May 8, 2022

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Best Hiking Pants for Men (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

Some of you may be surprised to learn that the best hiking pants for men are not heavy utility uniform trousers. After logging more miles than I care to remember in pants that felt like canvas lined with sandpaper, I’m thrilled to report that you don’t have to endure such trauma on your own time.

Good hiking pants are light, strong, comfortable, and can keep you dry. They come in all kinds of styles so you can find the perfect pair for through hikes, day hikes, hunting trips, days at the range, or even the nine-to-five slog. Some of them are so good that we wouldn’t blame you if they became your new go-to attire.

The problem is that there are a lot of manufacturers selling cut-rate pants that don’t do what they’re supposed to do (or fall apart way too soon). We sorted those out for you, so all you’ll see on this list are the best of the best from our favorite brands.

Hiking can mean a lot of different things, and the 5.11 Tactical Ridge pants are ready for just about all of them. That versatility, combined with a long track record of success from the brand, earned the Ridge our pick for best overall hiking pants.

Compared to heavy work pants and lightweight athletic pants, these fall right in the middle. The blend of polyester and cotton makes these soft and tough. They’re coated with Teflon, so even things like motor oil run right off. There are plenty of pockets to store EDC items in addition to stash pockets inspired by SERE training. It doesn’t matter if you’re hiking for fun or work, this is a solid choice.

Being made from 33 percent cotton means that these pants won’t remove moisture as effectively as pants made from wool and synthetic materials. Outside of cold weather, you should be golden.

Product Specs


  • Fabric:

    67 percent polyester, 33 percent cotton

  • Colors:

    kangaroo, khaki, black, dark navy, ranger green

  • Sizing:

    waist x inseam

PROS

Casual styling with aggressive performance

Treated with Teflon to protect against stains

Hidden stash pockets for valuables

Large loops accommodate wide belts

CONS

Cotton blend isn’t ideal in cold weather

Likely to shrink in the wash

Not particularly lightweight for hiking pants

If you’re surprised to see Patagonia as our value pick, you’re not alone. The outdoor lifestyle brand is known for prices as high as its quality standards, so we’re excited to see the Quandary hiking pants priced so affordably.

These pants are a great choice for hikers who like to keep things simple. There is a zippered pocket on the right thigh, but these aren’t bulky cargo pants. The fabric is light and stretchy so you can focus on the hike without being distracted by uncomfortable pants. Spandex in the fabric and gussets in the knees and crotch make these pants about as flexible as they can be. Recycled nylon makes them eco-friendly, too.

The slim cut might not fit heavier and more muscular hikers very well, so you might want to look elsewhere if you commonly have trouble finding pants that aren’t tight around the thighs.

Product Specs


  • Fabric:

    94 percent recycled nylon, six percent spandex

  • Colors:

    ash tan, forge grey, industrial green

  • Sizing:

    waist x inseam

PROS

Incredibly flexible through the full range of motion

Treated to resist water and ultraviolet rays

Made from 94 percent recycled materials

Very light and breathable

CONS

Not a lot of pocket options

Slim fit won’t work for everyone

Zippered closures on pockets are hit or miss

The Fjallraven Vidda Pro hiking pants are built for the harsher end of the hiking spectrum. These heavy-duty pants would be our choice for rugged terrain and any kind of physical labor. Get ready to release your inner lumberjack.

Right off the bat, you’ll notice reinforced panels in the knees and seat of the Vidda Pro. The extra fabric keeps these pants in rotation longer by beefing up high-wear areas. Three cargo pockets are provided, and we’re glad to see them all above the knee so they don’t interfere with mobility. In fact, the knees are pre-formed to allow the best range of motion possible. Snaps allow the cuffs to expand to fit over heavy boots.

We love how burly these pants are, but they’re probably overkill for short, fast hikes. Keep an eye on staying dry with this polyester-cotton blend, too.

