair of pants that are less than perfect and result in a costly process of trial and error until you find the right ones.
To help you avoid such pitfalls and find the best outdoor pants for your adventures. We created this complete guide on what to look for in a pair of pants for hiking. Including detailed reviews of the best hiking pants for men currently on the market.
Let’s get started with the lowdown.
Features Comparison Table
What to Look for in a Pair of Top Hiking Pants?
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.
For a nice overview of what to look for in hiking pants, check out this video from RichWalking.
Now we know what we’re looking for, let’s get down to our review of the 5 best outdoor pants currently on the market.
The Best Hiking Pants for Men Reviewed
The Prana Stretch Zion are a long-term favorite of hikers worldwide for a number of reasons.
They are light, offer great value for money and pack a handful of useful features into their otherwise minimalist design.
The material of the Zion uses spandex and nylon for optimal stretch and flexibility, and the abrasion resistant, DWR finish fends off light rain showers and makes them less prone to rippage than several other pants in their price range.
The only real downside to the Zion is their lack of an articulated knee. A shortcoming which is easily forgiven given the low price, great breathability, and the wealth of features.
These features include a gusseted crotch, roll-up leg snaps, an integrated belt and a secure cargo pocket on the left leg.
All in all, a very functional pant at a very doable price!
When the bad weather kicks in, the Arc'teryx Perimeter are just about the best pants for hiking you can have on your pins!
The Perimeter combine the best features of a standard hiking pant with those of a more technical shell pant and the result, we must say, is simply awesome.
These pants are one of few that fully live up to their claims of water repellency.
While others tend to soak up after an hour or so of light rainfall, the Perimeter keep on shedding the wet stuff almost all day long.
They’re not an out and out waterproof hiking pants, but they come pretty close.
Beyond their waterproofing capacities, the Perimeter are also very functional hiking pants.
They boast nicely stretchy material, a slightly articulated knee and a gusseted crotch area, all of which provide you with excellent mobility.
On the downside, these are slightly pricey and don’t offer as much in the way of breathability and versatility as many of their competitors.
A good bet for wet-weather hikers but not as high performing as other pants in our review.
They’re light, durable, comfortable, reasonably priced and do just about everything you need a pair of hiking pants to do.
Are the OR Ferrosi the best hiking pants out there?
They very well may be.
Made with a very stretchy nylon-spandex blend, the Ferrosi are among the most flexible pants in our review.
These materials also boast a durable water repellent finish, excellent breathability and surprising durability for such a lightweight pant.
Best of all is that all this comes at a very reasonable price.
The downsides to the Ferrosi are very few and unlikely to be deal-breakers.
The pockets are a little on the small side and they also lack convertibility and articulated knees.
For a pant that performs so well in every other aspect this seems a small price to pay.
The ultralight, superbly functional Montane Terra Pack tick just about every box that needs ticking in the hunt for the best hiking pants out there.
They’re made with very breathable, durable, water repellent Vector Lite fabric, are very comfortable, and boast plenty of winning features to boot.
The nicest touches on these featherweight pants are the spandex stretch, gusseted crotch area, ankle zippers and zippered pockets.
Above all the most impressive add-ons to the Terra Pack are their reinforced seat, ankle and knee areas.
All of which add superior durability and toughness to the zones which are usually subject to the most wear and tear.
The only downside we’ve found to the Terra Pack is that they lack convertibility.
But given their high performance in every other respect, this shouldn’t put you off if full-length pants are what you’re looking for.
The Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible is one of the best pants for hiking out there for those on a budget.
These pants don’t have the same stretchy materials or water-repellent finish as other items in our review but offer a very impressive, low-cost option nonetheless.
The most notable feature of the Silver Ridge is their ability to convert into a pair of shorts in a matter of seconds.
Other than this, they have a ton of decently sized pockets, an integrated belt, good breathability, a gusseted crotch
The Silver Ridge feature a general roominess that just about makes up for the lack of stretch.
Given that all this comes at around half the price of the more expensive pants in our review, it’s hard to go wrong!
A solid option with only a few compromises in terms of overall performance.
Conclusion: What are the best outdoor pants for you?
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.