After an intense rock scramble in Connecticut last April, I looked down in horror to see that my pants had ripped—a ragged line from waist to thigh. In any other scenario, this would just be an inconvenience. But I was in the middle of a 200+ mile thru-hike of the New England Trail and it was my only pair. I tried my best to fix the seam with my humble sewing kit, but the tear was simply too big. I needed new pants. I eventually found a few pair after my fiance traveled to every REI in the state to find one that would fit me.
Finding adequate men’s extended-size hiking pants can be frustrating; pairs that have both sizing accessibility and the qualities of technical hiking gear are hard to come by. Some brands have succeeded at offering extended sizes in recent years, which certainly gives them a leg up as the outdoor industry seeks to become more inclusive. But it’s still difficult to find these size options in-store, which leaves most customers to scour the internet for their next piece of gear. (In my experience, most men’s pant sizing at brick-and-mortar gear shops tops out at a 38-inch waist; I wear a 40-inch.) Discerning how apparel will perform based solely on a product description can be exhausting, which is why I sought to test them myself. After months of hiking and wearing them in the field, these are three pairs of hiking pants that we think deserve a place in your wardrobe.
Mountain Hardwear Traverse Lite ($95)
Best For: Backpacking
Sizing Options: Up to a 46-inch waist
Fit: True to size
The Mountain Hardwear Traverse Lite is my favorite pair of backpacking pants. After 100 miles of hiking in the Green Mountains, they didn’t show a single scratch, snag, stain, or tear. Made from a stretchy nylon-elastane blend, they feel light and airy when moving, but hold their shape and stand up to the elements well—credit the DWR water-resistant coating and UPF 50 protection. Plus, they have two zippered thigh pockets and a sturdy button. If you’re going to be relying on a pair of pants for days on end, the Traverse Lite offers the features and comfort you need.
Duluth Trading Company DuluthFlex Hike Yeah Jogger Pants ($65)
Best For: Trail to Town
Sizing Options: Up to a 48-inch waist
Fit: True to size
Duluth has always been a leader in producing size-inclusive, affordable, and technical equipment, and the DuluthFlex Hike Yeah Jogger is no exception. Not only are they one of the most affordable pairs on the market, but they also beat out most of the competition in quality and sizing. These cotton blend moisture-resistant pants feature four pockets, and are incredibly flexible—ideal for all of the contortions and weird positions hikers get themselves into. Its elastic waistband also has belt loops, which is a plus for folks who are in between sizes. Its casual cut also blends into a standard day-to-day wardrobe. I like how I can wear these joggers for a night on the town, a workday, or some urban exploration.
Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants ($70)
Best For: Overall Versatility
Sizing Options: Up to a 54-inch waist
Fit: These can run small in the thighs, especially around the zippers. We recommend sizing up.
Columbia has been producing the Silver Ridge in extended sizing for years and they are still one of the most accessible bottoms on the market. Many outdoor retailers will even carry these in stock into the mid-40-inch waist sizes. While they can run a bit tight in the thighs, they are a staple for a reason: the Silver Ridge pants can be used in almost any environment. They are light enough for summer hiking but stand up to both bushwhacking through tick-infested fields and rock scrambling. Need to cross a stream? Simply unzip the bottom portion of the legs and you won’t have to fret about having wet pants for the rest of the day. You can even hike with these in late fall by pairing them with a base layer. Essentially, these pants stood up to any test I put them through.