We are always on the hunt for the best women's hiking pants. Our team investigated over 70 pairs before buying 12 top models for our side-by-side tests in 2019. We included a variety of styles, including convertibles, softshells, and even some hiking tight options. Our expert testers hiked for miles in each pair, comparing their comfort, features, and hip belt compatibility along the way. We also subjected each model to more than just hiking, going climbing, traveling internationally, and even Spring skiing in them, because we know you will too. Whether you're gearing up for the John Muir Trail or are looking for a casual pair for travel, we have some excellent recommendations for you.
The Best Hiking Pants for Women of 2019
|Price||$89.95 at Backcountry|
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|$69.95 at REI||$189.00 at REI|
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|$79.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Hold their shape day after day, breathable, durable, deep hand pockets will hold a phone||Mobile, wide range of fit options, shed water easily, excellent pockets||Great weather resistance, mobile, comfortable, durable||Material is soft and stretchy, lightweight, deep front pockets||Great pockets, fashionable and functional, lots of mobility|
|Cons||Fits tight on thighs, cargo pocket is not very useful||Button doesn’t appear to be durable, limited color options||Not as breathable, slim cut hard to layer under||Limited features, not water resistant, slow to dry||Don’t breath well, potentially awkward fit, slow to dry|
|Bottom Line||An excellent, stretchy pair of pants that can handle almost anything.||A great bargain for a convertible hiking pant the does it all.||Best for cold weather hiking and wet days on the trail.||The most comfortable pair that we tested.||Techy tights that combine all the things we love about hiking pants and put them into a fashion-forward tight that functions on big trail days.|
|Rating Categories||Ferrosi Convertible||Sahara Convertible||Gamma LT Pant||Mountain Hardwear Dynama||Utility Hybrid Hiker|
|Comfort Mobility (30%)|
|Weather Resistance (15%)|
|Features Conveniences (15%)|
|Specs||Ferrosi Convertible||Sahara Convertible||Gamma LT Pant||Mountain Hardwear...||Utility Hybrid Hiker|
|Measured Weight (in oz)||9.5 oz||9.6 oz||11 oz||7.5 oz||10.3 oz|
|Inseam (from crotch to cuff)||31" (pant), 9.5" (shorts)||32"||32"||(Short) 30", (Regular) 32", or (Long) 34"||29"|
|Fabric||86% ripstop Nylon, 14% Spandex 90D stretch woven ripstop||Nylon||88% Nylon, 12% Elastane||96% Nylon, 4% Elastane||95% Nylon 5% Elastane|
|Pockets||2 hand, 2 back (zip), 1 side (zip)||2 hand, 2 back, 2 cargo||2 hand (zip), 1 side (zip)||2 hand, 2 back||2 hand, 2 back, 2 utility|
|Zip-Off or Roll-Up?||Zip-off||Zip-off||Cinch around ankle||Roll-up||No|
|UPF?||UPF 50||UPF 50||None||UPF 50||No|
|Integrated Belt?||Yes, internal drawcord||yes||Yes||No||No|
|Fit Features||Articulated knees, dual snap zipper fly, belt loops, movement-mirroring stretch||belt loops, built-in belt, zippered cargo pockets with internal stash pocket, gusseted crotch, multiple inseam length, petite through plus sizing||Softshell pant, breathable and abrasion-resistant, trim fit||3 inseam lengths, DWR finish, stretch waistband, elastane fabric||zippered front and side pockets, elastic waist|
Best Overall Women's Hiking Pants
Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible - Women's
The hunt for the perfect hiking pant continues, but this year the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertibles tops our list as our favorite pants. Comfortable, breathable, water resistant - we couldn't take them off! They have a feminine fit and colorful details to add a little style to an otherwise fairly plain clothing line, and the material is stretchy and moves well. They resist water well and dry fast, which is key on long backpacking trips, and they convert easily to Bermuda-length shorts. They are a go-to pair for both day hikes with a solid weather forecast and long trips in variable conditions. The mid-rise waist has a fleece-lined band for extra comfort, and it felt comfortable under a backpack with a hip belt.
