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How To Choose Trek Pants — The Ultimate Trekking Pants Guide 2023
By Latika Payak
Here’s a guide on how to choose the perfect trek pants without losing your mind.
Buying trek pants can get confusing as they are not everyday wear. You can’t just buy them off the shelf. Why? Because not knowing what qualities to look for in trek pants can keep you confused for hours.
That’s where this guide on how to choose trekking pants comes to your aid. It’s a bit of a deep dive, so stay on until the end. (And, bookmark it to save time later)
I also want you to know I am not a brand endorser of any of these pants. These are good pants used extensively by a group of people who mistreat them the most — our trek leaders. They put them through the ultimate test almost every day of their lives.
Content of this Article:
- Selection of Trek Pants:
a) Material Examination
b) Fit Assessment
c) Fine Point Consideration
d) Layering Evaluation
e) Cost Analysis and Budget-Friendly Option Selection
- Trek Pant Options Available
- Trek Pants for Female Trekkers
- Top 12 Trek Pants in India
- Frequently Asked Questions
How To Choose Good Trekking Pants
A. Look At The Material
It’s important to know which material works for trekking pants. The wrong one will make you really uncomfortable on a trek.
Ideally, your trek pants must be made out of Polyamide. It is a wonder material that is a combination of fibers, either polyester+elastane if it’s stretchable or 100 % polyester for regular trekking pants. This combination feels like a God-sent answer to what we wanted in trekking pants. And I will tell you why.
Polyamides are specially designed for sportswear. They are incredibly durable and strong. If you don’t get polyamides, then a high polyester blend will do.
But, how do you know if your trek pants are made of Polyamide? Look for the fabric material on the label.
Moving on, there are four other things to look for — the material of your pants must be lightweight, quick-dry, easy to clean, and breathable.
Now, let’s see why they are important.
1. Lightweight: The wrong kind of pants will weigh you down on a big trip, like a trek. Here, even a few grams matter. So, weigh your options (literally) while choosing clothes for a trek. Don’t let your pants weigh more than 150 grams. That’s half the weight of your typical city trouser (250-500 grams)!
And that difference comes in because of the polyamides. They make your trek pants much lighter than regular pants and makes them easier to carry. In fact, this is why Sandhya UC, Co-founder and COO of Indiahikes, loves her trekking pants and takes special care of them.
I keep my trekking pants only for treks. I also use them for long-distance travels because they are so light. On my recent trip to Spain, my backpack for a 10-day trip weighed less than 7 kgs with 5 changes of clothes. That’s what lightweight clothes do to you. You can take more for less.
2. Quick-dry: Weather is unpredictable on a Himalayan trek. Dark clouds simply roll in unannounced and soak you in a surprise shower. Regardless of the season. If you’ve ever trekked in the Himalayas you will know this.
More than that, there is always mud, slush and wet patches to negotiate on a trek.
Your trekking pants will get wet while crossing a stream. Picture by Swathi Chatrapathy
In times like these, wearing trekking pants that dry quickly is important. Good news — pants made of polyamide or high polyester do that beautifully.
On the other hand, the surface of certain trek pants, like Men’s Mountain Trekking Trousers – TREK 900 are treated, so instead of getting absorbed, water droplets simply roll off.
Apart from keeping you dry, the polyamides in trek pants can also keep you warm, shares Senior Trek Leader Dushyant Sharma.
"Quick-dry pants have a unique quality — they are warmer than usual trousers or track pants made of cotton. See, cotton is designed to keep you cool, and that’s not favorable in cold, Himalayan temperatures.
The problem with jeans: While I love jeans for their versatility in the cities, it’s necessary to point out that jeans are catastrophic on a trek. They are bulky and take an obscene amount of time to dry. Typical jeans weigh around 700 grams when dry, and a mind-boggling 2 kgs when wet!
