So you have decided to go “commando” and take the leap into a hiking kilt? Kilt hiking is a incredible option for any environment, especially in areas where you will encounter high temperatures!
I myself am not Scottish, and the idea of a hiking kilt was difficult for me to embrace at first. Over the years I began to notice more and more of my fellow hikers using kilts in the back country and my interest was piqued. Once you try kilt hiking, you will never go back to traditional hiking pants or shorts again!
The kilt was originally used in the Scottish Highlands and Isles, and partially adopted by Irish nationals around the turn of the century to enforce their sense of Gaelic Identity.
RANGE OF MOTION
I am going to go over my favorite clothing to use in conjunction with a men’s hiking kilt later, before this I want to discuss why you might switch to a kilt. The range of motion offered by a sports kilt or men’s hiking kilt simply cannot be matched by any other article of clothing!
LET ME STRESS: this is not just for hiking! Many athletes who enjoy running or obstacle courses have found the freedom and range of motion while using a hiking or sports kilt gives them an advantage over their competition!
When you purchase the proper hiking kilt it will feel as if you are not wearing anything at all!
I remember while thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail I decided to pick up a pair of shorts on clearance that were a bit too tight on the hips. I thought it would not bother me much, and if it did, I told myself I was hiking on a budget and needed to save this money for other items of gear. I found myself becoming tired more quickly, because with each step the tighter shorts limited my stride and I needed to put forth that much more effort in order to keep moving forward.
Thru-hiking gives you a lot of quiet time for reflection. As I walked, I decided the shorts were limiting each stride by about 3”. On average a human takes about 2000 steps per mile, so I decided if I lost 3” per stride, 6000” per mile meant I was walking almost an extra tenth of a mile just because my steps were limited! Take into account I was hiking 20 miles per day, and the distance really adds up!
I decided the proper gear was worth the price and stashed my tight shorts in a drop box headed for my home base!
HOW TO PROPERLY SIZE YOUR SPORTS/HIKING KILT
This may seem like a moot point, given that all of us know our waist size and pant size, right? Wrong. Hiking kilts are not sized according to standard clothing industry practices and may require you to do a bit of measuring before you buy to ensure the proper fit.
You want two measurements to properly size your new hiking kilt; first, find the length in inches of where you want the upper part of your kilt to encircle your body. Traditional kilts were worn around the belly button, but for a modern sports/hiking kilt it is a better option to go for the belt line around your waist. THIS IS NOT YOUR PANT SIZE! I cannot express how many sports kilt reviews I have seen where the only issue was an improperly sized kilt!
Second, measure from this point to just above your knees. This is where the kilt should rest as a general rule of thumb. There is a point in the middle of the kneecap that becomes extremely annoying for my stride, whether it be in kilts or shorts, so I either go above or below the kneecap to keep my range of motion clear.
Here is a great video from one of my Top Picks about properly sizing your hiking kilt!
WHAT TO WEAR WITH YOUR KILT
There are many options to dress properly with a hiking kilt. One thing I do not see well represented in sport kilt reviews is what else to wear! Of course, the kilt is a good standalone item of gear if you are not planning on hiking in populated areas. However, if you are hiking “al fresco” be sure to take other hikers in to account; if you sit down, cover yourself!
I solve this by using my standard compression shorts under the kilt. A good pair of compression shorts will allow a full range of motion while keeping everything in a proper place, and allow you to sit without tucking the kilt between your legs.
Some other tips I have for you with your new hiking kilt is in colder climates to carry a pair of base layer bottoms on the top of your pack. When you stop, pull on the base layer under your kilt to retain the warmth your legs generate while hiking. I tend to run hot while hiking so this is a great option for me to be adaptable and take comfortable breaks while kilt hiking. High gaiters are also a great option to keep warmth around the smaller calf muscles.
With rain gear, I do the same; my rain shell bottoms stay near the top of my pack (or in an external pocket, some ultralight shells pack down to almost nothing) and I pull them out when rain starts to fall. It can be a bit bulky, but I generally keep the kilt on, tucking it either up and under my jacket, or down and into my rain gear. The upper configuration tends to work better for me and if I think the rain will last for a while I stash the kilt into my pack, because it is super easy to remove and or put back on. A great advantage to a sports kilt or men’s hiking kilt is that you can interchange your gear without taking off your shoes, a HUGE advantage when everything is wet in the back country!
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A GREAT MEN’S HIKING KILT
A good rule of thumb for any article of clothing you use while hiking is to find a model that uses synthetic materials in it’s construction. Cotton, while comfortable against your skin, does not properly wick sweat away from your body. After a couple of hours of sweating the cotton garments can become stiff and uncomfortable. Synthetic fabrics also have the advantage of being anti-bacterial!
