Walking trousers are designed to be worn next to the skin, and need to be comfortable and roomy enough so that you can move freely. Ideally, they’ll also be lightweight, durable and perhaps give you some protection from wind and drizzle.
They’re not designed to be totally waterproof, but many of the synthetic fabrics used will have some degree of water resistance. Another advantage of synthetic fabrics is that most of them will dry out quickly if they do get wet – unlike a pair of jeans, for instance. Look for brands which use a water-repellent coating if you want your trousers to shrug off the occasional shower more effectively.
Despite being hard-wearing, their lightweight construction means they’re comfortable enough to wear as a normal pair of trousers, so whether you’re walking the dog though the woods or tackling some serious peaks, you could find yourself wearing them more often than you thought.
As with normal trousers, it’s best to try them on before you buy to make sure they’re a good fit. Test them out by stretching and bending as much as you can in the shop, to make sure they won’t restrict you when you’re climbing over stiles, for example.
Many walking trousers are made from ‘ripstop’ nylon or polyester-blend fabrics, which should stop them tearing or snagging too easily.
Trousers with double- or triple-stitched seams should be more robust than those with single seams, and reinforced knees or seats should help these areas cope with scrambling over rocky terrain, or sitting on a scree slope for a quick break.
Walking trousers with an adjustable waistband are good for ensuring a comfortable fit, and allow you to tuck in your top to keep the wind out. Some trousers come with their own belt, but if not, choose a pair with belt loops so that you can use your own. Some brands have a section of softer lining inside the waist, so there’s less chance of chafing and irritation.
If you choose a pair with a narrow leg you may want to look for articulated knee joints to help you move more freely. Cargo-style trousers tend to be a more relaxed fit.
Velcro tabs on the ankles are worth considering as they can be tightened to keep the wind out, or loosened to give you a bit of ventilation if you’ve worked up a sweat.
If you can’t decide whether you need trousers or shorts – or simply for those days when you’re not quite sure what the weather will do – you could invest in a pair of ‘convertible’ walking trousers.
You can wear them full length until you’ve warmed up, then unzip the bottom part of the leg to make them into shorts. They’re also useful if you find shorts more comfortable through the day, but want to stop the midges making a meal of your lower legs at night.
We’ve had positive comments on convertible walking trousers from Craghoppers, Regatta and The North Face among others, with many owners saying how quick and easy they are to convert from one to the other. However, you’ll want to make sure the zips aren’t in a position where they’ll rub on your knees while you walk.
You’ll probably have plenty to carry when you’re out walking, so well-designed pockets are a must if you want to keep essential items, such as a phone and map, within easy reach. It’s not unusual for walking trousers to have eight or more pockets, so you may want to look out for a pocket designed specifically for your mobile, a hidden security pocket, roomy cargo pockets and, of course, pockets to warm your hands while you stop to admire the views.
It’s a matter of personal preference whether you prefer buttons, zips, poppers or Velcro, but you’ll want to make sure at least one or two pockets can be fastened securely to stop your valuables falling out when you’re hopping across a stream.