As anyone who has ever tackled Ben Nevis in a pair of jeans will testify, heavy cotton makes everything harder work on a hike. They get heavy when wet, take ages to dry and can often rub, creating unwanted and often painful friction. It’s time to invest in a pair of walking trousers – but thankfully, with prices from just £30, you don’t have to bust the budget to enjoy the benefits.
There are many styles and types of outdoor trousers, each designed to suit different weather conditions, activities and body shapes. The most common types of outdoor trousers are classing walking/hiking designs that use durable performance fabrics to create lightweight garments that dry quickly, wick heat away from the body and don’t chafe. Many also have water resistant coatings and also protect from harmful UV rays.
If you’re looking to explore at higher altitude and in more extreme environments, mountaineering trousers are made from rugged materials, designed to withstand contact with rock faces and extreme weather conditions.
Most walking, hiking and mountaineering trousers are made from a nylon and elastane mix, but look out for brands using recycled materials to help reduce your impact on the environment.
READ NEXT: The best walking shoes
Best walking trousers: At a glance
- Best walking trousers for dry weather: Arc’teryx Palisade Pant | Buy now
- Best convertible walking trousers: Montane Terra Convert Pants | Buy now
- Best value walking trousers for men and women: Quechua MH500 | Buy now
- Best walking trousers for everyday: Patagonia Quandary | Buy now
How to choose the best walking trousers
How do I get the best fit?
All the brands featured here have detailed size guides on their websites to help you make a decision, and they also offer a range of fits depending on activity and style. Fast hiking and free-running trousers tend to be very slim fitting, while more traditional designs for casual walking are more relaxed.
In our tests, most brands were very true to size, so you can often choose your usual size. But do also remember that most feature stretch material, which can be quite forgiving if you’re between sizes. However, this stretch is really for easier movement when scrambling and climbing, rather than letting you squeeze into a more flattering size!
What features do I need?
Look for soft chamois-covered waistbands as they feel much nicer on the skin over a long walk. Many designs come with nylon webbing belts, or adjustable straps to adjust waist size, too, and if you’re planning on carrying a backpack, look for lower profile designs that sit below the waist strap.
Pockets are useful, and at the very least you need a couple of hand warming pockets and one zipped pocket for storing valuables. Check you can get to the pockets when wearing your rucksack, though. Large cargo style pockets are ideal for carrying a map, too.
A common feature on mountaineering trousers, zippered vents help let heat escape quickly. Some standard pockets also have mesh liners to do the same thing while keeping the lines of the trouser clean.
Hems and cuffs
Most walking trousers will either sit over your boots and have a small clip that attaches to laces to prevent them riding up, or they’ll be slimmer in the leg and sit on top of your boot. Look out for drawcords in the hem that can reduce the size, or even roll them up when the sun shines.
Walking trousers should be built to last, and to laugh in the face of rocks and brambles. Look for designs with reinforced panels on the knee and backside, and try to choose trousers with double seam stitching as it will last considerably longer than single.
In hotter climates you’ll need lightweight, light coloured trousers with excellent breathability. If conditions are likely to be wet and windy, a water-resistant and windproof trouser is best, although if torrential rain is forecast you may still need waterproof trousers.
The best walking trousers for you
1. Arc’teryx Palisade Pant: The best walking trousers for dry weather
Price: £125 | Buy now from Arc’teryxy
There are more rugged hiking trousers available, with reinforced panels and extra-thick fabric for climbing technical routes, but the Palisade is the ideal all-round pair for walking, hiking, travelling and even everyday use.
They’re available in both male and female fits, and the fabric – something called TerraTex stretch nylon – is lightweight, quick-drying, impressively breathable, and has just enough stretch to be supremely comfortable all day. They also pack down small and have a slim, but not skinny, fit that gives a stylish chino silhouette. From a distance you’d never guess they weren’t just casual trousers.
But the pockets do give away the fact these trousers are designed to work hard for you. They all have zips for security, and impressively they’re angled so they are still easy to access even when wearing a backpack with waist strap.
Available in seven colours (four men’s, three womens) they also boast a soft chamois-covered waistband that sits comfortably against your skin, and the metal clasp belt remains tighter for longer than all others we’ve tried. Do remember however, they don’t offer any waterproofing, so pack a pair of over trousers if the weather is wet.
Key specs – Weight: 300g; Waterproofing: N/A; Material: 94% nylon, 6% elastane blend
Buy now from Arc’teryx
2. Montane Terra Convert Pants: The best convertible walking trousers
Price: £90 | Buy now from Montane
While they might remind you of noughties gap-year travellers, there’s no denying the practicality o