Hiking pants are often overlooked when adventure seekers head into the woods for an afternoon or even a week of backpacking. While once it was hard to find quality hiking pants, today there are more choices than ever.
Particularly for women’s hiking pants more manufacturers are addressing the unique fit and sizing needs ladies need.
Wearing any old pants for a hiking trip can quickly become a big mistake. Jeans are much too restrictive. Certain types of fabric are just bad choices for spending time in the woods where weather and situations can change rapidly.
That’s why I’m going to help you learn what to look for in hiking pants.
I’ve spend hundreds of nights on the trail guiding backpacking groups in all sorts of conditions. When you get done with this article you’ll have a better idea of what to look for in your next set of women’s hiking pants.
I’ll help you avoid a few common mistakes and get you started by recommending several top rated women’s hiking pants.
Let’s get to it!
Quick Answer: The 7 Best Hiking Pants for Women
- prAna Women’s Regular Inseam Halle Pant
- Outdoor Research Women’s Cirque Pants
- Outdoor Research Women’s Ferrosi Convertible Pant
- Exofficio Women’s Bugs Away Ziwa Convertible Pant
- White Sierra Women’s Sierra Point Convertible Pant
- Columbia Sportswear Women’s Saturday Trail Pant
- Mountain Hardwear Mirada Convertible Pant
Best Women’s Hiking Pants
Women’s Hiking Pants Reviews
- Roll-up legs with articulated knees
- Hidden zip stash pocket at upper right leg
- Offered in 3 inseams-short, regular, tall
- Comfortable stretch fabric
prAna is a brand that’s always come from a place of modern accessories for hikers and climbers. These nylon and spandex pants are going to be durable and flexible. Perfect for approach hikes or rugged trails.
I like that they included an articulated knee. The extra fabric and careful design of the pants around the knee allows for more motion and flexibility.
That’s a great feature to pair with the stretchy spandex and nylon. These pants are at home for scrambling tough boulder fields or navigating a rugged trail.
There’s a single side pocket but it’s relatively form fitted, so don’t expect to store much there. The front pockets are also slim and fitted. Overall the pants are stylish and sleek.
They’re a good choice for daily pants that might take you to the grocery store or the local trail.
They may not, however, be the absolute best pants for technical hiking or backpacking. Design and aesthetics seem to take a front seat to hiking efficiency on these women’s hiking pants from prAna.
Best For: Fall afternoons on the deck or scrambling an approach trail.
- Articulated Knees
- Reinforced Boot Lace Hook
- Gusseted Crotch
- Nylon-reinforced abrasion patches
Outdoor Research has always been one of my favorites when it comes to outdoor clothing. These women’s hiking pants are definitely a technical take on the subject.
Let’s look at what they’re bringing to the table.
These pants blend nylon, polyester, and spandex with a stretch-woven fabric. That makes them both durable, comfortable, forgiving, and moisture wicking.
I personally prefer the feel of polyester but like the durability of nylon so it’s nice to see the best of both worlds.
Around the waist is an adjustable elastic and velcro integrated “belt”. The belt loops are flat sewn and would pair well with the hip pads of any backpack.
Again, the pockets seem a little too tight with the fitted stretchy nature of the pants to be practical for carrying items while hiking but that’s a small negative.
The Cirque women’s lightweight hiking pants have articulated knees and boot zippers that are both excellent high end features that round out these technical pants.
I will say that I love the reinforced nylon scuff pads on the inside of both ankles. These are helpful for protecting the pants from crampons, snowshoes, and skis.
Best For: Technical hiking and mountain sports.
- Water and wind resistant
- Zip-off lower legs
- Breathable and quick drying
- Abrasion-resistance material
OR take a little more relaxed approach to hiking pants with Ferrosi convertibles. These pants aren’t quite as technical as the Cirque pants which are more at home high in the mountains. Instead the Ferrosi pants bring tons of stretch and comfort.
With an impressive 14% spandex content they’ll wear more like yoga pants than a technical hike. I love that the zip off legs have different color zippers on each side.
If you’ve never tried taking apart and putting back together convertible pants, let me tell you how handy it is to easily know which side is which!
There are only three pockets on these pants – two front and one back right. Because the pants are relatively fitted like most women’s pants, don’t expect to be able to comfortably pack a ton of goodies.
One thing I would have liked to see on these convertible pants is a boot zipper. Because they’re fitted pants without a boot zipper, you’ll have to actually take your shoes off to remove the lower leg portions.
Best For: Women’s who want convertible hiking pants for casual hiking and daily wear.
