Tackling the struggle of finding the best hiking pants for rappelling and climbing.
Do you know how much I struggled to find the best pair of hiking pants when I first started out rappelling and climbing? It might seem like an easy choice compared to the more complex pieces of gear required, such as rappelling ropes and climbing harnesses, but not for me. The main problem was that I’m quite short, so finding a pair of hiking pants that are not too long, too loose, or too tight was a nightmare.
When it comes to ordering online, there’s only so much you can interpret size-wise, and there wasn’t any reliable information available such as actual reviews or advice from experts. Just picking a pair of hiking pants and hoping for the best doesn’t usually work. Even today, It’s not easy to find a reliable guide that teaches how to take your own measurements and order a pair accordingly. Rappelling and climbing are difficult activities. They’re dangerous, and they require quite a bit of skill and know-how. However, when you’re just starting out and experience is thin, proper gear can make all the difference.
So back to hiking pants. How do you choose the best pair for rappelling and climbing? What kind of materials should you look for? What about sizing? And are there certain brands that you should keep an eye out for? I plan to answer all of these questions individually and put together a list of the best hiking pants that you can get this year. The pants that I’m about to suggest were designed to prevent injuries and ensure much-needed flexibility and comfort while on the trail
What are the main things to look for when shopping for hiking/climbing pants?
- The first thing we need to keep in mind is that hiking, climbing, bouldering, and even rappelling are often performed in harsh conditions. You might end up scraping them against the rock face or snagging them into some wild bush. Nature is unforgiving, so choosing a pair of durable hiking pants is a must.
- What are the best climbing pants materials? Well, a blend of wool and cotton, or even twill cotton can get the job done nicely. Solid but stretchy denim will also work for some pairs, but you might also want to look for a pair that offers knee protection, especially if you’re a beginner. Most hiking pants are made out of nylon, though, because that’s one of the most durable materials available. Be careful not to wear a pair of climbing pants that are too heavy for comfort. You’ll already be packed with other pieces of gear, so a lightweight pair is always preferable.
- Another thing you need to look for is flexibility. A pair of climbing pants that are too restrictive will limit your movement, and I’m sure you know what that means: you won’t be able to perform, and you’ll probably get tired faster. Look for a pair that is a bit looser than what you usually wear, or make sure there’s some stretch to it. Before going out there, test out the pant by wearing them and lifting your knees up as high as you can. Most hiking pants were designed to offer a wide range of movement, but it never hurts to be sure.
- A tapered design will also help not only looks-wise but from a practical standpoint as well. Make sure to look for a pair of hiking pants with a tapered leg, or one that has ties at the ankles. You want to have an unobstructed view of your feet at all times while you climb or rappel so that you’ll know exactly where to place your foot for your next move.
- Last but not least, moisture management is incredibly important when it comes to hiking pants. The best hiking pants are able to wick sweat away from your body in order to keep you cool and dry. Climbing and hiking are already difficult enough as they are without adding overheating into the mix.
Hiking pants suggestions if you’re looking to buy.
I had a look online and tried to figure out exactly what kind of hiking pants would be best if you’re looking to start rappelling and climbing, but then I realized that there are no pairs designed solely for beginners. Why would there be? A good pair of pants will work well for both beginners and pros. So I just started to look at the most appreciated pairs out there. Positive reviews usually correlate to a quality product, but I had a closer look at each pair just to be sure.
So here are my personal recommendations for the best hiking pants available this year. I’ll include both men’s and women’s offerings for variety’s sake.
1. Ourcan Waterproof and Windproof Hiking Pants for Men.
The first offering that I stumbled upon was this pair from Ourcan – not a particularly well-known brand but a quality one nonetheless. I picked this pair of hiking pants as my first suggestion because it comes at a decent price while offering a surprising amount of versatility.
There are plenty of sizes available ranging from 34W x 30L to 42W x 32L, but these pants only come in a single black colorway. What’s really interesting here is the material choice, namely 94% polyester silk and 6% spandex with a lining Made of 300G polar fleece. According to the manufacturer, these pants are warmer than dedicated winter apparel offerings, and they can withstand temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius or -22 F.
Moreover, the product is waterproof and windproof, which will surely come in handy while you’re up there. A thing that caught my eye was that the belt mouth at the waist is environmentally friendly. A nice touch if you ask me, and fitting since more and more companies are moving towards sustainability in the apparel segment.
When it comes to practicality, each pant comes with four large pockets – two open side pockets on the side seams and two wide cargo pockets. Yes, these hiking pants will hold cell phones, wallets, and other important items without any issues. Even though some polyester pants will make a distinct “rustling” sound when you move around in them, these do not. They are fairly silent, stretchy and comfortable for the price, which is why I think you should definitely give them a chance.
