Hiking Shorts or Pants? – What to wear on the trail.

Hiking pants offer so much more protection than hiking shorts, but it’s so darn hot. Should you wear hiking shorts or pants?

Wearing hiking pants is usually best because they’ll give you protection against ticks, gnats, flies, mosquitos, poisonous plants, cuts and scrapes, and even the sun. There are some instances where shorts could be better though.

hiking shorts or pants

8 Advantages of Hiking in Shorts

While I generally prefer to hike in hiking pants, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t some benefits to hiking in hiking shorts. In some areas, these advantages may even outweigh the downsides of hiking in them.

Here is when and why you should hike in hiking shorts.

1. Coolness and Ventilation: Preventing Heat Stroke

When the sun’s blazing and you’re hitting the trails, the last thing you want is to feel overheated. That’s where hiking shorts come into play. They’re designed to give your legs some breathing room, ensuring better ventilation. The more your skin is exposed to the breeze, the cooler you’ll feel, making those summer hikes more enjoyable.

But it’s not just about comfort. Overheating can drain your energy and even lead to conditions like heat exhaustion. With hiking shorts on, you’re not just making a fashion statement; you’re also making a smart choice for your health and safety on the trail. It’s like giving your legs their own little air-conditioning system as you conquer each mile!

2. Reduced Weight

Ever heard the phrase “every ounce counts”? Well, when you’re on a long-distance trek, it couldn’t be truer. Trading your pants for hiking shorts can be one of those little game-changers. You see, shorts weigh less than pants, and even though it might seem like a negligible difference, when you’re counting every bit of weight in your pack, those saved ounces can add up.

Imagine you’re on a multi-day hike. With every step, you’re carrying not just your backpack but also the weight of your clothes. Opting for lighter shorts over pants can make your journey a tad easier. It’s like giving your legs a little break, especially when you’re pushing for those extra miles!

3. Freedom of Movement

There’s something liberating about donning a pair of shorts when you’re gearing up for a hike. Especially when you’re faced with those challenging steep climbs or jumping over fallen logs, shorts just let your legs move without that extra tug or pull you might feel with pants. It’s like your legs are telling you, “Hey, thanks for the freedom!”

And it’s not just about the feel. When you’re out there navigating obstacles, the last thing you want is any hindrance. Pants might occasionally snag or simply feel limiting during specific maneuvers. Shorts, on the other hand, are your legs’ trusty sidekick, ensuring you tackle each challenge on the trail with a bit more ease and agility.

4. Quicker Drying Times

You know that soggy, weighed-down feeling you get when your pants are drenched? Whether it’s from an unexpected rain shower, a bit of sweat, or that adventurous stream crossing, wet pants can be a real bummer on a hike. Here’s the cool thing about shorts: with less material, they’re champions at drying out faster! Less fabric means there’s simply less to dry.

And let’s be real, no one wants to squelch around in wet clothes longer than they have to. With shorts, you’re back to feeling dry and comfy in no time, letting you focus on the beauty of the trail rather than the discomfort of damp clothing. It’s like having a quick-dry feature built right into your hiking wardrobe!

5. A Better Tan and A Better Sleep

Personally, I’d rather skip the tan and reduce my chances of skin cancer but some people prefer getting a tan. Go hiking in any open area in shorts and you’re sure to get a nice glow on your legs. Just be careful you don’t stay out too long or you’ll end up getting burned instead.

One side benefit to the increased skin exposure is that you’ll also get your vitamin D levels up. Catching some rays helps your body whip up vitamin D, which is great for strong bones and a happy mood. Plus, sunshine can give you a nice energy boost and even help you sleep better at night. Who knew the sun was such a multitasker?

6. You May Be More Comfortable

Ever tried hiking on a sticky, humid day with pants clinging to your every move? That’s when you wish you had thrown on some shorts. They just give your legs that breezy, carefree feeling, especially when the air’s so thick you could practically drink it.

Honestly, comfort can make or break an outing. You want to be soaking in the views, not wrestling with damp fabric. Shorts are the go-to for those who don’t want to feel wrapped up and just want an easy, breezy hike.

7. Fewer Materials to Get Caught

Have you ever been on one of those off-the-beaten-path hikes, and suddenly, you’re playing tug-of-war with a thorny bush that’s got a solid grip on your pants? That’s where shorts come in clutch. With less fabric flapping around, there’s simply less for nature’s obstacles to latch onto, letting you move through rough spots with a bit more grace.

It’s kind of like choosing the sleek sports car over the bulky SUV for a tight parking spot. Fewer things to worry about means smoother sailing—or in this case, smoother hiking. So, if you’re aiming to dodge those pesky branches and shrubs, shorts might just be your best trail buddy.

8. Hiking Shorts Cost Less

Looking to save some cash on your hiking gear? Well, here’s a tip: shorts usually come with a friendlier price tag than their longer counterparts, the pants. Makes sense, right? Less material often equals a lower cost, giving your wallet a little break.

But it’s not just about saving a few bucks. When you’re just starting out or simply want to keep your hiking ensemble on a budget, shorts can be a smart choice. It’s like getting the benefits of functional hiking attire without the premium price of pants. Win-win!

hiking shorts

8 Advantages of Hiking in Hiking Pants

Hiking pants come with their own set of advantages, making them a favorite choice for many outdoor enthusiasts.

Here are some reasons to choose hiking pants over hiking shorts.

1. Protection from the Elements

You know those days when Mother Nature can’t seem to make up her mind? One moment it’s sunny, then windy, and suddenly you’re hit with a cold gust? That’s when hiking pants truly shine. They’re like your personal shield, standing tall against the ever-changing elements. Whether you’re trying to dodge those sneaky UV rays, block out that nippy wind, or keep warm when the temperature drops, hiking pants have got you covered—literally.

