12 Hiking Pants for Women
Having a pair of good hiking pants can help you reap the physical and mental benefits of hiking. Here's what experts want you to know to find the best hiking pants for women.
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Hiking is an incredibly healthy activity.
There’s plenty of evidence that hiking can help improve heart health, balance, and build stronger bones and muscles. Hiking may also help reduce the risk of some respiratory conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Research also suggests hiking is an excellent workout for your mental health. Hiking can reduce the risk of depression, anxiety, and stress. Being outdoors in nature can also help improve your mood, overall mental well-being, and sensory perception.
For most people, if you make a solid effort to fit time to hike into your schedule, there’s no excuse not to hit the trail. There are thousands of miles of hiking trails spread across the United States.
And other than some basic gear, hiking is normally a form of free exercise. But figuring out which hiking attire is the best fit for you and your needs isn’t always an easy process, with hundreds of offerings available online and in retail stores.
To help make that process easier, we contacted people who knew exactly what to look for and avoid. Here’s what experts say are the most important things to consider when purchasing women’s hiking pants.
Things to look for in women’s hiking pants
If you’re just taking a quick trek on fairly even, consistent ground, a high-quality, comfortable pair of sweatpants, jogging pants, or even yoga pants or tights may do the trick.
But if you’re planning on taking up hiking as a hobby, experts say you will likely benefit greatly from a pair of pants made specifically with hiking in mind.
Here are some factors to consider when shopping for women’s hiking pants.
Fit and fabric
When it comes to fit, the experts say the advice is pretty simple.
“You should wear comfortable, sturdy clothes when hiking that allow you to bend and climb with ease,” says Nailha Blades, founder of Color Outside, an organization that helps women of color harness the power of getting outdoors.
So if a pair of hiking pants feels good and lets you move around easily, you’ve probably got the right fit.
Picking hiking pants with the best fabric or materials is a bit more complex. While many people find cotton very comfortable and breathable, once cotton is wet, it tends to stay wet for a long time. Cotton can absorb and lock in sweat.
“Cotton should be avoided,” Blades says. “Instead aim for comfortable clothes made from fabrics like polyester, nylon, or wool.”
If you’re going to be hiking in rocky, uneven, or brush-filled areas, experts recommend pants with extra features that make them more durable and unlikely to rip, tear, or be pierced.
If you’re climbing, having hiking pants made of durable material is also a good safety consideration.
For extreme durability, experts say ripstop materials are best. For less intense environments, look to see if the manufacturer or seller says a pair of hiking pants are made with durable materials.
Some hiking pants have patches of ripstop and other super durable materials built into areas most likely to come into contact with rocks, twigs, brush, or other potentially painful objects—the bum and knee regions.
Suitability for warm or cool environments
When it comes to picking a hiking pant, you have at least one major consideration that can change the price point and selection of pants available: the temperature range where you’ll be hiking.
Pants for warmer months are typically one mixed layer of nylon, polyester, and elastane (also known as spandex). Hiking pants made for warmer months or environments also tend to be much cheaper, according to experts.
“Where it gets a bit more technical, and thus pricy, is when it comes to winter hiking gear and rain protection,” says Kathryn Van Waes, the executive director of the American Hiking Society. “Breathable and waterproof/warm is a pricy combination. Add to that price if you want it to be lightweight to stash it in your backpack.”
When purchasing hiking pants for cooler months or areas, experts suggest looking for slightly thicker, layered, or convertible pants.
For hiking in cold months or in snow, they say to look for thick pants, fill or heat-insulated layers, and have external shells that keep snow out without bulking up the whole pant or making it block airflow internally. The experts add that good winter hiking pants also tend to have elastic cuffs or ways to bring in the cuffs so they sit snugly around your hiking boot, helping keep snow and other elements out of your boots.
Van Waes says to get the same quality products without the original price tag, check Facebook to see if there are any gear-swap groups in your area or see if there are any secondhand shops that carry outdoor gear and clothing.
(Here’s the essential hiking gear you need.)
