The nation’s paths and pavements have taken a serious pounding during lockdown, with millions of miles walked to relive the boredom, keep fit and see friends. Taking a stroll is free, great for all ages and doesn’t require much in the way of equipment, but if you’ve been bitten by the hiking bug and want to explore further afield it’s wise to invest in a few choice items.
A sturdy pair of walking boots top the list, closely followed by a waterproof jacket but for absolute comfort whatever the weather you should invest in a good pair of walking trousers. Few things are more miserable than cold wet jeans when you are miles from home, so a fast drying, breathable and water repellent trousers are a must. The latest fabric innovations boast multi-directional stretch and are ridiculously comfortable, with impressive levels of adjustability to make sure they don’t irritate during long hikes.
We’ve has stomped and strolled as far and wide as lockdown has allowed, testing everything from impervious waterproof shells, lightweight breathable summer options (and yes, it was freezing!), durable adventure designs for serious hiking and bargain pairs that prove you don’t need to spend big to enjoy decent kit.
What are the best walking trousers to buy?
The Patagonia Point Peak Trail Pants (£120) is our favourite pair of walking trousers, offering a close-to-perfect combination of comfort, durability, style and eco-credentials.
By far the best value walking trousers available in 2021 is the Quechua MH500 (£30) from Decathlon. They prove you don’t have to spend big to find supremely comfortable and flexible walking trousers that also look the part. If they had more waterproofing they’d be hard to criticise at all.
With superior waterproofing and full length zips making them easy to get on over boots, the Berghaus GORE-TEX Paclite Shell Overtrousers (£120) are the best over trousers for outdoor adventures that stuff down to the size of a tennis ball, meaning you can throw them in your backpack and forget about them…until the heavens open.
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Patagonia Point Peak Trail Pants
WIRED Recommends: The most comfortable hiking trousers
Waterproofing: PFC free DWR | Main material: Recycled nylon | Weight: 442g
The most comfortable hiking trousers we’ve worn. Designed for year-round use, Patagonia’s Point Peak Trail Pants (£130) have a slim cut with plenty of stretch, but unlike some mountaineering brands hi-tech offerings they thankfully feel more trouser than extra-tight legging style hybrid.
The waist and hem can both be adjusted for added comfort, and they just feel great to wear, with no danger of chaffing. As far as storage, the trousers have six pockets – four of which are zipped for added security – and we appreciate the hidden lace hook in the hem, that attaches to your walking boots to prevent them riding up.
While not as waterproof as a pair of over-trousers the Point Peak Trail Pants have Patagonia’s tried and tested PFC-free Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finish, meaning splashes and – all but the most punishing of downpours – simply runs off your legs. It ensures all-day comfort and unless the weather is really filthy – in which case a pair of lightweight over trousers is needed as well – you’ll stay perfectly dry.
As we’ve come to expect from Patagonia, sustainability sits at the centre of all they do, so it’s little surprise these trousers are made using a recycled nylon fabric. It also conforms to Bluesign, an industry standard that ensures fabrics are made as eco as possible. The sewing is also done in Fair Trade factories, which ensured better working conditions and wages. And don’t forget, they have an excellent no-quibble returns policy and can also offer repairs, which helps justify the investment pricing.
Pros: Superb comfort; good style; sustainable design
Cons: Nothing of note
The best value walking trousers
Waterproofing: n/a | Main material: 85% Polyamide, 15% Elastane | Weight: 300g
We have a huge amount of time for Decathlon’s democratic approach to sport, that helps to give everyone, regardless of budget, the chance to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. They now boast a wide range of in-house brands – from very basic first-time gear to advanced kit for serious mountaineering – and as a result features and fabrics developed for the top of the line (which is still more affordable than most) are now trickling down to the mass market.
And there’s no better example of this than with the MH500 (£30) trousers that look – and most significantly – perform like a pair of walking trousers we’d happily pay twice as much for. They offer a clean-cut profile with slim, but not skinny fit and a design that does not suggest they’re a budget option. They look good and feel good.
The bi-stretch synthetic fabric is super light and forgiving, offering plenty of movement for walking, scrambling, and, as we discovered, climbing trees and building rope swings in the forest. They’re £30 so compromises are to be expected; there’s no real waterproofing for a start, but they will handle a light shower, don’t get uncomfortably heavy when wet, and dry surprisingly quickly. They also lack any air vents, which may not be idea for fast hikers.
