This is the third post in a series on some of the initial things to consider, if you are new to hiking, to help ensure you have as comfortable and pleasant a hiking experience as possible when starting out. So far we've looked at where to go and how far to go.
Today, I want to begin the journey into the wonderful world of hiking gear. This is a very broad topic and there is lot's to cover but I am going to try and split it down into simple bite sized sections so you can digest it bit by bit at your own pace.
On the agenda today, is hiking pants and hiking shorts. I am actually editing this post nearly two years after I first wrote it and I can see by the title I put in it that it wasn't very targeted at what I was trying to get across lol 🙂
It does say it's about hiking pants though which is pretty much the ball park so, let's proceed 😉
Hiking Pants or Shorts?
OK, well this will of course depend on many factors like where in the world you live and where you plan to go hiking. This in turn opens the door to lot's of other variables like the climate where you live and the terrain in the mountains you will be hiking in. Next up, you need to think of the season and the factors that, that brings into play.
Again, this may seem like I am stating the obvious to some here but to people unfamiliar with hiking, there are some serious points to consider. Even if your climate is pretty good where you are in your nice suburban neighborhood, when you take a three hour drive out to a wide open national park and start scaling trails over hills and mountains, the weather may take on a very different dynamic.
So, with that in mind, on a particular day, shorts could be just fine for your back garden but maybe not such a great idea for when you head out to hike on the trail.
Some Key Tips
OK, the best thing to do is to read this guide on how to buy waterproof hiking pants. However, I will lay out a few key points to consider below.
As a general rule, anything made from cotton is out! Cotton will absorb moisture like your sweat or rain and will eventually be like wearing a cold wet towel, not a good idea! Ideally you want breathable and flexible hiking pants that allow sweat to wick away from your skin, through your pants and away. You will be looking for synthetic materials mostly so nylon, polyester, spandex or mix of those is most likely what you need.
Next up, you should make a distinction between hiking pants and rain pants (or waterproof pants). Hiking pants are like any other pair of pants except that they will be flexible and may have some water resistance to them. They will also have the ability to dry quite quickly should they get wet. Full on rain pants are pants you pull on over your hiking pants to really keep the rain at bay as best as possible.
Now, you can get all in one type pants which tick all boxes in one but in general, you will be going up and up in price and cost. Fine for a serious trekker but if you're new to hiking better to stick with a relatively standard pair of hiking pants that won't break the bank. You can find some top examples of good hiking pants like that by checking out the hiking pants comparison tables here.
On the matter of whether you should wear hiking shorts or pants. You can just have both! The best thing to get for hotter weather is a pair of convertible pants. You ideally want a pair of rain pants separate to use with your hiking pants if you need to.
Keep in mind the height you will be hiking to. As you go further up, it will get colder and you will also start to get more exposed to higher winds which of course can make things significantly colder. That being the case, shorts may become less appealing 🙂 In hotter weather it is hard to beat the convertible pants, I like them and use them a lot in the summer. They're lighter too and many will have some UV protection in them too which can't hurt on a hot summers day.
In conclusion, you need to judge what is best to wear based on the demands of the climate and the season. As always, if you can get advice from an experienced hiker in advance or from someone who knows the hike and route you plan to be hiking on, you should take advantage of it.
If you would like to see some more examples of good hiking pants check out the men's hiking pants comparison table and the women's hiking pants comparison table. They will give you a good idea of what you should be aiming for.
In the next blog post, we’ll take a look at some hiking shirts and tees that are good options to wear on your first hike!
If you want to go to the start of this series of posts on hiking for beginners, please click here.