Best Hiking Pants for Women of 2020
Best Overall Women's Hiking Pants
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible - Women's
The Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible tops our list of favorite hiking pants. Comfortable, breathable, wind, and water-resistant, they work in so many situations we never have to take them off. They have a relatively flattering fit and functional details like a mid-rise waist with a fleece-lined band and integrated drawstring. The pockets are functional, and the fabric is excellent. The stretchy material shadows your every move and never feels restrictive. The pants resist water long enough for you to duck out of the rain. When they do get wet, they dry fast. They also convert to Bermuda-length shorts for hot hiking days.
These pants feel snug in the thighs, particularly for muscular or curvy women. And the conversion zipper circling your upper leg is distracting at first. The zip-off style is not for everyone, but some hikers like the ability to switch to shorts mid-hike. Others prefer to stuff a pair of shorts in their pack. The Ferrosi does come in a non-convertible style if you are in the second camp. These pants are functional, versatile, and ready for a variety of outdoor objectives, from water sports to backpacking trips to day hikes.
Read review: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible - Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
REI Co-op Sahara Convertible - Women's
The REI Co-op Sahara Convertible wowed us with their ability to offer excellent performance and features at an affordable price. We love the useful zippered pockets, built-in belt, and ability to switch to shorts without removing our boots. Their material allows plenty of movement for any adventure, from rock climbing to epic backpack trips. They breathe well when it's hot, repel water like champs, and it's easy to throw a base layer underneath when it's cold. We especially appreciate that these pants come in a wide range of sizes, from petite to plus.
The Sahara is beyond comfortable and never feel tight, but the generous cut isn't flattering for all. The button on the waistband could use reinforcement, and we'd like to see some flashier and fun color options. Though there are cheaper options in our review, these pants offer the best cost to performance ratio.
Read review: REI Co-op Sahara Convertible - Women's
Best on a Tight Budget
Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch - Women's
The Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch pants are an economical option with enough stretch to move with your every step. They breathe well on hot days and repel water effectively enough to shrug off splashes or a quick shower. With UPF 50 sun protection, they also work well on exposed trails. They're available in a wide range of lengths and sizes, so you're likely to find a fit that works for you.
It may take some trial and error to nail the sizing, though. They're cut for curves and can blouse awkwardly at the hips while remaining tight in the thighs. They also breathe so well that they don't work well on chilly, windy days without a layer underneath. The Saturdays are less durable than the other pants we reviewed, so they don't offer as much value over time. Still, with their low sale prices, they'll get you on the trail and outside in warm weather.
Read review: Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch
Best Casual Hikers
REI Co-op Taereen Pant
The REI Co-op Taereen is the perfect hiking pant for a capsule wardrobe, taking you from your bike commute to your (casual) office to the trailhead. And comfort? They're like a sleek pair of grown-up sweats. They solve the age-old challenge of fitting a narrow waist and thick, athletic thigh with a generous cut and a wide elastic waist that nips in. They're flattering too. The Taereens don't restrict your movements whether you're cranking at your desk, on the trail, or at the climbing gym. Their tapered legs are in vogue and keep your hems out of your way.
They breathe well, but their thick, durable fabric isn't suited for mid-summer heat, and narrow ankles can only fit in a few rolls. They're best suited to temperate months. They resist a few splashes but soak through quickly when it rains, taking time to dry. While they are comfortable enough under a backpack, their pockets are only useful for some cash, keys, and an ID. While they aren't ideal for thru-hikes, they can handle a few days on the trail. And we love that they make it easier for you to fit more trail days into your life.
Read review: REI Co-op Taereen Pant
Best Trekking Tights
Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tight - Women's
Leggings are all the rage these days. Unfortunately, many of them start to unravel after your first army crawl under a downed tree. The Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights buck the trend with their rugged reinforcements and sturdy but breathable fabric. Despite glowing user reviews, we were skeptical that the knee and bum patches would make any sort of sense. Color us converted. They move like tights but are thick and breathable enough to work in a range of temperatures. They dry quickly and have a comfy high waist with a drawstring to hold them in place.
