Hiking pants get a bad rap. In the age of ultralight everything, running shorts have become the go-to bottoms for all matters of outdoor adventure. But even though shorts are admittedly awesome, hiking pants offer their own distinct set of advantages. So, to celebrate the rebirth of the trail pant, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite hiking pants for men.
Our choice for 2021’s best men’s hiking pants goes to the Arc’teryx Gamma LT Pant for its impressive mix of durability, comfort, and weight.
Best Hiking Pants for Men Reviewed
Best Overall Hiking Pants for Men
Our favourite pair of hiking pants for men in 2021 is the Arc’teryx Gamma LT Pant. Durable, lightweight, and water-repellant, they're a great option for every type of hiker. Whether you’re going on a weekend tramp through the woods or conquering a long trail, the soft and stretchy fabric will keep you comfortable from start to finish.
An integrated belt and adjustable cuffs make the fit customizable. Features include three zippered pockets and a reflective logo for increased visibility. While they aren't the cheapest hiking pants on the market, the Gamma LTs will go the distance for years to come.
Our runner-up is the Columbia Triple Canyon Pant. These technical pants are designed with comfort and versatility in mind. In fact, these go-anywhere pants look as good on the trail as they do on the town.
They feature a stretchy nylon material that repels water and stands up to UV rays. Meanwhile, the elastic waist and cinchable cuffs optimize fit. It’s also worth noting that such a high-quality hiking pant is impressively affordable.
- Limited Colourway
Best Value Hiking Pants
The Silver Ridge series by Columbia is considered a hiking wardrobe staple. So it may come as a pleasant surprise to discover that the Columbia Silver Ridge II Cargo Pant is one of the most affordable, high-quality hiking pants on the market.
Lightweight, flexible, and sweat-wicking, these pants will have your back in a wide array of situations. The UPF 50 sun protection, integrated belt, and extra pockets are all welcome details. Also available in a convertible model.
- Many pockets
- Non-adjustable cuffs
Best Waterproof Hiking Pants
Looking for the best waterproof hiking pants for men? Look no further than the Marmot PreCip Eco Pant. Built with 100% recycled nylon ripstop, the Eco Pant is both lightweight and abrasion-resistant. In terms of waterproofing, the microporous coating sheds water like a champ. Meanwhile, zippered pockets and taped seams go the extra mile to lock out moisture.
Best of all, they’re slip-ons, making them easy to pull on in a sudden downpour. Once the storm has passed, the zipper and snap ankles allow you to remove them hassle-free.
- Snap + zip ankles
- Not the most breathable
While hiking can be strenuous, there’s no reason to feel bogged down by your gear with every step. For guys who want to feel as light as a feather on the trail, check out The North Face Hydrenaline Wind Pant. At just over 11 oz, these ultralight wind pants offer hikers a relaxed fit and water-repellent DWR finish.
While you may not always want to wear wind pants while hiking, they’re the perfect companion to keep you warm and dry when taking a break or upon reaching the summit. Luckily, the Hydrenaline pants can be packed away into their own back pocket, making them compact and well-suited for slipping into your pack on just these occasions.
Though often the butt of fashion jokes, convertible hiking pants are actually well-respected among hikers. Being able to quickly change from pants to shorts (and back again) without adding much extra weight makes them the most versatile hiking bottoms in town.
The Patagonia Quandary Convertible Pants are high-quality convertible hiking pants. At just 12 oz, the nylon-spandex blend is both flexible and quick-drying. Meanwhile, a DWR coating adds a welcome water-resistant finish. The gusseted crotch and articulated knee offer hikers unimpeded mobility. As an added bonus, contrasting knee-zips make it easy to match the correct top to bottom.
- Not for larger thighs
Best for Hot Weather Hiking
When you think of hot weather hiking attire, you probably picture shorts. Shorts are the best way to keep cool as the mercury rises, but we often fail to account for other nuisances like sunburns, scrapes, and bugs. That’s why a breathable, lightweight pant is often the preferred choice for summer hikes.
The Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants are made with hot days in mind. Constructed with 14% spandex, they’re lightweight and unrestrictive. Meanwhile, the 90D ripstop weave is abrasion-resistant, sheds water, and cuts wind. A UPF 50+ rating protects against harmful UV rays. Also available in a convertible option.
- Not for cold weather
Best for Cold Weather Hiking
For traversing alpine rock and snow, the Patagonia Simul Alpine Pants are unbeatable. These trekking pants will keep you warm and dry across a wide range of winter hiking conditions.
The lightweight polyester-stretch fabric allows for unrestricted movement, as does the gusseted crotch. Three zippered pockets—two on the front, one on the thigh—offer ample storage space. While not entirely waterproof in heavy rains, they’re water-resistant enough to withstand your average snowfall.
- Too thick for summer
Designed as an emergency hiking shell, the Arc’teryx Zeta SL Pant is an excellent just-in-case companion. The PACLITE Plus technology means they’re lightweight and compact, making them a cinch to store in your pack. Meanwhile, you can count on the 2L GORE-TEX fabric to keep your legs dry in a downpour.
BUYING GUIDE: What to Look for When Buying Men’s Hiking Pants
Types of Hiking Pants
Standard Hiking Pants
Standard hiking pants are simply traditional pants made with specialized fabrics and features. They’re known for being lightweight yet durable, comfortable yet technical.