- Convertible cargo pants
- Insect shield technology
- UPF 30+ Protection
- Moisture wicking fabric
Exofficio makes some solid gear for outdoor sports. They usually bring some of the best gear to the table and these pants are solid choices for any women’s hiking pants.
I like that they kept the waistline slim and trim with minimalist belt loops and elastic. When elastic gets into hiking pants, though, it can be hard to get it just right.
Because those pesky backpack hip belts sit right where the elastic pleats are on the sides of the pants, they can be uncomfortable. If you’re wearing these pants with a backpack, make sure you’ve got comfy undies on!
I do like that they added side cargo pockets on these pants. There are no rear pockets which is usually fine for most ladies, and the front pockets are slim.
Luckily they are convertible pants that feature bug-proof nylon material. Now that the ticks that cause Lyme Disease seem to be found in more areas of the country, having some extra protection may not be a bad idea.
The pants are zippered above the knees and feature boot zippers to help you get the lowers on and off while wearing shoes.
Best For: Women who want a lightweight, bug-proof convertible pant option when not carrying a pack.
- Zip off legs
- Teflon fabric waterproofing
- Moisture wicking fabric
- UPF sun protection fabric
These affordable convertible pants sound pretty good when you consider the amazing user reviews. With tons of great feedback and solid nylon construction they make a serious contender for the title “best women’s hiking pants”.
While they’re not reinventing the wheel, these pants do bring everything to the table that a hiker needs. Flat waistbands and slim belt loops are a must have and the Sierra Point pants deliver on that.
There is some pleating around the sides of the hips where elastic is used to fit the pants. However, I think most women won’t find it too much to cause discomfort.
I like that they skipped the rear pockets on these pants – they’re just not necessary. I would have liked to see some boot zippers though because as I mentioned before it’s a pain to take off shoes when you want to zip off to the shorts.
If you’re willing to go without things like different color zippers for the pants and boot zippers these make a great choice for budget hiking pants for women!
Best For: Women who want a pair of durable nylon hiking pants at a great value.
- Omni-Shade UPF 50 sun protection
- Zip-closed security pocket
- Roll-up legs
- Gusseted crotch
Columbia has always been my personal favorite brand for value to price ratio. I think you get more for your money with Columbia than just about any other outdoor clothing maker.
That’s just one reason I really like these slim women’s hiking pants. They’re also mostly nylon with a dose of elastane for stretch. That makes them both durable and comfortable.
They’ll hold up against brush, rocks, and thorns and they won’t keep you from moving when you need to scramble over a downed tree.
I like that the pants have articulated knees. Because they’re a little more slim fit than some on our list, the articulated knees are important to avoid restricting movement.
The pants don’t totally convert in the same way that zip off pants do, but you can roll them up. They can be changed to capri style pants with a simple roll of the cuff.
Best For: Women looking for hiking pants that are fashionable with plenty of movement on weekend hikes.
- UPF 50 sun protection
- DWR finish
- Velcro side pocket
- Extra-wide soft waistband
Last but certainly not least is a solid pair of women’s hiking pants from Mountain Hardwear. This company knows how to make great hiking pants. I’ve turned to them for years for my own personal favorite zip off hiking pants.
Unlike the other pants on our list, the Miranda pants are the only ones available in so many colors. There are 5 separate colors for you to choose from, all earthy tones that make great hiking pants.
Never underestimate the power of choices!
I like the straight leg style but I would have liked to see a boot zipper for all the above mentioned reasons. They probably didn’t include a boot zipper though because the pants also roll up into capris with the included strap and button.
I love that the waistband is perfectly smooth but there is no adjustable belt and users say the pants run small. Fitment might be tricky and getting it wrong means having to potentially wear a belt under your backpack straps. Ouch.
If your looking for women’s waterproof hiking pants, these are probably your best bet with the DWR finish over nylon.
Best For: Women looking for color choices and slim fitment with a zip off and capri option!