Fjallraven built these pants for curvy, muscular, and tall bodies. We should have sized down. The slightly bunched fabric isn't a deal-killer for us. The thick seams around the patches also feel odd when you first pull them on, but we never notice them on the trail. And we love that they're fun. In one of their bright jewel colors with bad-babe black patches, these pants make us feel like low-key superheroes.
Read review: Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tight - Women's
Patagonia Pack Out - Women's
There is little you can't do in the Patagonia Pack Out tights. We wore them to yoga, to lounge at camp, to nap at home, and under our ski pants. Their fabric is soft, very stretchy, and breathes fairly well. They have some brilliantly designed pockets, including one zipped hip pocket and two stretchy thigh pockets that can hold a smartphone, snack, keys, or a small notebook. Though they're stretchy, we wore them for days on end without the waistband sagging. We love the way these hiking tights fit and function.
The Pack Out is thick, making them better suited to mildly warm or cool weather. And they take a while to dry out when wet. For these reasons, they aren't the best option for deep backcountry adventures. We like them for mild weather day trips, as well as around town and at home. All in all, we adore the feel of these pants and enjoy how cozy we feel doing all of our favorite outdoor and indoor activities.
Read review: Patagonia Pack Out - Women's
Best for Climbing
Prana Halle - Women's
The Prana Halle, match your every move, no matter the terrain or sport. Designed with climbers in mind, they are comfortable under a harness and hike well too. They're also stylish. We love wearing these casual pants on our bike commute and through the workday. Their relaxed fit, gusseted crotch, articulated knees, and stretch fabric make sure you never feel restricted. An internal drawstring holds the pants up without a belt, and roll-up hems help you across creeks and cool you off in warm weather.
The Halle fabric has a durable water repellant (DWR) treatment, but it only fends off splashes. While the material is breathable, they are heavier than many of the pants we tested. That works well for rock climbing since the material offers more protection, but makes them less ideal in hot weather. We wear them to work, climb, brunch, boulder, hike, and bar hop.
Read review: Prana Halle - Women's
Best for Wet Weather
Arc'teryx Gamma LT Pant - Women's
The Arc'teryx Gamma LT pants are the most weather resistance pair we tested. The softshell material is highly water-resistant and quick to dry. It works nearly as well as a dedicated pair of rain pants. They are light enough for spring and fall weather and can handle cooler temps if you can fit a base layer underneath. They have a trim cut even after we sized up in them. We also love in the integrated belt and handy zippered hand pockets.
Even though the Gamma LT is light for a softshell pant, they are still heavier and thicker than many of the other models we tested. So, they're best for shoulder seasons and rainy days. They are also expensive. But if you need a highly technical pair for alpine conditions or cooler weather hiking, this model is our top recommendation.
Read Review: Arc'teryx Gamma LT - Women's
Why You Should Trust Us
Our testing team is comprised of Clark Tate, Cam McKenzie Ring, and Kathleen Sheehan. Clark is a van lifer who moves from the desert to the mountains to the sea regularly. She hikes, climbs, runs, kayaks, and sails and demands that these pants keep up with her along the way. Cam has been climbing for over 20 years, and regularly logs plenty of trail miles to and from the crag, along with countless other adventures on foot. She has tested over 25 different styles of hiking pants over the years, keeping her keen on details that make the difference between a good and a great pair of hiking pants. As a high school cross country coach, Kathleen hits the trails and the adventure circuit in the Sierra Nevada daily during the summer and fall months. A comfortable, convenient pair of pants is an absolute must for her everyday happiness.
This crack team tested the selected hiking pants for several months in the deserts of southern Utah, the borderlands of Arizona, the high alpine of Colorado and California, and the low alpine of the Blue Ridge. Test scenarios spanned different climates, temperatures, terrain, and conditions. We pushed these pants to the limit, mountaineering, climbing, scrambling, trail running, and, yes, hiking in them. We also handed them around to all our friends to get a handle on fit.
Related: How We Tested Hiking Pants for Women
Analysis and Test Results
Sorting through the pages (upon pages) of hiking pant options is overwhelming. We get it. To help you out, we scored the pants we reviewed here, which we believe are the market's most intriguing options, on their comfort, how well they move, their breathability, weather resistance, versatility, durability, and features. Below we break down each metric, why it's essential, and which pants stand out from the crowd.
