At the moment, the only walking any of us are able to do is near our homes, and for most of us, that will include flat pavements only. Until normal life resumes, we can use this time to plan our next ramble with friends or walking challenge.
Whether you’re planning on conquering Britain’s tallest peaks or just going for a relaxed ramble in your nearest woodland, walking trousers can make all the difference. A good pair will be comfortable, durable and lightweight – they won’t weigh you down even if you’re walking for miles over the course of a day.
Walking trousers and slim-cut, legging-style walking ‘tights’ are worn next to the skin and aren’t usually waterproof. If the heavens open, you’ll need to pop a pair of waterproof over trousers over the top, although walking trousers are often water resistant enough to withstand a light shower.
Walking trousers are usually made from lightweight synthetic materials, so that if they do get wet they dry quickly, and will also wick away sweat well if you’re walking in hot climates, and double up as good travelling clothing.
But if you’ll be using them in autumn and winter in the UK, pick a thicker, insulated pair for added warmth.
Always try walking trousers on in person, if you can – we like an adjustable high waist for comfort. You should be able to bend over and squat in walking trousers without any restriction. Reinforced knees and ankle panels are useful for sitting on rough ground and for wearing crampons, and a few well-placed pockets are very handy.
There’s a style of walking trouser to suit everyone – and some are even smart enough to wear in the city. Tights are a good choice if you don’t like wide flapping trousers, and usually fit more easily under waterproof outer layers.
Some walking trousers zip off into shorts, which is handy when you’re walking in variable weather conditions or when packing space is in short supply. We tested out these high-performing pairs of men’s and women’s walking trousers on hikes in challenging weather conditions.
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Fjallraven men’s and women’s kaipak curved trousers: £145, Fjallraven
These gorgeous walking trousers look and feel rather like you’re wearing cotton chinos – and they are definitely smart enough for city use, making them a versatile pick for travelling as well as for walking. We love the tough, reinforced rear panel, handy if you’re sitting around on long hikes or camping trips, the articulated knee panels, deep zipped pockets and the adjustable cuffs. The trousers proved quick to dry on test despite their thick, cotton-y feel, and you can also render the trousers water-resistant by treating them with Fjallraven’s Greenland wax (you need to buy this separately). Cheerful plum and yellow colourways make a bright change from muted walking trouser shades.
GORE H5 windstopper men’s and women’s trousers: £153.99, GORE
They may be painfully expensive, but these 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.
Sherpa women’s kalpana hike tights: £50, Sherpa
These slim, sleek leggings are the ultimate in versatility, and despite how simple they look, they pack a technical punch. The tights are lightweight and moisture wicking, and stay comfortable even when you’re hiking in them for days on end thanks to a thick, stretchy high waistband and flatlock seams. Handy zipped side pockets are perfect for holding essentials such as your phone. Pack these and you’re set for your travels: they work well as a yoga pant and running tight as well as on the trail. These are tights that do good, too – for every product sold, Sherpa donates money to provide education and resources for children in Nepal.
Fjallraven men's and women’s abisko trekking tights: £150, Fjallraven
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.
Rab men and women’s sawtooth trousers: £90, Cotswold Outdoor
If you’re after a lightweight, summer-friendly walking trouser, these are our pick of the pack. These good-looking trousers are very breathable and light, but still offer some protection from the wind – we reckon they are best worn for hiking in late spring and summer, or on tropical travels. An articulated cut, stretchy material and fleecy inner lining to the waistband make them extremely comfortable whatever walking adventures you get up to. It feels very freeing to wear these trousers, making them ideal if you find most walking trousers restrictive.
Kathmandu men and women’s trailhead trousers: £64.99, Kathmandu
There’s a lot to like about Kathandu’s trailhead, which sits at the more affordable end of the walking trouser scale. The cut of these pants may look simple, but it’s articulated from stretchy materials and moves as you do. We found the women’s version of these walking trousers fit brilliantly on curvier bodies, a good choice if you find that most walking trousers don’t fit well over your hips. They’re water repellent enough to deal with a light shower, and dry very quickly if they do get wet, which is useful if you’re travelling light and have to wash your clothing as you go.
Craghoppers men’s and women’s kiwi pro II trousers: £35, 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.
Acai women’s thermal skinny trousers: £79, Acai
Are they jeggings or are they actually walking tights? Acai’s slim hiking tights have taken Instagram by storm, and we were impressed on test; these trousers deliver substance as well as style. The thick thermal incarnation of the trousers hugs curves nicely and feels as comfortable as cotton leggings to wear, even on challenging, multi-day hikes. The thermal lining offers good protection from wind and cold, and they are water resistant enough to repel light rain (their water repellency should be maintained over time with a technical wash). The jean-like styling makes these tights easy to wear both on and off the trail, and lighter weights are available for summer use.
Montane women’s terra ridge trousers: £85, Montane
Female climbers, mountaineers and hikers heading up into the hills from spring through to autumn should look no further than these excellent adventure trousers, which manage to be both tough and flexible in one comfortable package. Montane’s trousers are stretchy enough to wear for climbing and scrambling, and have a soft microfleece-lined waistband that makes them feel great to wear all day long. We like the removable belt and adjustable trouser cuffs, which help to get the perfect fit, and the handy zipped pockets and internal security pocket.
Arc’Teryx men’s 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.
Vaude men’s and women’s 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.
The verdict: Walking trousers for men and women
Fjallraven’s Kaipak trousers are versatile, hardy and smart. The Sherpa Kalpana is our top pick of the walking tights, and Craghopper’s Kiki Pro trouser is very affordable at £50.
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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.