Whether it’s a last-minute hiking invitation and you’ve forgotten your hiking gear— or if you’re simply settling a heated debate— you’re likely here because you’re wondering about the possibility of hiking in jeans!
Contrary to many critics and naysayers, jeans are actually a decent choice for hikes. Of course, that comes with a lot of caveats, with the first (and most important) being the fact that they’re only suitable for cool and dry environments.
For hot and strenuous hikes– or those that are exposed to wet conditions– you’re better off wearing other types of pants than going through the trouble of donning sweaty or heavy jeans.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- What jeans are the best for hiking
- The pros and cons of hiking in jeans
- Other alternatives to jeans that you can wear during hikes
Since jeans are a classic fashion staple, everyone has a pair in their closet! How versatile are they really, and can they accommodate the adventurous types?
Can You Hike in Jeans?
On its own, this question is difficult to answer because there are plenty of factors to consider.
For example, how long will you be hiking? What weather can you expect? Where will you hike— are you exploring tiresome hills, or is this a more peaceful stroll?
The answers to these questions will result in different experiences when you’re hiking in jeans.
When Is It Okay To Hike In Jeans?
You can expect your jeans to feel heavy and potentially uncomfortable when it’s a sunny or rainy day, or if you’re hiking for a long period or climbing strenuous routes.
Jeans soak up every drop a hike has to offer, whether it be mud, rain, or sweat. Once wet, jeans will quickly feel cold, unbreathable, and uncomfortable.
As if that’s not enough, jeans also become incredibly restrictive since they have a tendency to mold to your legs!
Despite that, many people still hike in jeans. If you really insist, make sure to carefully consider the weather and type of walk when deciding whether to wear the material. If the conditions are cool and dry, jeans can be a perfectly suitable choice.
What Type Of Jeans Is Best For Hiking?
The best jeans to hike in are those with a more relaxed fit as they won’t get in the way of your movements as much. Stretchy, skinny jeans are also good options.
It’s also recommended that you stay away from stiffer or heavier jeans because they will make their presence painfully noticeable as the hike progresses.
Pros of Hiking in Jeans
Jeans Provide Durability
Original jeans are made up almost entirely of cotton woven with a reinforced pattern, resulting in a more durable fabric compared to other types of cotton clothing.
It’s precisely their durability that made them popular among gold miners during the early 20th century.
The key advantage of wearing jeans is that they will protect you from abrasions if you’re bushwalking or passing through rough terrain.
Jeans Are A Cost-Effective Option
If you’re a new hiker or don’t have the funds for expensive hiking gear yet, jeans can be a perfectly suitable option.
Thanks to the universal popularity of jeans, you can find this staple in every clothing store or op shop with varying prices that can accommodate any budget.
Hiking In Jeans Is Stylish
Let’s be honest– hiking pants aren’t the most fashionable pieces of clothing out there since their design focuses much more on functionality than on form.
As many hikers make known their distaste for hiking pant aesthetic, jeans are a much more fashionable alternative.
Cons of Hiking in Jeans
Certain Jeans Can Be Uncomfortable And Constrictive For Hiking
While there are relaxed jeans out there, there are also some types that are constrictive and uncomfortable. These jeans mold to every groove when you move, essentially taking any large movements out of the picture.
The major objection many hikers have about using jeans for hiking is that the material isn’t breathable. Jeans cause chaffing, turning your hike insufferable.
Also forget about staying dry, as jeans have a tendency to absorb sweat (and will make this fact very apparent).
Jeans Can Get Wet And Heavy During A Hike
Jeans absorb everything– which means sweat, rain, dew, and mud will all cling to you! This will result in your jeans feeling heavy, stiff, and restrictive as the material sticks to your skin.
Weather Conditions Can Affect The Performance Of Jeans
Weather is an extremely important consideration prior to starting any hike in jeans. Rainy weather (and even a warm climate) can really affect your experience.
As stated above, your jeans will absorb the rain and become noticeably cold and heavy once wet. If the weather is chilly, jeans are definitely not recommended as you will freeze. For example, hiking in 20 degree weather while wearing jeans is a big no no.
On the other hand, if the weather is humid or hot, your jeans will also retain sweat and can provoke chaffing as a result. This will also cause them to stick to your legs, making larger strides and bending your knees difficult.
With all this in mind, you’ll really only find jeans suitable for hiking in cool and dry weather.
What Kind of Pants Should You Wear When Hiking?
When choosing appropriate pants for hiking, the key qualities you should look for in materials are those that are durable, breathable, flexible, waterproof, and quick drying. Unless you’re expecting a snowy trail, light pants are also recommended.
While long pants are the most sensible option, some hikers also opt for shorts– especially during hot weather. The main consideration for the length of your hiking pants should be the environment.
Long pants will protect you from abrasions, swampy environments, and insects. Lighter, breathable fabrics will be more comfortable in the heat.
Alternatives To Hiking In Jeans
If you’ve decided that jeans won’t be suitable for your hike, there are still many alternative options available.
Any decent sports store will have hiking-specific pants for sale, and you’ll never run out of different options. If you’re after the best of both worlds, there are even convertible pants with zippers that allow you to transform them into shorts – should the need arise.
If you’ve been invited last minute, or don’t have the funds to buy a new pair of hiking pants, there will likely be suitable options sitting in your wardrobe.
Leggings— made out of nylon, or the ones you wear to the gym—are a great alternative as they provide flexibility and coverage.
In rainy weather, rain pants will suffice, especially those that are nylon or polyester. If it’s sunny, shorts, skirts, and dresses are suitable options as well. However, just be careful of abrasions and swampy environments.
Should You Buy Hiking Pants?
If you have the funds, hiking pants are the most obvious and secure option for a successful hike every time. After all, they’re designed to withstand the different conditions and elements you could encounter on a hike.
However, buying hiking pants isn’t strictly necessary for a trek (especially if it’s a more casual one). As you’ve just learned, there are still plenty of suitable alternatives– maybe even in your current closet.
Many hikers wear jeans due to their popularity, price, and durability. If your hiking conditions aren’t too demanding, jeans can be one of the most suitable options available and can even protect you from abrasions.
When it comes to hikes, you definitely want to reserve jeans for a cool and dry environment. If you’re embarking on more strenuous adventures in wetter or hotter climates, there are better alternatives.
If hiking pants aren’t an option, and you’ve just discovered that jeans won’t be appropriate either, you can still enjoy your hike wearing other types of clothing such as leggings and shorts.
Keep in mind that jeans won’t be appropriate for every hike or environment, even though they’re much more fashionable than conventional hiking pants.