Your chinos and blue jeans feel and look great when you wear them to run errands around town. They are even rugged enough to last you a few years. But there is a problem when it comes to using the jeans outdoors – they are heavy and completely useless if it rains. They are also hot and uncomfortable when you sweat. Granted, you need to find the best waterproof hiking pants if you are an avid hiker.
Fortunately for you, you never have to wear your chinos to the trails because you can always choose the best waterproof trousers. These come comfortable in cold and hot weather, versatile, and practical. The pants are lightweight, they dry quick, and come with pockets to hold your essentials.
I created this guide to help you pick a versatile pair of hiking pants for your escapades. Among the features I considered include:
All the pants on my list are waterproof. Read on to learn more.
Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Pants
Columbia Rebel Roamer Pant
Mocoly Cargo Women’s Hiking Pants
Toomett Women’s Convertible Hiking Pants
The North Face Women’s Freedom Pants
Helly Hansen Legendary Insulated Pants for Men
Marmot PreClip Eco Full Zip Pants
Outdoor Research Foray Lightweight Pants
Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants
Gopune’s Men’s Casual Hiking Pants
The best waterproof hiking pants have many benefits as shown below:
Hiking pants come in two styles; convertible and regular hiking pants. Each has its benefits and uses.
Convertible hiking pants are the most versatile as you can convert them into hiking shorts by unzipping the lower part of the pants off. Non-convertible hiking pants, on the other hands, are just pants. They have zippers on the lower end, making it easy for you to remove them even without removing your boots. Although you cannot convert them to hiking shorts, they are comfortable enough, whether in the rain or sunny weather.
The non-convertible pant lacks the zipper along its length, giving it a clean and sleek appearance. Most of the regular pants pass for any casual pants and some actually look like dress pants. Again, the regular pair of hiking pants is a little lighter.
The best style for you will depend on the type of hiking (while on-trail, off-trail, or mountaineering). Your choice will also depend on whether you will wear the hiking pants off anywhere else after the hike. I prefer pants I can use in the gym or when I need comfortable pants to walk around town. For this, I prefer non-convertible hiking pants. Convertible hiking pants are great when you walk along established trails during a summer hike. They give you the flexibility of removing the lower parts when it gets hot and getting them back on when the weather gets cold. If your budget allows, get one convertible and one non-convertible pair to use in all seasons.
When shopping for the best waterproof hiking pants, consider the following:
Some hiking pants come with an attached belt, others only have an elastic band, others have belt loops, while some have an elastic waistband and drawstrings.
An attached belt is less convenient because it adds to the weight of your pants and you may never need it. Instead of one with attached belt, I prefer one with belt loops so I can detach the belt whenever I want. The best type of belt (detachable or attached) will depend on your preferences and the type of hunting you do. If you carry a lot of essentials in your pant pockets, it is better to have hiking pants with a belt to keep them from sliding off under the weight.
With or without a belt, an elastic waistband makes the pant useable regardless of the weight in its pockets. The waistband also ensures that you the pants flex as you move for added comfort. However, some people dislike the waistband as they are not so stylish. Note that you can still find a sleeping pair of pants with an elastic waistband.
A good pair of hiking pants should have at least two pockets – these are the conventional pockets to warm your hands. Besides the two pockets, you might need one or two cargo pockets below the hand pockets. The cargo pockets are indispensable for holding your phone, wallet, sunglasses, keys, and small snacks. However, the pockets add to the weight of the pants and some pocket designs might not look stylish.
Although cargo pants are not fashionable, they are very functional when you hike for long distances. When shopping, check the availability of cargo pants, their location (how easy they are to access), and how bulky they are.
Same as hiking shoes, the best waterproof pants for hiking take a lot of abuse. Thorns and twigs snap against them, you drag them through rocks, and travel for miles in them. You are with them through the hot sun and rain. As such, you cannot afford poor quality pants. Poor-quality pants might have a button pop off or they might develop large rips from thorns.
Besides the ruggedness and durability, high-quality hiking pants feature soft ripstop nylon that does not make any noise. These pants feel blanket soft when you touch them.
Low-quality pants are not only prone to rips, but feature cheap nylon fabric which is stiff and hard and makes noise when the pieces rub against each other when you walk. You might have to spend more money to buy high quality pants, but the cost is all worth it.
