Hiking pants need to be lightweight, protective, keep you cool and store handy possessions. We found which ones get the balance right.
First Ascent men’s utility pants
Features The comfortable soft band on the inside hip is a nice touch and the zip-off legs are a lifesaver in hot conditions. The pants have seven well-sized pockets (one more than the others we tested) with one zippered for your valuables. The fabric is breathable and quick drying (useful for river crossings), and I like the khaki-green colour (one of three they come in).
Material These pants are fairly light and the fabric smooth on the skin so it won’t irritate you when climbing up a mountain. The UV-resistant fabric is also strong enough to handle any bundu-bashing adventure.
Verdict Comfortable, durable and practical, these pants tick all the boxes and were my favourite of the lot.
Maxed Terrain micro-twill pants
Features These pants are the lightest of the lot, which, considering you’ll probably be huffing and puffing in them, I really like. The hip pockets are made of thick mesh (the kind you may remember from old swimming shorts), and the pants can also be converted into shorts. The semi-elasticated waist ensures a decent fit and there’s one zippered pocket.
Material The extremely lightweight and thin fabric is ideal on a hot day but is more likely to tear too, which could limit what you might decide to put them through.
Verdict Offering the best value of the men’s pants, these would be perfect for the occasional or casual hiker who won’t test them to their breaking point.
Cape Storm men’s tech long pants
Features These pants have zippered ankles for ventilation but can’t be converted into shorts. In addition to normal front pockets, there are two other pockets for smaller items such as emergency cash or a credit card (one is zippered and the other is velcro). The pants also come with a belt and have zippered back pockets.
Material The fabric is coarse and grainy and not very breathable. It felt just a few steps up from covering my legs in plastic bags.
Verdict With no zip-off legs and relatively thick material, I got very hot on my hike. They are almost the same price as the First Ascent pants but pale in every other comparison.
Mountain Equipment women’s approach pants
R1 399, adventureinc.co.za
Features They’re very lightweight (just 210g), making them ideal for packing on longer multi-day hikes. There are two deep front pockets, one deep back pocket and, my favourite feature, a microfleece-lined waistband for extra comfort. The pants fit loosely around the legs with room for movement and have a slim, more feminine style.
Material Soft and light, these pants don’t feel scratchy or too hot.
Verdict The lined waistband makes all the difference. The pants are quick-drying and ideal for multi-day hikes when rain and wading across rivers is part of the adventure. I did miss the option to zip off the bottoms but these were still my favourite of the three.
K-Way jagger joggers
Features Relaxed on the thigh and tighter around the calves, these joggers are well fitted. There is also a drawstring to secure the pants and zippered pockets to carry small essentials on the trail.
Material They’re soft, which means they might snag on thorns but are super stretchy and easy to move in.
Verdict These are more activewear than typical hiking pants. I found them a bit warm so they are better for more wintry pursuits. The reflective gold detailing also made me feel a little like Kim Kardashian, and I don’t think they’re the most flattering, but they make up for it by being incredibly comfortable.
First Ascent ladies trip zip pants
Features There are three ways to wear these pants: as shorts, calf-length capris or long trousers. Articulated knees facilitate better movement and there are six pockets – the side pockets on the thigh are the most practical. The semi-elasticated waistband provides an easier fit, plus there’s a belt, and the wide bootleg fits easily over serious hiking boots.
Material Quick-drying, UPF30+ enduro fabric promises to reduce the risk of rips and tears. It’s not the softest, but not hard or scratchy either. In fact, these pants feel the thickest and most durable – I wouldn’t be concerned about snags out in the bush.
Verdict A reliable pair of pants that will work equally well for day hikes and longer trips in variable weather conditions. In terms of mobility, though, you might find them restricting when doing hardcore mountain climbs and lunges (a bigger size might be better).
This gear review first appeared in the February issue of Getaway magazine.
Our February issue features 12 of the best tented-camps around the country, fun-filled water adventures in Northern KZN, Madagascar by motorbike plus a guide to finding everyday magic in underrated Lisbon.