We always want a good return on our gear investments. Expensive options often have more features, like zip-off legs, water-resistant material, or more breathable or durable fabrics. The zip-off option alone usually costs 10 to 15% more than traditional pants. They also serve as a pair of shorts, which adds a lot of value for some hikers. Finding a great value for you depends on your needs, but we like the REI Co-Op Sahara for their durability and reliable performance across the board at a lower price point than most. The Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch pants are a decent pair of pants that work for light to moderate hiking, offering high value for warm weather pants that move well. They are less durable than other options, so the value is short-lived if you really get after it in this model, but they are also often on sale.
Look for ripstop or abrasion-resistant fabrics if you want long-lasting hiking pants. We recommend the durable Outdoor Research Ferrosi pant if you are a dedicated hiker and plan to gain value through longevity. After months of high-abrasion testing, the pants looked good as new. We've also worn the Patagonia Pack Out tights for years without any pilling or significant wear.
Comfort and Mobility
Hiking pants must be comfortable and mobile, so this category counts for 30% of the final score. If your pants chafe, pinch, or impede your movement, it will affect your trip and your mood. Fabric stretch, cut, and fit make the most difference in terms of comfort and mobility. All of the models in this review have some stretch in their fabric. But some more than others. We give you an idea of which of our body types work with each of these pants, but it's also a good idea to check the measurements of your favorite options.
The Patagonia Pack Out tights and REI Taereen pants top the charts in this metric. Both are incredibly comfortable for a wide range of activities, from hiking to climbing. The Pack Out relies mostly on its soft, stretchy material and a wide waistband for its comfort. The Taereen has a relaxed fit, stretchy fabric, and wonderfully clever construction that nails the tricky thigh-to-waist ratio.
Not far behind is the Prana Halle, which moves every bit as well with its stretch fabric and articulated knees. But it can stretch out with wear. It's not an issue since it has an internal drawstring, but it makes the Halle's a little less cozy. All three of these top comfort options work well for a range of curvy to straight body types and come in a petite to plus sizes.
The pants' rise and waistband have an outsized effect on comfort. Low-rise pants don't work well for hiking. Mid-rise options like the Taereen and Halle are the most common and popular. The Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights have a highrise waist with a broad band that holds the pants on your hips comfortably. The Abisko scores well in this metric despite the odd-feeling reinforcement patches because of their accomodating waist, silky fabric, and endless flexibility.
Many pants include a soft lining around the waistband and internal drawstrings, like the Outdoor Research Ferrosi. We appreciate that the drawstrings let you adjust the waist without worrying about wearing a belt under a backpack. The Halle, Abisko, Ferrosi, The North Face Aphrodite 2.0, Arc'teryx Sabria Kuhl Spire, and Patagonia Quandary all have internal waist ties.
Then there are the controversial comfort issues surrounding convertible hiking pants. Most zip-off hiking pants have a relaxed cut, keeping the zipper away from your leg to improve comfort, like the REI Sahara. They aren't often flattering. The award-winning Outdoor Research Ferrosi's takes another approach. They are narrow through the thigh and rely on super-stretchy fabric to improve comfort and mobility.
The tradeoff offers excellent movement, but the zipper rubs and leaves a bra-like imprint on some of our testers' legs. It's not painful, but we notice it. The feeling is exacerbated if you have strong, curvy thighs. If that's you, check out the non-convertible Ferrosi pants. Without the zipper, we'd expect the Ferrosi to offer incredible comfort. As it is, they move incredibly well, earning an above-average score in this metric.
Both The North Face Aphrodite 2.0 and Mountain Hardwear Dynama are very cozy and flexible pants. The Dynama, in particular, features heavenly soft fabric. While their durability and performance hold them back on the trail, they're both excellent loungers.
Venting and Breathability
When you're active, you generate heat and sweat. This can feel clammy when you're warm and give you the chills when you stop moving. Airflow is key to regulating your temperature on the trails and is particularly crucial for thru-hikers. Pants can improve airflow in two ways — by venting air through a physical opening and with breathable fabric, which lets air and moisture move directly through the material.
