The 5 Best Women’s Hiking Pants

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Nailing down your bottom layer game is something many backpackers learn through personal experience. Opt for airy trail shorts and you could find yourself covered in sunburns, scrapes and bites. Put on these wear-everywhere running tights and you might just find yourself sweaty and cold. That’s why a sturdy pair of long hiking pants is our go-to.

Women looking for the perfect hiking pants have plenty of choices. It’s easy to go too technical, in the sense of softshell mountaineering pants, or not technical enough, like with a sweaty pair of frontcountry cargo pants. Find a pair that combines durability, freedom of movement and hiker-specific designs, and you can take them on everything from a scramble on Kebler Pass in Colorado to sweaty slogs in Death Valley National Park. We’ve rounded up our top-rated women’s hiking pants from our tireless testers to help keep the noise down.

Pocket size and location are important considerations. (Photo: Alex Ratson via Getty)

What to Look for in Women’s Hiking Pants

Materials

Choosing the right fabric is an essential first step in buying hiking pants. Synthetics, including nylon, polyester, spandex, and blends of the three, are most common for trail apparel. Generally, the more nylon, the better the abrasion resistance. Polyester, on the other hand, adds wicking ability and stretch textiles add elasticity. Natural materials, including cotton, wool, and hemp, are sometimes woven for a softer feel, insulation, or durability.

Climate and weather

Manufacturers often use rain-resistant DWR coatings and taped seams in synthetic fabrics for occasional rain showers or dew-covered brushes. Hot hikes require lightweight, moisture-wicking synthetics and extra sun protection – look for a high UPF (Ultraviolet protection factor) rating. Insulating liners, both synthetic and wool, as well as the wind resistance of the thickness, weave or finish of the pants, are a key consideration in cold climates. In particularly puffy climates, purchasing pants pretreated with an insecticide, such as permethrin, may be a smart move. (You can apply yours using permethrin spray, but it won’t last as long.)

Fit, design and extras

For varying temperatures, hiking pants often use multiple designs, including mesh around high-heat areas, like the back of the knees or thighs, zippered pants, which convert to shorts, and roll-up bottoms. Generally, the more pockets, the more functional the space and the heavier the pants. Sleek pants will have at least one back pocket and two side pockets, with others having up to eight zippers for large and small items. Reinforced knees and seats help extend their life in high stress areas. Lay, or how the pants sit from waist to ankle, also depends on your hiking style. While a looser fit is ideal for hot days and moderate trails, a tighter fit or a cinching mechanism around the ankles helps keep your pants from catching and flapping in the wind. In terms of size, more and more brands are recognizing the need for well-designed technical clothing for tall hikers.

Best Women’s Hiking Pants on the Market

prAna Alameda Pants
prAna Alameda Pants (Photo: courtesy)

1. Best hiking pants for women in hot weather: prAna Alameda pants

Price: $79
Weight: 12.8 ounces.
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Legs also need sun protection, especially on exposed trails. This pair of pants, sewn from recycled nylon fabric with UPF 50+ and PFC-free DWR—and a touch of spandex for stretch—were key to our comfort on hikes in variable conditions, like an ascent of the 14,150 foot Mt of Colorado .Sneffels. “I was sweating in the 80°F heat, but my lower half stayed cool because the pants felt so good,” said one tester. By the time he reached the summit and temperatures dropped to 45°F, he didn’t feel cold as the material had wicked all the moisture away from his skin. In addition to the standard front and back pockets, a 4.5-inch zippered pocket on the right leg provides storage for treats such as stroopwafels. —Amelia Arvesen

Patagonia Altvia Alpine Pants
Patagonia Altvia Alpine Pants (Photo: courtesy)

2. Best Women’s Shoulder Season Hiking Pants: Patagonia Altvia Alpine Pants

Price: $149
Weight: 12 ounces.
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Long days in the mountains call for pants that are durable, but not too heavy or bulky. These softshell pants were perfect for a fall weekend of Class 4 scrambling on Kebler Pass in Colorado. They were thick enough to stave off the wind and temperatures up to 30°F, but thanks to a 14% spandex content, the Altvia didn’t get in our way as we rode. A slim fit keeps excess fabric out, and the poly/nylon/spandex fabric is made to squeeze between the rocks. An adjustable belt does not rub under a bag. —AA