The elasticity of its fibers also gets affected and it’s difficult to comfortably trek in wet jeans because they restrict your movement. So, if you get drenched while wearing jeans on a trek, you will end up carrying all that uncomfortable extra wet weight. To top it off, you will also spend days in damp bottoms that will expose you to the risk of catching a cold (or worse, hypothermia). So please, avoid jeans," Dushyant says.
3. Easy to clean: Treks can get messy. Think dusty trails, horse dung, rolling in the meadows, or sitting under a maple tree for lunch. All these will get dirt on your pants. And it’s wise to steer off materials that stain easily or absorb dirt. Like cotton.
To address this, good trek pants are made of stain and dirt-resistant fabrics. Again, polyamides are great at this. And Vishnu Benne, who was heading FinOps at Indiahikes wears the Men’s Mountain Trekking Modular Trousers – TREK 100 on treks.
"I like how the material of my trek pants is so super-easy to clean. Even when there is dirt, one splash of water, even without soap, the pants are cleaned," he says.
4. Breathable: Now, here’s something you must consider when you are buying clothes for your trek — you will sweat, and you won’t get to take a bath while on a trail.
This means you might stink if you wear clothes that don’t allow your skin to breathe or the sweat to evaporate.
While cotton is great for this purpose, it is a bad choice for treks.
The next best choice is trekking pants made of polyamide/polyesters. Contrary to the popular notion, they are breathable and let your sweat evaporate easily. That’s how they keep you cool as well.
| NoteNote: And I must state the obvious here — waterproof pants (like the ones made of raincoat material) are not breathable. You’ll suffocate and sweat in them. Do not ever wear them on treks.
The only time you can wear waterproof pants is when you slip them over your regular trekking pants on monsoon treks. Basically when there is a downpour on. But waterproof pants are extremely bulky and weigh a lot. Even on big monsoon treks, I would not recommend taking them on treks.
Trek Pants vs Track Pants: It is a common misconception that it’s okay to wear track pants instead of trek pants. Truth: I have done that and regretted it. For two reasons
- Track pants are predominantly made of cotton. I am already on the wrong foot here. They are not warm, they take forever to dry and lose shape quickly.
- They are not snag-free (does not slide over other material and get stuck) which makes them difficult to use for layering.
But here’s a tip — if you have well-fitting track pants that are snag-free, use them as an inner layer on cold nights/days on a Himalayan trek. Nowadays you get good synthetic track pants. They really work well as inners.
B. Check For Fit
It’s a no-brainer that you will rough it out during a trek. And yet, we forget this crucial detail while choosing our trek clothes.
Remember, your trekking pants need to be 100% comfortable for a trek. There are no two ways about it.
The problem area usually is fitting at the crotch. So, do a full squat and see if it feels tight. If it does feel tight, don’t buy it.
Next, lift your knees to your chest. See how the material responds. Does it stretch easily? Are you comfortable with the stretch? Buy the pants only if the answer is a straight yes.
Finding The Right Fit Depends On When You Buy Trekking Pants
Many will be surprised by this question — is there a right time to buy trekking pants? Well, if you want to get the fit right, then ‘yes’. Timing plays an important role.
So, what is the right time to buy trekking pants? A straight answer: 10 days before you start on your trek, says Arjun Majumdar, Founder and CEO of Indiahikes.
"By this time you have prepared extensively for your trek. Your physical preparation is at its peak. You have probably lost some good inches. On your trek, you could lose a couple of inches more. So, 10 days before the trek is the best time to buy trekking pants to get a perfect fit. Don’t buy your pants two months before the trek when you are still unfit," Arjun says.
C. Pay Attention To The Finer Details
• Functional Pockets: On a trek, you always use your pockets to keep your phone, camera, dry snacks, etc. These will tumble out, especially when you climb suddenly, or squat on the ground to sit. It is never possible to get a level ground to sit on. You sit where you can. And any change in your elevation results in things tumbling out of your pocket if they aren’t zipped up.
Good trek pants come with zippered pockets. It prevents stuff from tumbling out.
Ask our lost and found team. We can start a treasure hunt with things that we have found from people’s pockets. Especially when the pockets didn’t have zips.
