The options for what to wear on a hike have significantly expanded in recent decades. Once upon a time, men would have been stuck wearing a pair of men’s jeans or shorts while hiking. And women were often limited to wearing jeans or leggings.
The trouble with these cotton-based hiking pants is that they are impractical. They are heavy, hot, water-absorbent, and slow to dry, and wearing them while on a hike is just asking for trouble. Luckily for hikers, there are now other options.
Hiking pants are lightweight, durable, moisture-wicking, quick to dry, comfortable, and filled with pockets. Plus, hiking pants are not bulky at all. Just when you thought hiking pants couldn’t sound any better, many pairs of hiking pants are also “convertible,” meaning they easily convert to a pair of shorts. If the weather goes from cool to sweltering, simply zip off the bottom half of the legs to instantly turn your hiking pants into handy hiking shorts. There’s no need to carry around a pair of athletic shorts when your pants are a 2-in-1 deal.
But what about when the weather goes from warm to wet? The good news is, many kinds of hiking pants are also water-resistant or waterproof. Not all hiking gear is created equal, though, and the same can be said about hiking pants. Like most other hiking essentials, hiking pants will offer a variety of different fits, weights, functions, and styles that will meet the individual needs of each hiker, including those who tend to hike in wet weather. Waterproof hiking pants have a layer of Gore-Tex or similar membranes that allow the pants to breathe while also keeping the rain out. Some hiking pants don’t market themselves as waterproof but are made of water-resistant fabric that can keep you relatively dry during drizzles or shorter hikes. Some hiking pants can also be made more waterproof or water-resistant when you apply a layer of wax to the pants so water and moisture can’t penetrate the fabric. But not all hiking pants are waterproof or water-resistant. So if you are interested in acquiring some, be sure to check the label.
If you are a backpacker or tend to spend a lot of time hiking in wet conditions or the rain, investing in a pair of waterproof hiking pants may be the right move for you. If you are a fair-weather day hiker, then waterproof hiking pants may not be necessary. Because waterproof hiking pants are made from a specific material designed for optimal waterproof function and breathability, they can be on the expensive side. Many hikers can get away with wearing regular hiking pants for all of their outdoor adventure needs, especially if they live in drier climates or avoid the rain. But if you are a heavy-duty backpacker and die-hard hiker, a pair of waterproof hiking pants would make a great addition to your hiking gear. Similarly, if you live in a wetter climate or hit the trails rain or shine, then a pair of waterproof hiking pants will serve you well.
Are you a wet weather hiker? Then you’ll probably need more than just a good pair of waterproof hiking pants. First things first, you will need a packable jacket . Depending on the climate or season, you may want a packable raincoat or a packable waterproof down jacket so you can be sure you stay both warm and dry while hiking. Getting wet and cold while hiking is uncomfortable and can even be dangerous, so be sure that you have a lightweight jacket that is easy to carry and gives you the warmth and dryness you need to hike in adverse weather conditions safely.
A waterproof backpack is another great wet hiking essential. Most heavy-duty hiking backpacks or day backpacks come with a rain fly that can easily be pulled over the backpack when the weather turns soggy. For those hiking with a smaller backpack that doesn’t have a rain fly, be sure to choose a backpack made from water-resistant material and with a waterproof zipper closure so that your belongings don’t get wet. And if you have a backpack that you already love for hiking, you can easily buy a rain fly separately to fit over it.
The right shoes are also essential for wet weather hiking. Most high-tech hiking boots are water-resistant, meaning that they can withstand quite a bit of water before you start to feel it on your feet. Wearing a pair of waterproof pants tucked over your hiking boots will also help keep your socks dry from the rain coming into the top of the shoe. While no boot is perfectly waterproof except for rubber rain boots, you can buy spray separately that you apply to your boots and will make them more waterproof for more comfortable hiking in wet conditions.
There are kinds of hiking pants that are waterproof, but not everyone needs a pair. However, if you spend a lot of time hiking in wet conditions or are a serious hiker, then perhaps waterproof hiking pants are the hiking essentials you’ve been missing.