You leave for a hike at dawn when it’s still pretty chilly, but before you know it, the sun’s out in full force and you’re breaking a sweat climbing uphill. If you’re anything like me, there’s nothing you want more than feeling that fresh air all across your limbs.
Luckily, ladies and gents, with convertible pants you can go from wearing pants to shorts in a flash, getting the best of both worlds. Hands down, they’re the most multi-purpose, practical bottoms you can wear during the summer or shoulder seasons. Especially if you’ll be encountering water crossings or foresee a considerable temperature gradient!
Zip-offs simplify packing for trips and are the ultimate in adaptive outerwear. Whether you’re packing for a multi-day or multi-sport adventure, or getting an alpine start to an epic traverse, you’ll find the perfect pair of convertible hiking pants below.
My Review Process
For over twenty years, I’ve been pulled toward outdoor adventures of every kind. From micro-adventures to once-in-a-lifetime trips, I’m a firm believer that there’s nothing like connecting with the outside world through limb-powered movement.
When it comes to the outdoor clothing for these outdoor activities, I suppose you can say I’m a bit of a gear nerd. I love comparing styles, innovative features and hunting for honest gear reviews that tell it like it is. With convertible hiking pants, it’s especially important to pay attention to those small details. Zip-off pants replace two pieces of clothing, after all. So you need those pieces to be equally valuable!
In my search for the best convertible hiking pants on the market, I look for zip-off pants with well-designed conversion zippers in a lightweight and comfortable package. Pockets for storage and quick-drying, breathable fabric also rank pretty high. I’ve noted other important features in the Buying Guide below, so be sure to have a look!
Zip-off hiking pants need to tick a lot of boxes to be crowned the best of the best. Outdoor Research’s perennial favorites, the convertible Ferrosi pants, rise up to the challenge. Offering men’s and women’s versions —and a range of lengths for that perfect fit— they’re my top pick for convertible hiking pants for serious three-season adventuring.
The magic lies in the company’s award-winning Ferrosi fabric. Lightweight, quick-drying and packable? Check. Breathable yet water, wind and abrasion-resistant? Double check. It also offers the perfect amount of stretch for serious scrambling and all-mountain mobility.
Another nice touch is the internal drawstring cord on the ankles. It provides a customizable, slimmer fit, but also, allows you to tackle water crossings without committing to a full pants-to-shorts conversion. Five pockets, quality zippers and a harness-compatible adjustable waist only further add to the allure of these bottoms.
Sure, you need to remove your boots when taking off the pant legs, but that’s hardly a huge setback. If you’re looking for a do-it-all bottom for uncertain weather conditions and multi-sport adventures alike, the Outdoor Research Convertible Ferrosi Pants will deliver.
Adventures are unpredictable, and so, the ideal pair of pants for them should adapt to whatever variables are thrown your way. Enter the Patagonia Quandary Convertible Pants. If reliable three-season zip-offs with endless potential are what you’re after, these won’t disappoint, fellas.
Why the praise? At their core, the Patagonia Quandary Pants are designed with the avid outdoorsman in mind. They’re lightweight but durable, and quick to repel water with the DWR finish. The brand has nailed the zip-off legs feature, too. When the temps or your activity ramps up, quality conversion zippers turn the pants into shorts. And color-coded zippers ensure putting them back on is a breeze.
What’s their biggest setback? While the slimmer fit makes for a more modern look, they may feel a bit too snug for some, especially for those with big thighs. The average build shouldn’t have an issue, though. At day’s end, when it comes to men’s zip-off hiking pant designs, Patagonia’s Quandary Convertibles are in a league of their own.
When Lululemon decided to try their hand at convertible hiking pants, they really nailed it with a sleek, non-utilitarian style. Their Convertible High-Rise Hiking Jogger is my pick for ladies that want female-focused zip-offs that look as good as they perform.
The “jogger” design combines a flattering high elastic waistband, ankle zippers for quick transitions, and three decent-sized pockets. A shorter inseam is a win in my book, too. The length feels far modern and just as wearable off the trail.
