Best Women’s Hiking Pants for 2021
by Katie Kommer with Alison Simon
It’s so difficult for women to find pants that are made with as much quality, versatility, and comfort as men’s pants. As athletic, outdoor oriented women, we know from personal experience that it’s tough to select the right pair of hiking pants, especially when it can be tempting to wear leggings or shorts you already have. However, the benefits of true hiking pants are numerous, from leg protection to breathability. We’re big fans of full-length hiking pants with features like zippered pockets, bug protection, and convertibility. Because it’s so hard to find all these features in women’s versions, we’ve done the hard work for you and rounded up our top picks for a variety of styles of women’s hiking pants.
[Lead picture: Author Katie Kommer field testing Prana Pants in the mountains of Utah]
Why should you listen to us?
Well, we women have collectively decades of experiencing the pitfalls of previous models of female hiking pants. We also know that on hot days, though it may be tempting to throw on shorts, a breathable pair of pants does a much better job of protecting your legs and keeping you cool. Many true hiking pants are made with UPF protection, which blocks rays from the sun and protects your skin. Furthermore, certain models have features like permethrin treatment (more on this later), which repels bugs. No deet necessary!
Real Sizing Information!
In this guide, we not only find the best pants but we also give you real information about how to choose your size. Online sizing charts can be murky, and even inaccurate. Based on our own experiences in these pants, and scouring user reviews, we’ve also included sizing notes for each pair of pants to ensure you order the right fit on the first try.
This guide is broken up into a few different categories. We cover the best all-purpose pants, best bug protection pants, best convertible pants, best bomber pants, and even throw in some ultralight options. We will cover each of these sections and their respective pros and cons in greater detail later.
7 Quick Picks
For those short on time, here’s our take on the best of the best.
Top Pick | Best All-Purpose Pants: Eddie Bauer Guide Pro Pants | breathable and versatile guide-quality pants are meant for everything from technical climbing to running errands. But they cost less than the competition and come in a huge range of sizes!
Runner Up | Best All-Purpose Pants: Kuhl FreeFlex Roll-Up Pants | super durable fabric, great pockets, super comfortable fit with plenty of range of motion and nice leg rollup option that snaps in place.
Most Popular: Prana Halle Pants a tried and true classic that can do it all — will easily go from the trail or climbing directly to diner. Super comfortable stretch fit.
Best Cargo Convertible Pants: Columbia Saturday Trail Convertible Pants | pants zip off into 10” shorts for the heat of the day
Best Budet Pants: Toomett Convertible Hiking Pants | great, fully featured cargo pants with zip-off legs. But at under $30 they 1/2 the cost or of pants of similar design and quality!
Best Bug-Repellent Pants: ExOfficio BugsAway Vianna Pants | known for their line of permethrin-treated clothing. This pair of pants repels bugs and insects while offering a relaxed and casual fit.
Best Ultralight Hiking Pants: Arc’teryx Sabria Pants | some of the lightest alpine pants on the market.
Full Video | Women’s Hiking Pants Guide
If a picture is worth 1,000 words what is a comprehensive video on our women’s hiking pants picks worth? There’s stuff in here that we can’t begin to cover in words.
Best All-Purpose Pants
Ditch your everyday leggings and discover the comfort and versatility of all-purpose hiking pants. We know it’s tempting to throw on yoga leggings or running tights, whatever you already have in your closet. But true hiking pants are designed specifically for long days of movement in the hot sun while moving through varied terrain. Though leggings may feel soft and light at first, they actually lack breathability and do not wick moisture as well as pants. The pants included in this section are versatility clothing pieces that can transition from the trail to everyday wear seamlessly. Though they don’t include features like convertibility or bug protection, these are all pants that can get you to the top of a mountain, or keep you cool and comfortable while running errands.
Eddie Bauer Women’s Guide Pro Pants
Top Pick | Best All-Purpose Pants
MSRP: $60 – $65
WEIGHT: 8.8 oz (based on our own measurements, women’s 6)
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: 96% nylon; 4% spandex / extremely durable / 50+ UPF
POCKETS: four; two zippered cargo pockets; two hand pockets
SIZING: Pants run large. If between sizes order a smaller size.
BEST USE: hiking, travel, climbing
Eddie Bauer’s breathable and versatile guide pro pants are meant for everything from technical climbing to running errands. The material is durable and won’t tear easily, while the bit of spandex makes them stretchy enough for climbing or scrambling. They’re also made with a StormRepel DWR treatment that repels water. Though they don’t have any back pockets, the side zippered cargo pockets are deep enough for a cell phone or wallet. Eddie Bauer works with Bluesign to ensure their products are made with sustainability in mind.
