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What Trousers Should I Wear for Hill Walking?

what trousers should i wear for hill walking

So you’re a newbie to hill walking – you’ve got the bug – but you don’t quite have all the gear. Walking boots – tick, jacket – tick, GPS mountaineering watch – tick. But those jeans of yours just won’t cut it!

Or maybe you are a hill walking extraordinaire who owns a pair of walking trousers. They might not be falling down around your ankles but they’re certainly letting you down in other areas.

An ordinary pair of trousers will not do. A happy hill walker knows that the right gear is a big part of the experience. Here’s our guide to provide you with a leg to stand on.

What trousers should I wear for hill walking? The bottom line is:

You should wear hill walking trousers that are lightweight, comfortable, durable, breathable, water-repellent (at a minimum), wind-resistant and have a good UPF for sun protection. Oh and did I mention looks? They’ve got to look good too! You wouldn’t want to clash with all that gorgeous scenery around you, would you?

Now, Let’s talk about some of those properties in a bit more depth.

Why should they be lightweight?

Lightweight designs ensure that they will be comfortable enough for you to wear all day and they will be versatile enough to wear in various weather conditions. They’ll also dry out quickly if you get caught in a shower but will remain cool enough to leave you feeling happy come rain or shine.

However, be careful that they aren’t so lightweight that they don’t provide any protection from nettles or minor scrapes on bushes/tree branches. The lightest (and cheapest) designs can rip with the most minute level of abuse. My advice here is to think big brands like: Montane, Mammut, Berghaus, North Face, Colombia, Mountain Equipment, Fjallraven, etc!

Read about our best lightweight picks here.

What fabric should hill walking trousers be made from?

Natural, synthetic, mixed fibre, eco-friendly and more… whatever you choose, I’d say the top priority is that the fabric is breathable. It will help you maintain a comfortable body temperature come rain or shine.

Common material mixes in high-quality products are a mix of:

Nylon and Elastane or Polyester and Cotton

Both composites are hard-wearing however, I prefer an elastane mix for its elastic properties.

Manufacturers like to ‘brand’ their material mixes, for example, Mountain Equipment uses a blend of 92% nylon and 8% elastane called ExoLite 210, in their time-honoured Ibex softshell walking trousers.

Additionally, the weave is important too, especially if they are a tighter fit. Stretch fabric is a good idea as it can give you a lot of flexibility, which is useful because you never know when a hill walk will turn into a hill scramble.

If you are concerned about the environment enough to let it influence your choice of trousers, check out how the fabrics are made.

As you might expect in the outdoor adventure market, there’s a growing demand for eco-friendly gear. The good news is, if you want to enjoy nature without unnecessarily harming it,  there’s a growing choice out there now. We recently rated the Berghaus Explorer Eco as our green choice in our guide to the Best Lightweight Walking Trousers.

How can I tell if they will be comfortable?

Stretch and fit are important factors. Make sure they have enough movement in areas that matter, like the knees and crotch. Some companies offer articulated design around areas like the knees, while others go for a looser fit to overcome the manoeuvrability issue.

If you’re not trying them on before buying, then it might be an idea to get an elasticated waistband (partial or otherwise) or at least a waist with belt loops.

Alternatively, order a couple on Amazon using their 1-day prime shipping and send the one the doesn’t fit back for free. If you don’t have prime, just use their free trial and cancel it before the end of the 30 days.

Make sure they are durable

They need to be if you are going hillwalking because you won’t know what obstacles you might come across on your travels. Top tip: avoid stepping on flat rocks..!

Choose trousers that are made from fabric that won’t easily tear, Synthetic materials such as G-1000 (Fjallraven’s composite of cotton and polyester) or polyamides are a good choice. Well designed trousers have also include reinforced areas in higher abrasion areas such as knees and rear end!

Are they practical for YOUR needs?

Trousers, three-quarter length cropped or shorts? if you aren’t sure which to take or you want to pack light, then why not buy a pair of convertibles?

Convertible walking trousers are especially practical in temperamental weather conditions where you might want to unzip rather than get changed.  Also a real plus in areas where you might have sunshine during the day and midges at night.

Plenty of pockets are a practical addition too. Zipped pockets are a plus as they let you focus on the journey and not whether you’ve still got your keys. A variety of sizes are good too so you’ve got a place for your mobile, maybe a map and those keys!.

Do they need any additional features?

You might often find yourself in a ‘four seasons in one day’ scenario while hill walking. The weather at the bottom of the hill isn’t going to be the same as at the top, so having a pair of trousers that are wind-resistant and water-repellent are a good idea.

More manufacturers are offering sun protection now too, which might be worth having if you are often out on the hills in sunnier climes.

Parting thoughts

You would be choosing a great pair of trousers for hill walking if:

  • They are so lightweight that they feel like a second skin, but they protect you from the flora and can dry quickly in showers.
  • The fabric is breathable so you can concentrate on the adventure, not on how clammy or sweaty you are.
  • They are made to last.  It’s hard enough to find a good pair of walking trousers, it’s undescribably annoying finding a tear after one trip up the hill.
  • You have a place for all the gadgets and bits and pieces you want to take on the journey. Good pockets give you freedom and peace of mind.
  • They are suitable for unpredictable weather conditions. Water-repellent, wind-resistant and sun protection are all assets when the weather on the hill can change in the blink of an eye. 

I hope this has been helpful. Whether your current trousers are on their last legs or you simply need a bit of guidance in choosing your first pair, check out our guide to the Best Lightweight Walking Trousers here.

See you on the mountain.