Pants that shine in this metric provide both excellent venting and breathability. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi's fabric is incredibly breathable. You can also zip off the pants above the knee, making the ultimate vent. The REI Sahara and Columbia Saturday Trail pants are only slightly less breathable, and the REI model also zips off. That's why we recommend these pants so highly to hard-core hikers. They work hard to keep you cool and are all excellent choices for peak summer hikes. The Sahara is the only pair we reviewed that let you keep your boots on when you convert them to shorts.
Of the pants that don't convert to shorts, many are made to be rolled and include snapping tabs to secure the folded fabric. It's incredible how much a little airflow on your ankles and calves can do to cool you off. Rolling relaxed-fit pants will also let air circulate up your leg. The thicker and less breathable Prana Halle pants have roll-up hems for hot days. The more breathable Marmot Kodachrome do as well. We like that this option gives us a breeze while keeping our upper calves protected from the sun.
Leggings tend to breathe well, and the two hiking tights we tested are no exception. The Pack Out wicks moisture away but the fabric is pretty thick, keeping us warmer overall. They are best for temperate weather and are usually too warm for summer hiking. The Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights also work in cooler temperatures but are much more breathable. They regulate our body temps in a wider range of conditions. We like them better for warm hikes.
The Mountain Hardwear Dynama and The North Face Aphrodite 2.0 are made of incredibly breathable fabric but don't have any formal venting. They are excellent choices for casual hot weather hikes where you won't risk wearing out their less-than-durable fabrics.
Your legs can be an afterthought when protecting our body from the wind, sun, and rain. They shouldn't be. If your legs are cold, wet, or burnt to a crisp, you'll be miserable even if your rain jacket or sun shirt keeps your core happy. The Arc'teryx Gamma LT repels water better than any other hiking pant we tested. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi is another good option. Both cut the wind, and the Ferrosi has UPF 50 sun protection. They top the weather-resistant chart.
While you'll need dedicated water-proof pants for a downpour, water-resistant fabrics can get you through a drizzle or buy you time to seek shelter. Many of the hiking pants we tested have water-resistance fabric, a durable water repellent (DWR) coating on the fabric, or both.
Along with the Arc'teryx Gamma LT and Outdoor Research Ferrosi, the REI Co-op Sahara pants also do a stellar job of sluffing off water. All will saturate eventually in a steady rainstorm. Water beaded briefly on the other pants we tested with DWR coatings but quickly soaked in. This is the case with the Prana Halle and REI Taereen pants. Their thick fabric took a few minutes to soak through in our shower test, though.
You also want to think about how long it takes a pair of pants to dry, especially if they're the only ones you have with you in the backcountry. The Ferrosis, Saharas, Arc'teyrx Sabria, and Saturday Trail Stretch dry the fastest. The Kuhl Spire Roll-Up and Arc'teryx Gamma LT take a bit longer but are still considered quick drying. Thicker pants like the Halle and Taereen take a while. Of the hiking tights, the Abisko is the fastest to dry.
It's nice to keep the wind from cutting right through your pants on a blustery day. Often wind resistance comes at the expense of breathability. Models with more structured fabric, like the Arc'teryx Gamma LT, often do a better job than highly breathable pants like the Saturday Trail Stretch, Mountain Hardwear Dynama, or The North Face Aphrodite 2.0. The Ferrosi defies the trend. They block the wind (and rain) while breathing well—one of the many reasons we love them.
And then there's the sun. It's easy to slather sunscreen our shoulders and noses but skip our legs. That's a problem. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common location of melanoma on light-skinned women is the lower leg (if you have darker skin it's more often found on your palms, the soles of your feet, or under your nails). Many of the pants in the review have an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating of 50 or more, which allows only 1/50th of UV radiation through. While all clothing blocks some rays, many light, summer fabrics have a UPF of only 6.
Of the award-winning pants, only the Pack Out, Abisko, and Gamma LT Softshell do NOT have a UPF of 50.