Water and wind resistance
Experts say unless you’re planning to hike in extremely cold, windy, wet, or snowy conditions, it’s best to have hiking pants for women that resist or repel the elements rather than those that are completely protective, such as pants that are waterproof or windproof.
Materials that block out all water and wind also lock in moisture, which can leave you just as wet from sweat as you would be if you’d been caught in the rain, Van Waes says.
Having enough pockets to store important items like snacks, maps, binoculars, cameras, and other hiking gear can make your hike more enjoyable.
Who wants to go for a hike with their hands full? And not everyone is a fan of taking a pack, especially if you’re not going to be hiking for too long or too strenuously.
“I always look to make sure I have enough pockets in my hiking pants, especially pockets that are deep enough to hold my cell phone!” Blades says.
Van Waes adds that if you’re a parent of young kids, you’re probably already clued in that you’re going to need pockets for all their “treasure” collecting along the way.
Color and length
When it comes to the color of your hiking pants, experts say light and bright is best. That’s because dark materials make it much harder to spot ticks or other insects on your clothing that could bite, sting, or transmit pathogens like fungus, bacteria, and viruses. Longer pants also cover more of the skin and reduce the risk of insects making contact with your skin.
For the sake of quality control, Van Waes recommends avoiding pants on the internet from brands you’ve never heard of. Blades says you don’t have to spend a lot of money on gear when hiking, especially when you first start out.
Blades says classic companies like Athleta and Eddie Bauer are brands she recommends.
“There are also a lot of new up-and-coming outdoor brands like Alpine Parrot, which is a new hiking apparel brand that is made specifically for women sizes 14-24 and makes incredible hiking pants,” she adds.
Also on the list of top-quality, reliable hiking pant brands on the list are Prana, North Face, LL Bean, Columbia, REI, Patagonia, and Mountain Hardwear.
(Let these hiking quotes inspire you.)
Top recommendations for women’s hiking pants
No single pair of hiking pants will be the best match for every woman or every type of hiking. But here are some of the most loved, and recommended, hiking pants for women.
Prana Women’s Halle Pant
If you’re looking for reliable, high-quality trekking pants, these may be the right option for you. Consistently ranked high among customers and product-ranking groups alike, this Prana classic is a well-loved favorite. Why?
Well, it covers all the major checkpoints for hiking pants: stretchy, moisture-wicking, quick-drying, lightweight, and UPF 50 sun protection.
These pants also offer articulated knees, or special trim around the knees for easier movement, and snaps at the knees so you can transform the pants into capris in case they get too warm, or if you want to avoid drenching them while crossing rivers or streams. These pants also offer loads of pockets, with two deep hand pockets and snap-close pockets in the back.
They also come with a stash pocket roughly the average cellphone’s size in the upper right leg. These pants fit a wide range of sizes, offering short, regular, and tall inseams and sizes from 0 to 18.
Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Stretch Pant
Columbia is a brand recommended almost across the board by experts. That’s because it has a well-deserved reputation for catering to hikers’ needs.
These pants are made of fabric that’s moisture-wicking, quick-drying, stain-repellant, and made with UPF 50 sun protection. This pant comes with a good range of pockets, containing two deep hand pockets in the front and ample-sized pockets on both sides in the back, as well as a zippered pocket on the right front upper leg to store valuables.
As a bonus, the waistband of these pants is very wide, flat, and partially made of elastic, offering all-day comfort. This pant also offers articulated knees for more ease of movement, and the pant legs can roll up to transform into capris.
Alpine Parrot’s Ponderosa Pants
Alpine Parrot is paving the way for plus-sized hiking attire for women, offering pants made with women sized 14 to 24 in mind. Designed to flatter curvier figures, these pants were tweaked based on users’ recommendations to focus on real women, not just a specific size or shape.
These pants offer a high-rise, curved waistband with an adjustable waistband and built-in belt to let you cinch the pants to accommodate your hips. Unlike many hiking pants, these pants come in two different styles to help woman of various shapes and sizes find the right fit for their own bodies.