Alder Open Air Trousers
Alder Open Air Trousers (Photo: courtesy)

3. Best Plus Size Hiking Pants for Women: Alder Open-Air Pant

Price: $155
Weight: 12.7 ounces.
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This female-led company has managed to adapt its signature product to all body types. The Open-Air is made from modal, a tightly woven fabric made from beech pulp (produced using less water than cotton), which is also super soft, water repellent and pilling resistant. On a soggy 50°F hike in British Columbia, the material blocked the wind, resisted mud stains and dried from the rain in an hour. More importantly, though, the features are dialed in: a crotch gusset prevents thigh chafing, and the elastic waistband, curved back yoke, and four-way stretch ensure these pants move with curvier bodies. “Fit and material are amazing for scrambling and big walks,” says a size 3X tester. And, unlike many women’s pants, this pair has seven pockets. Two front hand pockets and two back patch pockets are deep enough to hold a pair of lightweight gloves. Two interior front pockets inside the hand pockets hold smaller items like lip balm or credit cards, and a zippered thigh pocket can hold a smartphone. —AA

Mountain Hardwear Dynama Pants
Mountain Hardwear Dynama Pants (Photo: courtesy)

4. Lightest hiking pant for women: Mountain Hardwear Dynama Pant

Price: $75
Weight: 5 ounces.
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The knitted polyester waistband dried quickly after sweating in 80°F temperatures in Death Valley National Park, while the soft stretch woven nylon fabric helped cut through light wind on a base layer at 10,000 feet in the James Peak Wilderness of Colorado. On a road trip in Southern California, we wore these pants for four straight days of hard hiking with a loaded pack. Then we put on another cleaner hiking pants. Then we changed into dirty ones for one night. Only two things keep them from being perfect: we wanted deeper-than-jean-style pockets in the front and back (although that might lower the comfort factor), and after about 50 days of use intensive, we noticed some moderate pilling on the thighs. —TK

Fjällräven Keb Pants
Fjällräven Keb Pants (Photo: courtesy)

5. The most eco-friendly hiking pants for women: Fjällräven Keb pants

Price: $235
Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz.
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Reusing waste and eliminating environmentally harmful PFCs is commendable for any product, but these pants also offer a combination of stretch and strength in all the right places. The seat, thighs and shins are made from G-1000 Eco, a blend of 100% recycled polyester and organic cotton that skipped the eye-catching bushes of Rocky Peak Ridge in the Adirondacks. But the Keb is surprisingly comfortable, thanks to stretch panels at the waist and back of the legs. They helped us get over the peaks with ease. The Keb also comes with a PFC-free wax treatment which makes them water resistant (reapply wax after a few months of heavy use). —Krista Karlson

What a Backpacker Editor Looks for in Women’s Hiking Pants

Emma, ​​Veidt, Skills Writer Assistant

Editor-in-Chief Emma Veidt in the Arctic
Emma Veidt, Deputy Skills Editor, deals with frozen figures at the Arctic Circle (Photo: Emma Veidt)

“Flexibility is the most important thing I look for in hiking pants. I love scrambling hikes, so I can’t worry about splitting my pants every time I jump on a rock. Plus , when I arrive at my campsite after a long day of hiking, I usually relax with yoga, so I need my pants to accommodate a warrior pose or two.

How to care for your hiking pants

Like most clothes in your hiking wardrobe, hiking pants are susceptible to dirt, oil, and odor after a hike. Take care when tossing them through the washing machine (avoid top-loading with agitators) as the nylon, polyester, and spandex trio are temperature-sensitive and snag-sensitive. Carefully follow the washing instructions on your garments to avoid damage and consider hand washing in cold water using an equipment-specific soap like Nikwax Tech Wash if in doubt. Although some pants can jump in the dryer, your safest bet is to air dry on a clotheshorse or clothesline. After several uses, you may find that the DWR or permethrin coating wears off – this is where the DIY spray or washable coating comes in handy. Reapply according to manufacturer’s instructions.

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