Comparison of Women’s Hiking Pants
|Hiking Pants||Material||Convertible||Features||Best For|
|prAna Women's Regular Inseam Halle Pant||97% Nylon, 3% Spandex||No||Stretch Zion fabric with articulated knees||Casual Hiking / Daily Wear|
|Outdoor Research Women's Cirque Pants||50% nylon/43% polyester/7% spandex||No||Gusseted crotch, articulated knees and reinforced scuff guard||Technical Hiking|
|Outdoor Research Women's Ferrosi Convertible Pant||86% Nylon/ 14% Spandex||Yes||Water and wind resistant with Zip-off lower legs||Casual Hiking / Daily Wear|
|Exofficio Women's Bugs Away Ziwa Convertible Pant||100% Nylon||Yes||Insect shield technology cargo pants with UPF 30+ protection||Casual Hiking|
|White Sierra Women's Sierra Point Convertible Pant||100% Nylon||Yes||Teflon fabric waterproofing with UPF sun protection fabric||Casual Hiking|
|Columbia Sportswear Women's Saturday Trail Pant||96% Nylon/4% Elastane||No - Roll up||UPF 50 Protection with articulated knees||Casual Hiking / Daily Wear|
|Mountain Hardwear Mirada Convertible Pant||100% Nylon||Yes||UPF 50 fabric with DWR finish to repel water||Casual Hiking|
How to Choose the Best Women’s Hiking Pants
What makes great hiking pants and sets women’s hiking pants apart from the rest? There are several important factors, lets take a look at them now.
- Women’s Hiking Pants Fabric
- Convertible Women’s Hiking Pants
- Boot Zippers
- Belts and Belt Buckles
- Pockets and Storage
- Waterproof and DWR Pants
- Gussets and Articulated Knees
Women’s Hiking Pants Fabric
In everyday life we usually wear just one or two fabrics. Cotton and polyester may be the most common fabrics for day to day wear. In hiking and backpacking the fabrics that we want are a little different.
While polyester remains an important hiking fabric, nylon becomes a second favorite fabric.
Well loved for several reasons. One of this fabric’s greatest qualities is its extreme durability and abrasion resistance.
That’s why it’s often picked as a primary material for hiking pants.
Along with nylon you’ll also often find lycra, elastane, or spandex added. That’s because nylon by itself is extremely inflexible and stiff. Without adding lycra, nylon hiking pants would become much too restrictive.
Particularly in women’s hiking pants, a healthy dose of lycra is not only often added for fashion, but for function.
The second common choice we mentioned above. It can be blended with nylon and lycra or sometimes found on its own.
While it’s more flexible than nylon, it’s still usually blended for comfort and stretch. Polyester is usually more breathable than nylon and does a better job of wicking moisture away from the skin.
Polyester makes a good choice for high output hiking where heat and sweat buildup are a concern. Nylon, thanks to its wind resistance, is a good choice for poorer weather or rougher trails such as off-trail hiking.
Convertible Women’s Hiking Pants
Thought zip-off pants died with the 90’s? Think again.
Convertible pants, as they’re called now, are alive and well inside the hiking community. So why should you be considering a pair of convertible hiking pants?
Many hikers prefer convertible pants because it allows you to adjust to changing weather on the fly without having to always pack an extra pair of pants.
Besides, it can be difficult or impossible on crowded hiking trails to find a private place to change pants mid-hike.
While convertible hiking pants aren’t necessarily lighter than carrying a lightweight pair of pants and running shorts, they are often more convenient.
When buying convertible hiking pants make sure to thoroughly check reviews for any negative feedback. Cheap convertible pants are all too common and usually result in zipper problems around the knees.
When the convertible zippers begin to act up or fail, the entire pants are usually trash. You’ll have to then fully replace or repair the zipper or simply use them as shorts forever.
Because of the extreme versatility and convenience of convertible hiking pants, I highly encourage you to consider trying a pair for yourself!
While not all hiking pants feature boot zippers, they can be critical on some. Particularly for convertible pants, an expandable zipper near the ankle is key.
Without these it’s impossible to get your pants to go on or off over a pair of hiking shoes or trail runners.
Even for regular hiking pants, a boot zipper is handy. If it’s rainy, dirty, or muddy in the parking lot or campsite you won’t want to have to take off your shoes.
In this situation the only way to conveniently change pants is to pull them over your footwear. Boot zippers make this possible.
Belts and Belt Buckles
Many hiking pants come with built in belts and belt buckles. Surprisingly this can often be the most crucial factor that makes or breaks a great pair of hiking pants.
When hiking we often wear backpacks. Whether it’s a lightweight day pack or a heavy week long backpack full of supplies they often have hip belts.
These hip belts sit directly over the same area where most people wear the belt band of their pants. That’s why a poorly designed belt can chafe, rub, and even leave open sores after hours of backpacking or hiking.
When choosing a pair of women’s hiking pants consider whether or not you need a belt. When you can avoid a belt altogether through the use of elastic or fitted pants, do so!
Otherwise here are a couple tips to keep your belt comfy and prevent soreness or blisters:
- Choose a pair of hiking pants with minimalist belt loops. Feel the thickness of the fabric and be sure that the belt loops or internal belt don’t add much bulk to the pants in that area.
