The most versatile model in this review was our Editors' Choice winner, the Marmot Lobo's Convertible. Consider washing your high-performance gear with a product like Nikwax Tech Wash , which cleans your garments without degrading the DWR. Hybrid Cargo Pants in Slim Fit. Shop outside the U. When this sweat accumulates in our clothing, it's at the very least annoying, and also potentially dangerous.
The Marmot Lobo's have a fleece-lined waist, which was comfortable against our skin and reduced chaffing. An internal drawstring is always nice too, like on Royal Robbins Jammer II , as it lets you tighten the pants and not have to worry about wearing a belt, which is usually not that comfortable under a backpack.
Versatility is an important factor to consider when purchasing a pair of hiking pants, particularly when heading on out on multi-day backcountry trips. If you only have one pair of pants with you, they'll need to be able to handle a variety of weather conditions, from hot to cold, and sun to rain. Even on a day hike, conditions can quickly change, from cool at the trailhead to hot on the hike, and cold again up at the summit. The versatility of a pant is determined in large part by its features.
By nature, a zip-off pair is more versatile than a roll-up model, and a roll-up will offer you more wear options than a standard pant. The materials used also determined versatility, as a pair of hiking pants with a DWR treatment that is highly water resistant can also be used for water sports, whereas a cotton-blend pair cannot.
The most versatile model in this review was our Editors' Choice winner, the Marmot Lobo's Convertible. These pants can convert into a crop and a Bermuda-length short, and the material offers excellent water resistance. We wore them out on a lake for a day in an inflatable canoe, and the constant back and forth of the paddle across our lap and the ensuing drips should have left us soaked, but the droplets just rolled right off our lap and refused to soak in.
If you like convertible pants some people just don't , then nothing beats the option to convert to shorts when the weather heats up. The Kuhls are sturdy cargo pants that are made with a cotton-blend fabric, and they absorb any and all water that falls on them. One splash in a creek or a river crossing gone awry could make for a very unpleasant rest of your day. They are also heavy and not very breathable, so with no option to remove the legs, you'll end up pretty uncomfortable on a warm day.
The Screeline is also on the heavy side, so you have to hit the perfect less than degree weather window with them; any warmer than that and you'll be sweating a lot. Breathability is a key feature of any piece of outdoor gear.
As we move through the mountains, our bodies generate heat, which in turn leads us to sweat to cool back down. When this sweat accumulates in our clothing, it's at the very least annoying, and also potentially dangerous. Temperatures can change quickly in the mountains, and cold and wet clothing can, in turn, lead to hypothermia. While we don't tend to sweat as much from the lower half of our body as the upper, good ventilation is still key to preventing discomfort and also "crotch rot," something thru-hikers are all too familiar with, both male and female.
Hiking pants achieve breathability both through the types of materials used and the secondary features that can improve airflow. We spent a lot of time hiking in these pants in hot desert conditions, and the models that kept us cooler from a pure material perspective were, unfortunately, some of the ones that offered the least weather resistance.
There seems to be a trade-off between the tighter weave fabrics that repel water, and the more open, cooler weaves that let air, and water, right through.
For example, the Mountain Hardwear Dynama was one of the "coolest" pants that we tested, but they did not repel water in the least. The exception was the Outdoor Research Ferrosi , which was highly breathable and still had excellent water resistance.
Beyond the materials used, the other features that can help keep you cooler are both the roll-up and zip-off options. Merely exposing the bottom of our calves seemed to do wonders for improving airflow, both to our legs and our feet, and besides just taking off the legs, you can also unzip the legs part way to provide additional airflow.
This feature made a slightly heavier pair, like TNF Paramount 2. The mesh-lined pockets on the Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch also helped with breathability. Hiking in the mountains can be notoriously hard on your gear, from your footwear to your backpack, and everything in between. Here's how we scored the ten pairs for their durability. When purchasing a pair of hiking pants with durability as your main criteria, look for models that are made with "ripstop" or "abrasion resistant" materials.
Ripstop fabric is made with a reinforcing pattern that stops holes from running through the length of the material should a tear occur commonly used in tents. Abrasion-resistant fabrics resist wear from rubbing and other surface wear.
This keeps the fabric from pilling and wearing away in areas like the knees, inner thigh, and seat. To evaluate the durability of each pair, we wore them for several months in harsh desert terrain both while hiking, scrambling, and rock climbing.
