Think a pair of jeans or tracksuit bottoms will cut it on a hike? Think again. Today's best walking trousers are lightweight, flexible, and fast-drying, with pockets for all your valuables and even knee zips to let you air out your lower legs when/if the sun comes out. Pick up a pair and you'll never look back. This guide rounds up some of the best options around now.
Whether you're headed out on a strenuous multi-day trek or a casual stroll in the country, or even if you're just planning some sightseeing that requires comfortable attire, a pair of the best walking trousers is a good choice. Add a pair of the best hiking boots and a quality waterproof jacket and you're all set for a comfortable, protected trip. Need more advice? Jump to the bottom of this article to learn about the different types of walking trousers and what features to look for.
- Browse the best women’s walking shoes or the best women's hiking boots
- And these are the best men's walking shoes
The best walking trousers to buy right now
Heading somewhere hot? If you're planning an active trip to foreign climes you're going to want practical clothes. Cue the Maier Sports Nil Trousers, which provide no less than five zipped pockets for storing valuables, including one passport-sized and another 'secret' pocket inside for keys or a credit card. They stop short of having more zips to convert them into shorts, but do have roll-up legs that fasten below the knee.
However, what we love most about the Maier Sports Nil Trousers is that they let you move and breathe. As well as being water repellant, the Dryprotec fabric is super-thin and stretchy, so perfect for ascending mountains as well as for general travel in humidity. That fabric is also windproof so works well in cooler conditions, too. Lightweight, quick-drying and with bags of stretch and security, these are the best walking trousers for active adventurers.
Jack Wolfskin's softshell Overlands make their way into our best hiking trousers guide thanks to their flexible fabric and versatile design. Available in women's and men's cuts and colourways that range from the understated to 'wouldn't miss you on a mountainside', these include pretty much everything you need from a pair of hiking trousers. The fabric is breathable, lightweight and stretchy, for good freedom of movement as you hit the trails (although we found the cut on the women's pair was a little tight around the thighs).
Should the sun emerge halfway through your trip, there's a zip-away option to free your lower legs, as well as the standard UV protection to stop you burning. There are also lots of useful pockets, including one on the leg. If you're heading off in the warm weather and want something lightweight and flexible, these are a great shout.
For the cooler months it’s important to have genuine all-rounder clothing, that’ll deal with the more challenging weather. The Creston AR Pant is a great example of fast-drying, breathable and relatively weather-resistant material, brushed on the inside for comfort and extra warmth. An understated but ingeniously cut style (articulated knees and stretch gusset are present, but invisible) mean that your movement is not restricted on the hill too. Finally, a good range of storage is present, importantly a zippered thigh pocket that’s essential when wearing a rucksack, as waist pockets are sometimes hard to access due to the hipbelt. The understated design but premium finish will serve you well for years to come, wherever and whenever you need them to. In short, these are well worth the investment.
Are you a technical trekker? If hiking and hillwalking is your thing, you'll probably already know about Fjӓllrӓven's best-selling Keb trousers. Up close the first thing you'll notice is the use of two completely different fabrics. The main one is a polyester/elastane mix that gives you silky stretch where you need it, with Fjӓllrӓven's own G-1000 Eco fabric toughening-up the legs, bum and knees, the latter cleverly articulated, which makes ascents so much easier. This brand new lighter model with fewer seams adds ventilation zips along the thighs and calves. However, it's the thigh pockets we love most; one popper, one zipped, they're the perfect place to store a phone (and maybe a small hip-flask) when hiking. Technically speaking, the Keb trousers are at the peak.
Are these the perfect trousers for urban walkers and workers? If you're after a pair of trousers that will get you to (and through) a day at work as fluently as up and down a mountain either on foot or on two wheels, the Madrona are for you. Made with cotton/nylon blend with water/wind resistant polymer coating that looks uncomplicated and relatively smart, they're rain-proof and dry quickly. There's easily enough stretch for cycling and for hiking despite there being no articulated design at the knees. So in practice, they're perfect for a walk, hike or a cycle, and for general travel when you don't want to look like a backpacker. If you're a cyclist, know that the legs roll-up easily to real a reflective inseam for extra visibility at night.
International travellers will adore its 'secret' zippered passport pocket, which takes a UK passport (though it is a little snug on entry). Though the Madrona could do with more zipped pockets, the jeans-style hip pockets keep them looking like trousers, not hiking or biking gear.
Here's an update on the classic convertible backpacking trousers, but in smart-looking grey, not khaki. The headline act is surely its zip-off legs, but there's a little more thought gone into these than usual. The zips are good quality and the tracks shielded from rain, while drawstrings on each leg are handy for fastening around hiking boots. The uncomplicated, though highly durable fabric used on the Active Traveller Stretch Zip 'N' Go is nylon, with a little elastane for stretch, though as the name suggests it comes with 'Insect Shield' repellent. That has obvious uses for travel in hot climates.
So does a breathable, sweat-proof design, though just as useful to travellers – whether up a mountain in a rainstorm or needing to do a little washing before heading off to the next destination – is that the Active Traveller Stretch Zip 'N' Go are quick-drying (just a few hours in direct sun, or overnight in a hotel room, is enough). Add a secure zipped and passport-sized pocket on the rear, a zipped phone pocket on the thigh, and a general smart look, and the backpacker classic for hikes, treks and travel is reborn.
