Hiking Pants vs Jeans: Is Hiking In Jeans OK?

Image of hiking pants vs jeans

What should you choose between hiking pants vs jeans? Well, for an experienced hiker, there is nothing to debate here.

You see, hiking pants are the real deal, anytime, even for hiking in summer.

However, there is that one time that you hiked in jeans. You see, it takes some learning to know that jeans can be nasty for hiking.

Is Hiking In Jeans OK?

Today, many people ask; is hiking in jeans OK? The first answer is always no. However, is it really that bad to hike in a pair of denims?

Actually, same way that you can hike in a dress, you can also hike in a pair of denims for short distance, say, ¾, ½ and even 1-mile hikes. However, you can’t do long hikes in jeans.

We will see just why in this article.

In other circumstances, you will find people wondering what is best between cargo pants vs jeans. Well, for this one, the answer is … it depends!

For example, for weight lifting, cargo pants would be cool. For casual wear, jeans are great. Therefore, for cargo mens hiking pants and jeans, it really depends on where you are wearing them to.

If you look for pictures of womens hiking outfits on the internet, you will not see a single pair of jeans in there. And you can bet there are millions of these pictures!

You will find cute hiking dress, cute hiking shoes, cute hiking leggings, hiking tops, jackets et al, but you are not likely to find a pair of jeans.

This therefore means that hiking in jeans pants is not OK at all.

But just why do we bring this vilification against jeans?

Why are jeans bad for hiking?

A long time ago in the 70s, when the hippy lifestyle was the top thing, everyone hiked in jeans. However, these would soon be replaced by different, faster-drying clothing for the trail.

Without preamble, let us just say that in the discussion of inseam for hiking pants vs jeans, the former wins.

However, in case you are not convinced and you still think you can wear a pair of jeans for hiking in Coloradoor anywhere else, keep reading. 

Jeans bunch up when wet and cause blisters

So, jeans are not good for hiking because they are made of cotton. When cotton absorbs sweat, it bunchs up.

It can eat at your crotch badly, leaving you all blistered up and really unhappy with your hiking experience.

And no, sweat is not the only culprit. When you are outdoors, rain can happen without notice. You might also hike waterfall trailswhere a lot of spray will definitely get to you.

If the jeans soak the spray, your goose is cooked.

Which brings me to another point …

Jeans don’t dry fast enough

This is another big problem with jeans. When you walk trails that have water, some will get to the legs of your pants.

You want them to keep water out, something that jeans cannot do. When they come into contact with water, it will not bead up and roll down. It will be absorbed right in and stay in the cotton fibers.

Even in bright, summer sunshine, jeans will not dry fast enough. Therefore, a proper soak in the pant legs can make your quite wet and it can even soak through your hiking socks.

Hiking pants can withstand a splash. Granted, they will not exactly keep moisture out when exposed to water for a minute or so. However, their saving grace is that they dry quite fast.

Jeans don’t wick away moisture

Hiking is hard, intense work. Therefore, you are sure to break a sweat after several minutes of walking. Therefore, you need to wear hiking clothes that can wick the sweat away from your skin, leaving you comfortable and dry.

Cotton is the main material used to make jeans. However, it absorbs moisture instead of wicking it away. Therefore, when you sweat in jeans, you stay wet and uncomfortable until it dries up.

The best hiking pants on the other hand are designed in such a way that they wick sweat away from your skin. Therefore, you remain comfortable and dry.

Hiking in jeans or sweatpants

You can definitely hike in sweatpants. Since they are designed for exercising, they wick away the sweat from your body keeping you dry and comfortable.

However, they are not designed for hiking! Therefore, if you are planning to do an overnight hike, you should just wear a pair of hiking pants.

However, in the case for hiking in jeans or sweatpants, the latter are best. They do a good job of keeping you comfortable.

Hiking outfits should be made of synthetic material because such never bunches up. It does not absorb sweat too. You can stay dry and comfortable throughout the hiking experience.

At the same time, when you wash your sweatpants, they will dry fast.


So much about hiking pants vs jeans. Hiking pants win anytime. However, if you are doing a short hike, you don’t need to get out of your jeans.

Whether you are hiking in winter, summer or fall, jeans are a no-no for any hiking season. Just get a couple of convertible pants so that you can use them both for summer and cold seasons.

Tell you what, it would be even better to hike in leggings than in jeans.