Trekking pants are a key part of your trekking kit but are often ignored by many. I have seen a lot of people wearing regular cotton pants and denim jeans for trekking which is totally eye catching. We tend to ignore them but a great pair of trekking pants will offer you comfort, freedom of movement, durability and versatility to perform actions. If you are ready to spend 1000 bucks for your regular cotton pajamas then why not buy a trekking pant which definitely can be used casually too and will look more cool than your pajamas. Although, in modern days, we have seen a lot of improvements recently, the pants available today are far more comfortable than the old ones. Moreover these trekking pants are lightweight and offer great breathability. Although there are many factors to consider when you are choosing the best pair of trekking pants. We will discuss what are the types of trekking pants and what you should look while buying one.
TYPES OF TREKKING PANTS
In general, there are more or less three types of trekking pants based on their design. We will discuss them in brief without going into the pros and cons. Because it will solely depend upon you which of these you are more comfortable with.
- Standard Trekking Pants
These trekking pants are similar to your usual pants except with more functionality and design. These are great for trekking because they keep you warm and protect your legs from abrasion from rocks and thorns. Also these pants can be worn casually. But in case you are opting for one of these, our recommendation would be to pack a pair of shorts as well. These trekking pants can be used in warm and sunny weather conditions.
- Convertible Trekking Pants
These trekking pants have zippers on each leg, usually above the knee. You can remove the bottom legs of the pants which enable you to turn it into shorts. I personally like these pants because of the versatility this style offers, I don’t have to carry shorts and plus it saves me space and reduces weight in my backpack. Moreover, you do not need to remove your pants to wash the legs- the part which gets the dirtiest. You can just remove the bottom and wash it, if required. Opening the leg zipper halfway during the trek can work as a vent.
But if you have started with your trek and in midway willing to change them into shorts, then definitely you will have to take off your shoes, which takes the same amount of time. Moreover, you can feel chafing at the zipper and there is a visible seam above your knees.
- Roll-up Trekking Pants
Roll-up trekking pants are the third and the last type. These pants come either with buttons on the lower leg or elastic in the cuff. However, the purpose of both are the same, to change the pants into capri style. These will offer you relief if trekking in warm conditions and changing into a capri style is much easier than convertible pants. Although, we can roll-up other types of trekking pants too but this feature surely keeps the bottom leg in place and as long as you want it.
But it is a fact that many sellers or shopkeepers will offer you with either the standard type or the convertible ones. These are easy to find and are used more commonly.
QUALITIES OF TREKKING PANTS
This should be the first thing to check whenever you are buying your next trekking pants. Since there has been a major advancement in the fabric/material quality of trekking pants. The two main materials which are used are nylon and polyester in trekking pants. These two fabrics are mixed and matched with other to give more durability and breathability to them. If you are looking for a trekking pant which offers more comfort and is stretchable, go for nylon fabric mixed with some spandex or elastane. Also the material of the trekking pant will decide its usage as per the weather, for a summer trekking a light fabric will be used which offers more breathability and is wick moisture and during winters, a heavier fabric will be used to keep you warm. And as mentioned in our other blogs also, AVOID COTTON.
Trekking pants are used very roughly and are dragged across rocks and thorns, hence it becomes very important to have a good quality fabric trekking pant.
A common type of trekking pant is the lightweight nylon softshell which gives durability and breathability and protection from windy and wet weather. Remember, you want a strong stretch fabric that will enable you to move comfortably. Never compromise on the quality of the fabric because it will decide how long you can wear them. A high quality trekking pants will feel blanket soft when touched and makes no sound when you rub the material together. And low quality trekking pants are made from cheap nylon which is prone to rips and is stiffer, harder and makes sound while walking.
If you are looking for a good pair of trekking pants then invest a bit more and buy a quality pair instead of dealing with the hassles of cheap quality ones. The good quality trekking pants definitely last longer and plus you will enjoy wearing them.