The Salomon Wayfarers are hard to not recommend. A tapered leg minimises material around the ankle – a godsend if you’re wearing crampons or cycling – as well as reducing the ability of the trousers to snag on passing rocks/branches. This minimalism extends to flattened seams throughout, as well as neat touches like reflective highlights that add safety without a weight penalty. The four-way stretch fabric will flex rather than tear in most rough-and-tumble situations, as well as being pretty windproof, while a DWR coating will shrug off light rain and damp in general. In short, the Salomon Wayfarers may not be technical trousers, but they’ll do a fine job in most outdoor situations without breaking the bank.
Sometimes simplicity is best, and the Ineo trousers showcase that perfectly. Made from Mala Stretch fabric, these slim fit leg trousers not only offer comfort, durability and weather resistance, but also a practical, streamlined aspect that minimises snagging opportunities and weight. That streamlining delivers a host of benefits, not only stopping trousers getting wet and muddy, but also keeping the hem out of the way when mountain biking, for example. Mala Stretch is both wind resistant and water repellent, and comfortable next to the skin, while a pair of zippered hand pockets offer storage opportunities. In short, these are the type of trousers that will deliver the goods in most outdoor environments - from trekking to hiking, these have you covered.
Proper old-school materials give away the game here, a blend of cotton and nylon delivering durability and reliability for the long haul, with a touch of spandex for flexibility. There are solid design touches too, with a gusseted crotch and articulated knees providing plenty of movement over complex ground, as well as extra reinforcement around the hand pockets and back ankle panel.
In addition, the back of the waistband is seamless to prevent rucksacks from digging in, and the thigh pocket is not only the best place to keep a phone, but has been specifically designed to fit one. Nepal inspired trims soften the tone a little to make these perfect for all-season, all conditions outdoorsing - especially at the harsher end of the spectrum, where the durability here will pay dividends.
Pordoi SO Pants won't be for everyone, but if the cut suits, these could be your go-to outdoor trousers for all seasons. Wind-defeating softshell will come in handy all year round, reasonable rain-deflection without wetting out or chafing, and slim cut around the ankles along with a gusseted zip will minimise flapping in hoolies. Mammut has deployed a technology it calls Mammut Phase Weave, which minimises seams, as well as combining fabrics for the best performance, but without the bulk of layering. As with the Arc’teryx Russet walking trousers, pockets here are positioned to avoid fouling a climbing harness, and Mammut has added a flat waistband to enhance all-day comfort under a harness or rucksack hipbelt.
What are the different types of walking trousers?
Also known as trekking trousers, this type of active clothing can be split into sub-categories depending on the fabric they’re made from, the fit and the features.
Softshell walking trousers, for example, are commonly made from synthetic fabrics. They’re often windproof and rain-resistant, but not fully waterproof. You can buy them with a mesh or fleece lining, and wear them over base layer leggings in winter. People tend to wear softshell trousers during winter walking and hiking.
You can also buy hardshell walking trousers, which are hard-wearing and breathable, providing impressive protection from wind, rain and rough and tumble. These tend to be worn during winter, or in environments when you’re susceptible to harsh weather and need a sturdy extra outer layer over your base layers.
The best hikinh trousers are usually made from blended fabrics, and are suited to pursuits such as backpacking, hiking, trekking and robust outdoor walking where you’ll be encountering varying terrain and surroundings.
Common materials here include polyester or polyamide and cotton, which are used to construct trousers that are tough yet feel soft against the skin. You can buy walking trousers that are resistant to thorns, brambles and even mosquito bites, while any with a wax coating put in a good water-repellent performance.
Due to their lightweight design, walking trousers can be rolled up and stashed neatly away in backpacks, making them the ideal choice of lightweight clothing for backpacking holidays, hiking trips and general adventuring.
How to choose the best walking trousers for you
From walking trousers with zip off legs that convert longs to shorts in seconds, through to multi-pocket trousers that have a space for every outdoor gadget, this activewear hero is a game changer when it comes to trekking.
When choosing, consider what weather and terrain you want to wear your trousers in. Also, think about how you want them to fit and how important style is to you, as well as how many pockets you need. For example, are you hoping a wealth of pockets will suffice in place of a backpack?
There’s also the question of breathability. Highly breathable hiking trousers are great for keeping you cool when trekking in hot weather or for long periods, but this isn't always necessary. We mention this feature in particular because it can increase the cost of trousers, so you might be spending more than you need to.
Fit and style are down to personal preference, but the majority of walking trousers are styled on the looser side – when striding in the wilds or clambering up hills, you want to feel as comfortable as possible. And remember, you can tighten up the belt fastening on your trousers, but you can't magically make them bigger.
Another big consideration is budget, and exactly how technical you need your trews to be. Serious hikers should consider technical walking trousers from the likes of Fjӓllrӓven, Vidda Pro, Montane and Arc'teryx. Their use of the latest tough, weatherproof yet breathable fabrics – as well as features like articulated knees and stretch gussets – put them a cut above, though they're generally expensive.
For more casual walkers and hikers, check out brands such as Jack Wolfskin, Maier and Saloman. Even these more basic walking trousers are much better than a pair of jeans – which become heavy and uncomfortable in rain, but are often more casual in design, with everyday wearable credentials.
For travellers and adventurers after something they can wear around the world, it's still difficult to look past styles like the Royal Robbins Men's Bug Barrier Active Traveller Stretch Zip 'N' Go and Berghaus Explorer Eco. Trousers that convert into shorts are something of a backpacking cliche, but there are good reasons for that. If you've either a small budget or you're trying to build a capsule wardrobe for a long trip and still be ready for anything, these two-in-one garments are worth their weight.