We love shorts as much as the next person, but when your trail turns rugged, a solid pair of hiking pants is a must-have. We worked with our testers to pick the best hiking pants on the market, drawn from years—and thousands of miles—of testing.
Outdoor Research Prusik Pant
When our gear editor wears a single pair of pants for two weeks straight, we know he must have found a new favorite (or that he’s putting off doing laundry, again). “The Outdoor Research Prusik Pants are rugged enough to handle rock climbing, but stretchy like yoga bottoms,” he says. Credit the Cordura/poly/elastane blend, which stands up to granite and moderate precip, yet is light enough to be comfortable for moderate spring hikes.
We liked being able to hike up the cuffs (secured by cinching the drawcord) when it got hot. Nice touch: The zippered front, hip, and back pockets securely store important items like glove liners, and the brushed tricot waistband is low-profile enough to feel comfy below a heavy pack’s hipbelt.
The svelte silhouette and clean lines don’t proclaim “I like eating GORP” when you walk onto a plane or into a pub, and, according to our editor, the shell material and dark color “hide stains really well.”
$165; XS-XL; 14 oz; Buy Outdoor Research Prusik Pant Now
Mountain Hardwear Right Bank Lined Pant
These are the mountain-life equivalent of yoga pants. They’re functional (the knit polyester fabric wards off light precip), they’re comfortable (the loosely spun material stretches to accommodate high-stepping through powder), and they’re serviceable for both athletic and urban endeavors (one of our testers says the clean styling passed muster as daily wear for winter office days—albeit in Colorado).
The pants are lined with polyester fleece that features thousands of raised PU dots. The lining provides warmth—we wore the Right Bank in the low 20s without baselayers—and the dots create channels in the fabric for airflow while also lifting sweat off of your skin and pushing the moisture through the material. Reality check: The pants breathe well during average cardio activities, but high-energy climbs in moderate temps turned them into a sweaty mess.
“I wore these more than any other pant this winter,” one tester says. “On a trip to Crested Butte, Colorado, I used them as après hut pants, on dayhikes, and for cross-country skiing in a snowstorm. Plus, the stretch means they don’t bag out easily.”
Fjällräven Abisko Lite Trekking Trouser
Consider these feature-rich trekkers the 4x4 off-roaders of hiking pants: built for scrappy missions that would destroy your lighter britches. Credit the 65/35 poly/cotton fabric, which is reinforced with interwoven ripstop threads and infused with water-resistant wax (treat every three washes). The wax finish repelled a light rainstorm and the pants were unscathed after a week of hiking along Canada’s Icefields Parkway. You’d think wax and ripstop would make these pants stiff, but four-way stretch panels on the rear prevented our tester from feeling like he was wearing chainmail. “I high-stepped through boulderfields on days in the low 70s and the 10.5-inch outer thigh vents provided a welcome cross-breeze,” he says. $150; 1 lb.; men’s 29-48W, 32L; women’s 2-18; Buy Fjällräven Abisko Lite Trekking Trouser Now
Mountain Khakis Camber 104 Hybrid Pant
These pass the ultimate style challenge, says one tester. “My wife suggested I sport them to one of her work functions because she likes that they resemble five-pocket jeans, even with the stretch and nylon,” he says. The Cambers are equally impressive in the backcountry: the cotton/nylon/Spandex blend received high marks for breathability after an 8-mile autumn hike in Escalante. Caveat: While the cotton is great for comfort, it slows dry time. $80; 6.5 oz.; men’s 30-44W, 30-36L; Buy Mountain Khakis Camber 104 Hybrid Pant Now
Mountain Hardwear Dynama Pant
The knit poly waistband dried quickly after sweaty slogs in 80°F temps in Death Valley National Park, while the supple, stretch-woven nylon body fabric helped cut light wind over a baselayer at 10,000 feet in Colorado’s James Peak Wilderness.
On a road trip around Southern California, we wore these pants for four days straight of hard hiking with a loaded pack. Then we changed into some other, cleaner hiking pants. Then we changed back into the dirty ones for an overnight. Only two things keep them short of perfect: We wished for more, deeper pockets than the jeans-style ones at the front and back (though that might decrease the comfort factor), and after about 50 days of hard use, we’ve noticed some moderate pilling on the thighs.
$70; 5 oz; Buy Mountain Hardwear Dynama Pant Now
Kühl Radikl Pants
Kühl stitched in strips of 88 percent nylon and 12 percent spandex (nylon has natural stretch, too) along the outside of each pant leg, under the kneecaps, and around the rear pockets, resulting in unprecedented range of motion. From the Sierras to Peru, we scrambled off-trail and could easily high step from boulder to boulder.
The cotton/nylon/spandex blend boosts comfort and durability (although it slows dry times). One of our more brutish testers—a photographer who shreds a few pairs of pants per season—wore the Radikl for five months of Colorado Front Range adventures and came through with the pants’ knees and seat intact (though he worked holes into the stretch panels).
Three pairs of generous pockets—in front, back, and on the thighs—easily fit maps, knives, lip balm, and sunscreen.
$90; 1 lb; Buy Kühl Radikl Pants Now
Mountain Hardwear AP Pants
We love the trail-to-town trend, with a slew of brands making technical apparel that you can wear without looking like an Everest guide. Who doesn’t want more versatile clothing? The only problem is that backcountry duds often get dumbed down for the frontcountry. Not so with the AP Pants.
For starters, they’re amazingly tough for the weight.“My buddy ripped his technical hiking pants in Escalante’s cheese grater slot canyons, but even after multiple days of scrambling, mine were unblemished,” says one tester, and this was after he’d already worn the pants for months of testing, everywhere from the Canadian Rockies to the Turkish coast. Credit the fabric’s comfortable blend of cotton and nylon (yes, cotton; we found the fabric did fine in light rain, but these pants aren’t the choice for heavy precip). A dash of elastane adds stretch, so we never felt restricted while high-stepping over canyon chockstones. The elastane also helps the pants retain their shape, even after we wore them for a week straight.
The overall design is clean—take the minimal detailing on the rear pockets, for example—and the cut is trim. Caveat: Some testers found the material too warm for temperatures above 80°F.
$90 (now on sale for $64 via the link); 7 oz; Buy Mountain Hardwear AP Pants Now