The pants do feel a bit tight; however, once we got moving, we didn't have any issues. If your thighs are significantly larger than your waist size, these may not be so comfortable. When we converted them to a short, the Bermuda-length was a little on the long side, and the side pocket was too small for our tester's phone. The "convertible" style is not for everyone, but it is practical on extended trips into the backcountry when you only want to bring one pair of bottoms but might encounter a range of temperatures. For general outdoor use, this pair rises to the most occasions with consistently great performance. The Ferrosi is functional, versatile, and can be used for a variety of applications, from water sports to travel to nearly any trail objective.
Read review: Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible - Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
REI Co-op Sahara Convertible - Women's
The newly-designed REI Co-op Sahara Convertibles wowed us with their ability to offer useful features where you want it at an affordable price. We loved the thought that went into providing useful, zippered pockets, a built-in belt, and even the ability to convert these pants to shorts without removing your boots.
The material allows for plenty of movement, allowing you to do anything from rock climbing to epic backpacking adventures. It's easy to throw a base layer underneath these breathable pants for added protection, and they repel water like a champ. The Saharas were beyond comfortable and flattering for a variety of body types. We especially loved the fact that these pants come in a variety of sizes, from petite to plus size. The button on the waistband could use a bit more re-enforcement, and we'd like to see some flashier color options. Although there were cheaper options in our reviews, we feel these pants are worth every penny.
Read review: REI Co-op Sahara Convertible - Women's
Top Pick for Wet Weather
Arc'teryx Gamma LT Pant - Women's
The Arc'teryx Gamma LT is the most impressive pair that we tested from a weather resistance perspective. The softshell material is highly water resistant and quick to dry, and it works almost 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 them (they have a trim cut even after we sized up in them). We also loved in the integrated belt and the deep, zippered hand pockets.
Even though the Gamma LT is light for a softshell pant, it is still heavier and thicker than some of the other models that we tested. That made us feel a little hotter in this pair, and since they don't convert to shorts or roll up well to a cropped length, they are better for cold and damp weather than blazing summer temps. They are also expensive, costing twice as much as most of the other options in this review. But if you need a highly technical pair for Alpine conditions or cooler weather hiking, they are worth every penny.
Read Review: Arc'teryx Gamma LT - Women's
Top Pick for Comfort
Mountain Hardwear Dynama
Looking for a cozy pair of hiking pants that you can hike a trail in, scramble up a boulder, stretch out on a yoga mat, and still look put together enough to stop by the grocery store on the way home? The Mountain Hardwear Dynama is the pair for you! The material on the Dynama is buttery soft and very stretchy, and we loved doing just about everything in them. They are breathable as well, thanks to the thin material, but that also makes them more of a warm weather option than a cool weather one.
They tend to stretch out a bit over the day and have no internal drawstring or belt loops, so this is one we'd recommend sizing on the tight side so that it doesn't end up by your knees midday. The soft material is also prone to pilling. It didn't happen right away, but after about six months of regular wear, they weren't looking so fresh anymore. Even then, though, they were still comfortable. Mountain Hardwear makes a whole line of clothing in this soft fabric, including shorts and capris, a skirt, and an ankle pant. If you hate stiff and "swishy" pants and want something cozy for all-day wear, the Dynama is hard to beat.
Read review: Mountain Hardwear Dynama
Top Pick for Mobility
Prana Halle - Women's
While zip-off pants are a versatile option for hiking, the pesky leg zipper can impede your mobility and feel uncomfortable. Enter the Prana Halle. Our Top Pick for Mobility matches your every move, no matter the terrain or sport. Designed with climbers in mind, they climb and hike well, and they are stylish enough for casual wear. The relaxed fit and articulated knees allow for a wide range of movement, and the internal drawstring keeps everything in place without the need for a belt.The Halle is treated with a DWR treatment, but it doesn't keep you dry in the rain. While the material is somewhat breathable, they are a heavier pant, and you'll feel hot in these on a warm day, though the option to roll them up and secure the leg helps a bit. They are now available in a convertible version, which converts to a capri length, not a short. This model is an excellent option for rock climbing as well since it'll keep your knees covered and protected from dings. They aren't the perfect pant for all conditions but are great for climbing, bouldering, and hiking to and from the crag.