The MH500 come with a simple, but functional belt, silicone waist band strips that help prevent tucked-in shirts riding up, there’s drawstrings on the ankles for adjustability and all four pockets are zipped.
Pros: Comfortable; stylish; adjustable; cheap
Cons: No air-vents; no waterproofing
Womens: £30 | Check price on Decathlon
Mens: £30 | Check price on Decathlon
Berghaus GORE-TEX Paclite Shell Overtrousers
The best over trousers for wet-weather hiking
Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Paclite | Main material: Nylon | Weight: 228g
These brilliantly versatile over trousers are light, breathable and extremely packable, plus they’re Gore-Tex, so keep you dry no matter how soggy the conditions get.
Gore-Tex Paclite is a completely waterproof membrane that is bonded directly to the tear-resistant rip-stop outer nylon shell. A good quality pair of ski or mountaineering trousers will typically have three layers, but by losing the third inner liner weight is significantly reduced and they can pack down to not much bigger than a tennis ball.
Unlike many over trousers that tent to look a bit billowy, the Berghaus Paclite (£120) are impressively slim. And while you may feel restricted if you have huge jeans on to start with, if – as they’re designed for – you are wearing a modern pair of light weight walking trousers underneath, you won’t have an issue.
Extra room is often needed to make it easier to pull them on in a hurry, but thankfully these have full length, thigh high zips on each leg to allow even the largest walking boots swift passage through. The zips are well covered and there’s a choice of two poppers to taper the trouser leg to fit your boots.
They’re more breathable than a standard plastic over rouser, but you will still warm up quickly. The extra-long zips have two zippers enabling you to unzip from the top down to dump extra heat while offering some access to trouser pockets. There are no pockets which is a bit irritating if you keep your phone in your trouser pocket, but it’s not a deal breaker.
Pros: Ultralight; packable; slim cut; full-length boot zip; totally waterproof
Cons: No pockets
The best hiking trousers for durability
Waterproofing: G-1000 Eco | Main material: 65% polyester, 35% organic cotton | Weight: 610g
You know them for the hipster-approved wax cotton Kanken rucksack, but Swedish outdoor specialists Fjällräven have been making high quality kit since 1960. What sets them apart from the modern outdoor brands however is their ability to make incredibly durable products from traditional materials.
And the Keb (£200) trousers typify Fjällräven’s approach. Made from heavyweight waxed G1000 Eco cotton fabric, they have a look that’s more lumberjack than Sunday hiker, but with four-way stretchy sections where it counts, they’re as comfortable and versatile as they are rugged.
The cut is generous without being baggy and our all-black sample looked good. We’re not sold on some of the two-tone colourways but hats off to you if you can make the baby blue and grey option work. Available in 10 waist sizes and regular and long lengths (There’s a short option in the Women’s range too) you will find a pair that fits.
They do lack the all-over stretch of the Patagonia or Arc’teryx, but they should outlive them both with ease. The ankles can be adjusted, there’s a boot hook to prevent riding up, and we love the two generous zipped side vents at thigh and calf level that rapidly helps you dump heat after a warm climb.
There’s also no shortage of pockets and loops to clip stuff to. There are two large front thigh pockets, one designed for a map, the other zipped for security. With something in each pocket, the overlapping of materials can feel a bit restrictive – and look a bit lumpy – but there are so many options you can mix and match to find the right combination of storage. Also available in women’s fit.
Pros: Rugged; wind-proof; eco-friendly; all the pockets
Cons: Bit heavy
Páramo Velez Adventure Trousers
The best all-weather adventure trousers
Waterproofing: Nikwax Analogy | Main material: Nylon | Weight: 392g
Completely waterproof without the noisy crinkle you get with typical waterproofing fabrics, the Páramo Velez feel more like parachute pants than outdoor adventure trousers thanks to a fabric treatment called Nikwax Analogy.
It uses a two-ply fabric membrane and a DWR waterproofing outer layer that isn’t bonded together, the upshot of which is they repel water and dry very quickly. Admittedly, they feel very different to a traditional pair of walking trousers, and you need a little blind faith to believe they will actually keep you dry as they can look saturated when wet. But trust us, they kept us bone dry even in the worst winter weather and dried quickly too.
They do have air vents to help you dump excess heat, which is just as well as even in winter they were well insulated. Come high summer you may find yourself overheating if you’re very hot blooded.
Pros: Soft; comfortable; waterproof
Cons: Acquired taste; run warm
Mens: £155 | Check price on Páramo
Womens: £155 | Check price on Páramo