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Hiking Pants

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Hiking Pants

Hiking is really just walking in rugged conditions, so any pants you wear for walking can work for hiking. That said, pants designed for hiking can protect you better and be more comfortable.

Hiking Pants Fabrics

Cotton isn't great: It holds onto water, so you feel sweaty in hot temps and chilled when the weather gets cold and wet. Cotton blends (usually with polyester or nylon), though, can work fine.

Polyester, nylon and wool are great: These fabrics manage moisture well and dry more quickly than cotton.

Stretchy stuff: Pants that blend in a small percentage of materials like Lycra spandex or elastane add some stretch, which is nice when trails get a bit twisty.

What about sweat pants? The fabric is flexible, but no match for bushes and rock faces.

Hiking Pants Features

Zip-off legs: Having lower legs that zip off means you don’t have to choose between pants and shorts, and you can adapt to changing weather.

Sun-protective fabric: Fabric has been lab tested to provide a UPF protection rating. (How to Choose Sun Protection Clothing explains UPF ratings.)

Insect-repelling fabric: Long-lasting factory treatment deters insects; it eventually wears off but can be reapplied with spray-on repellents for fabric.

RECCO reflectors: Sewn into the fabric, these can aid search and rescue squads who are equipped with a special RECCO detector unit.

To learn more about how to choose all of your clothing for the trail, read What to Wear Hiking.