Although not the sexiest of outdoor gear, walking trousers, along with walking boots will make the most difference to comfort on your hikes, just try going for a proper stomp in jeans and you’ll see what we mean.
Which walking trousers should I buy?
Walking trousers are usually made for comfort, but durability is also important for stomping around in deep undergrowth or scrambling as these will put extra stresses and strains on the materials. The more soft and comfortable the material the less durable it’s likely to be long term, so consider whether you value one over the other or a good balance. For a really hard-wearing performance material try Fjallraven’s G1000.
Generally you want your walking trousers to have stretch fabric so that they move with you when you’re stretching for that rock or to turn that sausage on the camp fire. You also need the material to be breathable so you don’t overheat, and fast drying so the sweat you generate evaporates quickly.
The final consideration is pockets, ideally you want the hand pockets to be deep enough to securely hold a phone, zips help to keep things in place when you’re moving fast or scrambling.
Which walking trousers are best in the summer and winter?
If you walk in changeable weather then look for water repellent treatments (DWR) on your walking trousers. Some walking trousers are completely waterproof but we wouldn’t recommend using these exclusively unless you’re absolutely sure it will be raining for the duration of your walk as you’ll soon work up a massive sweat, it’s better to take lightweight waterproof overtrousers in case of a downpour.
If you’re going to be walking in cold weather then walking trousers are ideal for layering up with a decent base layer underneath. This will help to regulate your temperature, helps wick moisture away from the body and keeps you cosy as you hike. Winter walking trousers generally use a thicker, more windproof material to help protect your legs from icy blasts and some even have fleece linings.
The best walking trousers 2020
Salomon Wayfarer Straight Leg Pant | £90
Best for: Fast paced summer walks
These walking trousers are light and airy and are therefore best for warm weather, summer walks thanks to great breathability and a load of stretch. You need this stretch, as despite being straight leg pants the cut is quite tight around the thighs if you have thick set legs. This is typical of alpine influenced outdoor gear and you’re unlikely to find a pair of Salomon hiking pants with a more baggy cut.
The waistband is excellent with comfortable backing, a non-intrusive but securely fastening popper and elasticated velcro adjusters to save wearing a belt. The material is really thin and stretchy so these won’t be the right walking trousers for you if you tend to rub up against abrasive rocks a lot but for most walking they’re durable and long lasting as the build quality is excellent.
Mesh lining in the two zipped hand pockets helps vent your legs and these pockets are easily deep enough for a modern smartphone. There are two additional zipped pockets, one on the thigh, which is so small we’re not sure what to put in it and one on the bum.
Overall an absolutely solid high summer walking option.
Fjallraven Kaipak Trousers | £145
Best for: All weather everyday wear and general hiking use
If you want to look inconspicuous on your walks but still benefit from performance and bombproof durability then Fjallraven’s Kaipak trousers are an excellent choice. Similar to the popular Keb walking trousers, but with a slightly less hardcore approach, the Kaipaks blend solid walking features with a more relaxed look which is great for everyday wear. We wouldn’t necessarily put them on to go down the shops, but if you’re pottering around the garden or walking the dog they’re a comfortable and hard-wearing option.
G1000 is used pretty much all over the Kaipak trousers, this is a cotton and polyester blend so looks a bit like your average jeans or chinos material, making it lot more aesthetically pleasing than shiny polyester, but it can also be waxed to add water repellance and doesn’t hold moisture like 100% cotton does. You also get stretch panels, in the crotch, behind the knees, and around the back of the waist. This lets you move about a bit easier against that slightly stiff G1000 material. Of course, these panels also let a bit more cold and wind through, but on the flip side they also let your heat and sweat dissipate a bit easier.
Zipped hand pockets wouldn’t have looked right so the Kaipak has normal open style hand pockets that are deep enough for phones and wallets. There are also two fairly inconspicuous cargo pockets – one is zipped and the other has a strorm flap and popper.
Despite being marketed as a jack of all trades master of none we really like wearing the Kaipak for our mix of activities which include – yes gardening, but also long walks through countryside and mountains, wild camping and bushcraft.
Rab Torque Light Pant | £85
Best for: Summer walking and scrambling in absolute comfort
These trousers are so comfortable you barely know you’re wearing them. The material is a little thicker than the Salomon Wayfarer but similar in that it’s a summer weight, with not a lot of wind resistance. This is great for breathability, and there is also a good amount of 2-way stretch.
Where these trousers really shine though is in the cut. Although the leg is slightly tapered Rab have built in a bit more bagginess around the bum and crotch. This means that you have the benefit of the technical cut towards the bottom of the legs but absolute freedom of movement, even when you’re scrambling rather than just walking, at the tops of the legs.
The waistband is a little unusual in that there are no adjusters or belt loops so you better make sure you get the right size! Instead, a band of elastic runs all the way from the front to the back. The elastic is just about strong enough to hold the trousers up including when you’re carrying a backpack with a hip belt, which can often make your top ride up and trousers fall down! Without any adjusters or a belt the waistband is smooth as silk and therefore more comfortable than any other walking trousers we’ve worn.
