Hiking in Sweatpants is Awesome, or is it?

Last Updated on 03/02/2022

Hiking in Sweatpants

Can you go hiking in sweatpants? They’re not the most common style of pants to go hiking in, but sweatpants may be suitable for some hikes. On shorter walks and in mild or cool weather, sweatpants are amazing for hiking. In the summer months, you can even wear athletic sweatpants that are light and breathable.

Hikes can be a last-minute decision. An impromptu phone call can set you off on a walk for the day. You might not always have a chance to dig out your favorite walking pants, especially if you’re not at home.

Sweatpants are a favorite go-to for many people on their days off. They’re warm and comfortable, not to mention stretchy. But are they appropriate for a hike? Let’s have a look.

Can You Go Hiking in Sweatpants?

This might not be a popular answer with a lot of hiking purists, but you can go hiking in sweatpants. But, like every piece of equipment, there are times and places where it is appropriate, and others where it isn’t.

In cool, dry weather, sweatpants are absolutely fine to wear, so long as you’re not heading out for a long or technical hike. If you’re heading out for a multi-day hike or long technical hike, then leave the sweatpants at home.

Nike Men's Sportswear Club Fleece Jogger Pants BV2737 (Dark Grey Heather/Matte Silver/White, Medium)

Benefits of Hiking in Sweatpants

Here are some of the benefits of sweatpants for hiking that we think play an important role in the decision to wear sweatpants on a hike:

Comfortable

We all know how comfortable sweatpants are. What better than to be able to stay that comfortable while you’re out hiking?

It’s much easier to get out for a walk, or a short hike, if you know you’re going to be comfortable the whole way. In the right weather, sweatpants are perhaps the most comfortable pants you can wear.

Warm

One of the reasons sweatpants are so popular in the fall and winter is just how cozy they are. These pants will keep you warm on your hike, even in some cold weather. This might not make them suitable for being up on a mountain or in full winter conditions, but sweatpants in fall are a great feeling.

Affordable

If you’re a casual hiker, you may not want to spend excessive money on buying hiking pants. Chances are, though, you may already own some sweatpants. If you don’t, they’re cheap and easy to get hold of.

Lots of movement

Most sweatpants have an elasticated waist and plenty of space in them for you to move around. The last thing you want to wear for hiking is anything restrictive. The freedom of a pair of sweatpants might have you forgetting you’re even wearing them.

Downsides to Hiking in Sweatpants

It all sounds pretty good so far, huh? Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that sweatpants are the answer to all your hiking pants requirements. There are some drawbacks to them, too.

Hold moisture

sweatpants are usually made from cotton or polyester, both of which have a habit of holding onto moisture. While polyester isn’t quite as prone to holding moisture as cotton, it can still soak up rain or sweat and don’t breathe too well.

In wet weather, sweatpants will soak through quickly. Not only will this weigh you down, but it will cool you down quickly, especially in windy conditions. Unlike hiking trousers, sweatpants do not wick moisture and do not dry out effectively, so once they’re wet, they will remain wet until you get home.

Not very durable

Hiking trousers are designed to withstand the rigors of the trail. Sweatpants are designed to be worn in the gym, or for lounging about. Wearing sweatpants regularly on the trail is going to wear them out far quicker than it would a pair of hiking pants.

Bulky

Perhaps not such a problem if you’re wearing them, but you won’t want to carry a pair of sweatpants with you in your backpack. They don’t weigh much, but they do take up a lot of space in your bag.

Can be too warm

There’s a good chance that if you wear sweatpants in the summer, you’re going to overheat. Sweatpants don’t breathe like hiking pants do, but hold the sweat instead and soak you from the inside out. This quickly becomes uncomfortable as you overheat and risk chafing on the trail.

adidas Originals,mens,3-Stripes Pants,Medium Grey Heather,Large

What to look for in Hiking Sweatpants

In the broadest sense, there are two types of hiking sweatpants, soft and comfy cotton sweatpants, and breathable athletic sweatpants. Here are some of the features you should look for when buying sweatpants for hiking:

Quick-drying and moisture-wicking

Okay, so it’s unlikely that sweatpants will compete with hiking pants on this one. If you are going to go hiking in your sweatpants, though, you should try to find a pair that dry as quickly as possible and wick moisture a little.

The best sweatpants for hiking are usually polyester. These wick moisture more effectively than cotton, but aren’t always quite as breathable, depending on the density of the weave.

Warm or lightweight

This will depend on when and where you plan on going hiking. If you are going hiking in cold weather, then warm sweatpants will be the best option. If you need a little ventilation, try to find a lightweight option.

Wind-blocking or breathable

Similar to the choice between warmth and weight, you might want to pick between wind-resistant or breathability. Warm weather calls for breathable pants to stop you from cooling down, especially if you are likely to get wet. Sweatpants aren’t the most breathable option, but there are some on the market which are better than others.

Fit

Of course, your pants need to fit you properly. You want your fit to be freeing and comfortable, but not too loose. Sweatpants that flap around in the wind are irritating at best, but also liable to catch on rocks or branches as you pass them.

Drawstring waist or belt loops

Keeping your trousers up is sometimes difficult. Sweatpants are usually lightweight, but if they get damp or if you want to carry anything in the pockets, there’s a chance of them sliding down regularly as you walk. A drawstring waistband or belt loops can save you from discomfort, or embarrassment.

Pockets

Phones, cameras, gloves, hats, and snacks. There are all sorts of things you might want to carry with you on the trail and some of them need to be closer at hand than being stashed in your backpack. Pockets with zips can keep your items secure and lower the risk that your phone tumbles down a trailside.

Reinforced patches

As we mentioned earlier, sweatpants can wear far quicker than hiking trousers. Reinforced knees, or butts, will give your sweatpants a much better chance of surviving your hiking trip.

Diamond-Cut Crotch

A diamond-cut crotch in sweatpants gives you a far greater range of movement than a straight seam. These are popular on a lot of higher-end sweatpants and many companies, like Nike, put these on almost all of their pants. If you have to climb up any large steps, you might appreciate the extra strength and movement, otherwise, you could end up with more ventilation than you had hoped for.

 


We hope we had a positive impact on your decision to go hiking in sweatpants.

Gear Assistant
Gear Assistant

This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

Gear Assistant
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