First of all, consider the season that you'll be wearing them in. If you're doing lots of winter walking, you'll want something warm, windproof and water resistant or even waterproof. If you're walking mostly in summer, you'll probably want something lightweight, breathable, wicking and maybe insect and UV proof.
It's also important to consider the type of activity you'll be taking on and how strenuous your hikes will be. Will you need something durable to take on rocky scrambles, and that won't rip with the first touch of a crampon spike? Or will you need something simpler, just to wear on short and easy pub walks?
"The trousers reviewed below were all either included in our Winter Outdoor 100 or our Summer Outdoor 100 and they range from lightweight backpacking trousers to full winter mountaineering ones."
The suitability of a pair of trousers to different scenarios depends mostly on the types of fabrics used as well as their thickness. A popular material is softshell, which is a breathable, stretchy and snag resistant blend of a number of fabrics and materials including polyester and elastane. Another popular material is a polyester and cotton blend as it tends to provide a high level of protection from the wind. Each different construction has different advantages and disadvantages when compared against each other, so there isn't necessarily one that can be described as being the best.
Aside from fabrics, it's important to look at the adjustment options on a pair of hiking trousers. For instance, what kind of waistband do they have, is it elasticated or semi elasticated? If there's no elastication, is there an integrated hipbelt or just belt loops? Then down at the bottom, are there volume adjusters on the ankle cuffs? These can be useful if you want the trousers to hold to your boot, keep warm air in, and not flap in the wind so much. Also consider the amount of pockets and their placement, closure and size. Are they big enough to hold a map, are they secure enough to keep your phone or car keys inside?
Then finally, articulation is extremely important when you are looking for the best walking trousers. Take a look at how they are constructed around the crotch and at the knee and be sure that they won't hinder your movement or rub uncomfortably against your skin.
Walking Trousers on Test
The trousers reviewed below were all either included in our Winter Outdoor 100 or our Summer Outdoor 100 and they range from lightweight backpacking trousers to full winter mountaineering ones. We've included pairs to suit every season and every type of terrain, and the majority come in men's and women's versions.
Montane Terra Guide Pants: £140 / 532g
"...designed to be worn during intense bouts of high-level walking, mountaineering or climbing; offering the wearer insulation, dynamic temperature regulation, and a high stretch construction."
The micro suede thermal lining in these trousers by the British brand, Montane, makes them a warm enough option for things like winter hillwalking, mountaineering and even ski touring.
They've also got plenty of technical features, like the Cordura overlays on the insteps, an internal ankle gusset designed to hold over a winter boot and 3/4-length side zips with inner storm flaps.
Available in men's and women's versions / Pertex Equilibrium Stretch fabric / DryActiv Micro Suede lining / inner DryActiv thermal mesh / Cordura mini rip-stop instep / tailored gusset and inseam panel / removable hipbelt / two zipped hand pockets / security pocket / rear zipped pocket / 3/4 length leg zips with press studs / stretch ankle gusset / press stud ankle adjusters.
Fjällräven Bergtagen Trousers: £315 / 670g
"Fjällräven have taken particular care with the cut of the Bergtagen Trousers, making sure that there’s full articulation at the knees and at the crotch."
The Swedish brand have made their first foray into mountaineering-specific kit this Autumn/Winter 2017 with their Bergtagen range. We say 'range' but it's actually more of a system, with a layer of clothing, from baselayer to full parka, to equip a person from inside to outside and head-to-toe. These carefully articulated trousers are made from 65 per cent recycled polyester and 35 per cent recycled cotton which is woven into an extremely durable construction. Throw in Corylon overlays on the knees and instep and you can be pretty sure that these will withstand all kinds of scrapes.
G-1000 Lite Eco fabric / 65% recycled polyester, 35% organic cotton / double layered G-1000 Eco on rear / Corylon reinforcements / articulated cut / taped seams / ventilation zips from hips to knees / 1/4 length ankle zips / two hand pockets / belt loops / equipment loop at waist / adjustment straps on ankles / inbuilt RECCO reflector / impregnated with Greenland Wax
Craghoppers Kiwi Pro Winter-Lined: £60 / 525g
"These smart strides have a comfortably snug layer of brushed lining inside that offers reliable insulation for those brisk winter days."