Read review: Prana Halle - Women's
Why You Should Trust Us
Our testing team is lead by Meg Atteberry and Cam McKenzie Ring. Meg hikes for a living. As a writer in the outdoor space, her adventures always require plenty of time on foot. Domestic or international, from the remote jungles of Colombia to the high alpine in her home of Colorado, she loves life on trails and is a former ambassador at Hike Like A Woman. Meg is also an accomplished mountaineer and climber, a passion shared by Cam. 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 last few years, keeping her up to date and keen on details that make the difference between a good and a great pair of hiking pants.
Testing took place over several months in the deserts of southern Utah and the high alpine of Colorado, spanning different climates, temperatures, terrain, and conditions. Beyond simple hikes, we pushed these pants to the limit by mountaineering, climbing, and scrambling in them. Additionally, we had women with a range of body types wear these pants to get a comprehensive idea of what kind of fit to expect from each.
Related: How We Tested Hiking Pants for Women
Analysis and Test Results
If you've been searching for that elusive perfect pair of women's hiking pants and have yet to find them, we feel your pain. We still have our gripes, even with our top-tested models. While trying a pair on in a store might give you a good sense of how comfortable it's going to be, it won't tell you anything about its durability or weather resistance. We can help. We chose six of the most important things a hiking pant does to score the 12 finalists considered in this review. These include comfort, versatility, breathability, durability, weather resistance, and features, scoring each product in comparison to the other models we tested. We break down our various test metrics and explain why these are important considerations when making your next purchase. We'll highlight which pairs stood out and why, and give you further recommendations based on your intended uses or hiking locales.
We always want to be sure that we are getting good value for what we pay for when we spend our hard-earned money on outdoor gear. For the most part, the price of a pair of hiking pants has a moderate range, but they don't all perform equally. Spending a little bit extra might get you more features, like zip-off legs or a more water resistant material. Convertible models cost 10-15% more than traditional pants, but you also are getting a pair of shorts along with your pants, which adds a lot of value for many hikers. Value can change based on your needs, but we like the REI Co-Op Sahara for offering solid performance across the board while costing less than most.
Comfort & Mobility
Selecting a pair of hiking pants that are both comfortable and mobile is, in our estimation, the most important thing to consider, so we rated this category for 30% of the overall score. When you're out on the trail and hiking for miles, if your pants chafe, pinch you, or impede your movement in any way, it could significantly impact your trip. A lot of effort goes into making hiking and backpacking more comfortable, and your clothes are just as important as your footwear and backpacks. The various comfort levels of each pair were often affected by the fabric, the fit, and various construction details. Here's how we rated each model on their comfort and mobility.
One standout pair in this category is the Mountain Hardwear Dynama. The material on this pair is soft and stretchy and didn't give us that annoying swish-swish feel of other harder nylon fabrics. These comfy pants are at home on the trail and around the house.
All of the models in this review have some stretchy fabric in the blend (usually elastane or spandex). Some have as little as 3%, like the Kuhl Spire Roll Up, which feels relatively stiff, and other as much as 13%. There didn't always seem to be a magic number; the Prana Halle is our Top Pick for Mobility and is only 3% spandex, and our Top Pick for Comfort, the Dynama, is only 4% elastane. You'll want to make sure there is some mixed in there, though, and you can test the material out yourself with a little "squat and leg raise test" when trying them on. Does the material pinch or stop you in any way? Can you even get down low in them? Testing that out alone in a dressing room could help you decide which is the best pair for you.
The fit of the pant can also affect the comfort level in no small degree. It's a little trickier to evaluate for this, as people have different proportions or shapes even in the same size. We tried our best by putting the various models on several women in the same size range to see if we experienced similar issues, say with the legs being too tight. For example, the Marmot Lobo Convertible pants feature a narrower leg, and the convertible zipper lies very tight around the leg just above the knee. This aspect impedes the Lobo's mobility both with and without the legs attached and was a noticeable issue for everyone that tried them on.
