There are probably few other areas in life where you would pay as much for clothing that looks shapeless and baggy as you would for hiking pants. Baggy and expensive hiking pants do not only fulfill functionality requirements, but it’s also essential for your legs’ survival and a great hiking experience.
Hiking pants are baggy to promote mobility and also offer pockets for easy access to your gear. Good quality hiking pants are expensive because they are made of superior nylon material that will be more durable, lightweight, and quiet when rubbed together. It eliminates the possibility of chaffing almost completely, dries quickly, and wicks moisture from your body.
Don’t confuse bulky pants with baggy pants. Bulky pants are heavy and too loose, while baggy pants are just loose enough to promote movement. Baggy isn’t always the most flattering of styles. Investing in a pair of unflattering pants might seem a bit too out there for you. Let’s face it: hiking gear is meant to be practical and technical. It doesn’t mean that you can’t spice up your hike and make the style work for you in other ways.
Why baggy and expensive hiking pants are good for you
When you are in nature, you are bound to be sitting on rocks, scrambling over fallen trees, overextending your step reach to bridge a gap, or scraping through thick forest foliage in an attempt to venture where no one else has dared to venture. Below I will describe a few benefits of baggy hiking pants, followed by why investing in a more expensive pair is the best choice for you.
Chaffing between your legs doesn’t have to be a problem you face on top of the heat exhaustion, sore knees, and tired feet. Hiking pants with enough room for you to move freely will avoid any discomfort of the inner thighs.
Buying a good pair of hiking pants will make you want to wear them more often than just out on the hiking trail. They will become one of your favorite pairs of pants and might just inspire you to take on more trails. With the restriction in movement eliminated, there will be no limit to your aspirations. Never again will a popped button or ripped seam stop you from going further and faster.
Space to stash your stuff
With most hiking pants featuring a multitude of pockets (most probably zipper pockets), you can safely stow away your action camera but still have it within quick reach. You can snap a picture of that lone deer crossing a river before it gets scared off.
You can have your GPS, maps, lip balm, tissues, and jelly sweets readily available at the unzipping of a pocket. Sufficient pockets might even render carrying a large backpack unnecessary. Roomier pants are essential for this feature.
There is probably not much worse than sweating during activity and feeling your clothing sticking to your body. Good quality hiking pants are made of nylon that pulls the sweat away from the surface of your skin and leaves you with a less clingy garment, free to conquer another steep incline with big steps of ascent.
Take into consideration: you’ll be carrying your water and snacks to last you for the day, or perhaps some extra clothes and a tent/sleeping bag for an overnight hike. Having pants that feel like air around your legs will be the difference between going a mile and going for miles. A good quality pair of pants should feel like you might have forgotten to put your pants on completely!
Soft and quiet
Quality hiking pants are made from a soft material that doesn’t make a sound when you rub the material together: less irritating walking noise and more happy bird song as your hiking theme song.
Superior nylon material can resist thorn bushes, gravel slides, and bumps against rocks. Do you want to climb that tree? Go ahead! Your pants can take on the rough tree bark. Don’t worry about sitting on the ground or the ledge. You won’t have to worry about a hole in your pants anytime soon. More expensive hiking pants will last you a long time. You won’t have to get a new pair after every few hikes.
What should you pay for quality hiking pants?
The majority of good-quality hiking pants are priced between $50-$100 for a pair, sometimes up to $200. Different pants will have different features, which will affect the price. Typically, the differences will be regarding:
- Convertible or standard pants? Convertible pants have a zip about halfway down the leg of each pant leg. These allow you to unzip and remove the bottom half of your pants if necessary. If you think that you will encounter various types of weather and need to be able to go from shorts to long pants throughout your hike, these will come in handy. They do tend to weigh slightly more as a result of the added zippers. Standard hiking pants are perfect for cooler climates and look smoother.
- Waterproof or not? Hiking in wet climates requires a waterproof pair of pants. These are covered in a layer of GoreTex and will be more expensive than their counterparts that aren’t waterproof. If you are prone to be rained on, waterproof pants will be worth the money. For hikes in drier climates, that waterproof layer won’t be necessary.
- Traditional belt or elastic waistband? A belt might feel more secure, but an elastic waistband is more comfortable. It’s totally up to your preference. You should try other types of pants on before deciding on what to choose.
- Amount and type of pockets. The amount and type of pockets will depend on how much gear you would like to have easy access. If the path isn’t marked very clearly, you would want quick access to your GPS and map. This would require more pockets than, for example if you have a hiking smartwatch that guides you.
Decide on what is important to you and work with the store representative to find something that is within your budget and style.
What’s the right amount of baggy for hiking pants?
When you go shopping for a pair of hiking pants, choose a store with various brands. Try on different pairs from different brands, in different styles. Do some knee raises and lunges, and sit down while wearing them. Do any movement that might cause a pair of pants to restrict your mobility.
The right pair of pants won’t slide down to a point where you continuously want to pull them up. The pants will be loose enough to demonstrate your flexibility while sitting crossed legs, but not too loose that they are a potential threat for tripping over or barely touching your legs.
What you should not wear while hiking
Now that you know which type of pants are good hiking pants, let’s take a look at the less desirable bottoms to accompany you out into the wild.
Denim jeans are a staple in any cupboard. They barely need to be washed and lasts for years. It is a go-to for many occasions and can be dressed up or down. They look good and feel great until you take them on a hike.
Out on the trail, you will find that your favorite go-to pants are heavy and constraining. The sweat from your back will be displayed in an awful and noticeable pattern of dark denim just above your hard-working gluteus maximus. That’s to name only one sweat patch. Trust me, don’t do it in denim.
Cotton might sound like a fabulous decision. It’s natural, feels fresh and light, and oh so very comfortable and cool. The problem is that cotton holds on to your body’s moisture, much like denim. You’ll feel sweaty all day in hot weather and keep feeling cold in cooler weather. Not ideal for a pleasant experience.
Silk is less of a problem in comparison with denim or cotton. Not only does silk hold on to moisture quite a bit, which should be avoided at all costs, but it is also not a sturdy enough material to resist the natural elements you’ll encounter on your trail. Silk pants are wonderfully baggy and lightweight, but it doesn’t support any other technical aspects necessary for a great pair of hiking pants.
Although not fashionable, baggy hiking pants will provide you with the freedom to explore whatever trek you’re on and the comfort to enjoy your surroundings. Having pockets, you’ll have no problem carrying your necessities with you and might even avoid extra weight on your back.
Lightweight, durable, soft, quick-drying, and moisture-wicking hiking pants are expensive at that moment. Think of it as an investment: you’ll be spending many more hikes in them than in a cheaper pair. You will also save yourself from unnecessary discomfort.