The second quality which you definitely need or put into consideration is the weight of the trekking pants. Although for many trekkers, the weight of their pants isn’t a top consideration. Maybe for someone who is a day hiker, the weight won’t be an issue and likewise for the fabric of the pants but for an average trekker, who is going out for a week and more, the weight is equally important as the fabric is.
But in general, during a summer trek you definitely want to consider something lightweight which can offer breathability and keep you cool. And for winter trek, the fabric would be thick which means it will be heavier so it can keep you warm. When you are buying your trekking pants, consider something as light and efficient as possible. But as mentioned, the fabric used plays the most important role.
- Right Fit
Everyone has their own preference when it comes to fitting but everyone prefers trekking pants which are relatively form fitting, but not restrictive. However the first and foremost thing which you should check is for comfort and mobility. A little looser fit is perfectly fine but we have noticed that too baggy pair of trekking pants make it heavier and increase resistance. Baggy pants can get caught on trailside bushes and can annoy you if you do a long distance trekking. And on the other side, if the pants are tight fitted then they cause chafing and limited mobility as well.
In short, get that pair of trekking pants which are not tight and not too baggy plus you get comfort and mobility at the same time. Pants with articulated knees and gusset near the crotch area will be the added advantage.
Although, your summer trekking pants will be more baggier fit as compared to the winter trekking pants because you will need ventilation during summers. Also if you find something which is a mix of spandex fabric then those pants will be perfect for any kind of treks because spandex fabric offers you that extra mobility which only nylon or only polyester material will never give. Overall, what we are trying to say here is that aim for what feels comfortable to wear and give extra attention to the knees and crotch areas. If you have to pay a little extra to get articulated knees and gusset then don’t hesitate to do so.
As like any of your other trekking clothes we want your trekking pants to be breathable as well. Why do you need breathability? Well it’s very simple to explain, breathability ensures you let your legs breathe which means sweat can wick away from the skin. In addition, good breathable trekking pants tend to dry out quicker if they get wet. Your trekking pants are definitely going to get wet so the quicker they dry off the better it is.
While you are purchasing trekking pants, you can just look for ventilation zips.
- Water Resistance
If you are considering waterproof trekking pants then let’s be very clear you won’t get it. You can definitely get a water resistance trekking pants which can work well in little drizzle conditions but if it starts to rain heavy then you need to take out your rain pants. Trekking pants are not designed to get waterproof protection. Water resistant capability is provided by DWR ( Durable Water Repellent) coating, this is applied on top of the material and beads the water letting it roll off. But this coating won’t last forever, you will need to re-do the coating if you want to keep the water resistance working.
Never rely on trekking pants when it comes to heavy rain or even a normal rain, they can definitely work when it’s a little shower. In summers treks, you can avoid this because if your trekking pants are breathable and even if they get wet, they can dry off easily but this will work more during monsoon or winter/snow. But this will again depend upon the terrain you’re trekking on.
You should also check for the windproof quality of trekking pants and consider it when you are buying a pair of trekking pants. However this is more or less covered by the material or fabric used and waterproof capability also helps a bit. But in case you are trekking during winter or snow treks, then you can expect wind and that’s where a windproof trekking pant will trap the heat inside and keep you warm.
But this will depend upon where you are trekking i.e which weather condition you are going into. If you are going during summers, then you like to avoid this but it will come into use during winters.
What’s UPF? Simple it’s Ultraviolet Protection Factor. Don’t get confused with SPF (Sun Protection Factor), it is for skin but UPF is for clothes. UPF is a clothing rating that works by indicating the number of units of ultraviolet light can item of clothing let’s in through the fabric. So for example, if the SPF rating is 60, so if 60 units of ultraviolet rays fall on the cloth then only 1 unit will pass through to the skin.
While all garments naturally will provide some element of protection from the sun. But when you are trekking on high altitudes in the summers, protection from the sun is important and that’s where this UPF rating of your trekking pants will come into function. But it’s more advantageous for those people whose skin is sensitive and get burned easily even with very less exposure.