AVAILABLE SIZES: 0 – 24; tall and petite. Pants come in a range of sizes, with petite, regular, and tall sizing available in 0 – 24 waist options.
Kuhl FreeFlex Roll-Up Pants
Runner Up | Best All-Purpose Pants
WEIGHT: 11.2 oz (our tested weight)
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: polyester / durable / 50+ UPF
POCKETS: six; two hand; two back; two cargo
SIZING: These pants run true to size in the waist, and have a 32 inch inseam
BEST USE: hiking, backpacking, travel, casual
These are a close competitor with the Prana Halle pants, but with a more durable fabric. And they absolutely come out on top in terms of pockets. They have six deep pockets, four of which have a snap closure to hold the essentials. Furthermore, they roll up and snap closed into capris, which makes them convertible with less work (and more style). We love the fit on these pants, it’s fitted yet roomy enough to accommodate big movements while hiking or backpacking. There is also an internal waistband to adjust the fit, and the UPF protection makes them great for long days in the sun.
AVAILABLE SIZES: 0-16
Prana Halle Pants
MSRP: $85.00 – $89.00
WEIGHT: 8.9 oz (based on our own measurements)
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: 97% polyester; 3% spandex / extremely durable / 50+ UPF
POCKETS: five; one zippered cargo pocket; two buttoned back pockets; two hand pockets
SIZING: Pants run true to size, and have a bit of stretch in them. Pants come in a range of sizes, with petite, regular, and tall sizing available in 0 – 22 waist options.
BEST USE: hiking, travel, climbing, everyday
In Prana pants, I can go straight from a hike or the climbing gym to dinner. These pants are extremely versatile, and excel in so many ways. They’re stretchy enough for climbing, hiking, and scrambling, yet designed like “normal” everyday pants. The DWR treatment repels light rain or snow. Also, the legs roll up to convert the pants into capris, so although they don’t fully zip into shorts they are still versatile for when it’s hotter. These are available in short, tall, regular, and plus sizing. Also, there are straight leg (for a more fitted look) and fully convertible options available too.
AVAILABLE SIZES: 0 – 22, petite and tall sizes available, straight cut available for a slimmer fit
Vuori Ripstop Pants
WEIGHT: 12.4 oz (based on our own measurements)
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: 98% cotton / 2% elastane
POCKETS: five; two hand pockets; one open back pocket; one zippered back pocket; one zippered cargo pocket
SIZING: Pants run slightly small, we recommend sizing up. Note that the 7 / 8 length of the pants, which is designed to fall above the ankle.
BEST USE: hiking, climbing, travel, everyday
The Vuori Ripstop Pants are extremely functional, durable, and versatile. Though they’re on the heavier side due to the cotton material, they’re still adequate for hiking and backpacking on days where it isn’t too hot. Where they really excel is transitioning from casual hiking or climbing to every wear, following the trend of Prana’s versatile pants. The zippered pockets are deep enough for your essentials, and the material is extremely durable.
AVAILABLE SIZES: XS – XL
RailRiders Adventure Khakis
WEIGHT: 8.7 oz
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: 2 layer Duralite Nylon/Extremely durable/30+ UPF
POCKETS: four, two hand pockets; one zippered security pocket; one zippered back pocket
SIZING: Pants run slightly large, we recommend pairing a belt with your normal size or sizing down. Fit is large and loose throughout the legs.
BEST USE: hiking, backpacking, travel, climbing, scrambling
These breezy pants might fool you into thinking they’re not tough. Though they’re extremely light and easy to move in, the material is durable and will stand up to scrambling, off trail travel, and any other myriad of obstacles. The elastic at the sides of the waist makes them versatile, and they do include a belt as well. There are a total of four pockets, two of which are zippered. The zippered pockets are great, but because the pants are so loose-fitting the open pockets feel very insecure to me.
AVAILABLE SIZES: XS – XL
Use Code RRAAB21 to get 10% off your first RailRiders order.
Best Bug-Repellent Pants
Bugs aren’t only annoying, they’re also dangerous. The CDC notes that about 35,000 cases of Lyme Disease are reported in the US each year, much of which occurs in the Eastern Appalachian Mountains. There are many steps you can take to protect yourself from bugs (read our full article here), but one of the first steps is purchasing bug-repellent clothing. These pants tightly bind Permethrin, a bug repellent, to its clothing fibers. This effectively repels mosquitoes, ticks, ants, no-see-ums, and flies. Plus, you can wash these as you would any normal clothes! The treatment is effective for roughly 70 washes, which comes out to well over a couple years of use. For backcountry adventures in bug season (summer) or any travels to tropical locations, bug repellent pants should be the first item in your kit.