Features like functional pockets, internal drawcords, or cinches on the hem can be the difference between like and love in a pair of hiking pants. For us, it comes down to the pockets. Women's pants are finally showing up with usable versions, so we're starting to demand them — big demerits for fabric folds barely big enough for a breath mint.
The trail tights have the pocket market cornered. It doesn't hurt that their compressive nature holds our belonging tight against our legs, keeping them from bouncing around as we walk. While we've been in awe of the generous and perfectly placed Patagonia Pack Out pockets for some time, the Fjallraven Abisko pants take the cupcake here. Both have pockets big enough for any smartphone, but the Abisko includes a cloth cap. It holds our very expensive minicomputer securely without making us slide our hand past a zipper. A credit cart waist pocket and left side spot for a map or bar (both zipped) give us plenty of secure storage options.
According to online reviewers and our tests, the large Pack Out pockets do lose some elasticity over time. They are deep enough to keep your belongings secure regardless (unless you are a compulsive cart-wheeler). Other models, like the Prana Halle, Patagonia Quandary, and Marmot Kodachrome have shallow hand pockets that don't hold much of anything, including your hands. All three include a zipped thigh pocket that can hold some phones or a bar.
The Outdoor Research Ferrosi and Mountain Hardwear Dynama have bottomless front pockets that can fit your phone or your hands and a good portion of your forearms. The REI Taereen's front pockets won't secure much of anything. But they're pretty perfect for our hands. There's something about that innocent, human-first functionality that makes us smile.
The other important feature to consider is an internal drawstring. It's common for your weight to fluctuate while backpacking, traveling, or being a woman. While most of the pants include belt loops, actual belts can be uncomfortable to hike in and rarely work well under a hip strap or climbing harness. An internal drawstring lets you keep your pants in place as they stretch out or your body shifts. Most hiking pants include them. Of the award winners, only the Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch and REI Taereen pants, and Patagonia Pack Out tights do not. The Pack Out tights are tight, and don't need one; neither do the REI pants. The Taereen features an awesome jogger-style cut that gives strong thighs and muscular bums room while nipping in at the waist to hold the pants in place. If you've ever been frustrated trying to find hiking pants that give you enough room in the thighs without falling off your waist, try these out.
We consider how versatile these pants are on the trail and how versatile they are in your life. For a multi-day backcountry trip or even a long day hike, you want pants that can handle shifting weather conditions. Technical fabrics and zip-off or roll-up hems help you move from a cool trailhead to a hot hike to a cold and windy summit. For after-work hikes, short walks to boulders, or trips to Europe that will involve a trail or two, there are other factors to consider, like the style. We break down the considerations below.
The most trail-versatile model is the Outdoor Research Ferrosi. These pants can convert to a Bermuda-length short, breathe well, resist water, and fight off the wind. We feel confident heading off into the backcountry, knowing that these pants can handle it. Their trail versatility is especially appreciated on multi-day ventures, where our need for pants to handle varying conditions increases. These pants also resist stretching out after multiple days of use, which many others we tested cannot do so well. The REI Sahara convertible pants also zip off, shed water quickly, and breathe very well, but they get chilly fast in a stiff breeze.
For lifestyle versatility, the Prana Halle and REI Taereen take the cake. Both offer endless stretch, reasonable breathability, and slightly thicker fabric that provides more protection for your legs. And they look good on. We wear both of these pants to our causal offices and to get drinks with the gang. They are perfect active travel options.
The Taereen pants are a little better for working and long flights. The curvy cut doesn't need a drawstring to stay in place, and it never pitches at our waist, thus becoming our "Best Causal" option. The Halle has a tab that holds the roll and allows for more airflow. They are also more comfortable under a climbing harness, winning them our Best for Climbing Award.
While the Arc'teryx Gamma LT handles a range of wet and cold environments, it's not so great in warm weather. Since most people hike in pleasant, warm temperatures, we don't consider the Gamma very versatile.
We put a lot of miles, energy, and wear and tear on our joints to bring you this list of the best women's hiking pants. We hope our side-by-side tests and thorough analysis help you find the perfect option to conquer your adventure plans with confidence and in style.
— Clark Tate, Kathleen Sheehan, & Cam McKenzie Ring