2. Mountain Hardwear Women’s Dynama Pant.
Moving on to a women’s hiking pant, the Mountain Hardwear Dynama is also a Jack of All Trades of sorts. What I mean by this is that these hiking pants can be worn for climbing, cross-training, hiking, rappelling, and even for everyday use. They come in various unique colorways such as Purple Dusk and Icelandic Blue, and in sizes that are a bit confusing such as X-Small Short and X-Large Short. There is a sizing chart available for these women’s hiking pants, though, and I strongly recommend using it if you plan on buying a pair.
The Dynama pant also comes with a DWR finish that acts as a water repellent while offering protection from the sun. The pants were created using a very stretchy nylon elastane fabric, which ensures a full range of motion. Practicality-wise, there are quite a few pockets available with plenty of room for smartphones, keys, and other important essentials.
I should also mention that Mountain Hardwear appears to value sustainability, which matters at least to some degree in my book. If it matters to you as well, all the more reason to include these pants on your shopping list.
3. Helikon-Tex OTM Outdoor Tactical Pants for Men.
These hiking pants for men mean business! They are some of the toughest and highest-quality offerings I could find, and I wholeheartedly stand by them for any sort of outdoor activity that involves harsh surfaces and unwelcoming weather. These pants are better suited for professionals, that much is true, but I would definitely consider investing in them, especially given their patented design and unique features.
At a glance, these pants might look like your average civilian apparel piece, but appearances can be deceiving. They actually sport a unique OTP design that allows the wearer to carry all of his essential equipment. Moreover, anatomic lines promote a high range of movement, while an elastic waistband and velcro closure ensure adjustability. The pockets were designed specifically to distribute gear weight as close as possible to the center mass around the waist and hips.
There are also a few internal knee pockets that can ensure extra protection as long as you use the brand’s own Neoprene Low Profile protection pads. That’s an optional extra so to speak, so you don’t need to worry about it too much unless you want as much protection as possible. Generally speaking, the pants are durable enough on their own to protect your knees from scrapes or light injuries.
There are multiple colors available and different sizes to fit most people. The only downside is that these are some of the more expensive hiking pants available right now. Quality comes at a price, though, and all things considered, they’re really not that much of a bank breaker.
4. Columbia Women’s Saturday Trail II Stretch Lined Hiking Pants.
Columbia is well-known for making some of the world’s most appreciated hiking and climbing equipment, which is why I just had to include one of their products on this list. I didn’t do it just because of the brand’s reputation though, as the Saturday Trail II stretch lined hiking pants are some of the best hiking pants for women available on the market.
They’re not particularly expensive either as far as hiking pants go, with price tags generally sitting at around $50 per pair. What makes these hiking pants special when compared to other similar offerings is the fact that they include an Omni-Shade UPF 50 fabric, which ensures much-needed protection against UV rays. If you’re climbing or rappelling in hot environments with plenty of sunlight, these pants should probably be on your to-buy list.
Moreover, Columbia’s own Omni-Shield tech offers stain repellency and water resistance for a plus of versatility on the trail. Practicality-wise, these pants come with two side-zip security pockets and mesh pocket bags. The product is stretchable with an active fit, all thanks to a material composition of 96% nylon and 4% elastane. Available colorways include City Grey and Olive Green.
5. Trailhead Adventure Unisex Pant for Climbing and Hiking.
I decided to end my suggestions list with a pair of unisex hiking pants, namely the Trailhead Adventure. These pants are well-suited for numerous outdoor activities such as climbing, hiking, and rappelling, which makes them a great choice for anyone looking to dip their toes into the outdoor adventure pool.
Metaphors aside, the Trailhead Adventure comes in five different colors named Olive, Black, Gray, Brown, and Blue, with sizes ranging from Small to X-Large. There are also Slim-Fit pairs available for those of you who prefer that type of pant.
Performance-wise, this product was designed and manufactured by Coalatree, which means that they are waterproof and resistant to stains. They were created using a moisture-wicking material that also flaunts antimicrobial properties for a plus of security and comfort. Another interesting aspect is the four-way stretch technology, which is patent-pending. Highlights include an ergonomic crotch gusset, as well as a tear-resistant nylon ripstop fabric that makes them virtually indestructible during normal outdoor activities.
Coalatree is known for its eco-minded approach when it comes to manufacturing its products. If eco-friendliness is important to you when you pick your hiking gear, then you can rest easy that this company is at least doing something to minimize its impact on our environment.
Other tips and useful information.
Is insect protection important when it comes to hiking pants?
