The debate on pants versus shorts for hiking rages on every trail and mountainside. And the answer isn’t straightforward.
The ideal leg attire depends on the weather, terrain, hike difficulty, and personal preferences.
This comprehensive guide on boys hiking pants versus shorts covers all the key factors so you can decide what’s best for your next adventure!
The expected weather and temperatures play a big role in choosing pants or shorts:
- Cold Weather Hiking
- Temperatures below 60°F – go with pants for insulation
- 40°F to 60°F range – pants or lightweight, quick-dry hiking pants to cut the chill
- Warm Weather Hiking
- Temperatures above 75°F – shorts prevail to allow airflow & cooling
- 60°F to 75°F range – pants or shorts both feasible options
Average Temperature Ranges by Region:
|Average Hiking Temperatures
|Pacific Northwest, New England, Mid-Atlantic
|40°F to 70°F
|Pants or hiking pants
|Mountain West, Midwest, South Atlantic
|50°F to 80°F
|Pants or shorts
|Desert Southwest, Deep South
|60°F to 90°F+
The terrain can also guide your pants versus shorts selection:
- Off-Trail Hiking
- Scrambling over brush and thick foliage – pants protect against scrapes & abrasions
- Wet Trails
- Stream crossings or rain showers – waterproof pants keep you dry
- Exposed Hikes
- Little tree cover or shade – pants shield against sun exposure
- High-Elevation Treks
- Volatile mountain weather – quick-dry pants adapt better
- Backcountry Overnights
- Cold nights but hot days – zip-off hiking pants allow customization
Hike difficulty factors in as well – exposure, weather changes, and scrambling off-trail all increase with harder treks, favoring versatile, protective pants.
Your individual needs should tip the scales on wearing pants vs. shorts:
- Comfort & Range of Motion
- Do you prefer less restriction? Shorts provide greater ease of movement.
- Chafing & Skin Sensitivity
- Prone to chafing and skin irritation? Try padded pants for extra comfort.
- Sun Protection
- More liable to burn? Opt for UPF-rated sun protective pants.
- Features & Storage
- Want thigh pockets and zippered legs? Check out convertible and cargo pants.
- Laundry & Pack Weight
- Backpacking for days? Multi-use pants require less washing and pack space.
Think about your hiking priorities – whether freedom of movement, staying cool, sun protection, and minimal clothing changes – and pack pants or shorts that align with your needs.
We may never resolve the great pants versus shorts for hiking debate – but this guide arms you with knowledge of all the key factors that should determine your legwear selection. Mother Nature can throw anything your way on the trails, so come prepared with the pants or shorts best equipped for your adventure!