If I am not hiking in my Capri pants or my GoLite hiking skirt, I love a good pair of convertible hiking pants! IN case you are wondering, those are the pants with the cool zip-off legs that convert into shorts, OR the pants that are made to be rolled up easily and fastened with a snap. I am a fan of the former; there is nothing quite like having that sort flexibility while I hike in the back country. These pants are also GREAT for international travel when space in your luggage is limited and you want to have multi-purpose clothing!
Makino Convertible Quick Dry Hiking Pants
Columbia Sportswear Saturday Trail II Pants
Columbia Sportswear Saturday Trail Pants
Mountain Hardware Mirada Convertible Hiking Pants
Exofficio Bugs Away Ziwa Convertible Pants
Sierra Convertible Pants
I love to backpack and hike in Central America and when I am running to catch the “Chicken Bus” I always regret packing too much, so having a couple pairs of convertible pants means I can pack less weight. The Chicken Buses are the old yellow school buses from the United States that have been decommissioned and sent to Central America, where they are refitted and used for public transport between small pueblitos. The top is outfitted with a luggage rack that transports anything from construction materials (I am talking giant bags of concrete and sheets of drywall) to boxes full of live chickens. The buses themselves are pretty colorful, often repainted with murals; sometime the drivers wrap the metal seat posts with neon nylon string and most of them have a system bumping out some 80’s tunes or Reggaeton hits.
They also will not wait for anyone, so if you are a bit late to the bus stop, you better be running! The driver will keep it slow enough for you to jump on 🙂 but you will not catch the Chicken Bus with a heavy pack!
When it gets windy or cold, the sun starts to shine too much or the mosquitoes come out to feast on my calves, it is very pleasant to be able to pull up my zip-off lowers in a second or two while I still have my backpack on!
On trails, I always hike with a pair of Dirty Girl trail running gaiters.
And the super cool thing about these is that they are spandex, so they stretch a lot! When I want to ditch my pant bottoms, but I don’t want find a place to sit, take off my shoes, pull off my gaiters, stash them in the pack, brush off my socks, blah, blah…...I just roll them down and tuck them in the tops of my Dirty Girls. If I am on a hike with more off-trail sections, when the underbrush is thick and I am breaking my way through, I like to use a stouter pair of OR or REI gaiters, but the idea is the same. By stashing the pant bottoms in the gaiter it is simple to pull them off or put them on in an instant!
TRAIL ADVICE: I have ruined the bottom hem of many pairs of pants by walking on them while I was hiking. If you take my suggestion and pick up some gaiters, be sure to keep the hem tucked into the gaiter. Fold the bottom over itself (imagine you are starting a 80’s style tight roll) and fasten the gaiter over the pant leg. This will prevent the pant from billowing over the top of your gaiter!
There are a TON of great options for women’s convertible pants on the market today and I want to go over what I love and what I don’t love about the models and brands available on the market today.
These are technically convertible pants and I tend to prefer the freedom of a zip-off more, BUT I am going to include some of these in my Loves. For women with thicker legs these can be a bit constricting and I always seem to sweat just under the roll of fabric. However, if this is what you like, I have some great suggestions coming up. Plus most of these roll up into Capri-length pants which are great when you need to wade across a stream or the trail is muddy!
Before I get into all that, let me describe what I look for when I am shopping for a pair of convertible hiking pants!
THE ♥ OF THE MATTER
When I am shopping around for an awesome pair of convertible pants, there are several qualities I examine very closely before I make my purchase. These are the questions I ask myself before I commit to a purchase. Even if I am shopping on-line, I still do this when I open the box. Don’t be tempted to keep the pants if they are not up to par, just because they are already in your hands! With Amazon shipping the return process is painless and quick. It is worth exchanging or in some cases returning if your convertible hiking pants are not perfect!
- Does the stitching seem to be well done? Are there loose threads at the seams, inside or out?
- Does the material feel sturdy, or too thin? Although I love cotton I tend to sweat a lot and without a good synthetic blend I chafe from the sweat held in by the cotton. So most of my top picks are synthetic!
- How do the zippers and snaps work? Do they run smoothly or does it feel like they catch on a lip of fabric? Are the snaps secure in the fabric or loose?
- How do they fit? I put them on and do 10 deep squats before anything else. Make the first one slow of you might be trying to return split pants! The issue is if the pants are tight on your hips and rear, while you are hiking they are just not going to be comfortable.
- Are they fitted with articulated knees and crotch gussets (an extra length of fabric at the crotch to make them more flexible)?
- What are the pockets like? Can I warm my hands, stash my cell, etc...
OK ladies, we have a good idea of what to look for when we get those beautiful brown boxes from the UPS driver, so let’s get into what brands and models I love to rock out on the trail!
Best Women's Convertible Hiking Pants
FIRST LOVE – CONVERTIBLE PANTS – THE MAKINO WOMENS CONVERTIBLE QUICK DRYING HIKING PANTS
OK, so these definitely stand out! Don’t think that the Makino’s are simply a fashion statement; these convertible hiking pants are built for the trail and tough enough to stand up to anything you can throw at them! What I love about these pants is that they are fitted for a woman. Many convertible pants on the market feel like a pair of men’s pants some guys stuck a “woman’s” tag on; the rear sags, the legs are bulky and they just don’t fit. These Makinos fit my body perfectly and still allow me the functionality of a great pair of convertibles!