While none of the pants above are treated with insect repellent as they come out of the factory, it’s important to note that you might need some sort of protection from these critters, especially if you plan to go out there during tick season. If you’d like to keep insects at bay while you’re on the trail, you can easily treat your pants with repellent yourself.
I recommend using Permethrin to treat your clothes, but keep in mind that this chemical is particularly dangerous to cats. If you have cats at home, just perform the treatment outdoors and make sure that your pets can’t get near your hiking gear while you’re away.
Should I wear roll-ups, convertible pants, or long pants?
It all depends on the trail and what conditions you plan to perform your hike in. For example, if you know that it’s going to be very hot outside and you don’t want to pack an extra pair of pants, you might want to go for a convertible pair as that will give you the most versatility. If you know that you won’t be wearing shorts at all, there’s no need to go for convertible pants and you should just wear a regular pair of long ones.
Make sure to have a close look at the zippers if you do go for a convertible pair of hiking pants. Check that everything is working properly and you can access the ankle zips with ease, as those will allow you to put on and take off the lower part of the legs without taking off your shoes.
Roll-up leg pants can represent a viable alternative to convertible pants. These wearables are usually kept in place with a snap closure or a button closure. The main advantage of roll-up pants is that they ensure a plus of ventilation during hot days.
Are all hiking pants warm?
This might seem like a silly question, but you’d be surprised how often I get asked if all hiking pants are warm. The truth is: it depends. Some hiking pants were designed with cold weather in mind, which is why they usually come with a soft inner lining. Those pants are indeed warm and should never be worn in hot weather even if they’re advertised as breathable.
On the other hand, hiking pants designed for hot conditions are highly breathable, often stretchy, and manufactured using lighter and sometimes less-durable materials. It all depends on what kind of conditions you’re expecting to face out there. There is no ideal pair of hiking pants that will work in all weather conditions. More often than not, it’s not a bad idea to have multiple pairs.
Are hiking pants really necessary?
Hiking pants are absolutely necessary if you plan to perform climbing, backpacking, rappelling, or canyoneering in safe conditions. Surely I don’t have to tell you how important our legs are and how much they need protection from the elements and anything else that nature throws at us on the trail.
Apart from offering protection, hiking pants also allow us to carry essentials with ease, and they can ensure comfort by wicking sweat away from the body. You could try to perform demanding outdoor activities while wearing conventional pants, true, but you’ll quickly come to realize how important they are as soon as you get your first scrape, or when your smartphone falls out of your pocket because it wasn’t secured properly.
How do we know when hiking pants fit?
This is a valid question because many of us just try out a pair of hiking pants and just assume that they’re going to fit perfectly when we take them out on the trail. This is a misconception and it often results in disappointment, as climbers come to realize that their pants don’t fit as well as they thought they did. There are a few steps that we can take to solve this issue, though.
Bending and flexing your knees and lifting them one at a time as closely as possible to the chest will ensure that you have a full range of motion. If the pants bind at any point during this exercise, they’re not going to fit properly and you should find a replacement pair.
Sitting down is another simple trick that allows you to check if the pants feel tight across your bottom. If they do, they won’t be right for you. You should also squat down, as this can help you check for a number of important aspects. First of all, the cuffs shouldn’t ride up too high and expose your legs too much. Secondly, the pants shouldn’t expose your bottom when you squat, as this can bring its own series of unpleasantries.
Are cheap hiking pants worth it?
I think the suggestions that I presented above are relatively affordable all things considered. Still, I won’t lie, there are some cheaper alternatives out there, but I just don’t think that they’re worth it in the long run. You see, hiking pants cover a significant part of your body, and if they were to fail at any point during your trip, they could potentially ruin your entire experience.
Imagine planning a rather expensive trip with your friends, getting ready for a hike, investing in all the proper equipment and skimping on a nice pair of hiking pants. If those pants tear up, get soaked, or allow you to get a sunburn, they would instantly lose any value, and you’d probably be forced to abandon your adventure. Since climbing, hiking, rappelling, and canyoning are all tightly related and demanding sports, you can’t really cheap out on any particular piece of gear. Not on pants, harnesses, and ropes anyway, as they’re all that stands between you and the unforgiving elements.
So no, cheap hiking pants are not worth it, but that doesn’t mean that you need to spend half a thousand dollars on a pair either, especially if you only practice these activities recreationally.
Finding the right pair of climbing and rappelling pants is no easy task, but I hope that I managed to make your search easier. I’ve worn out my fair share of hiking pants in my day, and I know all too well how important it is to choose a pair that fits well, offers enough practicality, and is able to protect the body from the elements. I think that the products that I suggested above meet all of these criteria, but in the end, you’re the one that needs to decide what to wear on the trail.
As always, if you have any suggestions or you would like to share your own insight, feel free to get in touch.