ExOfficio BugsAway Vianna Pants
Top Pick | Best Bug-Repellent Pants
WEIGHT: 15 oz
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: 96% nylon; 4% spandex / durable / 50+ UPF
POCKETS: five; two hand pockets; two back pockets; one zippered security pocket
SIZING: These pants run large. If you go for your normal size, you’ll likely have a loose, extra comfortable fit. Size down if you want these to have a more snug and slim fit
BEST USE: backpacking, hiking, travel
ExOfficio is known for their line of permethrin-treated clothing. This pair of pants repels bugs and insects while offering a relaxed and casual fit. They have a straight leg and standard fit design, and the bit of spandex in the fabric makes them stretchy enough for various types of hiking and climbing. There are also five total pockets, including a zippered pocket sized perfectly for a passport or small wallet.
AVAILABLE SIZES: 0 – 14
RailRiders Women’s Weatherpants with Insect Shield
WEIGHT: 10 oz
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: double-layered 3 oz Duralite Nylon / extremely durable / none
POCKETS: five; two zippered back pockets; one cargo pocket; two hand pockets
XLSIZING: Pants run slightly large, we recommend pairing a belt with your normal size or sizing down. Fit is large and loose throughout the legs.
BEST USE: hiking, backpacking, travel in bug territory
RailRiders make extremely tough, durable pants for hiking. These women’s weatherpants are reinforced at the butt and the knees to make those problem areas even tougher, while the looser fit makes the pants very breathable and comfortable. The bottom of the pants have a drawcord to fully seal bugs out, or to keep them open for more ventilation. There are a total of five pockets, including two zippered and one cargo pocket. All of the pockets are exceptionally deep and will hold all the essentials.
AVAILABLE SIZES: XS – XL
Use Code RRAAB21 to get 10% off your first RailRiders order.
Best Bomber/Softshell Pants
These pants are workhorses, and will take you through any adventure imaginable. Softshells are made of quality synthetic blends, and are designed for mountain abuse. This means scraping up against rough limestone, traversing through snow, or bushwhacking through brambly territory. Furthermore, the stretchy construction makes them breathable and easy to move, so they can be used in the summertime to protect from the sun or in the winter with an extra base layer. These pants are both great options if you want a quality piece of clothing that will last for years, no matter where you take it.
Patagonia Simul Alpine Softshell Pants
Top Pick | Best Bomber/Softshell Pants
WEIGHT: 11.3 oz
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: 91% recycled polyester; 9% spandex / extremely durable / none
POCKETS: four pockets; two zippered hand pockets; two zippered cargo pockets
SIZING: These pants have a true to size waist, and the fit throughout the leg is slightly large. Stick with your normal size, or size down for a snug fit.
BEST USE: alpine climbing, backpacking, hiking
Softshell pants are an essential component of any high alpine adventure, whether you’re backpacking, climbing, or backcountry skiing. The Patagonia Simul Alpine pants are a great option for a lightweight yet ridiculously durable construction. Though they’re designed specifically for climbing, softshells also work great for backpacking. The zippered pockets are deep enough to comfortably carry the essentials. The crotch and knees are gusseted to allow for movement in these areas, and the waistband has a stretchy fabric to accommodate for movement.
AVAILABLE SIZES: 0 – 18; true to size
Outdoor Research Cirque II Pants
WEIGHT: 20 oz
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: 50% nylon; 43% polyester; 7% spandex / extremely durable
POCKETS: four pockets; two zippered hand; two zippered cargo
SIZING: These pants are long, and the waist runs true to size. Order your normal size.
BEST USE: alpine climbing, cold weather backpacking and hiking, mountaineering
Similar in construction to the Patagonia Simul Alpine pants, the OR Cirque pants are a softshell designed for cold weather activity. The softshell fabric used is designed to be breathable yet warm and weather resistant for high-energy activities. This makes these pants a great option for cold weather backpacking, as opposed to bringing a pair of lightweight pants and a base layer. If you’re planning a trip somewhere like Patagonia or Alaska, these are an excellent option for mixed climbing, backpacking, and mountaineering activity.
AVAILABLE SIZES: XS – XL
Best Cargo Convertible Pants
Pants with lots of pockets are a game changer. Have you ever wasted time on a hiking or backpacking trip because you had to stop and take off your pack to access your phone, snacks, or map? Zippered pockets make it easy to carry your essentials with you, and less stops means more miles (or more time at camp). Also, the convertible design of these pants saves weight by using just one garment for your pants and shorts.