Product Specs


  • Fabric:

    65 percent polyester, 35 percent cotton

  • Colors:

    black/black, chestnut/timber brown, dark grey/dark grey, dark navy/black, dark olive, green/dark grey, laurel green/deep forest

  • Sizing:

    Euro

PROS

Reinforced fabric bolsters high-wear areas

Lots of pockets, all above the knees

Expandable cuffs to fit over boots

Extremely durable and surprisingly comfortable

CONS

One of the heavier options on this list

Significantly more expensive than the alternatives

Be mindful when converting to Euro sizing

Best Cold-Weather Hiking Pants

We’re firm believers that some of the best hiking in the world happens during the winter months. Having all those frozen wonderland views to yourself can be perfectly comfortable as long as you have the right clothing. That’s where the Kuhl Klash comes into play.

These hiking pants are built to turn snowy trails into your personal playground. The durable fabric is treated with a water-repellent finish to keep you dry and is made from synthetic materials to wick moisture away rather than absorb it. The relaxed fit is designed for people with more developed legs and provides plenty of room for a base layer. Reinforced ankle panels protect the cuffs when snow boots make them rub together.

At nearly $140, these pants are more of an investment. When you can comfortably romp down snow-covered trails without another hiker in sight, it’ll be worth it.

Product Specs


  • Fabric:

    72 percent nylon, 20 percent polyester, eight percent spandex

  • Colors:

    Gotham gray

  • Sizing:

    waist x inseam

PROS

Built to be warm with room for a base layer

Gusseted crotch and knee darts increase flexibility

Reinforced cuffs open to cover snow boots

Premium build quality outlasts most hiking pants

CONS

Only available in one color

Boot cut might feel baggy in warmer months

Cargo pocket space is limited

Best Hiking Pants for Climbing

In certain parts of the country, it seems like half the people on the trails are using them to get to a climbing spot. If you’re one of them, you need a pair of pants that can cover ground vertically and horizontally. You need the Black Diamond Notion.

These climbing pants are about as comfy as pajama pants and offer unlimited mobility with their baggy cut. The drawstring waist lets you create the perfect fit without the extra weight and bulk of a belt. Reinforced knees add a nice layer of abrasion resistance. Elastic cuffs keep your feet free and clear.

If you’re not a climber, these pants are still an incredibly comfortable option. Just remember that there are no cargo pockets or belt loops. These are made from 100 percent cotton, so they’re also not the best option for extreme heat or cold.

Product Specs


  • Fabric:

    cotton

  • Colors:

    ash, black, dark curry, raging sea, sergeant

  • Sizing:

    extra small, small, medium, large, extra-large

PROS

Unbeatable flexibility and range of motion

Reinforced knee panels increase durability

Super soft and light

Drawstring waistband offers a perfect fit

CONS

All-cotton fabric isn’t great for moisture control

Pocket space is limited

Sizing is less precise than using waist and inseam measurements

Best Hiking Pants for Trail to Town

Let’s be honest, our activewear gets plenty of use around town. If you want something that’s functional and rugged in the wild, but classy enough to wear around the office or out to dinner, the Kuhl Silencr is just what you need.

These pants provide the same durability Kuhl is known for with street-smart styling. They have reinforced knees and oversized belt loops. The rip-resistant fabric stretches to allow a full range of motion and comes with a water-repellent coating to keep you nice and dry. Seven pockets help keep all your essentials organized and within arm’s reach. All this comes in a package that looks and feels right at home within city limits.

It’s hard to find a flaw in these pants, but we will point out that the slip pockets on the thighs offer less space than a genuine cargo pocket.

Product Specs


  • Fabric:

    polyester

  • Colors:

    carbon, raven, storm khaki

  • Sizing:

    waist x inseam

PROS

Genuine trail-worthy capability and toughness

Stylish and understated around town

Extra pockets are tastefully discreet

Kuhl build quality is tough to beat

CONS

Being great at two things means being excellent at neither

Color selection is limited

A normal button would be better than this waist snap

Best Convertible Hiking Pant

Is it just us, or do convertible pants get way more hate than they deserve? Sure, these Columbia Silver Ridge pants aren’t what we recommend for wearing around the climate-controlled office, but they’re genuinely practical on the trail.