The Outdoor Research Ferrosi's feel a little constricting there as well for those with more muscular thighs than "average." The design of the REI Sahara takes a more relaxed and baggy approach to the fit, which is something to keep in mind if you're rocking some strong skier legs. However, the extra material often looks less flattering in the opinion of most of our testers.
If you hate the feel of a zipper rubbing against your thighs and prefer a pants-only option, we also tested many of those in this review.
We added some "different" types of hiking wear into the mix, including some tights and a pair of softshell pants. The tights ended up being less comfortable than some of the pants, which surprised us a little, as we initially assumed they would be the best. The North Face Progressor Hybrid Tight has abrasion-resistant panels that stretch differently than the rest of the material, which impeded our mobility and just felt weird.
Another fit issue to consider is where the waist of the pant sits relative to your body. While a lot of this is a personal preference (high vs. low waist), there is a sweet spot in the middle where most of us prefer to wear our pants. Too high (at the natural waist) and there is too much extra material that can bunch up under a hip belt. Too low and your hip belt is pushing your pants down over your rear. Most of the models that we tested are cut to fit right across the hip bones, which we prefer. The high-cut pairs in this review include the TNF Utility Hybrid Hiker Tights and the Arc'teryx Gamma LT. If they have a flat waistband, like the Utility Hybrids, we don't mind the high waist too much, but the others have belt loops or a belt which can impede our comfort.
As for construction, there are small details in the way a pant is made that can improve mobility, such as a gusseted crotch or articulated knees, like on the Prana Halle. This pair is for rock climbing and all of the weird ways you might move your legs, such as high-stepping or drop-knee techniques. We wore the Halle on a variety of boulders and climbing routes, and never felt restricted in them.
We also liked the movement we achieved on the Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch pant. While the legs on this one have a tapered fit, the stitching at the knees gives them a slightly pre-bent shape, allowing for a full range of motion when hiking. We found this particularly surprising since the fit was extremely awkward and tight in many vital areas, such as the thighs and hips for our primary tester.
Another construction detail that aids in comfort is the waistband. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi has a fleece-lined waist, which is comfortable against our skin and reduced chaffing. An internal drawstring is always welcome too, like on Kuhl Spire Roll-Up, as it lets you tighten the pants and not have to worry about wearing a belt, which is usually not that comfortable under a backpack. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi, TNF Paramount 2.0 and Aphrodite 2.0, Prana Halle and Patagonia Quandary models all have internal drawstrings.
When heading out on a multi-day backcountry trip, or even a long day hike, versatility is an important factor to consider. Your hiking pants need to be able to handle a change in weather conditions, from cool at the trailhead to hot on the hike, and cold again up at the summit. A zip-off pair is going to be more versatile than a roll-up model or a pant because it offers you more wear options. The materials used will also influence this category, as a pair that is highly water resistant can also be used for water sports, whereas a cotton-blend pair cannot.
The most versatile model in this review is our Editors' Choice winner, the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Convertible. These pants can convert into a crop and a Bermuda-length short, and the material offers acceptable water resistance. Both the REI Co-Op Sahara's and the Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch shed water quickly, it didn't even soak and rolled right off. Each of those pants is vastly different but offer great versatility if you're into water sports.
The North Face Paramount 2.0 Convertible is also highly versatile but not quite as water resistant. If you do like convertible pants (some people just don't), then nothing beats the option to convert to shorts when the weather heats up.
Less versatile models that we tested were the Patagonia Quandary and The North Face Aphrodite 2.0. Both offered little in the way of conversions and couldn't handle varied conditions quite as well. And while the Gamma LT brings some versatility in wet and cold environments to the table, it isn't so great for warm to hot weather. Since most people get after it in pleasant, warm temps, it was hard for us to call the Gamma very versatile, despite being great within its intended use.
Breathability is an important thing to consider in all of your outdoor gear, and we rate most of the apparel that we test here at OutdoorGearLab on this metric. When you are active, your body generates heat, which in turn leads you to sweat to cool back down. That moisture can be annoying if it gets stuck in your clothing, and even potentially dangerous in certain environments. While your body might not sweat as much from the lower half as the upper, good ventilation is still key to preventing discomfort and overheating on the trails. It's particularly important to thru-hikers, who can have issues with "crotch rot" if their pants don't ventilate well and they're wearing the same pair for weeks on end.
