One of the first things that comes to mind when planning a hike is the weather. A close second would be how to dress. In fact, some may say these things go hand in hand.
Whether you’re an avid hiker or a novice, your goal should always be to plan the best hike possible and plan for all contingencies.
While “what to wear” may not seem like a priority, most hikers regardless of their experience level, will agree that wearing layers is typically a smart move.
Some, however, may just want to wear a pair of comfy jeans and go for a relaxing walk amongst nature. But, can you hike in jeans?
What You'll Learn
Can You Hike in Jeans?
Yes, depending on a number of factors, and who you talk to, you can hike in jeans. There is no reason why you can’t wear this type of clothing, provided you find them to be comfortable and easy to move in. Make sure the jeans aren’t new, because they can be stiff. Slightly broken-in jeans are best!
Jeans are also extremely durable and that makes them less likely to succumb to ripping and tears. It will also keep those pesky pricker bushes and burrs from pinching your legs.
The thickness is another positive, as it may help prevent nasty scrapes and bruises should you take a fall.
Jeans come in all types of styles too… carpenter pant jeans are great for hanging a compass, pocket knife or canteen from.
For a half day hike, or backpacking on a date, jeans are also a super cute alternative… and can be both comfortable, as well as a fashion statement for your romantic interest.
In all honesty, unless you are going on a full or multi-day hike, jeans will be fine. It’s more important that you pay attention to your footwear, hats and shirts… so as to avoid blisters, ticks, sunburn and rashes.
I’ve hiked in jeans a number of times and found it to be sufficient for those shorter hikes. My husband and I often have our four young kids in tow… so our hikes are not terribly long.
When Should You Not Hike In Jeans?
As I mentioned, jeans are a fine alternative for less strenuous and shorter hikes. That being said, you still need to consider other factors that may make jeans not the best choice for the day.
When weather is a factor.
Checking the forecast before a hike is a must to ensure everyone’s safety and enjoyment.
If you see that it’s going to be a hot and humid day, jeans may be the wrong way to go. Cotton denim is extremely thick and not very breathable. This means you’ll be more susceptible to sweating… which can lead to heat rash, chafing and blisters.
Conversely, if the forecast is calling for rain, jeans absorb moisture more than other pants. You’ll have a hard time drying off, which can lead to you not only feeling uncomfortable… but extremely cold (even if it’s not below freezing) for the duration of the hike. Being too cold for too long can lead to serious conditions, such as hypothermia.
Consider the length and duration of the hike.
This is another factor that we touched upon… and suggested you may prefer an alternative to jeans if the hike is going to be long. Long hikes are typically those lasting more than 15 miles. Depending on trail factors, such as ascent, a hike of this length takes the average hiker 5-6 hours (not including stopping for breaks or lunch).
Not only should your pants allow for flexibility and breathability, but should be as comfortable as possible for hikes of that duration or longer. After all, even on a typical day, most folks can’t wait to get home from work or school and change into something more comfortable. Sweat and lounge pants were made for a reason, people!
So if you’re going on a long day hike, you may want to try pants better suited for the trek ahead. Ones with tearaway legs are always a good option.
Here are three good pants options that are on Amazon:
- BenBoy Hiking Pants
2. Gopune Hiking Pants
3. CQR Hiking Pants
When you’re watching your weight on a hike.
This isn’t what it sounds like. I’m actually being literal. Nobody wants to carry gear that weighs them down too much on a hike. It not only makes the hike more difficult… but can put unnecessary strain on your back, neck and knee joints.
Jeans are made of heavy material. In fact, an average pair of jeans weighs between 12 and 21 ounces (0.34 to 0.45 kg) – depending on mens vs womens cut and fabric.
When comfort is your top priority.
While most people love jeans for going out for a couple of hours, or hanging around the backyard on a Saturday, not everyone would be so quick to wear them climbing up mountains or treking downhill. Jeans can be restrictive at times, which could make these things more difficult than they need to be.
Final Thoughts on Wearing Jeans on a Hike
So there you have it. If someone were to ask me, “can you wear jeans on a hike?”, my answer would be yes.
Technically, you can wear jeans on a hike… and there are some benefits to doing so, as we pointed out. The durability and thickness are among the two most convincing reasons.
That being said, there are some factors to consider before deciding if jeans are the right thing to wear for a particular kind of hike. Factors such as weather and the length and difficulty of the hike are among the most important.
At the end of the day… do your research and make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into, as well as what you’re hoping to get out of the hike, before deciding how to dress.
And always be sure to pay attention to your footwear and have the right hiking gear in tow to avoid unnecessary disruptions or injury during the hike.
If you’re just starting out, check out this article on how to make the most out of your hiking experience and leave you wanting for more!
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 25 years. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs.
She is an avid runner and incorporates walking, hiking, golfing and kickboxing into her weekly workout routine to keep things fresh and maximize calorie burn. She lives in the beautiful Sourland Mountain area of New Jersey, which offers many challenging and scenic trails.