Packing separate pants and shorts take up extra room in your pack that could be better used. These pants zip into shorts to make two items of clothing from one. You don’t need to change or even take your shoes off. They have cargo pockets to store your gear and an elastic waist to keep you comfortable. The synthetic fabric pulls moisture off your skin and allows airflow to keep you cool.

Ideally, we’d all love to have your favorite pants and favorite shorts available. These pants are a compromise, but that’s not always a bad thing.

Product Specs


  • Fabric:

    nylon

  • Colors:

    more than 30 colors available

  • Sizing:

    waist x inseam

PROS

Pants and shorts in one

Lightweight, breathable, and comfortable

Massive color selection available

Comes with a belt

CONS

Not as robust as our other picks

Sizing runs small and slim

Convertible zippers are one more thing to break

Best Rain Pants for Hiking

It would be nice to have ideal weather for every hike, but dealing with the elements is part of the fun. We recommend throwing a pair of these Arc’teryx Zeta SL rain pants in your pack so you can keep on trucking through rain or shine.

Gore-Tex is the first name in waterproofing, and Arc’teryx uses the brand’s Paclite Plus to keep water away from your legs. The 40-denier nylon is light and breathable, but strong enough to survive hikes through the woods. Zippers on the lower potion let you quickly put these pants on without removing your hiking boots, which is a huge advantage in the fight to keep your feet dry.

Because these pants are an outer layer, they don’t have pockets or belt loops. They’re also some of the most expensive rain pants you’re likely to find, but they’re worth it.

Product Specs


  • Fabric:

    nylon

  • Colors:

    black

  • Sizing:

    small, medium, large, extra-large, extra extra large

PROS

Gore-Tex is the waterproof standard

Light, breathable 40-denier nylon

Comes in large enough sizes to fit over other layers

Zippers on cuffs fit over shoes and boots

CONS

No pockets or belt loops

Only available in black

Very expensive for a pair of rain pant

Why you should trust us

We’ve done our share of travel by foot. Our staff of gear junkies has completed countless military training evolutions, combat patrols, and hiking trips on our own time. We even have writers with experience hiking North America’s most famous wilderness areas and interstate trails. That know-how informs gear guides like the ones on socks, boots, and watches built specifically for the trail. We certainly wouldn’t subject our own legs to substandard pants, so we demand the best for you, too.

Types of hiking pants for men

All hiking pants are designed to be functional, but that can take on a few different meanings. Rather than narrowing your search down to a specific brand, focus on what you plan on doing in your new hiking pants. Hikes that involve climbing, mountaineering, or tactical training will require different pants than hikes that are strictly about walking from point A to point B.

Tactical pants

If your hikes involve any kind of firing range, small unit tactics, or hunting permit, tactical pants are probably the best bet when it comes to hiking pants. The foundation is still there––they’re lightweight, breathable, and built to last. As with any specialized hiking pant, the devil’s in the details.

Tactical pants prioritize range of movement. In addition to walking and running, they need to facilitate the more dynamic movements of climbing over obstacles and getting into various standing, kneeling, or prone shooting positions. They may include stash pockets for small items like keys and identification tags. Many tactical pants are designed for government contractors, so they tend to be understated and appropriate for wear around town.

Climbing pants

Would you rather hike in climbing pants or scale a cliff in generic hiking pants? That’s a no-brainer. If your hikes involve travel that’s more vertical than horizontal, you need dedicated climbing pants.

Pants built for rock climbing take mobility to an extreme to account for the physical feats you perform every time your feet leave the ground. They also need to be lightweight and strong enough to hold up to days of being scraped along a rock face. Pockets are less important since you’ll likely be carrying nothing more than a chalk bag. Fit is up for debate. Some climbers like loose pants that flow with them, and others like tighter pants that stay out of the way. 

