Hiking and travel pants are an incredibly important piece of kit, especially since most of us “lightweight packers” will only bring along one pair for a multi-week trip. Hiking and travel pants have to keep me cool when it’s hot, warm when it’s cold, shed rain, and dry quickly. They also need to move, flex, and breathe just like my body since I cover many miles a day. Finally, my hiking and travel pants need to be durable. When I’m on the go or on the trail, I don’t have the time to stitch torn seams or patch holes.
I’ve seen a few of these “best pants” posts on other travel and hiking blogs, but they all seem to just be a copy and paste from REI’s best seller list. My post is going to be a shorter list than most, but I’ve actually worn and tested each pair of pants I will list. I’ve gone through quite a few pants that didn’t quite make the cut, but the four on my list have endured the test of time.
Before getting into my list of top hiking and travel pants, I just want to cover what I look for when searching for a pair of new pants. The pant options I have listed in this post might not be a perfect fit for you, but if you know what to look for while shopping, it will make it much easier to find a perfect pair for your frame.
- Stretch Fit: This is a key factor for comfort, flex, and range of motion. Look for a pant with ~ 10% spandex. This hampers dry time and water shedding, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off in my opinion.
- Gusseted Crotch: This is when the pants have a full panel of fabric in the crotch area. This improves range of motion and fit. I can’t wear pants without this.
- DWR Coating: DWR is a Durable Water Repellent coating. This allows pants to be breathable, yet still provide protection from a light rain. DWR coated pants with a rain kilt is all I need while hiking in a storm. Be mindful that DWR coatings fade quickly from wear and washing, so a Nikwax application will be necessary with time.
- Quick Drying: I usually only travel and hike with one pair of pants. For this reason, I need to be able to wash them in a sink and have them dry by morning.
- Good Ankle Fit: I like my pants to fit slightly close around the ankle. This keeps out cold, snow, and dust.
- Nylon or Polyester: Polyester pants will breathe better than nylon, but don’t offer as much protection. In times where I’d like a lighter polyester pant, I find myself wearing shorts. For this reason, I tend to only purchase nylon pants. Nylon pants better protect my legs from the elements and bugs, and are more durable long term.
1. Outdoor Research Voodoo Pants
These are my favorite pair of pants for tough outings in cold weather. The OR Voodoo pants use a thick nylon fabric that stays very comfortable due to the spandex stretch and a gusseted crotch. I’ve worn these pants on the John Muir Trail, through Utah’s Mighty 5, and on countless local hiking and backpacking trips. These fit true to size, with my standard 32×32 needing no adjustments.
2. Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants
The OR Ferrosi pant has been a part of my kit since 2012 when I picked up a pair for Camino de Santiago. This is the perfect pair of pants for walking and hiking in warm or humid weather. The fabric is much thinner than the nylon used on the Voodoo, and the 14% spandex blend makes the a very stretch and comfortable pant. I often wear these pants as pajama bottoms because of how comfortable they are. They were my primary pants for a 10-day trip around Japan and on a recent trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. These pants fit a bit long, so I opt for the 32×30.
3. Kuhl Radikl Pants
The Kuhl Radikl is slowly becoming one of my favorite pair of pants because of how well they handle both hiking and travel. Many of my hiking pants look like hiking pants. I can wear the Radikl around town and then hit the trail without missing a beat. The Radikl also has a breathable knit panel that runs on the outside of each pant leg, making them very breathable. I wore these pants a lot on my recent trip around Iceland’s Ring Road. These pants fit true to size.
4. Kuhl Renegade Stealth Pants
Kuhl makes a lot of pants that I really like, and the Renegade Stealth are one of my favorites. These are much thicker than the Radikl and they have less spandex. This makes them more ideal for colder climates and on days I’ll be bushwhacking or scraping rocks. This was the other pair of pants I brought with me to Iceland over the summer, and they were great to have on the colder days. These pants fit true to size.