Hiking during the summer months is fantastic, providing your not feeling hot and bothered. Making sure you wear the right clothing is vital if you want to keep your cool, especially if you plan on wearing hiking pants.
Although most summer hikers prefer to wear shorts, they leave your legs exposed to bites and bushwhacks. That’s where pants come in handy, providing the protection you need to adventure off-trail.
The best summer hiking pants are lightweight and breathable enough to keep you feeling comfortable. Each product has the attributes required to protect your legs in the heat, leaving you to enjoy your time in the outdoors.
Ranking The Best Summer Hiking Pants
Best Summer Hiking Pants Compared
Lightweight and comfortable with outstanding breathability
Breathable and lightweight pants that offer outstanding durability
Ideally suited to anyone trying to maximize comfort on hot and dry hikes
A breathable pair of pants with features that can keep you dry in drizzle
Convertable pants designed to keep you cool for a bargain price
Breathable, comfortable, light, excellent mobility, versatile enough for casual wear
Durable, breathable, lightweight, high mobility, comfortable fit
Comfortable, breathable, durable, flexible, strategic vent placing
Water-resistant, lightweight, breathable, durable, cheap
Convertible, ventilated, cheap, quick-drying, practical pockets
No built-in waist belt, lacking features
Expensive, front zipper fly is too short
Absorbent when wet, snap closure can pop open too easily
Lack some mobility, run large
Poor zipper quality, questionable long-term durability
Cotton, Nylon, Spandex
Why Do I Need The Best Summer Hiking Pants?
Despite their comfortable and ventilated feel, hiking shorts just aren’t protective enough for some hikers. If you plan on going bushwhacking, scrambling or heading off-trail; a good pair of pants is of utmost importance.
Regular hiking pants can often feel hot and heavy, so finding a pair that are built for warm weather is a must. Fortunately, there are a variety of light and breathable pants that are designed to keep you cool.
With so many products to choose from, finding the perfect pants for your hiking style can pose a challenge. That’s why we’ve put together this guide, analysing the best summer hiking pants on the market for a range of different scenarios.
Top Tip: Staying cool in a heat wave requires more than just a great pair of pants. If you need to complete your hot weather hiking setup, we have also reviewed the best summer hiking socks and the best hiking boots for desert conditions.
How To Choose The Best Summer Hiking Pants
It will come as no surprise that breathability should be a top priority when choosing summer hiking pants. In general, pants using the lightest and thinnest materials tend to be the most breathable.
Most hiking pants use nylon, polyester or cotton; which can all cause overheating if the fabric is too thick. However, it will still allow your legs to breath if you find the right density.
Added ventilation is another way summer hiking pants insure you’re kept cool. There are various types of vents that hiking pants use that are all designed to allow moisture and heat to escape when necessary.
Zippered vents and mesh lining are both popular ventilation methods used in summer pants. Specially designed cuffs that can be comfortably rolled up are another popular feature, giving you the option of extra breathing space.
It’s worth noting that the ‘fit’ of your pants can also have a significant impact on ventilation. In general, pants that are too snug or rigid will not allow sufficient air circulation to help you keep cool.
You will generally find that the best summer hiking pants are some of the lightest around. The use of thinner materials is a great way to keep cool, while also working to reduce weight.
A pair of lightweight pants is more than sufficient for day-hiking in summer climates. They are the best choice for keeping your legs cool, while also giving you the freedom of movement associated with comfort.
Anyone heading on multiday backpacking trips might look for something slightly heavier. Despite performance in hot weather often being reduced, their improved durability can make them a necessity.
If want to enjoy your time on the trail, you better make sure your pants are comfortable. If you feel rubbing, pinching or generally restricted; it’s going to detract from your outdoor experience.
In general, the best way to ensure comfort is through freedom of movement. Most quality hiking pants achieve this by incorporating elastane or spandex to give you added mobility.
The way your pants fit will also affect their comfort. You will find that some use a slim and conforming fit with a high level of elasticity, while others are looser but allow less stretch.
Hiking pants will inevitably get put under serious strain. Scrambling up steep slopes, squeezing past rocks and brushing up against bushes is sure to cause wear and tear over time.
In general, the type and thickness of your pants’ fabric will dictate their durability. Since summer hiking pants use lighter and thinner materials, it can leave them vulnerable to rips and tears.
If you’re looing at nylon or polyester products, they often come with a ‘denier’ rating. It signals the fiber thickness of the fabric, with a higher number signalling improved strength and durability.
Best Overall Summer Hiking Pants
Finding a pair of lightweight and breathable summer hiking pants that offer exceptional all-round performance isn’t an easy task. However, upon review we were especially impressed by Outdoor Research’s Ferrosi pants.
Despite their lightweight design, we found the Forrosi’s provided excellent comfort and mobility. The design felt equally at home both on and off the trail, making them a viable option for anyone looking for comfortable travel pants that can perform in the outdoors.
Another area the Ferrosi excelled was breathability, which exceeded our expectations to provide second to none temperature regulation. In addition to their cooling qualities, we also found them to perform admirably in wet weather with their DWR coating capable of keeping out unexpected drizzle.
