Are you wondering why you can’t get away with just wearing jeans on a walk? Well, on a short, casual ramble, you probably could. But if you’re spending hours out hiking or you’re planning an active walking holiday, a good pair of walking trousers will be the more comfortable choice – they’re designed to be lightweight, stretchy, loose and breathable however many miles you cover. 

Walking trousers are worn next to the skin and aren’t usually waterproof, but it’s easy to pop waterproof trousers over the top if a storm is looming.

That said, some walking trousers are water repellent, which is enough to withstand light rain. If they do get wet, good walking trousers are usually quick to dry, which is also useful when travelling with a limited wardrobe.

Think about when you’ll wear your new trousers. On summer walks, look for trousers that use a breathable fabric in to keep you cool. In winter, a thicker, insulated pair will be the best choice. There are varied styles on sale, too. 

Slim, stretchy walking trousers are often called tights and feel more like wearing leggings – a good choice if you don’t like wider trousers that can flap around in wind.

Walking trousers used to score pretty low on style points, but that’s changing fast – we’ve included a few smart, chino-like trousers that would work everywhere from the mountains to the office. Many pairs of walking trousers can also be converted into shorts by unzipping lower sections, which is convenient in changeable weather and a good space-saving choice on backpacking trips.

We always rate trousers with reinforced knees and ankles (the former for sitting on rough ground, the latter for wearing with crampons), plentiful pockets and a slightly stretchy fabric, for added comfort and ease of movement. 

Try trousers on in person if you can – they should have enough stretch to let you squat, and feel comfortable around the waist. If they’re zip-off trousers, check the zips don’t rub against your knees. And if you plan to wear walking trousers underneath your favourite waterproof trousers, it’s worth taking the latter along when shopping.

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Men’s and women’s GORE H5 windstopper trousers: £260, GORE

They may be painfully expensive, but GORE’s windstopper trousers are truly fantastic. As the name suggests, they stop wind cutting through to your legs and keep you warm, and they’re also water resistant in light showers. They’re one of the most comfortable pairs of trousers we tested, with a high waist with a fleecy lining, reinforced knees and ankles and well-placed, zippered pockets. If you can afford to splash some cash, these are the best of the bunch, a quiver-of-one trouser to wear for all your outdoor adventures.

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Women’s Decathlon Quechua MH500 mountain hiking trousers: £24.99, Decathlon

Our best on a budget at a hair under £25, these walking trousers are simple, lightweight and zip away into shorts – everything we’d expect from Decathlon’s cheap and cheerful own-brand, Quechua. We found we didn’t need the removable belt and would have liked to see some back pockets, but otherwise there’s good quality for the money here, and we liked that you can adjust the bottoms to make three-quarter length trousers on hot days. They’d make a great spare pair on a trekking holiday. 

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Men and women’s Fjällräven Abisko trekking tights: £150, Fjällräven

We love, and subsequently live in, Fjällräven’s brilliant Abisko tights. They may be close-cut but they’re so comfortable and stretchy you’ll immediately forget you’re wearing them. The Abiskos stay in shape wash after wash, have a large map pocket and a zippered pocket, fit perfectly under waterproofs and have thick bum and knee panels that are great when you’re sitting around a camp after a hike. They may be expensive but you’re paying for beautiful quality. If you’re after tights rather than wide walking trousers, read no further.

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Men and women’s Patagonia venga rock pants: £85, Patagonia

These handsome trousers are actually designed with climbers in mind, but we also love them for walking. The baggy-cut vengas come in fun bright shades as well as muted colours and are made from a soft and stretchy cotton that feels lovely against the skin, a nice change from the plasticky nylon of some walking trousers. These are perfectly tailored to move with you, sport roomy pockets and even have a water repellent finish that will keep you dry if you’re caught in a light shower. They’re flattering, too.

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Men’s and women’s The North Face impendor alpine trousers: £135 and £125, The North Face

They may have a name like Star Wars baddy, but the impendors are really rather lovely. You’ll be easy to spot in the wild – the men’s trousers are bright yellow and the women’s bright blue, good if you like to stand out in a sea of sensible black walking trousers – and both are practical and seriously comfortable, with a high, adjustable elasticated waistband, reinforced knees and two zipped pockets. These were some of the stretchiest trousers we tested, good for fast-paced mountaineering and climbing as well as walking. The bottom cuffs can zipped tight for warmth and to keep rain out.

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Men’s Montane terra stretch pants: £57, Cotswold Outdoor

If you’re buying your first pair of walking trousers and want a good all-rounder, these are an easy choice. The trousers have plenty of the features we’d look for – a comfortable, tailored waist, zipped pockets, reinforced knees and ankles and a stretchy but streamlined cut. We also found the trousers very breathable in hot weather – a good choice if you’re hiking in tropical climes and need to protect your legs while keeping cool. Well priced for decent quality.

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Men’s and women’s Craghoppers kiwi pro II trousers: £50, £40, Craghoppers

The kiwis are walking trousers that are smart enough to wear in the city, and both the men’s and the women’s are nicely priced. We like that there are regular and longer leg lengths to choose from when you buy, and we rated the roomy pockets and comfortable elasticated waistband. They kiwi pros are water repellent and designed to look good straight after washing, making them a good choice for walking holidays. Zippered versions of the kiwis are also available for both sexes.

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Women’s The North Face green lake zip off trousers: £45, Cotswold Outdoor

The Green Lake is a great – and affordable – zip-off pair of trousers for women designed with a keen eye for smart features. You can fashion three different lengths from these clever trousers by buttoning the trousers to mid-calf or zipping off the bottoms to make shorts. We especially liked the shorts incarnation, which have a loose, flattering fit. These lightweight trousers even stuff into their own back pocket for portability, and the pockets double up as breathable vents. The Green Lakes also feel nice against the skin, which isn’t true of all synthetic trousers.

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Men’s Arc’Teryx russet trousers: Arc’Teryx, £110

The Russet is another trouser billed for climbing but which we love for walking. It comes in smart colours and feels light and comfortable to wear against the skin – Arc’Teryx reckon the synthetic material feels cotton-like, and we’d agree. We like that you can use a drawstring on the bottoms to close them tight over boots, good for walking in midge or mosquito territory. The russets are handsome enough to wear anywhere, but are on the pricey side – one to wait for to buy in a sale.

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Men’s and Women’s Vaude farley II stretch zip off pants: Vaude, £90

If you’re looking for great quality in a zipaway trouser, the classic varley II for men and women is a sound investment. The trousers sport good zippered pockets and a waistband you can adjust with Velcro for the perfect fit, and have a water repellent finish that withstands light rain. We love that Vaude care about ethical, eco-friendly clothes production, and the farley IIs are made with bluesign® certified materials and repel water without using fluorocarbons – a purchase to feel good about.

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The verdict: Walking trousers for men and women

The Gore H5 windstopper is worth every penny, and we rate Fjällräven’s abisko as top of the tights, while Patagonia’s rock trousers are the most versatile, wear-anywhere trousers on our list.

Sian Lewis is editor of the award-winning blog The Girl Outdoors

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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