The Best Trekking and Hiking Pants and Shorts – Covering Quick Dry Convertible, Petite, Lightweight, Nylon, Waterproof Mens and Women’s to Wool and Winter Cargo

photo: Evil Erin

With the advent of technologically advanced and highly sophisticated new materials and designs, today’s hiking pants have transitioned from bulky cloth to extremely lightweight and versatile textiles.

The hiking pants that are featured here for both men and women are field tested by my partner and I, and have risen the ranks to be our favorites. The basics are geared towards hot weather, with layering done for wet and cold climates.

Basic Quick Dry Lightweight Nylon Convertible Hiking Pants

The most fundamental prerequisites that I look for in this category are -

  • Breathable – It has to let my sweat evaporate well. If not done efficiently, over long hikes through the day, heat rashes can get out of control. (It was a problem for me in the Army when the older and tougher materials were used, where we had to traverse at least 10-20 miles of terrain everyday in outfield training missions in the heat.) In the event that I have to wade through rivers, it should dry fast too.
  • Sun protection – Sunburn and dehydration is a huge force to contend with in the summer. It has to shield some UVs away well.
  • Good convertibility – The hiking pants must allow me to convert into shorts quickly and without hassle. I usually zip off when I enter water, to reduce drag and also to dry faster. The zips must be durable, and whether in shorts or pants, the check zip’s interior fabric must not chafe my skin.
  • Durable overall material – It must be able to withstand a reasonable amount of punishment from the elements, scraps, sweat, mud etc.

With these in mind, here are some of our best hiking pants for men and women.

My all time favorite is the Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge II Conv Pant, as I have touched on on my Best Backpacking Gear List. It is 100% nylon, very lightweight, breathes well even in hot and humid tropics, and extremely comfortable trekking pants to hike in.

I have put this up for a fair amount of punishment, skidding down slippery rocks and immersing it into hot sulphur springs. Apart from a small wine stain (more on that next time), It looks pretty fine after more than 3 years.

photo: me and street pup in Santorini

Zip the leggings off, and it’s a nice afternoon walk to explore the Pyramids or the city in a cargo short. I stash the small leggings in a pocket, and there are still 6 pockets left empty, including a secret pocket behind the right handwarmer pocket for my secret stuff. I usually zip the leggings back in the evening as it turns cooler.

If you can’t get your hands on the Silver Ridge, a good alternative hiking pants is the Columbia Men’s Aruba III. It has a full elastic waist, as compared to Silver Ridge’s part elastic and belt.

For the ladies, the top pick for my partner is Craghoppers Women’s Kiwi Pro Stretch Conv. It is also a pure nylon convertible hiking pant, and it dries fast. It comes with a high UPF 40+ sun protection, and it looks really good on her.

It’s a little snug at first, good news for those looking for petite hiking pants, but it is very flexible and comfortable within minutes of walking in them. The dark color allows her to use it as a fun night out in the cities as well, saving space for an additional pair of dress pants or skirt in the pack.

This is very closely followed by her 2nd fave, the PrAna Women’s Monarch Conv. This comes in lighter colors, and when the leggings are zipped off, the shorts are knicker length. It is wrinkle resistant, though slightly more pricey.

Wet Weather Waterproof Breathable Hiking Pants

If I know I’m heading into some trails that might offer sudden downpours, I’ll always bring along my North Face Venture Rain Pant, and layer it atop my convertible hiking pants.

It’s a waterproof, breathable HyVent system with double full side zips both ways. If I feel too warm fully zipped up, I sometimes release the hip zips a little to allow heat to escape, while keeping the remaining parts zipped up.

I pack it with both side seams unzipped. When rain happens, I whip this out from my day pack or lumbar pack, thread my legs through the elastic waist band, and zip my way down from my hips towards the ankles. Takes about 6-8 seconds from pack to waterproof legs.

It comes in women’s cutting too.

Hiking in Cold Weather or Winter

In the winter cold, I always opt for layering of several light layers than a heavy one, as layering will trap air and hence, heat, better. It also allows better versatility to shed clothes when I get too warm in strenuous hiking.

My best baselayer pant is Smartwool Men’s Midweight Bottom. It is 100% merino wool, and it wicks moisture away very efficiently. Very tough, comfortable, and never stink even after days of not washing. And very comfortable.

It retains warmth very well, and I use this for my skiing trips as well. Even if it’s not as cold, it serves as a good layering underwear just in case. Plus, if I have not mentioned enough, it’s so so comfortable.

For my partner, her best pick is the Minus33 803 Women’s Midweight Bottoms. This too, is 100% merino wool, and has a slightly thicker weave than my Smartwool. She loves it for the super soft comfort and good warmth, and it fits very well. It’s comparatively cheap too.

And there it is, these are best hiking pants in the market currently. Check out the links in the post to dig in further, and pick the one that suits you best!