Simplicity is key with the Torque walking pants and that means that pockets and other features are also kept to a minimum, with just a couple of deep hand pockets, one zipped thigh pocket and a pocket on the bum. The hand pockets are mesh lined so let heat escape, another boon for summer walking.
Overall the major thing to note about the Rab Torque pants is the superior comfort and excellent summer walking performance.
Montane Super Terra Pant | £145
Best for: High mountain walks
In the spring, autumn and winter these pants come into their own and despite Montane themselves all but dismissing them for summer use we still love them when the weather warms up. In the autumn and winter the GRANITE fabric – like a tough cotton – stops wind in its tracks. This also means the fabric is durable, so you don’t wince every time you catch the trousers on some undergrowth or a rock.
The Cordura Hydro patches on the knees, insteps and bum are stupidly strong and waterproof – great for sitting on soggy rocks or indeed scrapping past sharp, pointy rocks.
At the bottom of the trousers you have ankle zips for access and ventilation but also gaiter hooks and three poppers for adjusting the opening size and to hold everything snug against foul weather. This is all very good, useful stuff and the quality of construction is excellent.
Despite the decidedly strong construction the Super Terra’s are comfortable to wear and feel light on. There is articulation where you need it so kneeling and dealing with kit or cooking a brew won’t split any seams.
We loved the Super Terra pants when we first reviewed them back in 2016 and they’ve only grown on us since then.
A seriously robust mountain pant.
Berghaus Ortler 2.0 Pant | £75
Best for: Adventure travel
With a slightly thicker fabric that somehow manages to look a little like cotton (despite being polyester) the Ortler Pant is our pick of the best option for adventure travel. There’s still the same swish associated with walking trousers but you also get a good balance between breathability and a little wind resistance thanks to a medium weight fabric. There isn’t much stretch in the material but the cut just about allows for good freedom of movement on your walks and travels.
The pockets are mesh lined and there are also two mesh lined leg vents to help release excess heat and moisture in particularly hot weather, this gives the Ortler a bit more versatility than some of the distinctly summer weight trousers in this test. You could probably get away with wearing these on their own in spring and autumn and even into mild winter’s days with a base layer underneath and the PFC free DWR (durable water repellent) coating will even fend off light rain.
There are only two hand pockets and one bum pocket (which we always find pointless anyway) which is a little stingy compared to most. If you’re tooling up for wild camping or bushcraft you might want to look for trousers with a few extra pockets. Having said that, inside one of the hand pockets is a small zipped security pocket which pushes the Ortler further towards adventure travel use in our eyes.
Overall we were pleased with the looks of the Ortler pants but in terms of pure performance for walking they lag behind some of the others on the list.
Quechua MH500 | £25
Best for: Hill walkers on a budget
These aren’t as technically advanced or well made as some of the other trousers on test but when we saw the price we couldn’t help but be impressed. We found the MH500 trousers quite tight but there’s so much stretch in the material it doesn’t really matter. Decathlon have made a good attempt at anatomically shaping the panels of these walking trousers but have had varying levels of success and the cut is generally a little unusual all over.
If you can look past the basic cut and quality the MH500 trousers are still capable walking trousers though, they’re breathable, lightweight and comfortable. The two hand pockets are zipped and mesh lined but perhaps a little shallow and there’s an additional zipped thigh pocket, again this is less than generous.
The waistband is true to size and generally comfortable, Decathlon have equipped the MH500 with a G hook adjuster for the waist so you don’t have to wear a belt, this is slimline and works pretty well although the adjustment isn’t as fine as a velcro adjuster.
The price of these trousers is astounding, we applaud Decathlon for offering an accessible entry into the world of hiking and the MH500 are good enough for unfussy seasoned hikers too, they’re just not as refined as some of the more expensive walking trousers out there.
Sprayway Warm Compass Challenger | £80
Best for: Cold weather walks in the countryside
We found these walking trousers from Sprayway immediately comfortable, with a fleece lining that offers a lovely feeling next to the skin and warmth for winter walks. The outer material is thick and has a fairly tight weave so offers a good first defence against cold wind and there’s also a DWR coating for light rain although there’s no mention of it being PFC free.
When you work up a sweat in the Warm Compass Challenger trousers the outer material deals with heat and moisture well, so although not really summer trousers these can be worn in the spring and autumn and on cooler summer days. The mesh lined pockets help dissipate heat and moisture but can be a bit annoying when you leave them open on winters days, as you immediately feel the cold against your skin.
The elasticated waistband has a wicking tricot lining which pulls sweat away from your skin and is also very soft and comfortable. Although there are belt loops the elastic is strong enough to hold the trousers up, wearing a belt under a heavy pack and hipbelt can be uncomfortable so this is always a big tick in the positive box for us.
The cut is very ‘sensible British’ you certainly won’t be showing off your bum in these but that also means they won’t look out of place if you’re out for a gentle stroll.
A solid, and eminently sensible cold weather option.