BEST OF THE BEST
- Polyester/Spandex blend is great for long days or trips where I wear these for more than one day in a row
- SUPER DEEP zippered pockets can fit an over-sized cell easily
- Straight leg is comfy (remember my comment about gaiters? These are the pants for that trick!)
- Awesome colors!
- Elastic waist is snug, but not too snug
NOT SO MUCH…..
- These are made in China and so you should size up at least one size to be comfy.
- Can be tight in the hips
SECOND LOVE – CONVERTIBLE PANTS – THE COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR WOMENS SATURDAY AND SATURDAY II TRAIL PANTS
I am going to slot both of these into my Second Love because the only real difference in the pants are whether you prefer the roll-up version or the zip-off version. I like the roll ups for city hiking, or well groomed trails, and the zip-offs for more rugged terrain.
Columbia uses heavier fabric than Makino so these are a better option for durability and sun protection. For example, the Makinos are rated to 30+UPF while the Columbia Saturday models are rated to 50+UPF. I have also had a mosquito be able to bite me through the Makinos before, although it only happened once!
BEST OF THE BEST
- Polyester/Elastane blend
- Articulated knees
- Zip-closed security pocket for your keys or cards
- TOUGH – these are made for serious treks and field work!
NOT SO MUCH…..
- Sizing is tricky and the zip-offs work better for shorter girls (the fabric stretches, but the zippers do not, and this is uncomfortable for certain size legs)
- Size up for proper fit (when are they just going to start marking clothes “true-to-size”?!)
THIRD LOVE – CONVERTIBLE PANTS – THE PRANA HALLE (STRETCH ZION) CONVERTIBLE HIKING PANTS
The brand prAna has developed something known as stretch zion technology. This is a performance weave that is so well made it is actually water repellent and still quick drying. The fabric is synthetic but feels wonderful to the touch. ONE MAJOR POINT TO NOTE about the Halle’s is that the zip-off is below the knee, so you end up with a pair of Capri-length pants instead of short shorts.
BEST OF THE BEST
- 50+UPF rated!
- Amazing fabric will stay dry in light rains
- THEY DO COME IN TALL SIZES
NOT SO MUCH…..
- Not as versatile as other pants
FOURTH LOVE – CONVERTIBLE PANTS – THE MOUNTAIN HARDWARE MIRADA CONVERTIBLE HIKING PANTS
Mountain Hardware Miradas are comfortable, durable, and made for longer adventures. These are 100 % nylon so they do not stretch as much as my First Loves, but they are less likely to tear as well. That being said these have a cinch to roll up AND zippers to zip-off the legs, so you get the best of both worlds with the Mirada!
BEST OF THE BEST
- Mini-ripstop fabric is treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent)
- UPF 50!
- Velcro® side pocket for securely stashing your have-to-have items
- EXTRA-WIDE super soft waist band is perfection!
NOT SO MUCH…..
- These are listed as standard fit but for normal hips size up at least one
STILL LOOKING FOR THAT PERFECT FIT? CHECK OUT SOME ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS BELOW!
CONVERTIBLE PANTS ADDITIONAL OPTIONS– THE EX OFFICIO WOMEN’S BUGS AWAY ZIWA CONVERTIBLE PANTS
Ex Officio is a great brand for international travel as well as hiking. Their clothing is very well made and tends to fit loosely, making for a comfortable experience. What makes these pants stand out is the Insect Shield Technology, that promises to keep those nasty pests off of you for at least 20 washes.
CONVERTIBLE PANTS ADDITIONAL OPTIONS – THE WHITE SIERRA WOMENS SIERRA POINT CONVERTIBLE PANTS
White Sierra is another company that might not have made it into my Loves List but deserves a mention here. These are generally the most economic pants I find while shopping and yet still fit well. The cut is regular so you have room to layer underneath, and the fabric is surprisingly tough – these pants are built to last!
CONVERTIBLE PANTS ADDITIONAL OPTIONS – THE NONWE WOMEN’S QUICK DRY WATER RESISTANT ZIP OFF CARGO PANTS
Nonwe makes a great convertible pant as well – I did not include this in my Most Loved simply because the shorts are a bit long for my liking. But in reality, everything else is very well made and the Nonwe will be a great addition to your backpacking trips. These pants also come in a long version!
CONVERTIBLE PANTS ADDITIONAL OPTIONS – THE NORTH FACE WOMEN’S PARAMOUNT CONVERTIBLE II
I have to throw in a North Face option; they make great pants, and while I generally go for a less expensive convertible pant, the Paramount is a great option for your next hike. It has a secure zipper on one of the pockets which is great for your valuable, and the fabric is sweat wicking and feels light on your skin.
There you have it, good luck on finding your perfect convertible hiking pants and I hope wherever they take you, you are surrounded by good friends, good times, and good views!