Compared to shorts, pants are great for protecting your legs from blood-sucking bugs (such as Lyme disease-carrying ticks and pesky mosquitoes). They also defend against scrapes and bruises, plus wind and rain.
Convertible Hiking Pants
Convertible pants have been the butt of many jokes, but there’s good reason why they persist on the trail. For one, they’re a more versatile option for hikers who can’t decide between shorts and pants. Second, they’re adaptive to a wide variety of conditions without adding extra ounces to your pack. They are, however, heavier on average than standard hiking pants due to their zipper connections.
Sizing and Fit
There are many variations when it comes to size and fit. Below, we discuss the four most common genres of fit.
Standard-cut pants (also known as regular fit) sit just below the waist and have a loose tapper from top to bottom. While this type of fit is common among hiking pants in general, it’s specifically common with convertible pants.
Relaxed Fit pants are similar in structure to Standard Fit, but slightly wider throughout the leg. Wind pants and rain pants are commonly designed with this type of fit, allowing wearers to layer them over a pair of shorts or lightweight hiking pants.
Designed with big legs in mind, the Athletic Fit is roomier in the thighs than other fit types. Athletic Fit can be slim or standard-cut, which refers to whether the pant tapers or not.
For lean legs, Slim Fit offers a comfortable alternative to its shapeless cousins. Slim Fit is tighter than Standard and Relaxed and usually tapers at the ankle. Hiking pants that double as everyday pants are often designed to fit slim to provide a more flattering look.
Comfort and Mobility
Comfort is king when it comes to hiking pants. Many high-quality pairs feature a combination of nylon or polyester, spandex, and ripstop. Nylon and polyester are typically lightweight and breathable, while spandex is a stretch fabric that offers wearers an unrestricted range of motion. Finally, ripstop grids increase durability by adding a layer of abrasion-resistance.
Other features like a gusseted crotch improve comfort and flexibility. A gusseted crotch is simply a triangular piece of fabric interposed between the crotch seams to provide a greater range of movement and decrease rubbing friction.
Breathable fabrics are standard when it comes to hiking pants. Summer hiking pants are more breathable than winter hiking pants. This is largely because the latter require greater water-resistance, which is inversely correlated with breathability.
If you often find yourself trekking through wet and windy climates, prioritize weather protection when shopping for hiking pants. Many models that boast water-resistance feature a DWR finish, which is a thin, specially-formulated coating applied to the outer surface of a garment to prevent water penetration.
You may also notice that some pairs of pants contain GORE-TEX. Unlike DWR, GORE-TEX is not a finish but an actual material used in the composition of the garment. GORE-TEX is waterproof but naturally reduces breathability to some degree.
When it comes to durability, the heavier the fabric weight, the more durable the material. Of course, who wants to wear thick denim on the trail? That’s where ripstop comes in. Ripstop weaves sit atop the more fragile base fabric to defend against tears and abrasions.
Style and Versatility
Style is a matter of personal taste. Arc’teryx makes extremely stylish hiking pants that can easily double as urban chinos.
The ideal number of pockets largely depends on your style of hiking. If you’re doing a short day hike and don’t want to carry a backpack, having extra pockets is a great way to take along the things you need (e.g., rain shell, water bladder, map).
If you’ve got a backpack—especially one with hip belt pockets—you won’t need as many pockets. Fewer pockets means lighter pants and faster dry time when wet. As a rule of thumb, zipper pockets offer more protection from the elements and prevent accidental losses.
Integrated Waist Cinch or Belt
For greater customizability, a waist cinch or belt is a must-have feature. This way, your pants will retain their utility whether you lose or gain weight—an especially pertinent fact for thru-hikers who drop serious pounds on the trail.
Ankle cuffs that feature either zips, snaps, or a cinchable drawstring are incredibly useful. If you need to quickly dump heat on a scorching day, simply undo them. Conversely, if you’re cold or trudging through tick-infested grasslands, cinch ‘em tight!
Are hiking pants worth it? Why are some pairs so expensive?
You don’t need hiking pants to hike. Just like you don’t need running shoes to run. But it’s easy to see why it’s preferable to have the right gear. Running in the wrong shoes can lead to injuries and discomfort. Likewise, hiking in the wrong pants can inhibit movement and lead to painful friction rashes on your inner thighs.
Hiking pants are explicitly designed to wick sweat, maintain core temperature, and allow for unrestricted movement. The reason hiking pants are expensive is because they're built with specialized, technical fabrics that balance durability, breathability, flexibility, weather-resistance, and comfort.
Are tactical pants good for hiking?
For most hikers, tactical pants are overkill. The thicker fabric is great for crawling through the brush and the extra pockets are perfect for storing your map, compass, and other gear. But an average hike, on a marked trail, requires none of that. For typical conditions, lightweight and comfortable is the way to go.
Should hiking pants be loose?
Ideally, hiking pants should strike a balance between loose and tight. You want them to be loose enough so as not to restrict movement, but tight enough that they won’t get snagged on stones and branches. To test them out, do some yoga-esque stretches while wearing them, or go for a quick jog.
Even if you prefer hiking in shorts, it doesn’t hurt to keep a good pair of hiking pants on stand-by. Even if they spend most of their time in the bottom of your backpack, you’ll be happy to have them when you encounter wet, windy, rocky, or buggy conditions.
Guys—if you’re looking for an all-around versatile, comfortable, and durable hiking pant, check out the Arc’teryx Gamma LT Pant!
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