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9 best women’s walking trousers to add to your rambling wardrobe

From countryside wandering – rain or shine – to comfy post-hike pub visits, these are the pairs to buy

Liz Dodd
Thursday 18 March 2021 16:53 GMT
<p>Opt for zipped pockets, cinchable ankles and water-repellent material to keep legs dry and tick-free</p>

Opt for zipped pockets, cinchable ankles and water-repellent material to keep legs dry and tick-free

Whether you’re itching for lockdown to lift so you can hit the mountains or you’re simply tired of waiting for your jeans to recover from a spring storm, a good pair of trousers is an essential part of your walking wardrobe.

Walking trousers are split between hard shells, which are waterproof but less breathable, and soft shells, which are breathable, flexible and, confusingly, also sometimes waterproof (or at least highly water resistant).

What you need doesn’t really depend on temperature – you can control that with your layers – but more on your activity. Hard shells will get you sweaty quickly and for that reason we’ve mostly picked soft shell trousers for this round-up, although we’ve included some extremely water repellent pairs that will keep you dry but comfortable.

Some of these trousers are time-honoured favourites – we’ve walked across counties in the Craghoppers – while others we tested on our long lockdown walks, in a variety of spring conditions. And, where trousers promised the kind of flexibility you’d need for scrambling, we tested them on local outdoor climbing walls.

If you’re planning to hike variable terrain in the UK’s unpredictable conditions, look for trousers with plenty of flexibility and durability, as well as zipped pockets and cinchable ankles (to keep your legs dry and tick free) and a degree of water repellency.

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If you’re just hoping to extend your Sunday strolls, we’ve sought out some really brilliant – and still technical – trousers to help you transition from your hike to the pub garden.

Perhaps the most divisive issue when it comes to walking trousers though, is convertibles: trousers where the lower half (knee to ankle) zips off, turning them into shorts. Some people – us included – love them, while others find the zip digs into their leg while walking, but the only way to know if they’ll suit your style is to try them out.

We’ve included a mix in this round-up, as well as some fabulous walking leggings if you want to go completely seamless.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Alpkit kraft women’s trousers

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We adored these comfy, canvas outdoor trousers so much that we wore them everywhere. A lovely organic cotton blend with a touch of spandex makes the fabric soft and comfortable as well as durable, while the cut is flattering – designed for women – but flexible. The tapered fit around the ankle means they fit comfortably above a hiking boot and are also bike friendly. There’s a small, subtle zipped pocket for valuables too, as well as jean-like hip pockets. The kind of trousers you could wear climbing – there’s even a reinforced belt loop for your chalk bag – as well as to the pub garden.

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Craghoppers nosilife pro II convertible trousers

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Versatile and comfortable, these lightweight trousers are stretchy enough for scrambling and tough enough for long walks. They are also made with insect repellent to help keep mozzies at bay – we’ve trialled this in the jungles of South East Asia and it’s not a gimmick – and they zip apart above the knee to convert into shorts. Breathable and soft to the touch, they’re ideal for warm spring and summer walking. They dry quickly if you’re stuck in a shower and are packed with low-profile, helpful features, like five pockets, three of which are zipped, and a sunglasses wipe.

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Patagonia women’s quandary pants

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Smart, durable walking trousers with impeccable eco-credentials. The latest model of quandary pants, which have something of a cult following among walkers, have enough give to stay comfortable when you’re clambering or sitting down for lunch. They sit low on the waist but have a handy drawstring to keep them fitted and can convert into capris with the snap of a fastener at the cuff. They also have multiple pockets, including zipped options.

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Acai Outdoorwear casual stroll pants

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These are the perfect trousers for short strolls, weekend pub wanders and walking the dog. Acai is one of our new favourite brands, which specialises in comfortable outdoor wear designed for women and made by women. These casual-fit, durable trousers are a great example – stretchy and well-cut, they pass for girlfriend jeans from a distance. But they’re also exceptionally water-repellant, wipe-clean and breathable.

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Jack Wolfskin overland zipaway W

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Among the stretchiest of pairs that we tried, these breathable trousers are comfortable, soft and well-fitted. We particularly liked the zipped pockets – there are four, all a good size. Water repellent but PFC free – a nice detail that means they’re more environmentally friendly – they’re also convertibles, with a zip-off leg that has enough stretch to be comfortable if you’re clambering. We tested a navy colour that we loved: the fabric was dark enough to cover any dust and dirt, without being basic black.

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Fjallraven kaipak trousers curved W

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A seriously expedition-worthy pair of trousers that look gorgeous, with a curved fit that’s as flattering as it is functional. The waxed cotton shell is exceptionally durable and looks awesomely rugged: we would have no qualms scrambling over the toughest surfaces in these. Big, military-style cargo pockets fitted our OS map and penknife with ease, and the hip pockets made great hand warmers.

Despite the rugged fabric, there’s a degree of give, a lot of which is made possible by the trouser’s clever structure – particularly the darts around the knee panels and the stretch fabric behind. Buckles around the ankles mean you can bunch them above your boot, or cinch them to stop any tics or insects working their way up. This is a lovely-looking pair of trousers that will last a lifetime.

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Keela Outdoors scuffer trousers

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The stretchiest trousers that we tried, these ultra-flexible pants were amazing for hill walking, with a great blend of durability and breathability. Four zipped pockets mean there’s plenty of space for keys and a phone, and the fit, along with the stretch, was among the best that we found. The belt (which comes provided) and poppers at the waist mean you can keep them comfortably snug, while zips and tabs at the ankle make it easy to roll them up for ventilation, or to keep your legs dry through small puddles.

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Columbia women’s titan pass trousers

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A lightweight pair of walking trousers that deliver a great performance with no unnecessary frills. We loved the integrated half belt, with an s-clip fastener, that helps you to customise the fit, as well as the overall simplicity of the style – clean hems, and no superfluous or snaggable zips, tabs or poppers. The material is water repellent “omni-shield” – we’ve taken other Columbia gear on tropical holidays before and found omni-shield fabric to be excellent in humid weather and tropical downpours, while being breathable and quick drying.

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The verdict: Women’s walking trousers

Alpkit’s stylish and durable cotton trousers are endlessly versatile, built for the mountains but also at home in the city. We’re also huge fans of Acai as a women-led brand, which consistently turns out the most unique and comfortable outdoor gear we test.

To prepare for your countryside getaway, read our review of the best head torches for camping, hiking, running and adventures

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