Convertible pants

Laugh it up; we can hear the jokes already. Is the world ready for the onslaught of sex appeal that comes from a grown man turning his pants into shorts? Maybe not, but convertible pants serve a legitimate purpose in the field, whether people admit it or not. If that’s your thing, we have you covered (or uncovered, depending on how you wear them).

Convertible pants are great for climates that experience fluctuating temperatures. If you’ve ever used your car’s heater and air conditioning on the same day, you know the feeling. Plenty of hikes start with frost on the ground and end with blazing sun. Convertible pants let you keep moving without digging a change of clothes out of your pack and carrying more gear than you need to.

Key features of hiking pants for men

Durability

Hiking gear has to be durable, and pants are no exception. The most comfortable pants with the best pockets won’t do you any favors if they rip apart a few miles into your first hike. You need clothing that can push through the underbrush, scramble up rocky inclines, and get dirty without missing a beat.

Modern fabrics achieve all of that while remaining breathable, flexible, and dry. They work like denim or canvas but feel more like athletic attire or pajama pants. Creating fabric that does both takes a lot of research and development, so you can expect to pay more than you would for normal pants. The tradeoff is worth it, though.

Moisture wicking 

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world or what you’re doing; one priority that never changes is the need to stay dry. In warm regions, wet clothes can lead to chafing, bacterial growth, and even nasty conditions like trench foot. In colder climates, failure to stay dry can lead to hypothermia or frostbite in a matter of minutes.

Remember the old saying: cotton kills. Cotton is great for a lot of things, but wicking moisture away from your skin is not one of them. Cotton acts like a sponge and traps sweat and water against your skin. Wool and synthetic fibers do a vastly superior job of getting moisture off your skin and into the air, so they’re preferred in cold weather. They also dry out quickly and do a better job of staying clean.

Lightweight materials

Every ounce counts on the trail, and that doesn’t just apply to your pack. If you’re used to wearing a military uniform, jeans, or work pants, you’ll be shocked by how light a good pair of hiking pants can be. That difference is multiplied with every step, and you’ll feel the difference after a day of hiking.

One added benefit of having less material around your legs is improved breathability. When the hot air around your activated muscles has a chance to escape, your body will stay cooler and work more efficiently. A good pair of hiking pants will protect your legs against scratches and sunlight while feeling more like gym shorts than blue jeans.

Benefits of hiking pants

Protection

Why wear hiking pants in the first place if every other form of physical activity seems to be easier in shorts? The reality of hiking is surprisingly primal. Yes, getting your legs scratched by branches and rocks is a nuisance but, when you’re days away from a shower or medical attention, small cuts can become serious health risks surprisingly fast. A simple layer of fabric over your legs can be all the difference you need.

Sunlight is another factor. There’s a reason people in the world’s hottest regions cover their skin from head to toe rather than airing out. Keeping the sun’s ultraviolet rays off your body protects against sunburns and can actually help to keep you cool. 

Range of motion

Bulldoggers like Luke Branquinho can pull off superhuman feats of strength in a pair of jeans, but mortals like us are better served by something a little more forgiving. Hiking is an endurance sport, so a tiny improvement in flexibility makes each step easier and leaves you with more energy for the coming day.

Synthetic fabrics are especially good at stretching so your legs can exercise their full range of motion. That’s a big perk when you’re climbing over logs or rocks and don’t have to worry about blowing a seam. Many of the hiking pants on this list incorporate spandex into their blend of materials to give you total flexibility without sacrificing durability.

Comfort

Comfort seems like a dirty word in a lot of professional circles. We’re told not to get comfortable in our jobs and to avoid comfort-based decisions. That’s well and good, but there are times when being comfortable is a real advantage. Nobody likes the sergeant major who yells at people for wearing beanies and gloves when it’s snowing.

Hiking pants are built to be comfortable while you do inherently uncomfortable things. Hiking to a campsite or training on your own time are arduous as it is, and getting to the end of the day dehydrated and covered in rashes doesn’t make you any better off. Let advanced materials keep you cool, dry, and effective. 