What about performance? The recycled polyester-blend WovenAir fabric is lightweight, super breathable, and dries quickly. If you’re heading out on a longer-mileage trip, however, the carabiner clip may cause discomfort if carrying a pack with a hip belt. Also, the sizing feels a bit restricting for plus sizes and tall gals, especially considering the high price tag.
For shorter trips and average body types, though, Lululemon’s Convertible High-Rise Hiking Joggers are one of the most aesthetic and versatile women’s styles out there.
Outdoor clothing and plus-sizes don’t also go hand in hand, but brands like REI Co-Op are out to change that. Their Sahara Convertible Pants rank are my pick for the most size-inclusive convertible hiking pants for a range of body types.
Besides offering shorter and taller inseam lengths, the Sahara Convertibles are available up to size 26 (or 3X) for women and up to a men’s 50” waistband. That’s one of the most accessible size ranges you’ll find.
Performance-wise, my favorite feature by far is the long vertical zipper on the sides. That means boots can stay on when changing from pants into shorts! Other perks are the color-coded thigh zippers (no pant leg mixups here!) and the DWR (durable water-repellent) fabric finish, making them reliable even when caught in wet weather.
There are some minor cons. With the men’s version, belt loops are a bit too narrow. With the women’s, I’m not a fan of the updated internal drawstring cord. Pocket design on both can be improved, too. For a pair of pants which have such great zip-off functionality, though, no deal-breakers here. If you’re a larger guy or gal in search of accessible sizing and freedom of movement, the Sahara Convertible Pants have got you covered.
They may weigh just shy over 10 ounces, but the updated North Face Paramount Pro Convertible Pants pack a two-in-one punch. From an anti-odor treatment to a water-wicking finish, they're chock-full of essentials needed for the grandest adventures.
North Face’s hallmark FlashDry-XD fabric reigns supreme with moisture regulation without compromising durability. And it’s made from recycled materials, which is a sweet bonus. I appreciate the updated webbing belt, too, which allows for an extra-adjustable waistband. When you’re days deep into a hike or climb, those micro-mods make all the difference.
Even with a stretchy cord at the ankles, though, you still need to take your boots off when transitioning to shorts. This isn’t a deal-breaker when you’re getting so much quality, versatility, and a sleek fit to boot. Whether you’re heading for a mellow summer jaunt or planning a week-long summit push, the North Face Paramount Pro Convertibles are the sidekicks you need for whatever detours lie ahead.
Breathability is paramount in hiking clothing. Especially for those seeking outdoor thrill in warm climates. The Fjallraven Abisko Lite Trekking Zip-Offs solve this problem with a technical design that features great ventilation and adaptability to your hiking conditions.
First, there’s the brand’s signature G-1000 Lite fabric. I did question this since it’s a cotton blend, but to my surprise it dries super-quick and has no moisture-retention issues. And the four-way stretch really aids in trail mobility. Reinforced heavier-duty fabric in high-use areas and boothooks are neat extra features, too.
Despite the pros, the sizing may cause issues for those that aren’t an average weight or height. With such a hefty price tag, I’d expect more specific options. Even so, for a comfortable zip-off pant you can put through the ringer, it’s worth the extra hassle to figure out the fit.
Looking for a quality, entry-level introduction to the world of hiking zip-offs? Columbia’s Silver Ridge Convertible Pants are a best-selling classic that really hits the mark.
Columbia’s signature Omni-Wick and Omni-Shade fabric technology really shines, especially in hot climates. You can expect the ultimate in sweat-wicking and quick-drying, with excellent sun protection (UPF 50+) to boot. The rip-stop nylon really upholds when passing through rough sections of trail, too. Quality zippers, a built-in belt, and seven functional pockets —including dual cargo pockets!— further top things off.
Now, while their featherlight weight makes them a sound choice for hot weather hikes, I’d be wary of their durability in uncertain weather conditions. Or when the temps drop. Even so, they’re zip-off pants I wouldn’t hesitate adding to my gear collection. Columbia’s Silver Ridge Convertibles have mastered practicality without the price tag.
Convertible Hiking Pants Buying Guide
Convertible hiking pants sound great on paper. However, the last thing you want is to get out on the trail and find that the fabric feels terrible or that the conversion zippers cause chafing and take ages to convert.