- Look for flat belts such as thin webbing belts. Textured or thick belts will bit into your flesh and cause pain or additional rubbing.
- Make sure the belt buckle or adjustment mechanism is minimalist or flat. Most hiking pants do a good job of keeping the included belt buckle slim. However, some poorly designed pants can have oddly shaped or sized buckles. Avoid these!
- Look for fleece or microfiber lines waistlines. These add a bit of extra abrasion protection from the nylon or polyester of your pants. Because hiking pants are made to be durable they’re usually not too soft to the touch. Microfiber lined waistlines help with this.
Pockets and Storage
In hiking pants there are two schools of thought. Lots of pockets, or minimal pockets. I’m a fan of the no pockets or minimal pockets category but not everyone is so let’s find out why.
Hiking pants are made for just that – hiking. Hikers spend most of their time walking, often at a decent pace. When you’re walking around with junk in your pockets it rapidly becomes uncomfortable.
Don’t believe me?
Toss a load of bulky keys, a large phone, a pocket knife, and a few other hiking items in your pockets. Now go for a fast walk around the block on a nice humid 90+ degree day.
Those keys and goodies in your pockets will quickly start to chafe and bother your legs.
Personally I only carry flat, lightweight items in my pockets when hiking. Over years of hiking in tons of different conditions, I’ve defaulted to actually not carrying anything at all in my pockets.
It’s easier to store it all in the backpack.
If you want pockets, though you might consider cargo pockets or other pockets located on the side of the leg. Unlike front pockets, side pockets tend to create less pressure against the leg and are usually more comfortable for carrying goodies on a hike.
Waterproof and DWR Pants
Waterproofing concerns on hiking gear is always worth considering. When it comes to hiking pants, however, waterproof is usually not an option.
Of course waterproof pants for hiking are a totally different story. We’re talking about hiking pants – not rain pants.
Nylon hiking pants are often inherently quite water resistant. Some nylon pants can be made to nearly waterproof specifications while still allowing some breathability.
But make no mistake, if water can’t get in, water can’t get out.
Trust me, you don’t want that sweat and heat from a day of hiking getting stuck in your pants – it creates jungle-like problems rapidly.
Nylon hiking pants are durable, usually windproof, water resistant and can be improved with something called DWR. Durable Water Repellent is a coating that usually used to keep waterproof shells from soaking through.
It can be and often is applied to hiking pants to create a “beading up” effect that causes water to bounce right off.
While DWR isn’t truly waterproof, it’s heavily resistant when combined with nylon pants. You’ll stay dry in all but the most soaking rains.
For daily hiking pants, weight probably isn’t an issue. For most hiking pants factors such as durability, fit, and features are more important than weight anyways.
Only when extreme activities demand the lightest fabrics do we really need to worry about weight. If you’re trail running or attempting to set a speed record then consider prioritizing weight, perhaps.
If weight truly is a concern then an extremely lightweight pair of nylon windproof pants can be added to a layering system. Using a layering system such as this for ultralight backpacking is more versatile and effective than pinching ounces on hiking pants by far.
Gussets and Articulated Knees
On better Women’s hiking pants you will hear the term “articulated knee” and wonder that the heck that means.
Simply put, it means the cut of the knee is at an angle so they are not straight. You’re probably wondering why that matters but I can assure you it matters a lot!
With the knee “pre-bent” they are significantly more comfortable to knee down with and when hiking for long periods of time they don’t rub or chafe as much. If you can get a pair with an articulated knee, do so, you will thank me.
Hiking pants with a gusset is usually diamond shaped patch of fabric that is seen in the inner thigh of the pants. Similar in function to articulated knees, they improve the comfort of the pants by giving them an increased range of motion.
This is especially important over long hikes. You will only find this feature in higher end pants like the prAna Zion or the OR Cirque pants because of the extra stitching involved in creating the gusset.
While over shorter hikes neither of these features is critical, but for anything over a day hike, getting a pair of Women’s hiking pants with articulated knees and a gusseted crotch is well worth it!
Finding the best pair of hiking pants is mostly a matter of opinion. Everyone prefers slightly different features and styles so be sure to go with your instinct.
It always helps to be able to try on the pants so look around for a local outfitter where you can find a favorite pair and then order them online if it’s cheaper.
By now you should have some idea of what features to look for and which to avoid. Now all you need to do is find the pants on our review list that sound like your favorite new pair and go get yourself a great new pair of women’s hiking pants for the coming season!
I hope this guide was helpful for finding the best Women’s hiking pants to fit your needs. If you want to comment or recommend a pair of pants I didn’t include, please use my contact form to get in touch.
Have fun and be safe out there!