Polyester and nylon are the most common hiking pants materials, but recently manufacturers also use spandex and elastane to make the pants stretchable. With nylon or polyester and spandex or elastane blend, hiking pants are more comfortable, more breathable, and still waterproof.
You will come across the term ripstop when shopping for hiking pants. These are woven fabrics reinforced to make them stronger. Pants made of ripstop fabrics are tougher and last longer, making them ideal for years of use on or off the trail. Although no material is better than all the others, you need to avoid pants with a high percentage of cotton or linen as they absorb water.
All the hiking pants on my list are waterproof. Most hiking pants contain a Gore-tex membrane or a similar membrane. Such membranes allow the pants to breathe while keeping out the rain. You will pay more for waterproof pants than non-waterproof pants, but the extra cost is worth it.
If you spend a lot of time in wet weather or you have to hike through streams, a waterproof pair of pants is indispensable. Even if you are a day hiker in a place where the weather is fair, you never know when it will rain.
A few pounds mean a lot when you hike for a long distance. As a day hiker, you might be happy to carry the extra pounds on your hiking pants. However, backpackers or thru-hiker will find the extra pounds weighing on them. If you are hiking for a weak or longer, only go for the lightest pair of pants.
Weight on hiking pants comes from extra-large pockets, heavy zippers, attached belts, and extra lining. If your hiking pant is more suited to use in hot weather, it will come light. However, you should never compromise your comfort by picking the lightest pants which do not protect you from the cold. If you plan to hike during winter or hike the mountains, a heavier hiking pant is more functional.
If you are a day hiker, weight shouldn’t concern you much (unless you hike during winter when you need more protection from elements). For a backpacker, even when you hike in the winter, you still need to consider the lightest pair of pants in the category of warm pants.
As long as the waist fits you, the length and wideness of the pants will depend on your preferences. A good pair of pants should feel comfortable when you walk. As such, enough bagginess is preferable – don’t go overboard here either.
The crotch and knees areas need to fit you and leave space for mobility – these are the areas that move the most when you walk on varying terrain, and it helps to have freedom of movement around the areas. Some pants features gusseted crotches and articulated knees – these not only allow more comfortable movement, but are also more resistant to abrasion.
As a rule of thumb, summer hiking pants need that extra size to provide enough ventilation to keep you cool. Winter pants need less ventilation and more warmth.
Although I prefer a level of bagginess, modern hiking pants featuring a blend of nylon and spandex are flexible, allowing you to move comfortably even when they are snug.
Overall, aim for a size that feels comfortable and pays more attention to the knee and crotch areas.
Breathability is an invaluable feature if you hike during summer or if you sweat a lot. The breathability of pants depend on the material makeup. With enough air circulation, the pants wick away sweat to keep you dry and cool. It also helps your pants to dry out quickly when you wash them or if you happen to get rained on.
To facilitate breathability, some pants come with ventilation zippers for when it gets so hot and you need fast circulation of air. Here, the convertible hiking pants score more – removing the bottom section gives you enough ventilation to cool you in a few minutes.
|Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Pants||Elastane, Nylon||Regular||Belt loops, non-elastic||Non-convertible|
|Columbia Rebel Roamer Pant||Nylon, elastane||Slim fit||Elastic||Non-convertible|
|Mocoly Cargo Women’s Hiking Pants||Polyester, elastane||Slim fit||Elastic with drawstrings||Non-Convertible|
|Toomett Women’s Convertible Hiking Pants||Polyester||Active fit||Elastic with belt loops||Convertible|
|The North Face Women’s Freedom Pants||DryVent||Standard fit||Belt loops with adjustable tabs||Non-convertible|
|Helly Hansen Legendary Insulated Pants for Men||Helly Tech||Regular fit||Belt loops with adjustable tabs||Non-convertible|
|Marmot PreClip Eco Full Zip Pants||Recycled nylon and polyester||Regular||Elastic||Non-convertible|
|Outdoor Research Foray Lightweight Pants||Polyester with GoreTex||Regular||Elastic with drawstrings||Non-convertible|
|Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Convertible Hiking Pants||Nylon||Slim||Partial elastic with belt lopps||Convertible|
|Gopune’s Men’s Casual Hiking Pants||Polyester, spandex||Regular||Elastic with drawstrings||Non-convertible|
The Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Pants come with toned down features to make the pants light so you can wear them for long hikes. They feature a nylon and elastane construction that makes them waterproof, stretchy, and rugged to last through thorn pricks.