Here’s what to look for to get a pair of convertible hiking pants that's perfect for all your outdoor adventures.
Quality zip-off convertible hiking pants should have quality zippers, period. The zip-off legs feature is the defining trait, after all, so it’s critical to have conversion zippers that are easy to use, zip off in a flash, and don’t snag. Without proper zip-off functionality, they simply become normal hiking pants with a weirdly placed seam, which is definitely not practical.
Also crucial with zippers, is a design that won’t rub you the wrong way after the pants-to-shorts conversion. Usually, brands will have a “flap” or two to tuck the conversion zipper away once you’ve zipped off the pant legs. This greatly reduces chafing when logging those miles, and minimizes hot spots or discomfort when sitting or kneeling.
Last but certainly not least is the super-efficient ankle zipper. Although not all of our listed styles feature them, ankle zippers (longer side zips) definitely help when transitioning from pants into shorts. They allow you to remove the pant legs without taking off your boots, which is particularly handy if you’re heading out into uncertain weather conditions!
No matter if you’re in search of hot-weather hiking pants or something for colder-weather trips, you want to ensure your convertible zip-offs are made from a breathable material that is sweat-wicking and quick-drying. Something light in weight is also ideal; I’d aim for under 12 ounces.
Your average hiking pant will generally also be made from an abrasion-resistant fabric that allows flexibility in motion, and this goes for zip-off pants as well. Nylon or polyester are the most practical options, but spandex blends are also great for utmost freedom of movement.
Avoid cotton clothing (and even cotton blends) as it tends to be heavier and more absorbent, meaning it’ll take far longer to dry. That can get dangerous if you’ve been sweating and are met with sudden cold weather!
Sure, style isn’t everything. But when you’re investing in convertible pants for hiking, you’re essentially investing in two items. And they should look just as good —and perform just as well!— together as they do separately. If you’re not happy with the team dynamic, after all, why not just stick with normal hiking pants and a pair of shorts?
My suggestion for getting the fit right is to prioritize the hiking shorts component. Pay attention to the shorts inseam and the overall length. Ideally, the hem should fall around the same place where a favorite pair of shorts from your closet would.
Water Repellent Finishes
Many of the best hiking pants these days have water-resistant coatings or DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finishes on the fabric. This is usually enough to shed light rain or snow, but by no means implies a fully waterproof pant.
Quality water resistance is definitely a nice touch, though. If you’re torn between two pairs of hiking pants and one has the DWR finish, it will surely come in handy for those adventure-seekers that don’t stray away from wet weather hikes.
Like water-resistant coatings, not all zip-off hiking pants will offer enhanced UPF-rated sun protection. If you’re going to be hiking often at high elevations or in areas with full sun exposure, though, it’s a big bonus having pieces of clothing rated with a 50+ UPF.
If the pair of hiking pants you’re interested in doesn’t specify a rating, fret not. Nylon and polyester fabrics do naturally disrupt UV light, so there will be some level of sun protection.
From zippered hand pockets to coin pockets and scoop pockets, a well-designed space to securely store your small essentials is a pretty important feature. Phone-sized zippered pockets are the holy grail, of course, but even smaller mesh-lined pockets for quick snacks, emergency whistles or headphones will make all the difference.
Like most premium products for the outdoors, quality hiking clothing often comes at a cost. With convertible zip-offs, though, the price really isn’t too far off from normal hiking pants! And considering you’re getting two articles of clothing, that’s a pretty sweet deal.
The average price for convertible hiking pants is somewhere between $80-$150. Top outdoor brands will be on that higher end, but I’ve made it a point to feature a couple of comparable models with more reasonable price tags, too.
Want a convertible pair of hiking pants that strikes the perfect balance of style and performance? Our best overall pick, the Outdoor Research Convertible Ferrosi Pant, is your winning ticket. The brand offers versions for both men and women, too.
If you’re looking for an aesthetic, female-specific pair of zip-offs, I’m a huge fan of Lululemon Convertible High-Rise Hiking Jogger. Their style is unmatched, and they feel great on and off-trail.
For the fellas, you can’t go wrong with Patagonia’s Quandary Convertible Pants. The slim fit gives them a modern look, but they’re as durable as zip-off hiking pants come.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.