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Mens Trekking Pants

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What to look for when buying a trekking pant

trekking pant

Trekking pants are tailor-made to help us navigate various challenging conditions that we may encounter on the trail – adverse weather, difficult mountainous terrain, long hours spent outdoors, the need to stretch, cross a stream, carry essentials, etc. Made of specially designed and highly engineered fabrics, these pants are light, comfortable, tough, frictionless, quick drying, stretchable, to provide us with freedom of movement, and help us to cover distances and deal with extreme temperatures or terrains with greater ease. Generally, they also have smartly designed secured pockets to store essentials. Thus, without the right pair of trekking trousers, our adventure may not be as fulfilling because of the discomfort and inconveniences that we may encounter. 

Often the terms trekking pants and hiking pants are used interchangeably. While both are outdoor pants designed to protect us from the elements and provide comfort that is necessary for navigating the trails, trekking pants are typically designed for multi-day treks and adventures and may provide protection at higher altitudes, whereas hiking pants are often designed for lighter activities such as day hikes, camping or travelling in general. Both typically have structure bearing stitches that are durable even under rough use and are equipped with buttons, zippers, and pockets that are unique to such pants. 

Hence, a good pair of trekking pants should provide us with:

  • Freedom of movement
  • Protection from sweat and discomfort
  • Protection from insects and bugs
  • Provision of comfort while walking through variable weather conditions, topography, and constantly changing temperature
  • Storage and easy access of essentials

Why should we wear trekking pants for trekking and hiking?

Hiking and trekking are activities that take us out of our comfort zone and expose us to the elements and challenging terrains over extended periods of time. Thus, we should endeavor to use the best suited trekking pants and hiking trousers to give us adequate protection and comfort while we are on the trail.

 For example, we often do not give sufficient importance to the water resistant or water repellent nature of such pants as we treat trekking and hiking pants as any other pants we buy. However, when we are hiking across hilly or mountainous terrains, the weather is often unpredictable, and in many cases, it starts to rain without any warning. For this reason, we may want to consider trekking trousers and hiking pants where the pant fabric can repel water and light showers to a certain degree and can dry quickly. 

What all features to look for in trekking pants?

Let’s uncover the features of the best trekking pants. Here are some attributes that good trekking pants should have.

Comfort and mobility.

Fabrics that are smooth on the skin are important as often we spend long hours on the trail. A key test is if you like the feel of the fabric against the skin. In addition, the pants should have light, supple, frictionless mobility, which comes from the stretchable nature of these pants. Most good trekking and hiking pants also have gusseted crotch and articulated knees, to facilitate mobility and minimize friction while on the move. A good test of the stretch is if you feel comfortable while doing a full squat or take your knees closer to your chest.  Many also have a strip of soft, felty material inside of the waistband that reduces rubbing and abrasion if you have a backpacking waist belt clipped around them.

Venting and breathability.

Good trekking and hiking pants provide adequate sun protection while retaining less heat. Here fabric plays a key role. The fabric should feel cooler and breathe well. A well-designed trekking pants would also have mesh lining in the inside of the pockets for ventilation. In some such pants, the bottom of each leg cuff has an elastic cord that allows the wearer to pull up and secure the pant legs above the calf or knee. Though not comparable to a convertible pair, this feature offers a solid, simple solution when you need to cool down in the heat.

Fit.

Fit is a function of the cut of the pants. Typically, like all other pants, fit related problems for trekking and hiking pants are with regards to size and shape of the waist band, and in-seam length. This is because people with the same waist size can have different heights. Moreover, many people have preferences for slim, regular, or baggy fits. The best trekking and hiking pants factor in these variations and often provide adjustable waist strings to eliminate the need for a belt, and mechanisms for adjustable in-seam length. 

Moisture wicking nature and quickness of drying

In any outdoor activity, sweating profusely while hiking up the trail is quite normal. Hence, pants that can wick sweat and moisture efficiently, and can dry up quickly are amazingly effective, especially because the same pants may have to be used for multiple days while on the trail. Wearing pants such as jeans, which get drenched in sweat and take a long time to dry up can be troublesome. 

Weather resistance.

You need to be clear whether the pants are suitable for warmer weather, for relaxing in the campsite post sundown, or if the pants can be used for high altitude treks and in cool weather. If not, can the pants be used along with a separate inner layer? 