And it’s not just about the unpredictable weather. It’s also about comfort. By helping regulate your body temperature, hiking pants ensure you’re not freezing one minute and overheating the next. So, while the weather does its thing, you can focus on the trail ahead, knowing you’re well protected.

2. Protection from Pests

Ever ventured into the woods only to come out feeling like a buffet for bugs? Mosquitoes, ticks, and those other pesky critters sure love a good feast. But here’s a trick to keep them at bay: hiking pants. By covering up most of your legs, these pants serve as your first line of defense, making it tougher for those tiny invaders to reach your skin.

And while bug bites are plain annoying, they can also bring along some unwanted guests, like diseases. Ticks, for instance, are notorious for transmitting Lyme disease. So, by sporting hiking pants, you’re not just dodging itches; you’re also taking an extra step in looking out for your health on the trails. Safety first, right?

3. Protection from Vegetation

You ever blazed a trail, feeling all adventurous, only to get a nasty surprise from a hidden thorny bush or a sneaky patch of poison ivy? The great outdoors is stunning, but it sure has its prickly side. That’s where hiking pants come into the picture. They act like armor for your legs, shielding you from those unexpected scratches and potential rashes that dense vegetation can dish out.

And trust me, nothing puts a damper on a great hike like itchy, irritated skin. Whether it’s the sting from nettles or the itch from poison ivy, hiking pants help ensure that your memories of the trail are about the breathtaking views and not the battle scars. After all, nature’s surprises should be about awe-inspiring moments, not “ouch” moments!

4. Pants Are More Versatile

Ever wished your pants could magically morph into shorts when the sun gets a bit too friendly? Well, guess what? Many hiking pants can do just that. These hybrid hiking pants allow you to zip off part of your pants at the knees.

It’s like having a Swiss Army knife in your wardrobe. No need to pack both pants and shorts or stress about the day’s unpredictable weather. With convertible hiking pants, you’re prepped for whatever the trail throws your way, all with a quick zip. Talk about hiking in style and convenience!

5. Added Features

Think of hiking pants as the James Bond of outdoor apparel. They come loaded with all sorts of special features that make your life on the trail easier and more comfortable. I’m talking UV protection to keep those harmful rays at bay, water-resistant material for when the skies open up, and even insect-repellent fabrics to give those pesky bugs the boot.

So yeah, they’re not just any pants; they’re your adventure buddy, geared up and ready for action. Whether you’re crossing a drizzly meadow or trekking through bug-infested woods, these pants have got you covered. It’s like having a bunch of mini superpowers wrapped around your legs!

6. Hiking Pants Are More Durable

You know how regular pants can give out on you, especially when you put them through the wringer on a tough hike? Well, hiking pants are like the superheroes of the trouser world. Built with sturdy materials, these bad boys are made to withstand all the scrapes, stretches, and squats you can throw at them on the trail. They’re in it for the long haul.

Seriously, it’s an investment that pays off. With their rugged construction, hiking pants can weather multiple seasons of adventures, saving you money in the long run. You don’t have to worry about them falling apart halfway through a trek or fraying after a few encounters with rocky terrain. These pants are your durable sidekick, ready for whatever escapades you’ve got lined up.

7. Hiking Pants Offer More Storage

Ever found yourself juggling a map, a snack, and maybe a compass, all while trying to navigate the trail? Hiking pants to the rescue! These aren’t your typical “two pockets and done” pants; we’re talking multiple pockets, often with zippers or velcro closures to keep your stuff secure. It’s like having a mini backpack built right into your pants!

And let’s be honest, we all love good storage space. Whether it’s for stashing a granola bar, your phone, or those little essentials like lip balm and a pocketknife, these extra pockets are game changers. No more awkward shuffling of items or missed photo ops because you were too busy sorting through your backpack. With hiking pants, everything you need is just a pocket away.

8. Reduced Chafing

Ever been on a long hike and ended up with chafing so bad it felt like you’d just done a slide into home plate without any pants on? Yeah, not fun. That’s where hiking pants can be a lifesaver. The longer length means less skin-on-skin action, which can seriously cut down on the dreaded chafe. Especially on those epic treks, the extra coverage can keep you focused on the beauty around you, not the irritation between your legs.

And hey, it’s not just about avoiding discomfort; it’s also about overall performance. Chafing can slow you down, mess with your stride, and just make the whole experience less enjoyable. So if you’re planning a long day—or several days—on the trail, hiking pants might be your ticket to a smoother, chafe-free adventure.

hiking pants

Each type of hiking attire, be it shorts or pants, has its own set of benefits, so it often comes down to personal preference, hiking conditions, and the specific challenges of the trail you’re tackling.

Convertible Hiking Pants: (It’s What I Wear)

Still not sure whether to go with hiking shorts or pants? Another option is to go with a pair of hiking pants that can convert to hiking shorts. I use my convertible hiking pants all summer long. These pants are great for hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and anything else that involves the outdoors.

Here is a link to the hiking pants that I like to wear on the trail. I originally got them to take on a canoe camping trip but I like them so much that I pretty much wear them whenever the weather is hot and I’m doing something outdoorsy. I like these pants because they’re lightweight and the bottom portion of the pants can easily be folded and stuffed into the cargo pockets when I’m not wearing them.

You also get a built-in belt so you never have to worry about forgetting it. If you’re of the survivalist mindset, you’ll notice that the belt tightens all the way through to the end so you could use it to keep pressure on a bandage or to make a tourniquet.

Jim Murphy

Jim's love for camping started at an early age. His parents would take him camping every summer, where he'd spend his days getting quality time in with his dad and his nights eating too many smores.

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