Ensure your trek pants come with side pockets with zippers. If they don’t, you will at least want deep pockets.
Most trek pants will also come with thigh pockets, either with zips or flaps. They really make life easy, especially for mobile phones, maps, small notepads. Make sure that they are able to take in the length of your mobile phone easily. Don’t buy a trekking pant if it doesn’t come with thigh pockets.
• Convenient Closers: While looking at details, you must also look at the ease of use and maintenance of things like buttons and velcro. Check how these are placed.
Velcro is a lifesaver during Himalayan winters when your fingers are numb with cold
For example, Velcro at the bottom will gather dirt and will be hard to clean. But velcro to adjust the waist size (like you have in the Mountain Trekking Trousers – TREK 500 pants) is really helpful during loo breaks in cold winters when your fingers are too cold to fumble with the buttons.
But a velcro is a backup. And just that won’t do.
For the mains, check — do these trekking pants need a belt? That will weigh you down. Instead, go for the ones that have elastic at the waist. Or if the pant is well-fitting, sturdy buttons will also do.
| Pro tip: Check if your trek pants stay in place even when you put things in the pocket. Sometimes, the weight of loaded pockets pull your trek pant down, and you need a light belt to keep them in place at such times.
D. Ease Of Layering
The temperature on Himalayan treks drops to sub-zero levels and can dip to as low as -10° Celsius during winter nights. And there’s only one thing that will keep you warm at such times — layering.
Layering refers to wearing more than one layer of clothing to trap body heat. Two layers of t-shirt work as good as one sweater.
But what do you do for your legs? Most lightweight trek pants can’t sustain the intense cold of a Himalayan night.
If your legs are feeling cold, the only thing that you need to do is layer up. This is where you carry extra synthetic-fitting track pants. Wearing track pants or tights under your trek pants can offset any cold nights.
For really cold nights, we use tights/leggings, over which we wear track pants, and finally trek pants. For men and women, the formula is the same.
Here, the material of an inner-fitting pant — could be stretchable track pants, leggings or tights will determine the ease of layering. If the material of your inner is prone to high levels of friction, you won’t be able to pull up your trekking pants with ease. The two pants will crease, and bunch up together and that’s really uncomfortable.
So, choose a stretchable trekking pant or a track pant as an inner, if they are smooth enough to allow layering.
E. Cost Of A Trekking Pant — Go For Budget-Friendly Options
If you’re not careful, you might end up spending a lot on treks, especially your first trek. At Indiahikes, we are conscious of this fact.
So, it literally pays to follow Sandhya’s rule of thumb when it comes to trekking pants — “If trekking pants cost above INR 2,500, they are not worth it. More expensive trek pants may be marginally better, but really not worth the price difference.” Straight and simple. And it works, because you do find great options under that budget.
| For example, the TREK 100 series of pants stick to this budget range.
I am stressing about this because trekking is a minimalist sport. You shouldn’t be burning a hole in your pocket for a trek. So, be smart about it.
Before investing in expensive trekking pants, pause and think — do I really need this?
| There Are 2 Types Of Trekking Pants To Choose From
• Convertible Trekking Pants
These are the most popular trekking pants in the category because they are tailor-made for river-crossing or hot weather. You are bound to encounter these on a trek.
And in such situations, these trekking pants can be easily converted into shorts as the lower part is detachable.
A good example is the Men’s Mountain Trekking Modular Trousers – TREK 100 (the highest-selling model in Decathlon), priced at INR 1,499. You can easily remove the bottom part of these pants and prevent them from getting wet during a river crossing. This keeps you warm and dry.
Also, on trails that are hot and humid, convertibles are great. You can convert your trek pants into shorts to stay cooler and lighter.
Apart from that, TREK 100 has the most qualities of a good trekking pant, in terms of what we discussed earlier in this blog.
| Pro tip: Check the placement of the zip which keeps the two parts together. See how it feels against your thighs as you rest/squat. Sometimes when the placement is off, the zip tends to dig into your skin, making it uncomfortable to sit for a long time.
