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How to Buy Hiking Pants

A day of hiking can turn from a great day in the outdoors to a miserable, slogging trek if you don't wear the right clothes. Purchase the right pants to ensure functionality and comfort.


  • Step 1: Consider conditions Consider the conditions you'll be hiking in. In dry, hot climates, your main concern should be lightweight, breathable fabric that wicks moisture away from your skin. If you plan to hike in damp, windy conditions, wind and waterproof pants are a must.
  • TIP: Winter hiking pants should have built-in gaiter tops that can roll over your boots and keep snow and water out.
  • Step 2: Consider the fabric Consider the fabric the pants are made of. While natural fibers, such as cotton, may seem the comfortable choice, cotton pants can be torn on branches and rocks. In an outdoor environment you want the functionality of 100 percent nylon.
  • TIP: Nylon hiking pants are available with removable cotton liners.
  • Step 3: Decide on a color Determine what color you want your pants to be. Although largely an aesthetic choice, it's important to remember that lighter colors reflect sunlight and keep you cooler.
  • Step 4: Think about fit Think about the distances you'll be hiking and, when you try on pants, consider the importance of a good fit. While the pants may feel okay in the store, if they start to chafe your legs after a few hours on the trail, you'll wish you had been more careful.
  • TIP: Bring thermal underwear to the store to try on under your pants.
  • Step 5: Examine the construction Thoroughly inspect the construction of the pants. Double-stitched seams hold up far better than single-stitched seams. Check the seams for fraying and make sure the zipper doesn't stick. Lesser-quality hiking pants often feature poor-quality zippers.
  • Step 6: Consider other features Consider hiking pants with features such as multiple pockets and zip-off legs, but remember that loading up your pockets can make for an uncomfortable hike, and that pants with zip-off legs may get a permanent stain where the zippers are. The best hiking pants will keep you comfortable in spite of the weather and will allow you to move around without being too baggy.
  • FACT: One of the most popular hikes in Yosemite National Park, the hike to Half Dome, reaches an elevation of 4,800 feet from Yosemite Valley.

You Will Need

  • Hiking conditions
  • Fabric choices
  • Color choices
  • Proper fit
  • Durable construction
  • Features
  • Built-in gaiter tops (optional)
  • Removable liners (optional)
  • Thermal underwear (optional)

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