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Curiosity 9 – Backpacking/hiking pants?

I know we have a conversation out here about ladies hiking pants and the small pockets.

What I would also add is that I don’t think that Men’s hiking pants or shorts are much different.  There are plenty that also have smaller pockets (maybe not as small as the ladies; versions; just still small).  I have my official Scout (BSA; new name I am drawing a blank) pants.  They are heavier than some hiking pants and are more of a cargo pant.  I am bringing those up because I have seen a number of Scouts that put their Nalgene bottle in those cargo pockets.  Yes, they are that large.

It seems for some reason (not going to throw that in here; I believe there are a couple of key reasons) manufacturers do not have designs for all preferences.

They seem to design fewer size choices (than jeans; not that jeans have endless options either) for both waist and length.  For jeans, my preference is that even with my boots on if the front of the leg is not scrunching up and the back of the leg is not touching or almost touching the ground.  They are not long enough.

They, also, seem to design lighter pants.  They have smaller pockets.  Even when some are larger, they are still not many options in size and style.

And, for winter there does not seem to be a lot of options (like the old wool pants someone told me about).  And I am not talking snow, ski or snowmobile pants.  I found one recommendation for a model or two of Fjallraven pants as being good for cold/winter backpacking/hiking.

Now, back to pants.

  • Somewhat rhetorical questions here.
    • Why is it that manufacturers think that the longer the length the bigger the waist?
    • Why do manufacturers not design some look at lighter also meaning smaller pockets?
    • Why do manufacturers not have more styles and options?
  • Main questions.
    • What do folks think about hiking pants?
    • Do you have pants that you really like?
    • Are there pants (and shorts) that you think provide more options?
    • Do you have good winter hiking pants?
    • How do you really tell what is the difference between different pant options by the same manufacturer?


18 Replies

Pants is pants.  I generally go for pants that are cut loose enough for free movement, especially when doing more athletic moves.  I don't worry about the pockets since most of my stuff is in my pack, but cargo pockets are handy.

Synthetics work well for me, usually nylon.  When cold, I don long underwear, along with gaiters.  Jeans are great work clothing, but not the best for significant hiking.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

My go-to pants are the Men's Silver Ridge™ Cargo Pants | Columbia Sportswear 

They come in long leg and shorts and have 6 pockets.

Two large front pockets, large enough to fit a 32oz. Nalgene bottle, although I don't, so I don't if they would fit when you have the pants on.

Two pockets in the front above the knees, one with a Zelrco closure, one with a zipper, large enough for a smartphone.

Then two back pockets with Zelcro closures.

Each waist size comes in usually 4 inseam size and they come in many colors. 

Price runs between $40 and $55.

They're a lightweight pant for Summer, but I wear them in the Winter as a middle layer. I was out hiking yesterday, it was 16 degrees, I was wearing these with a softshell outer pants I got from EMS, but REI sell many brands/styles of softshell winter outer pants.



As far as the old wool pants you mention, I think you're talking about what guys would wearing hunting. Companies still make wool hunting pants, LL Bean has them I believe Under Armor also, just google "wool hunting pants".


My go-to pants are LA-Police gear cargo pants. There are a couple different flavors, I think my fav is the Basic Tactical Operator pant. I'm wearing a different flavor right now, but the leg pocket will hold a standard nalgene bottle. Select the color, select the waistband size, select the inseam size (also available unhemmed). Place order and wait. The waist band size is a little tricky in that the size listed is with the elastic fully stretched, so you want to upsize. Once you get a fit you like, order more of the same. They used to be an awesome buy at twenty bucks, but the price has gone up since I last ordered. They are selling between 28 and 50 now depending on color and size. The Atlas flavor has a stretchy, extra flexible seat, which is easier to move in, but a little more wear prone. 

They are hard wearing, slightly water resistant, and IMHO very comfortable. When cold, I layer with the appropriate base layers for the environment and activities planned.


The best winter pants I ever had was a pair of NPS dress pants (100% wool), equipped with elastic cuffs - warm and comfy.....

It is not hard to do minor mods to clothing.....

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I'm a big fan of convertible pants, and I currently wear the Paramount Trail convertible pants from North Face.  Cut a bit looser for freedom of movement & airflow.  I always hike with those unless I know it'll be hot enough to only need shorts.  Multipurpose at its best


My go-to pants the past couple years have been the Trailhead pants from Coalatree. Love them - they’re light, easily packable, fast drying, comfortable, and have great four-way stretch. I’d highly recommend them. And the women’s version only differs in terms of sizing. Otherwise they’re identical which means they’re a pair of women’s pants with awesome pockets!!

But I’m going in a different direction this coming season and hiking in a kilt. Even more comfortable than any pair of pants, no chaffing issues, better breathability, and a great conversation starter on trail. 

“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I’m a big fan of the Prana Brion and Zion lines of hiking pants.  They are lightweight, stretchy, moisture wicking, and surprisingly durable considering the quantity of jagger bushes I’ve put mine through.

They are too light for the depths of winter so you will need to layer under them for cold temps, but they are light enough to wear in the hot and humid summer.  I love that they keep rocks out of my boots, bugs off my legs, and protect my legs from thorny plants.  For winter, grab a pair of winter running tights to wear underneath them and you’re back on the trail.


@JohnL02, hey there, it's not hard to see a trend here, lol.  I recommend just getting out there and learn by trial and error.

EVERY SINGLE BACKPACKER has gone through countless iterations of stoves/canteens/clothing/tents/pads (you name it!)

And, like any other 'sport'/'activity' we are STILL learning and STILL buying new stuff.  Even after you/we think we've got all worked out, just right, we buy more stuff, try new and different ways of doing the same things.

That in itself keeps it fresh and interesting.

experiment, experiment, experiment.  Get a kit together, go hiking, return, evaluate, re-tool, and get back out there!

Stay safe of course, learn how to navigate, keep from getting hypothermia or sick, or eaten by a bear, but just keep on driving on.

I'm glad I haven't kept a record of how much $$ I've spent over the years on clothing and equipment!

...and in!

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REI Member Since 1979

@Philreedshikes Cool picks.

I have quite a few pants including a pair of Columbia Silver Ridge and a few shorts.  I just happened to be browsing to see about a nice pair that could be used for hiking in the colder weather/winter when you still don't need to have snow pants or snowmobile pants and not wanting to layer a long base layer (which are not easy to layer up and down when you have those on).

What make it fun is that I prefer a 36-inch inseam.  so, unless I want to go to a waist taht is bigger than mine.  I have to usually settle for the 34-inch inseam tall (and maybe sometimes a 32-inch inseam).  So, it just seemed like a curious discussion point.

And from watching many, VLOGs it is interesting what folks are backpacking in (gear and clothing).  Most of my curiosity posts are from watching many VLOGs (YouTube) and what folks are using/wearing and just the curiosity that those bring up.

oh, I figure, with a quick guess, I am somewhere between $2000 and $3000 in gear and clothing so far (not counting gear for car camping).  And the last three has been filling in a few items (new stove [Optimus omni fule, couple new titanium pots, and the important part was the tent [Tarptent moment DW and its crossing pole])