That being said, the niche market for hiking and sports kilts does not include as many options as a more popular gear item, so our options are still somewhat limited. While I would be against using cotton pants while hiking, a cotton kilt has far less contact with your skin and therefore does not gather as much sweat. Add to this the fact that hiking in a kilt is infinitely cooler than shorts or pants, as I believe we can justify using cotton in this particular piece of gear. My TOP PICKS will include a variety of materials.
Length when considering a hiking kilt or sports kilt is partially a matter of personal preference, but beyond the rule of thumb I suggested earlier of just above the knees, I will add that I go with a longer kilt in colder climates and a shorter kilt in warmer climates.
OK, now that we have a good idea of what to look for let’s talk about my Top Picks for Best Men’s Hiking Kilts!
Best Men's Hiking Kilt
NUMBER ONE TOP PICK FOR BEST MEN’S HIKING KILT – THE MOUNTAIN HARDWARE EL KOMMANDO KILT
Mountain Hardware has seen me though more adventures than I can remember. The equipment this company produces is second to none; the quality, craftsmanship, and technology MH incorporates into each and every one of their products is sure to impress you from the moment you open the box.
The Mountain Hardware El Kommando Kilt is the industry standard in men’s sports and hiking kilts. While some competitors have recently come on the growing market, El Kommando continues to be represented by more hikers around the world. In fact, if you have noticed someone hiking with a kilt, there is an overwhelming chance that it was an El Kommando!
The El Kommando Kilt is comfortable, lightweight, and built for hiking!
- 100% nylon
- DWR finish on the outer fabric – when this kilt is new it will bead water!
- Extremely Mobile – fully pleated across the back
- Soft Chamois lining in a conical waist
- Nylon webbing belt included and integrated into the kilt
- One of the lightest kilt on the market today!
- Front apron is not thick – can be awkward if used as a solo bottom
- Cooler and more “Breezy” than thicker options
The El Kommando is a great option to get you into kilt hiking, and with a company like Mountain Hardware, you can depend on the quality and excellent customer service!
NUMBER TWO PICK FOR BEST MEN’S HIKING KILT – THE UT KILTS OUTDOOR/WILDERNESS UTILITY KILT
UT is another company you will find popping up in any reviews of sports kilts or hiking kilts. They also produce a full line of men’s kilts, beyond the ones used for hiking or trekking! The UT Kilt’s Outdoor/Wilderness Utility Kilt is a great option for those hikers looking for a bit heavier fabric than my Number 1 Pick.
The UT O/W Kilt is a cotton kilt with a Velcro closure at the waist that makes for an extremely comfortable kilt experience.
- Pockets, Pockets, Pockets! Two “Jean-style” slash pockets and HUGE rear pockets.
- Ample spots for accessories – three D-rings on the back and two clips on the front
- REMOVABLE cargo pockets with belt loops!
- High quality elastic reinforcements at stress areas
- Pleated for maximum range of motion
- Sizing can be an issue – be sure to measure according to my advice in the beginning of the article!
- Cotton can be an issue in wet climates
The UT O/W Kilt is a great option for those hikers interested in a more traditionally-fitting kilt. Modeled after the original Scottish Kilt, this hiking kilt is durable, comfortable, and stylish!
NUMBER THREE PICK FOR BEST MEN’S HIKING KILT – THE SPORTS KILT MEN’S HIKING KILT
The Sports Kilt Men’s Hiking Kilt is situated at number three on my list but there are qualities to this kilt that easily tie it with the number two or even number one spot! This kilt is made for hiking and it is also made in North America, something neither of my top two picks can claim.
This kilt wins my award for best ultralight hiking kilt for thru-hiking. At only 330 grams and solid construction from microfiber, this is one kilt that you can wear for days at time without washing. When you get to town after a few days of hiking, the Sports Kilt Men’s Hiking Kilt is machine washable!
- Microfiber and poly-acrylic blend construction is perfect for hiking
- Excellent swing and drape
- Velcro Enclosure and just enough elastic to be comfortable
- Lightweight, stylish – as if you are wearing nothing at all!
- Lightweight fabric and sometimes “leave little to the imagination”
- BE SURE to measure correctly to avoid returns!
This kilt is ready for any adventure you have planned and is stylish enough to go from trail to town with ease! I love the traditional Gaelic patterns used, true to form and style from the culture who first brought us the modern hiking kilt! While I am a fan of the Borealis Black featured above, check out this Irish Clover pattern. Just add bagpipes!
So now you have a good idea how to get into kilt hiking, what to look for in a great hiking kilt, and what brands of kilt are best to use while hiking or trekking. Happy Trails and enjoy your new freedom!