Hiking pants achieve breathability both through the types of materials used and the secondary features that can improve airflow. We spent a lot of time hiking in these pants in hot desert conditions, and the models that kept us cooler from a pure material perspective were, unfortunately, some of the ones that offered the least weather resistance. There seems to be a trade-off between the tighter weave fabrics that repel water, and the more open, cooler weaves that let air, and water, right through. For example, the Mountain Hardwear Dynama and The North Face Aphrodite 2.0 are some of the most breathable pairs that we tested, but they don't repel water in the least. The Outdoor Research Ferrosi is highly breathable and still has excellent water resistance, so keep this pair in mind if you need something for a tropical destination where you might encounter rain and hot weather at the same time.
Beyond the materials used, the other features that can help keep you cooler are both the roll-up and zip-off options. Merely exposing the bottom of our calves seemed to do wonders for improving airflow, both to our legs and our feet, and besides just taking off the legs, you can also unzip the legs part way to provide additional airflow. This feature made a slightly heavier pair, like TNF Paramount 2.0's, more breathable than they otherwise would have been. The mesh-lined pockets on the Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch also helped with breathability.
Hiking in the mountains can be notoriously hard on your gear, from your footwear to your backpack, and everything in between. And with the price of everything adding up, we'd like to buy a pair of hiking pants that will last a long time, without blowing out in the rear or falling apart at the seams.
When purchasing a pair of hiking pants with durability as your main criteria, look for models that feature "ripstop" or "abrasion resistant" materials. Ripstop fabric has a reinforcing pattern that stops holes from running through it lengthwise should a tear occur (it's common in tents). Abrasion-resistant fabrics resist wear from rubbing and other surface wear. This property keeps the fabric from pilling and wearing away in areas like the knees, inner thigh, and seat. The Marmot Lobo's Convertible consists of abrasion-resistant nylon, and TNF Progressor Hybrid Tights have abrasion-resistant panels on them. Unfortunately, abrasion resistant fabrics tend to be stiffer and not quite as comfortable.
To evaluate the durability of each pair, we wore them for several months in harsh desert terrain both while hiking, scrambling, and rock climbing. We snapped and unsnapped buttons repeatedly, and carefully examined all the components of the different models. We also pulled out hiking pants from our closets to see how they were faring after several years of use. The model that impressed us the most from a durability standpoint is the Outdoor Research Ferrosi. We wore them for five days in the desert, climbing on sandstone, scooting on our bums as we scrambled, and even got stuck in a rough granite off-width climb. To our surprise, the pants look good as new.
The main durability issue we experienced with the other models was some pilling on the inner legs and knees, specifically in the Prana Halle, Mountain Hardwear Dynama and Columbia Saturday Trail Stretch, as well as some snags on the softer pants like The North Face Aphrodite 2.0.
Weather resistance is an important point to think about when buying a pair of hiking pants, as you will most likely be using them out in the elements. Our legs tend to be an afterthought when it comes to protecting our body from the wind and rain, but we can personally attest to the fact that you will be very miserable if your legs are cold and soaking wet even if your rain jacket is keeping your core and head dry. The three elements to consider for weather resistance are rain, wind, and sun exposure.
The most immediate element we think of when it comes to weather is the rain. It can turn a lovely hike into a nightmare and leave you a decidedly unhappy camper. And while it's easy to whip a rain jacket out of the lid of your pack and put it on, finagling a pair of rain pants on in a hurry is no easy feat. That's why we prefer heading out in a pair of hiking pants that provide adequate water resistance, as you can continue hiking in them in a light to medium drizzle.
Water resistance is provided both by the materials used and an additional durable water repellent (DWR) coating on the fabric. By nature, nylon and polyester fabrics are hydrophobic (repel water), whereas cotton is hydrophilic (attracts water). That's why manufacturers typically do not use any cotton in their hiking pants, and while we liked the durability and comfort of the cotton-blend Kuhl Splash Roll Up, they are not at all water resistant. The Arc'teryx Gamma LT and REI Co-op Sahara are very water resistant, repelling water and taking a lot of friction and time to saturate through. These models have a DWR coating, but so do the Prana Halle and Patagonia Quandary, and they did not repel water nearly as well.