It also features omni-shade sun protection rated UPF 50 (I have explained about Ultraviolet Protection Factor on the FAQs section of this guide). This way you can use them for summer hikes and winter hikes. The articulated knees, the wide construction, and the comfort stretch make the pants comfortable – they can easily pass for the best womens waterproof hiking pants.
The Rebel Roamer comes with a sleek and plain appearance, which makes it light for use in long hikes. Columbia uses Omni-Tech technology that adds an air permeable protection that is waterproof and breathable. The company makes this better by use of seam-sealed construction that ensures water will never find its way into the pants.
To hold your items, the pants feature two back pockets and two zippered security pockets. It is a wide pair of pants that men can wear for long hikes. The stretchy nature of the elastane adds the comfort that the wideness brings. You can use the pants for summer and winter hikes.
The Mocoly Cargo Women’s Hiking Pants features an elastic band at the hem that makes them comfortable. Unlike most pants that feature a nylon construction, this option comes with a polyester and elastane construction – this gives the pants four-way stretch feature which enhances their comfort and fit. Further, the pants feature an elastic waistband with drawstrings for a comfortable fit.
The hand and cargo pockets have a strong quality zipper and are deep enough to hold a large smartphone. Its back pocket has a closure to ensure water doesn’t seep from there. This being women’s hiking pants, they sport a slim fit with four-way stretch to offer freedom of movement and comfort.
The Toomett Convertible Cargo pants for women feature a breathable and waterproof construction for use in three seasons. The manufacturer further adds Omni-Shade protection, making them more protective against the sun.
You can convert the pants into shorts by unzipping the bottom part off. Whether used as shorts or pants, they are comfortable and loose and sport a level of elasticity that gives you freedom of movement. They can adapt to different types of hiking and the fabric does not deform. The quick-drying material is breathable enough to keep you cool and dry.
The North Face Freedom Insulated pants sport a DryVent shell construction that keeps you dry all the time. Their sealed seams allow water vapor to escape fast for breathability to wick away sweat. North Face uses Chimney Venting system that makes the pants highly breathable for summer use.
These are standard fit pants with adjustable waistbands for a custom fit. They also have belt loops in case you need to wear them tighter. At the hem, the pants feature StretchVent gaiters that hold the pants to your boots, to keep ice and debris away. It also features reinforced kick patches for durability after rugged use.
The Helly Hansen pants feature a comfortable construction with an innovative Helly Tech material. This material is waterproof, windproof, and breathable to keep the pants comfortable. Better yet, it comes fully seam-sealed with water-resistance treatment for use in all seasons. At the inner thighs are venting zippers that keep you comfortable during very hot weather.
For use during winter and cold weather, the manufacturer uses 2-ply construction for added comfort. The two-way mechanical stretch fabric offers great freedom of movement when you walk in varied terrain.
If you are looking for sustainable products, the Marmot PreClip might be the best water-resistant hiking pants in that category. The pants are a product of 100 percent recycled nylon and a polyester lining. This polyester lining is soft and breathable, making the pants ideal for use in summer and winter.
Marmot uses its patented NanoPro fabric that makes the pants lightweight and waterproof. Unlike other pants, this features full-length side zips, making them easy to remove with your boots still on and easy to ventilate on very hot days. A cover keeps the zipper hidden to ensure rainwater doesn’t sip from there. Its hand pockets also have zippers to keep your essentials safe.
The Foray Lightweight Hiking pants come with 100 percent waterproof shell that makes them very comfortable. At the sides, the pants feature a three-quarter ventilation zipper that lets you remove the pants with your boots on and add ventilation on hot summer days. Better yet, its regular fit covers your hiking boots succinctly to keep out ice and debris.
The pants lack pockets, with only one back pocket that may not hold your essentials. Its back pocket, however, makes it packable as you can stuff the entire pants in the pocket to form a stuff sack. The lack of pockets also makes the pants very light for backpackers. With the GoreTex membrane, the pants are completely waterproof and fit for use during rainy days. The waterproof membrane does not affect its breathability, making this a versatile pair of pants.