Pricing considerations for hiking pants for men

Budget

A quick internet search for hiking pants will flood your screen with hiking pants priced at less than $75. Most of the options we found cost between $30 and $40, with some coming in at even less than that. We recommend shopping in this price range with a bit of skepticism, though.

Hiking pants have a big job to do. They need to be strong, light, and water-resistant. That’s hard to do on a shoestring budget. Be wary of claims that seem too good to be true. Are there inexpensive hiking pants that work just fine? Of course; the Columbia Silver Ridge is a perfect example of that. But you have to sort through a lot of imitators to find them and you’re probably better off going with a known entity like the ones on this list.

Mid-range

Of the seven hiking pants that made this gear guide, four fall into the $75 to $125 price range. This is where you’ll find popular brands like Patagonia, Black Diamond, and 5.11 Tactical. These are some of the most widely-used hiking pants in the great outdoors and that’s no accident.

We’re fans of these pants because they pack all the performance you’re likely to need. They stay cool and dry. They last a long time without being babied. They’re functional enough to wear on the trail and might even cut it as appropriate office attire. At the same time, they don’t cost any more than the pants you probably wear daily, and also leave room in your budget for other gear.

Premium

Once you get beyond $125 for a pair of hiking pants, you’re looking at premium clothes that are probably built for a very specific purpose. The extra money isn’t spent to get a designer label, it goes toward better materials and specialized features. Here’s where you’ll get into high-end brands like Kuhl and Fjallraven.

Hiking pants in this category tend to be built to handle harsher environments than most people encounter. They’re made for lengthy mountaineering trips that push gear to its limits. Our pick for best rain pants also falls into this price range and is actually the most expensive option here at nearly $250. For that price, you’ll get a pair of pants that can withstand the elements when other hiking pants tap out.  

How we chose our top picks

A few key considerations that influenced our selection criteria were durability, lightness, water resistance, and specialized features. How each option goes about meeting those needs differs, allowing you to find what works best for you. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all issue. 

We also prioritized manufacturers that have a solid reputation on the trail. Nobody wants to find out that their gear was a waste of money two days into a week-long hiking trip. Everything you see here has proven its worth in the real world and earned the support of thousands of customers — and our expert gear reviewers —in the process.

FAQs on hiking pants for men

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q. What’s the best fabric for hiking pants?

A. Your hiking pants should use fabric that’s some combination of durable, lightweight, breathable, water-resistant, and wind-blocking. Wool, polyester, and nylon are our preferred fabrics.

Q. What features should hiking pants have?

A. The best feature is quality construction. Look for lightweight, durable fabric that dries quickly. Beyond that, think about things like pockets, oversized belt loops, and the ability to zip off the bottom of your pants.

Q. Do I need hiking pants, outdoor pants, functional pants, or tactical pants?

A. These terms are pretty vague and there’s a lot of overlap. Plenty of people like to hike in tactical pants or wear hiking pants to work. Focus on the specific features you care about and don’t worry about the label.

Q. What cut is best for hiking?

A. Fit is a matter of personal preference, but most people prefer something with a little bit of extra room. Pants that fit loose in the legs tend to breathe better and rub less than tight-fitting pants. The exception to that rule is legging-style pants like base layers and some athletic pants.

Q. What insulation should my hiking pants have?

A. There is a time and place for insulated hiking pants, but we usually recommend something that’s three-season comfortable. Adding a base layer or outer layer to suit the weather is always an option and lets you get more use out of your clothing.

Q. Are compression pants good for hiking?

A. Tight-fitting athletic pants can be worn for hiking––Instagram has plenty of documentation to support that (although we’re skeptical about how many miles some of those people actually cover). Whether or not you go that route is a matter of personal style.

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Scott Murdock is a Task & Purpose commerce writer and Marine Corps veteran. He’s selflessly committed himself to experiencing the best gear, gadgets, stories, and alcoholic beverages in the service of you, the reader.

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