But the pants may not be best suited to protect you against cold, windy weather, in case you are trekking in winter. This brings us to the next category.
• Regular Trekking Pants
In the Himalayas, you must be prepared for the wind-chill factor that can make you shiver in the cold.
For this, some trekking pants are made of polyamide with thicker fabric to keep you safe from high winds. They keep you warm.
Such pants are also water-repellant. So, if you encounter unexpected rains, the water droplets glide off the surface of these pants instead of getting absorbed.
| An example is Men’s Mountain Trekking trousers – TREK 900 priced at INR 3,499.
But these pants are not convertible. So what if there are river-crossings and the pants get wet?
Here, even though you cannot separate the bottom, the material is quick-dry. So, even if it gets wet, the water evaporates as you resume the trek or walk around at the campsite.
The upside is that these pants protect your legs from cold winds. And so, they work well on Himalayan treks.
• Stretchable Trekking Pants
Under the regular category you also have stretchable pants. They are comfortable and easily double up as inners. Especially the ones where the polyamide material is mixed with fleece. That kind protects against cold.
An example would be Men’s Mountain Trekking Fleece Tights – TREK 100. They’re good for layering.
They are snag-free. So on cold nights, you may wear them as a base layer and slip your trekking pants over them. When it gets warmer, you can easily remove your trekking pants and move around the campsite in these leggings.
A good example for women here would be Women’s Trek Reinforced & Multipocket Leggings Travel 500.
│ Trekking Pants For Women
As a woman, I have always struggled to find comfortable pants that fit well at the hips and thighs. You see, the size mentioned on the label is only a feeble indicator of the fit. In fact, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Post that awaits a tango with options where if the waist size is perfect, the pant refuses to climb up the thighs. And the ones that manage to climb up, require a belt to tighten the gaps at the waist. Sigh. The struggle is real.
And it intensifies when we look for the perfect trekking pants. Because comfort is the queen. Remember?
PC: Rashmi Ramesh
That’s solely why I cling to the shelf that contains stretchable trekking pants. They bring waist size and fit on the same page.
But that’s not the only criterion that will cut it for women. You must also look at the hooks and buttons that secure the pants.
For this, Sandhya advises choosing trekking pants with double hooks for clasping.
"Double hooks are much more secure on a trek. They hold the pants even as you do a range of movements from climbing to bending and squatting. If one hook comes up, you have the second one as a back-up.
And while push-buttons seem convenient and quick, avoid them on a trek. They can barely stand the strain of movements and easily come undone. That’s risky," Sandhya says.
With these pointers in mind, the best selling trekking pants for women are – Women’s Trekking Adjustable Trousers – TREK 100 priced at INR 1,699. These come under the convertible category.
And in the non-convertible category are Women’s Mountain Trekking Trousers – TREK 500 priced at INR 2,199.
We recommend: Go for Women’s Trekking Adjustable Trousers – TREK 100 it is convertible, sturdy and budget-friendly
12 Best Trek Pants In India
Here’s a quick list of best trekking pants you must watch out for. Unfortunately, all of them are from Decathlon. We wish other manufacturers would come up with good trekking pants for us to review.
I referred to some of these pants in this guide quite a few times. But here I have put down the 8 best trekking pants in our country. I looked at various factors like material, practicality, season and even budget before choosing them.
- Men’s Mountain Trekking Modular Trousers – TREK 100
- REI Co-op Sahara Convertible Pants - Men's
- Men’s Mountain Trekking Trousers – TREK 900
- Men’s Mountaineering Pants
- Men’s Mountain Trekking Trousers – TREK 500
- Men’s Mountain Trekking Fleece Tights – TREK100
- Men's Warm Water-Repellent Hiking Trousers - SH100 ULTRA-WARM
- Women’s Trekking Adjustable Trousers – TREK 100
- Women’s Hiking Trousers - NH500 Slim
- Women Mountain Hiking Trouser - MH500 Black/ Grey
- Women’s Mountain Trekking Trousers – TREK 500
- Women’s Trek Reinforced & Multipocket Leggings Travel 500
Most Commonly Asked Questions About Trek Pants
❖ What are trekking pants?