While Craghoppers make jackets, packs and plenty of other bits of kit, we think it's fair to say that their specialist subject is trousers – they have a pair to suit all kinds of conditions or trips. These are a variation of their flagship trousers, the Kiwi. What they've done is winterise them by adding a snug thermal inner lining to keep out the cold weather. Expect a decent level of water resistance with the outer fabric also. At £60, they're the cheapest trousers reviewed here.
Available in men's and women's versions / SmartDry Solarshield / Concealed zipped security pocket / polyester and elastane blended outer / polyester lining | polyester and cotton trim / 50 UPF protection / water repellent finish.
Berghaus Fast Climb Trekking Trousers: £140 / 350g
"Ankle and calf zips on the trousers make it easier to implement precise footwork, while the zipped mesh vents around the thighs increase ventilation at those times when you’re really pushing yourself hard."
These stretchy, three-season hiking trousers feature Kevlar reinforcements around the knees and instep. That's the same material used for bullet proof vests. Berghaus have given some thought to minimising the eco-footprint by using a Colourkind eco fabric that requires 89 per cent less water and 63 per cent fewer chemicals than conventionally produced fabrics.
Colourkind Eco Fabric outer / Schoeller Kevlar reinforcement over the knees and instep / calf and ankle zips / elasticated waistband / zipped mesh vents on thighs / Bluesign approved.
Sasta Anton: £230 / 725g
"They’re extremely durable trousers, the kind you could really put through the wringer and expect to always come out on the right side."
Sasta are a brand from Finland that are steadily building a following in the United Kingdom. They make a diverse range of gear, covering hunting, fishing and hiking, and tend to draw upon slightly more traditional – you could say Scandinavian – fabrics and designs. This pair, the Sasta Anton trousers, are made from 30 per cent polyester and 70 per cent recycled wool, a blend that combines a number of useful properties, being not only extremely durable, but also very warm as well. Other nice features include the hardened overlays, the pockets that double as vents and the knife or equipment clip on the hipbelt.
Full Specifications - Best Walking Trousers
70% recycled wool, 30% polyester, 7% Kevlar aramid on the knees and insteps / two hand pockets / semi-elasticated waist and integrated hipbelt / thigh pocket with zip / articulated knees / ankle volume adjustments.
Sherpa Lithang Bib: £220 / 610g
"Even in snowy conditions, the chances of the elements creeping in and soaking your base layers are significantly reduced."
If you're planning on heading to high and cold places then these would be a good pair to consider. By combining a 3-layer waterproof membrane with a removable bib and removable snow gaiters at the ankles, you'll be able to count on these to provide an extremely high level of protection from rain, powder and spindrift. There are also side zips that can be opened up to bring airflow throughout the legs.
65D, 3-layer Himaltec hardshell (20,000mm/20,000g/m2/24h rating) / removable bib with braces / gusseted crotch / two-way zippered thigh vents / zippered cargo pocket / tie-down loops and lace hooks / articulated knees / durable instep patch / removable snow seal gaiters.
Fjällräven Abisko Trekking Tights: £140 / 265g
"Fjallraven have combined the comfort provided by leggings with the durability of proper trekking trousers, effectively inventing a new category of clothing in the process."
Something slightly different here. The Abisko Trekking Tights, available in men's and women's versions, are designed to provide complete freedom of movement and breathability as well as durability (in the places where it's needed most) by combining a stretchy fabric with reinforced panels on the backside and knees. They even have pockets, with one big one that can take a map and a small one for valuables.
Available in men's and women's versions / polyamide, aramid, elastane, polyester blend / 50 UPF / high waist / reinforced knees and backside / pre-shaped knees / zipped pocket on side and thigh / belt loops on men's.
Páramo Montero: £95 / 327g
"You won’t get that horrible sweatbox feel you’d get with normal jeans or trousers in the same environment."
We'd normally be the first people to tell you that jeans are a bad idea for UK hillwalking, but these aren't your typical pair. Despite their denim-look, they're actually made from a 100 per cent polyester which is windproof, stretchy and also treated with Nikwax for water resistance. If they do get wet, you can expect them to dry quickly, something that certainly can't be said for standard denim. A good option for three-season hiking.
Acosta version for women / 100% polyester with Nikwax TX.Direct treated (PFC-free) / mesh-lined ventilation zips / reflective detailing / 4 pockets / 50 UPF.