Like many hiking pants, these pants are also stretchy, durable, quick-drying, and moisture-wicking. They also can be converted from pants into capris thanks to adjustable cuffs. Unlike some plus-sized offerings, these pants come with five large hand pockets that can all comfortably fit most cell phones, as well as a secure, zippered pockets for valuables. They even have a ring loop for holding items like keys.
It’s important to keep in mind that after ordering these hiking pants, you may not get them until the end of 2021 as Alpine Parrot tries to manage demand. The manufacturer says women who want a tighter, leggings-like fit should choose a size down, and for a roomier leg size, pick a size up. The perfect fit of these pants should feel like a great pair of stretch jeans.
Columbia Women’s Modern Mountain 2.0 Pant (winter, snow)
Winter hikers or those who like to hike in cold, extreme climates may want to consider these women’s hiking pants from Columbia. Unlike most hiking pants, they are waterproof to block all moisture and keep you warm and dry, even during long exposure times in harsh environments. They are also heavily insulated yet still made from quick-drying polyester.
Unlike many heavier-duty hiking pants, these pants have an adjustable waist. The legs also contain an inner layer with elastic that grips around the ankle and an external, looser layer with two snap enclosures toward the bottom of the pant for a looser or tighter fit, allowing extra room to fit around boots and the keep elements out.
BALEAF Women’s Hiking Cargo Pants
These BALEAF pants may not come from a top-recommended brand, but they are a favorite, low-cost option among Amazon customers.
This hiking pant caters to comfort, offering an elastic waistband with a drawstring to reduce the risk of a snap or button enclosure chaffing or creating unnecessary pressure. They are also made from top-quality hiking fabrics that are lightweight, stretchy, breathable, quick-drying, and water-resistant, with UPF 50 sun protection.
For people who love well-secured pockets, these pants also come with four zip-closure pockets, three in the front and one in the back. They also offer articulated knees to ease movement. As a bonus in buggy environments, these pants offer an adjustable cord-lock that cinches in the ankle area of the pants to keep out the creepy crawlies.
These hiking pants might not have the most fashionable look, but they do come in a range of fun colors and offer sizing from X-small to 3X-large.
Eddie Bauer Trail Tight Leggings – High Rise
Some experts suggest looking into a good pair of hiking tights. Not everyone loves a baggy pant, and having a skin-tight fit can reduce the risk of chafing and extra friction. Tights can also be more flattering, fitting close to the leg and giving bigger bums or hips more of a showcase. Like many hiking pants for women, these Eddie Bauer tights feature moisture-wicking, quick-drying, super stretchy, and UPF 50 material.
Plus, these pants are made with a material that helps control unpleasant odors and a special chemical-free fabric in the inner crotch that helps keep you cool in awkward places. These pants also offer a mesh and elastic waistband designed to stay in place even during vigorous activity. Unlike many hiking tights, these tights also come with two hand pockets and one zippered pocket to keep things secure.
For the fashionistas out there, these pants come in a range of bold and neutral colors and come in regular, petite, tall, and plus sizes. “I often hike in leggings and my favorite are Eddie Bauer High Rise Trail Tight Leggings,” Blade says.
Patagonia’s Women’s Pack Out Hike Tights
People who love the fit and flow of hiking tights but want some extra hiking features may want to check out Patagonia’s pack out hike tights for women. This tight contains moisture-wicking, quick-drying fabric that is also water-resistant and has four-way stretch.
For comfort while backpacking or carrying a pack around the waist, the tights also have a ribbed elastic waistband and no waist enclosure—a major factor for people who hate the feel of buttons, snaps, or drawstrings. Don’t worry about tears and cuts when trekking through rocky or rough terrain, as these tights have extra-durable panels where it counts most, offering extra protection above and below the knees and lots of coverage on the bum.
The tights come complete with two very deep and wide hand pockets on both hips and a secure vertical zippered pocket on the right thigh. As a bonus for the environmentally and socially minded, these pants are also made primarily of recycled polyester and nylon that is manufactured following fair trade guidelines.
LL Bean Women’s Vista Camp Pants
LL Bean is a tried and true company loved by experts. These ultra-loose-fitting pants offer a fit similar to sweatpants, like the Aphrodite 2.0 from the North Face, and a fully elastic waistband with a drawstring closure.