Columbia Saturday Trail Convertible Pants
Top Pick | Best Cargo Convertible Pants
WEIGHT: 11.2 oz
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: 96 % nylon; 4% elastane / durable / 50+ UPF
POCKETS: three; two hand pockets; one zippered back pocket
SIZING: These pants run true to size in the waist, and are available in petite, tall and plus sizing as well.
BEST USE: hiking, backpacking, travel
The Columbia Saturday Trail Convertible Pants are well-suited for hiking and backpacking. They are slim fit with a straight leg design, which allows movement while not feeling too baggy or loose. Also, the pants zip off into 10” shorts for the heat of the day. Columbia’s proprietary Omni-Shield and Omni-Shade technologies are used in the pants to repel water and offer UPF protection. This makes them great for stream or river crossings in high alpine environments where the sun is beating.
AVAILABLE SIZES: 0 – 22
Toomett Convertible Hiking Pants
MSRP: $13.50 – $26.99
WEIGHT: 11 oz
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: 96% polyester; 4% spandex / semi-durable / 40+ UPF
POCKETS: six pockets two zippered cargo; two zippered back; two zippered hand pockets
SIZING: These pants run large. A 32 is comparable to a medium, order your true size for a looser fit or size down for a snug fit.
BEST USE: hiking, backpacking, traveling
These budget-friendly convertible pants are built for versatility and utility. The six zippered pockets will hold all your essentials, saving you from pulling your pack out for simple stops like chapstick or snacks. The elastic waistband is built to offer flexibility and stretch. Quick-drying material will handle water and wet conditions well, and the standard fit offers plenty of room to move. Though the pants are very stretchy, the lightweight material is not as strong as pants like the REI Sahara pants. Because of this, they’re not great for rock climbing where you’re very likely to tear or snag.
AVAILABLE SIZES: 26 – 38
Best Ultralight Hiking Pants
If you’re truly a fan of shorts and want a pair of pants only for certain days or occasions, go with a pair of ultralight pants. The Arc’teryx Sabria pant is fully featured with pockets and an articulated design, while the Enlightened Equipment Copperfield wind pants are ultralight in every sense of the word, weighing in at just under 2 oz.
Arc’teryx Sabria Pants
Top Pick | Best Ultralight Hiking Pants
MSRP: $125.00; women’s only
WEIGHT: 6.5 oz
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: 87% nylon / 13% elastane
POCKETS: two zippered cargo pockets
SIZING: These pants are trim fit with a true to size waist. Order your regular size for a snug fit, size up for a bit more room in the legs and waist.
BEST USE: alpine climbing, hiking, backpacking
These are some of the lightest alpine pants on the market. These pants are unique for their trim fit, which hugs your waist, hips, and thighs while still offering movement with an articulated design. The zippered side pockets are fairly deep, with plenty of room for electronics or snacks in a place that won’t get in the way of a backpack strap or climbing harness. Arc’teryx makes incredibly high quality technical clothes, but these pants won’t transition as easily to everyday life as some of the other more versatile options. We recommend saving them for alpine adventures.
AVAILABLE SIZES: 2 – 14
Enlightened Equipment Women’s Copperfield Wind Pants
WEIGHT: 1.35 oz
FABRIC/DURABILITY/UPF: 7D – 20D nylon / wear with care / none
SIZING: These pants run true to size and are fully customizable to get the right waist and length. Because the drawstring waist is adjustable, size up if you’re in between.
BEST USE: ultralight backpacking and trail running in warm conditions as a “just in case” layer
This is just about as light as a pair of pants can possibly be. Enlightened Equipment’s customizable wind pants are made with 7D, 10D, or 20D nylon and are your “just in case” layer to throw on over shorts, or pair with thermal leggings for cold nights. The waist is adjustable with a drawcord, and the ankle length is adjustable with three snaps. Enlightened Equipment encourages buyers to “be mindful in selecting 10D and 7D colors as some can be very transparent.”
AVAILABLE SIZES: S – 2XL waist & 26-34 inseam
Women’s pants are finally improving in design. It’s a shame that certain brands, like RailRiders, still make pants for men that are head and shoulders above their female designs. However, many companies are finally starting to catch up and offer pants for women with competing features. Shorts and leggings are great for neighborhood runs and gym use, but true hiking pants have so many benefits on the trails. From sun, bug, and scrape protection to breathability, once you put on one of these pairs of quality pants you won’t look back.
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