Anyone looking for the best summer hiking pants will be hard pressed to find anything that can match the all-round ability of the Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants. The superb breathability, comfort and durability they offer makes them our top choice for hot weather hikers.
- Great breathability
- High mobility fabric
- Versatile enough for casual wear
- Great value for money
- Not many features
- Belt not included
Best Durable Summer Hiking Pants
It’s common knowledge that lightweight hiking pants often use thinner materials that reduce durability. However, we were impressed by Arc’teryx Lefroy’s supreme build-quality while still remaining the lightest pants in our assessment.
The nylon and elastane fabric offered strength that is superior to any other product upon review. The size and fit offered by the Lefroy proved to be one of the most comfortable around, with a high level of stretch providing ample mobility on technical terrain.
As you might expect from their incredibly lightweight design, breathability is a strong category for the Lefroy. The use of ‘AirPerm’ fabric had a noticeable impact on hot weather comfort, with the pants performing at their best on the warmest hikes.
Arc’teryx have a great reputation for making high-quality trekking pants, so we weren’t surprised with the exceptional durability offered by their summer alternative. Anyone looking to invest in a great pair of summer hiking pants that will keep your legs breathing for many years will be happy with their purchase.
- Super lightweight
- High mobility
- Good fit
- Outstanding durability
- Best build-quality for backpacking and thru-hiking
- Short front zipper fly
Best Comfortable Summer Hiking Pants
The use of cotton in hiking pants has become less prevalent over the years, but there’s no doubting the positive impact it can have on comfort. At least that’s what we found with the Kuhl Radikl, which provided excellent breathability and supreme comfort in summer conditions.
The cotton and nylon fabric blend not only provided maximum comfort, but also durability. It is complemented by the use of stretch fabric panels that aim to improve overall mobility, which are strategically placed around areas that tend to feel more pull and squeeze.
The stretch panels used also offer added ventilation, which we found to be true when trekking in hot and dry conditions. Despite being one of the thicker fabric blends in our review, it exceeded our breathability expectations by far thanks to a looser fabric weave that promotes efficient airflow.
Most ‘hardcore’ hikers will look to steer away from cotton pants, but the Kuhl Radikl provides a great option for those looking to maximize comfort on summer days. The simple design feels secure around your waist and is enough to keep you cool during those blistering desert walks.
- Exceptional comfort
- Breathable fabric
- Strategic breathable vent panels
- Secure fit
- Good mobility
- Decent pocket options
- Perform poorly when wet
- Too casual for some hikers
Best Weather-Resistant Summer Hiking Pants
It’s easy to forget that summertime can also bring the occasional downpour, so being prepared is certainly advantageous. It’s never easy to find a pair of hiking pants that can withstand a heatwave and also combat wet weather, but the Marmot Arch Rock does a great job of ensuring you’re prepared anything the sky might throw at you.
The pants come with a DWR finish that is adept at handling the light drizzle that comes with a damp day on the trail. They also proved to be excellent at handling moisture from the inside, with superior moisture-wicking capability that made a significant difference when things heat up.
In addition to great temperature regulation, the durability of the Arch Rock was excellent considering their inexpensive cost. Despite their budget price and lightweight design, the articulated knees and gusseted crotch held up well when attacking tough terrain.
Overall, we were incredibly impressed with the all-round performance offered by the Arch Rock. Supreme temperature regulation and durability for an incredibly reasonable price makes us confident enough to recommend it one of our top selections.
- Reliable breathability
- UPF 50 sun rating
- Durable design
- Super lightweight
- Great all-round temperature regulation
- Value for money
- Lacking an element of mobility
- Still less durable than more expensive options
Best Convertible Summer Hiking Pants
Anyone searching for a versatile pair of summer hiking pants will inevitably consider something convertible. If you want to retain the option of going long or short at any time, we recommend the Columbia Silver Ridge.
Designed from nylon with added mesh panels, these pants proved to provide breathability that’s well beyond their price tag. We found them to be incredibly quick-drying and have an overall lightweight feel, making them a versatile option for summer day-hikes or BBQ’s.
The amount of features on offer far exceeded expectation. The easily converted design and wide variety of storage pockets meant we weren’t concerned about keeping our valuables safe when scrambling.
Although the Silver Ridge might lack the durability of the significantly more expensive options on this list, they offer incredible value for money. Anyone seeking a pair of convertible pants that are packed full of features won’t be left disappointed.
- Easily converted from long to short pants
- Decent breathability
- Budget friendly
- Plenty of pockets
- Ventilated sections
- Comfortable on and off-trail
- Limited mobility
- Zippers lack quality
- Overall durability can be an issue long-term
Getting the best summer hiking pants can have a big impact on your experience. Designed to be lightweight and ventilated, they play a big role in stopping you from overheating.
Every pair of pants on this list is designed to excel in a different hot weather scenario. Take the time to review the features of each product to find the one that suits your needs.
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.