Another consideration when it comes to water is the drying time. When you get wet on the first day of a week-long backpacking trip and only have one pair of pants with you, you'll be happy if yours are quick-drying. The Saturday Trail Stretch and Sahara fit the bill for this criteria, drying out in the full sun in around 20 minutes, which is twice as fast as the Kuhl Spire Roll-Up and Arc'teryx Gamma LT, the latter of which feature a "softshell" style fabric. While those pairs resist water well, once they eventually do wet out, the soft material takes a little longer to dry.
When it comes to the wind, protecting our legs on a blustery day did not feel as crucial as our core, but is still nice nonetheless. Models with more structured fabric, like the Arc'teryx Gamma LT and TNF Paramount 2.0, did a better job of blocking the wind than the lightweight Mountain Hardwear Dynama and The North Face Aphrodite 2.0.
Finally, what people often overlook when it comes to pants is sun exposure. We worry about our shoulders and noses but easily skip over our legs when applying sunscreen. However, it is just as essential to protect them from harmful radiation, and wearing clothing that blocks those rays means we can limit the amount of sunscreen we need to use, which is helpful when backpacking for days on end without a shower to get all the cream off. You'll see clothing these days with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating, which is similar to the SPF rating used in sunscreens. A UPF 50 fabric will block most UV rays falling on it, allowing only 1/50th of the radiation to pass through. While all clothing will block some rays, typical summer fabrics have a UPF of only 6, so picking a designated UPF 50 pair of pants or t-shirt will provide much more protection. This choice is particularly important when spending time on the water, or snowfields at elevation. Most of the pairs in this review are protective to UPF 50.
With a lot of hiking pants sharing similar styling, materials, or water resistance, sometimes it's the little features that can make or break the overall functionality (and help you decide whether or not you want to purchase a certain pair). Some features, like zip-off legs, are convenient, and yet there are many hikers out there who would never touch a pair with a ten-foot tent pole! Then there are other features that most people can agree upon, like useful pockets and ways of tightening the waistband.
When it came to the zip-off models, we can get all of the legs off over hiking shoes, but they are too narrow to fit over hiking boots. Part of why convertible options are useful is the ability to change into shorts quickly, but if you have to take your boots off, it slows the whole process down, and at that point, you may as well whip on a separate pair of shorts or a skort. The only pant in our review that could convert with boots on was the REI Co-op Sahara. We did appreciate the color-coded zippers on most convertible pairs, including The North Face Paramount 2.0 and the Sahara. It can be a bit of a hassle to get the legs back on a convertible pair, particularly if you can't tell which pant leg goes on which side. By making the right side zippers red and the left side blue, you'll never make that mistake again with the Paramount's.
Another critical feature is usable pockets. Some models, like the, Prana Halle, and Patagonia Quandary, have shallow hand pockets that don't hold much and gape open when squatting down. Sometimes it's nice to walk with your hands in your front pockets, and not have to worry about losing whatever you put in them. TNF Paramount 2.0, Outdoor Reseach Ferrosi's, and Mountain Hardwear Dynama have deep front pockets that can hold our whole hand on chilly mornings.
In addition to front pockets, having another place to secure items that you want to have readily accessible is a great feature. Most of the models in this review have a side pocket, but some, like on Marmot Lobo's (below, left), are a little small, whereas others, like on the Patagonia Quandary (below, right) are large enough to accommodate a phone or energy bar.
A final welcomed feature is an internal drawstring. Belts can feel bulky and uncomfortable while hiking, particularly under a backpack's hip belt. Being able to tighten the waist without one is a great option, and many of the models in this review have one.
We put a lot of miles, energy, and wear and tear on our joints to bring you the best women's hiking pant review. We hope our side-by-side tests and thorough analysis help you in your decision-making process and that you've found a good option for you whatever your hiking objectives may be.
— Cam McKenzie Ring & Meg Atteberry