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 hiking pants 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.