Hiking pants are an important purchase because they must serve a lot of purposes and still be comfortable. In addition to keeping you warm and dry, they should be breathable, durable, tear resistant, provide sun protection, and be roomy enough so you can fit a pair of long underwear underneath in colder conditions.
As discussed in Layering, in colder climates and in the mountains you’ll need long underwear, a Base Layer. Base Layer pants generally only need to be worn in fall and winter months, depending on where you live.
Women’s Hiking Pants Shopping Tips:
Decide what features you really need. If you hike in hot, dry climates, you’ll want to make sure your pants are breathable. Likewise, if you’re in colder, wetter climates, you’ll want a pair that is less breathable and provides some water repellancy (you’ll still need rain pants for downpours).
Make sure your hiking pants can be worn with layers. You’ll want to be able to wear your hiking pants over a pair of long underwear, and underneath a pair of rainpants. When that sudden downpour comes and it is time to zip on your rain pants, they better fit over your hiking pants!
Convertible hiking pants or not? Decide if you need pants that convert to shorts or capris, or neither. There are lots of options on the market: zip off legs so you can quickly switch to hiking shorts, button up capris so you can cool off on hot summer hikes, and regular old hiking pants that are just pants. Are you going to be hiking near poison ivy or oak? Are you going to be in mosquito country? Then you probably don’t need hiking shorts.
UPF sun protection. Hiking pants with a UPF rating will have a tighter fabric weave, so will provide better protection from harmful sun exposure. Learn more about the importance of UPF ratings and what it means.
Look for pants that have lots of pockets. There is always chapstick, sunscreen, snacks, cameras, and all sorts of gear that we want to keep handy. Having pockets in your hiking pants sure help make it easy to have the important items readily accessible.
Find pants that fit you! What is the point of buying hiking pants that aren’t comfortable? Plus, don’t you want to look cute hiking on the trail?
Hiking Lady’s Favorite Women’s Hiking Pants:
Base Layer Bottoms
Women’s Smartwool Lightweight Bottoms (Long Underwear): These are the highest end long underwear I’ve tried, and work exactly as advertised: they help your body maintain a comfortable temperature, they are made of fine merino wool (so are “wicking”), are very soft, and easy to take care of (machine washable). I also use them as PJs in my sleeping bag on camping and backpacking trips.
Women’s Hiking Pants
The North Face Women’s Paramount Valley Convertible Pant: These 3-in-1 pants, shorts, and capris, made by North Face, can be on the expensive side, but they’ll last forever! The fit is great because it provides for a nice straight leg look and boot cut bottom. They come in 3 lengths: short, regular, and long. The pockets on the front are stylish (though not that useful), but because the pockets are up front and not on the sides of the thighs, it doesn’t accentuate any excess curves many of us ladies have! They’re made of thick nylon fabric, so if you like to hike near prickly bushes or abrasive rocks, they’re a perfect choice. Plus, they have built in sun protection (UPF 30) and look great when converted to capris!
The North Face Women’s Horizon Utility Pant: If you like to hike in the summer or in hot conditions, but don’t want bushes scraping at your skin, these pants are great. They’re of a lighter weight nylon than the North Face Paramount Porter pants, and the waist a lower rise. The other difference is that they don’t convert into shorts, but they are convertible into capris. The only drawback is if you do a lot of backpacking, these are hip hugger pants and your pack tends to rest right at the waistband of these pants.
Slim Fitting Hiking Pants – Marmot Sonia: Some of us are tired of oversized, baggy hiking pants that fit like pajamas. What about a slim fitting hiking pant? The Marmot Sonia pant is a great option. We like how they fit through the leg, convenient pockets (I love the pocket on the thigh – it is great for storing a point and shoot camera), and good quality fabrics. I’d recommend ordering one size larger than your usual fit because these are definitely a slim fit!
Hiking Pants When Nothing Else Fits – Columbia Just Right Pants: Okay ladies, I have finally found some pants that may work for those of you who want something flexible, comfortable, and that comes in Plus, Regular, and Petite sizes. These Columbia Just Right pants are stretchy, but durable enough for hiking, plus they’ll wick sweat. If you’re okay with just one pocket (stuff everything else in your backpack), then you’ll like these hiking pants!