If you are a pocket lover, these pants come complete with six pockets, including two buttoned pockets in the back and two in the front above the knee, as well as two fairly deep hand pockets just below the hips. These pants can also be cinched around the ankles for a snugger fit and to keep out bugs. Like most hiking pants, these pants are moisture-wicking, quick-drying, UPF 50, and made with ripstop material. To meet a variety of sizes and shapes, these pants also come in regular, petite, tall, and plus-sized inseams. They also sit a bit lower on the waistline than many other recommendations on this list.
REI Co-op Sahara Convertible Pants – Women’s
REI is a master in creating hiking attire, according to the experts, and these pants put that mastery on full display. One of the best features of these pants is their removable zippered leg, which creates fairly short shorts for warmer weather or crossing bodies of water.
Many other convertible hiking pants convert into longer shorts or capris, which may not provide the kind of airflow you are looking for. With these pants, the lower parts that can zip off are even color-coded so you can easily tell which belongs to which leg while on the trail. If you’re not in need of full-on shorts, try undoing the zipper that runs along the outside of both calves for a breath of fresh air.
Like many hiking pants, these are made of moisture-wicking, quick-drying, stretchy, lightweight material that is also UPF 50. They are also water-repellant and have reinforcement on the back of the leg cuffs to handle friction and abrasion from hiking boots, along with heavily articulated knees for ease of movement.
For the pocket-obsessed among us, these pants offer a whopping six pockets, including three zippered pockets in the front upper thigh, two deep hand pockets at the front hip, and two panel pockets in the back.
These pants are the only on this list to come with a button waistband enclosure that is reinforced and made more flexible by a built-in, adjustable belt.
Women’s Ferrosi Pants – Regular
If you’re planning to do more extreme hiking, climbing, or rappelling, these pants may be the right pick for you. The Ferrosi women’s hiking pants from Outdoor Research are made from material that resists wind and water, is UPF 50, and yet remains breathable, quick-drying, lightweight, stretchy, and moisture-wicking.
For extra durability, the pants are also made with ripstop material designed to withstand almost any tearing, ripping, or grinding. As a comfort element, they have an elastic waistband with a drawstring enclosure. They also have articulated knees and harness-compatible waistband features if you’re looking to climb or rappel.
These pants also feature five pockets, including a zippered upper thigh pocket. They come with a lifetime warranty as long as they’re purchased through a licensed seller.
Women’s Quandary Convertible Pants
The best feature of these pants is clear from their name. Patagonia’s Quandary pants can be worn as regular full-length pants, rolled up with a large tab-and-button enclosure to become capris, or zip off to become shorts.
Like most hiking pants, these are made from material that is stretchy, moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and UPF 50. As a bonus, these pants are also water-repellant.
True to the brand, these pants are partially made from recycled fabrics and manufactured using methods and materials that aim to reduce the impact on the environment and people. The pants come with five pockets: two hand pockets in the front, two in the back, and a secure zippered pocket on the right thigh.
Black Diamond Sharp End Pants
If money isn’t a constraining factor, and you’re looking for pants to hike in more extreme conditions, these hiking pants for women from Black Diamond may be the right pick for you.
They come with high-mounted snow gaiters to keep snow out and a built-in, removable ski belt and belt-looped waist for winter activities or climbing. To keep you warm, these hiking pants also contain heat-insulating Gore-Tex materials.
The winter hiking pants even have built-in patches to reduce painful contact with the edges of skis or crampons. For airflow even in the harshest environments, these pants also have a fully zippered side.
As a bonus for the environmentally and socially inclined, these pants are made following guidelines that aim to reduce the impact of manufacturing on both people and the planet.
Now that you know the best hiking pants for women, check out the best hiking poles.
- American Hiking Society: Benefits of Hiking
- Kathryn (Kate) Van Waes, Executive Director of the American Hiking Society
- National Park Service: Benefits of Hiking
- Nailha Blades, CEO, Wylie & Co., Founder of Color Outside