Several fibres such as nylon and polyester, both do a great job of repelling the sun’s rays. But having a UPF rating is something to be considered as a part of your trekking pants buying guide when you are trekking in warm and hot temperature.
You all will be thinking why color has been put up in the list but trust me it is important. Although it is overlooked when selecting the trekking pants. Most trekkers pick the color based on style i.e which color looks good on them. But color can make a big difference in reality. You have quiet few options to choose from, keeping in mind, dark colors absorb heat and keep you warm so they are ideal for winters and light colors are good for summer treks since they reflect heat. Grey, beige and cream color are the ideal ones for warm temperature and dark green, dark blue, black or brown are perfect for winters. You really need to look into your trek conditions and choose the color accordingly.
Additional Features to Consider:
Pockets are a must on any trekking pants in my opinion, and have 2 pockets as standard. These pockets will be zipped in many trekking pants to increase water resistancy. Rare back pockets are also common. But in my personal preference if the pockets are deep, it’s an added advantage. However many trekking pants have two large cargo pockets just below the standard pockets, they are good for storing cell phones, snacks, wallet, sunglasses, cap etc while trekking. But also having too many pockets can add weight to the pant because then we tend to fill the pockets with as many things as we can. Always go for trekking pants with more pockets and allow a deeper area to store few things which comes handy while trekking.
- Attached Belt
A lot of trekking pants come with an attached belt and a lot of people like having a permanent attached belt. But the problem with the permanent attached belt is you cannot detach it from the pant. I personally don’t like attached belt pants because of the fact that I have to always wear a belt and sometimes it bothers me. However it is your own personal preference while choosing the trekking pant, just check with the belt is permanent or can be detached.
- Elastic Waistband
This additional feature comes very handy but not all trekking pants have this feature. Elastic waistband allows you to move and flex which provides more flexibility yet a lot of people dislike it. So this choice really comes down to your own personal preference.
- Inner Gaiters
Many trousers/trekking pants come with detachable inner gaiters and come with extenders at the bottom. They are easy to wrap over your trekking shoes and moreover these gaiters are not even visible, they are tucked inside the pants. It will stop snow from getting into your shoes. The main reason to check if the trekking pant has inner gaiters already is just to save you that extra money which you will spend on buying one later. Plus, you won’t require any adjustments or fixes like you need in external gaiters. Also it saves space in your backpack and makes it light too.
- Articulated Knees and Gusset
These are two very important additional features which you should definitely look at when buying trekking pants. Trekking pants with articulated knees creates a natural bend in the knee area of the pants while walking which allows more comfortable fit and provides freedom of movement as compared to a standard pants.
A gusset is a patch of diamond shaped fabric into the crotch area that runs along the inner thigh of the pants and replaces a standard seam. These additional features will just make you feel more comfortable. We suggest you check for these and this will be an extra advantage for your trekking.
I would recommend everyone to have two pairs of trekking pants, a summer pant which are lighter to keep the ventilation and a winter trekking pant which are a bit heavier to keep you warm.
So your summer trekking pants should be light and the convertible ones where you can turn them into shorts. I personally like that, I hate to carry an extra pair of shorts because in case you have to change then you need to find a place to change into them and sometimes when you have female trekkers then it gets difficult.
And for winters, I prefer a trekking pant with a tougher material, they should keep you warm while maintaining the breathability.
Things which I want common for both pairs are-
Atleast 5 pockets including front and back side and preferred zipped pockets.
Breathability is important for both summers and winters.
Material which I like is a mix of nylon or polyester and spandex. It allows more stretch which increases mobility.
Always look for ventilated zips.
And both these pairs of trekking pants combined with a rain pant will keep you covered in every weather condition.
Trekking pants are an important part of your trekking gear and there is no doubt about that. With so many options available these days, you can get good quality pants at affordable prices. I really hope this article helps you to narrow down your options and get you the best.