We snapped and unsnapped buttons repeatedly, and carefully examined all the components of the different models. We also pulled out hiking pants from our closets to see how they were faring after several years of use.
The model that impressed us the most from a durability standpoint was the Kuhl Splash Roll Up. These cargo-style cotton-blend pants have the thickest material of all the models that we tested, and we can attest to their ability to withstand lots of use. The main durability issue we experienced with the other models was some pilling on the inner legs and knees, specifically in the Prana Halle , Mountain Hardwear Dynama and Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch.
Weather resistance is an important point to think about when buying a pair of hiking pants, as you will most likely be using them out in the elements. Our legs tend to be an afterthought when it comes to protecting our body from the wind and rain, but we can personally attest to the fact that you will be very miserable if your legs are cold and soaking wet even if your rain jacket is keeping your core and head dry.
The three elements to consider for weather resistance are rain, wind and sun exposure. The most immediate element we think of when it comes to weather is the rain. It can turn a lovely hike into a nightmare and leave you a decidedly unhappy camper. And while it's easy to whip a rain jacket out of the lid of your pack and put it on, finagling a pair of rain pants on in a hurry is no easy feat.
That's why we prefer heading out in a pair of hiking pants that provide a good amount of water resistance, as you can continue hiking in them in a light to medium drizzle.
Water resistance is provided both by the materials used and an additional durable water repellent DWR coating on the fabric. By nature, nylon and polyester fabrics are hydrophobic repel water , whereas cotton is hydrophilic attracts water. That's why manufacturers typically do not use any cotton in their hiking pants, and while we liked the durability and comfort of the cotton-blend Kuhl Splash Roll Up , they are not at all water resistant.
Another consideration when it comes to water is the drying time. When you get wet on the first day of a week-long backpacking trip and only have one pair of pants, you'll be happy if yours are quick-drying.
The Lobo's and Paramount 2. While those pairs resist water well, once wet the soft material takes a little while longer to dry. When it comes to the wind, protecting our legs on a blustery day did not feel as crucial as our core, but is still nice nonetheless.
Finally, what's often overlooked when it comes to pants is sun exposure. We worry about our shoulders and noses but easily skip over our legs when applying sunscreen. However, it is just as essential to protect them from harmful radiation, and wearing clothing that blocks those rays means we can limit the amount of sunscreen we need to use, which is nice when backpacking for days on end without a shower to get all the cream off.
You'll see clothing these days with an ultraviolet protection factor UPF rating, which is similar to the SPF rating used in sunscreens. While all clothing will block some rays, typical summer fabrics have a UPF of only 6, so picking a designated UPF 50 pair of pants or t-shirt will provide much more protection. This is particularly important when spending time on the water, or on snowfields at elevation. With a lot of hiking pants sharing similar styling, materials, or water resistance, sometimes it's the little features that can make or break the overall functionality and help you decide whether or not you want to purchase a certain pair.
Some features, like zip-off legs, are convenient, and yet there are many hikers out there who would never touch a pair with a ten-foot tent pole! Then there are other features that most people can agree upon, like useful pockets and ways of tightening the waistband. Here are some of the standout features we discovered over the course of this review. When it came to the zip-off models, we were able to get all of the legs off over hiking shoes, but they too narrow to fit over hiking boots.
Part of why convertible options are useful is the ability to change into shorts quickly, but if you have to take your boots off it'll slow the whole process down, and at that point, you may as well whip on a separate pair of shorts or a skort. We did appreciate the color-coded zippers on The North Face Paramount 2. It can be a bit of a hassle to get the legs back on, particularly if you can't tell which pant leg goes on which side. By making the right side red and the left side blue, you'll never make that mistake again.
Another feature that's important is usable pockets. Some models, like the Outdoor Research Ferrosi below, left , Prana Halle , and Patagonia Quandary , have shallow hand pockets that don't hold much and gape open when squatting down. Sometimes it's nice to walk with your hands in your front pockets, and not have to worry about losing whatever you put in them. In addition to front pockets, having another place to secure items that you want to have readily accessible is a great feature.
Most of the models in this review had a side pocket, but some, like on TNF Paramount 2. A final welcomed feature was an internal drawstring. Belts can feel bulky and uncomfortable while hiking, particularly under a backpack's hip belt. Being able to tighten the waist without one was a great option, and many of the models in this review had one. We put a lot of miles, energy, and wear and tear on our joints to bring you the best women's hiking pant review.
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