If you are looking for a stylish pair of cargo pants for hiking, this might be a great choice. I love most of the features on the pants except that it is slim and its waistband is only partially elastic. Otherwise, it comes with durable construction with ripstop nylon and waterproof membrane. The gusset detail and its zip-off legs make it a comfortable pair of pants for use during a hike and around town.
Its classic fit makes it ideal when you need a pair of pants for outdoor use and for other users. Better yet, these are convertible cargo pants that you can use for winter as well as summer hiking.
Columbia is a company that specializes in outdoor gear with so many products on the market. The company uses advanced technology and this is why they appear severally on my list.
The Gopune men hiking pants feature polyester and spandex construction that makes the pants waterproof, breathable, and stretchy. With four-way stretch, these pants feel comfortable at all times regardless of the size you choose. The non-restrictive construction makes them ideal for use when hiking hilly areas and mountains. Additionally, the manufacturer adds a partially elastic waistband with drawstrings for more freedom of movement.
The pants are highly breathable to keep you dry and cool when you use them on a hot summer day. They are also quick-drying in case they are rained on and when you wash them. although it only has two pockets, both pockets have zippers to protect your essentials.
Hiking pants are the versatile option between hiking shorts and tights. All the three hiking gear are great, but for different weather. With hiking, you might set off in the morning when the weather is chilly, by noon the sun is so hot and in the evening it gets chilly again.
Shorts are a great option during a hot day, but they are not ideal when you walk off-trail since they do not offer protection against thorns, twigs, and debris. Plus, wearing shorts on a chilly morning or evening is not a great idea as you will freeze stupid.
Hiking tights are light, wick away moisture fast, and warm. These tights are particularly uncomfortable during hot weather. These come in handy for their warmth during colder weather. Even then, the tights are not water-resistant. You should only consider them for day hiking on a cold day.
Hiking pants are versatile – they are warm and water-resistant for colder days, and they are breathable enough for hotter days.
Although most people and some online sellers use these terms as synonyms, hiking pants are special and not like any other outdoor pants. Hiking pants feature more abrasion resistant all round. Their design makes them withstand thorn pricks and rips from twigs. Hiking pants are also more breathable and stretch more than other pants. All these additional features make hiking pants very functional.
Today, you might come across outdoor trekking pants with all the good features of a pair of hiking pants. If that is the case, consider other features outlined above to choose a trouser. The term outdoor pants, in most cases, act as an umbrella term for all types of pants you can use outdoors. Manufacturers make outdoor pants distinguishable by adding a few details on the regular cotton pants, making them fit for use outdoors and for every-day use.
The trekking pants are more versatile if you need something to use around town, but most of them might not be ideal for long walks for many days.
All clothes will offer you some level of protection from the sun. However, some materials are better than others. Today, hiking gear manufacturers include a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) listing on their products. Sun protection comes in handy when you hike during summer.
A UPF rating of 50 means that 1/50 of the sun’s ray will get to your skin – that is about 2 percent. A rating of 20 means 1/20 of the sun’s rays get through to your skin – that is about 4 percent of the rays from the sun. However, not all hiking pants have special sun protection features. A pair of pants rated 50 UPF offers enough protection to keep your skin protected. The UPF of hiking pants vary based on the type of fabric used, weave, and dyes. Some manufacturers add special chemicals to enhance UPF.
For day hikes, insect protection might not matter. For backpacking, a fabric treated with insect repellants such as Permethrin might come in handy especially during tick season. However, most pants do not have this feature and you might have to treat your pants at home (only note that Permethrin is dangerous to your cat, but once treated the pants are safe).
Whether you need the best mens waterproof hiking pants, women pants, or children pants, the market has you covered. From the list of hiking pants above, I find the Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail Pants to be the most versatile pants for women. It is comfortable, breathable, light, and has enough pockets.
The Columbia Rebel Roamer Pant is my favorite pair of hiking pants for men. Like its counterpart Saturday Trail from Columbia, it is also comfortable, breathable, and has enough pockets. It is also lightweight for backpackers.