Water repellent property.

While most trekking or hiking pants are not fully waterproof, all good trekking pants are water repellent to a certain degree and should be able to withstand drizzles and light rain. Typically, the water repellent nature of pants depends on the quality of the durable water repellent (“DWR”) treatment. The best pants should be able to perform even after many days of wear and tear. Under heavy rain the fabric gets soaked, but legs may remain dry. Materials such as nylon are not very absorptive, and they should dry quickly even after getting wet from a spell of heavy rain.

Lightness.

As outdoor lovers we all want to pack light and travel light and don’t want to be weighed down by the heaviness of the garment. Depending on the features, typically they weigh 260 – 400 gms. Just as a comparison, a pair of jeans may weigh up to 2kg.

Anti-bacterial.

In a multi-day adventure, we typically won’t get the opportunity to take a shower and most garments will have to be used for days, hence it is imperative to keep body odor and bacteria arising from accumulated sweat in check. Look for trekking pants that are made of fabrics with anti-bacterial properties.

Anti-bug.

It’s inevitable that in any outdoor trip we will encounter insects, bugs, and mosquitos. There are fabrics which have inherent anti-insect and anti-bug properties. In addition, many trekking and hiking pants are designed to have features to close and tighten openings to prevent bugs from slipping through inside.

UV Protection.

When we venture out and go away from the cities, we are exposed to the sun. Look for trekking pants with UPF 50+ rating which ensures adequate sun protection.

Features.

Here are some additional features that you may look for:

  • At least five pockets, of which two with zippers to accommodate mobile, protein bar, IDs, knife, sunscreen, etc. Pockets should be designed to prevent stuff from tumbling out when you are climbing or hiking along a steep trail
  • Articulated or patched knees
  • Gusseted crotch, allows for easy stretching and squatting
  • Drawstring for tightening the leg cuffs
  • Expandable cuffs to wear the pants with shoes on
  • Convertible – i.e., turning the pants to shorts

Versatility.

One issue with trekking and hiking pants is the lack of versatility of these pants. In most cases, while trekking and hiking pants are great on the trails, they are not usable for other purposes – as Friday wear, or as casual wear to parties or dinners. Also, on multi-day adventures, good trekking pants should also work well as a pair of in-camp pants or as a pair of on-trail pajamas. It should also work as a cool travel pant.

Tough and long-lasting.

Trekking pants should be durable and strong. They should last multiple trips over years and should be robust enough to withstand extreme temperatures, inclement weather, abrasive surfaces, dust, dirt etc. Nylon, polyamide and to a lesser extent polyester can be suitable fabrics. Some pants are designed to have abrasion resistant patches on the back and the knees. Good trekking pants are also easy to clean.

Style.

While it may seem that trekking and hiking pants are supposed to be highly functional, and aesthetics do not matter, we all like to wear smart and comfortable clothes. Good fitting smart garments make us feel more confident which is a key ingredient for success on the trail.

Ease of layering.

The nights are freezing cold when you are trekking up a mountain. You can easily layer your tops, but layering your bottoms is difficult. Therefore, if you wish to have the best trekking pants, you should layer it well with extra-synthetic fitting track pants, and stretchable tights or leggings underneath them. In this way, you can keep your feet warm and layered up easily.

Conclusions

The best trekking pants should have the following attributes.

  • Good absorption technology that helps stay clean and fresh by preventing absorption of liquids
  • Water and wind protection.
  • Blocks harmful rays of the sun to prevent tanning and skin damage.
  • Comfortable stretch for dynamic trek movements and climbing.
  • Moisture wicking capabilities to quickly evaporate sweat and water.
  • Elastic waistband, articulated knees, zippered pockets, etc.
  • Water repellent trekking pants are a must during any adventure activity.
  • Not too loose, nor too tight. The fabric should be stretchy for comfortable movements.
  • Trekking trousers should be lightweight.
  • Convertible hiking pants are multifunctional as they can be turned into shorts when trekking through hot and humid zones and again into full-length trekking trousers when moving through a temperate zone.

If you have the right kind of trekking pants with you, you will gain extra motivation to uncover various uncharted places on the surface of the earth!