Trekking pants are trousers/leggings specially tailored for use in the outdoors, especially when you are trekking in the mountains. These pants are stitched to be durable under rough use and are equipped with pockets, zippers, buttons that make trekking convenient when you wear them.
Trekking pants are also made of special polyamide material which is lightweight, quick-dry, and sometimes water-repellant.
❖ Are track pants, yoga pants good for hiking?
No. Track pants are tailored for indoor use and for the lightest exercises. They usually have a high density of cotton which makes them bulky. They are also prone to snagging which makes it difficult to layer up on track pants. So, avoid track pants during treks.
Yoga pants are generally made out of thin material that cater to light outside use. They aren’t fit for outdoor treks, especially multi-day ones as they won’t be able to protect you against windy weather, rain or even cold.
Moreover, they are not snag-resistant, which means layering will be difficult if you are wearing yoga pants as your basic layer. Instead, opt for trek leggings which are much better suited for multi-day treks.
❖ What are the best pants for hiking?
Good trekking pants have two things going for them — material and fit.
Go for trekking pants that are made of polyamide materials. Such pants are lightweight, quick-dry, easy to clean and breathable. Apart from this, good trekking pants must be comfortable to wear, so fit is really important.
But the best trekking pants also have certain other elements in the right place. For example, they will have deep pockets with zips, velcro at the waist (really helpful in winters when your fingers are frozen), easy to layer-up and are budget-friendly.
And, you will find different types of trekking pants – convertibles, regular, stretchable – with these qualities. The trick is to know which one fits you best.
Generally speaking, trekkers consistently choose Mountain trekking modular trousers – TREK 100 because of its durability and cost. For a higher price, look at Mountain Trekking Trousers – TREK 500 and other trekking pants with stretchable options with fleece lining.
These are safe and useful options, to begin with if you are about to go shop for your first pair of trekking pants.
❖ What are the best winter hiking pants?
In winter, go for pants that have a fleece lining and are water-repellent to keep you dry during snowfall. Trekking pants made of a material that’s too thin aren’t fit for winters as you may need to layer up. Mountain Trekking trousers – TREK 900 is good for windy weather and will keep you warm in winters.
❖ Is it OK to hike in jeans?
No. Jeans are not at all suited for hiking. Jeans are not lightweight, they do not dry quickly and are not comfortable climbing high rocks. They add weight to your backpack and in case it rains, you might end up trekking in damp bottoms for days. This makes you susceptible to cold. So, avoid jeans.
❖ Should I invest in trek pants even if I plan to trek just once?
Yes. Even if you predict that you might trek just once, it is wise to do it in a trek pant. It will make your trek much more comfortable.
Moreover, trek pants are great travel companions even when you are not trekking because they are light-weight, quick-dry and low-maintenance.
This is why Sandhya UC, Indiahikes Co-Founder & COO loves taking her trek pants on long-distance travels. She shares that on her recent trip to Spain, her backpack for a 10-day trip weighed less than 7 kgs with 5 changes of clothes. That’s what lightweight clothes do to you.
So yes, trek pants are a great investment even if you think you are going to trek just once.
Coming to the end, we love our trekking pants at Indiahikes. Suhas Saya, Head Of Trek Coordinators Team, owns two pairs of trekking pants — one convertible and one fleece — that he has used for 8 Himalayan treks and over a hundred weekend treks around Bengaluru.
"And that kind of love for your trekking pants is not uncommon. True blue trekkers will vouch for it.
And that’s why when you step out to shop for trekking pants, you must know how to choose the one that works best for you. Then and only then will you fall in love with its usefulness," says Suhas.
So, if you are ever confused about which trekking pant to pick — drop in a comment below and we will help you pick the right one.
Happy trekking! And, happy shopping!
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