The Adventure

What to look for in a great pair of hiking pants.

Posted by Jane Carswell on Fri, Aug 27, 2010


There are still some great hiking days ahead in the season. Heck, there are even still some great Heli-Hiking days left in the season before the snow starts to dust the peaks surrounding Banff as well as the Bugaboos and Bobbie Burns.  I find myself in need of some new hiking pants so I checked in with Bob Krysak, Retail Services Manager here at CMH to see what advice he has to offer.

Bugaboo Spires, August 26, 2010 by Lyle Grisedale

JC: Bob, are good hiking pants worth it?  What's wrong with wearing a pair of comfy old jeans or shorts?

BK: Jane, hiking pants are worth their weight in gold (and then some)! To go hiking in jeans today is like going for a long, hilly bike ride with a one-speed bike instead of 20.  You'll get there, but you'll be very uncomfortable and it will take longer.  Jeans and shorts offer little to no protection from the elements, do not move with the body and do not dry quickly.  Today's pants offer a variety of soft-shell fabrics that are nylon/ elastane based.  They are super-light and durable, water repellent and breathable.  With zippered hand and thigh pockets you can safely store your gear and the elastic waist and cuffs make the pants very comfortable.  Some pants even come with a soft lined waist area to prevent pack chafing.  Another benefit of most hiking pants today is that they are street friendly.  You can wear them all day hiking and show up at day's end at your favourite drinking hole and not look like you just crawled out of the woods.

JC: What about zip off pants?  They seem to have evolved quite a bit over the last few years.  What are the big advantages?

BK: Zip off pants used to be the rage, but you do not see as many around as in the past. The advantage is you can zip off the legs and convert to shorts on a hot day, but you have to be careful of the fit. Some zip offs have the zipper located mid thigh, so if you are muscular this can be very uncomfortable when going uphill and your legs are flexing. Most suppliers, if they have 6-7 styles of pants will now only offer one zip off/convertible. I prefer good lightweight pant in a light color that does not heat up on those bluebird days in the Alpine.

JC: Like anything, hiking pants range from inexpensive to quite expensive.  What will I get with the Cadillac of hiking pants that I wouldn’t with a less expensive pair?

BK: Well,the main difference from less to more expensive is the fabric. If you want water resistant with more breathability the fabrics cost more, as you add more pockets with zippers the costs go up also. In the end you can pay from $100-$250 for a pair of pants. The $250 will be more durable, and may be able to crossover into the Winter for use as a touring pant. We deal mainly with Arc'teryx and Marmot and they both offer a good range of styles, fabrics and price points.

JC: That seals it. I'm going shopping!

What about you?  What are your favourite hiking pants and why? Share your expertise here!

Photo of the Bugaboo Spires taken Aug 26, 2010 by CMH Summer Adventures Guide, Lyle Grisedale

Tags: Gear, CMH Experts