Jeans vs Hiking: Should you be wearing jeans while hiking?

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Jeans, the durable pants made of denim, are common in today’s fashion and are known for the ruggedness and reliability. Many tradesmen, like carpenters and plumbers, rely on their jeans to hold up after hours of hard work. They come in a variety of styles with different levels of comfort that often can comprise their overall strength. Jeans make excellent casual wear. They are perfect for turning wrenches and swinging hammers.

However, are jeans the right choice for hiking? While you can go hiking in jeans, there are many other better options out there to hike with instead. Jeans are not waterproof, can steal heat from your body, are restricting, and can even irritate your skin. An alternative clothing that would work best would be some pants (such as hiking pants) with moisture wicking fabric.

Let’s go a little bit more into different reasons why hiking with jeans just isn’t the best idea!

Jeans are not water resistant

For all the great things jeans do bring to the table when it comes to hiking up a mountain, there are just too many ways they fall short.

Jeans are manufactured with cotton, which is unfortunately not waterproof. This may cause problems if you plan to trek in any cold or rainy climates as the material will soak up all of the moisture and freeze if the temperature drops enough.

This, along with the fact they are not insulated, will fail to help you retain any body heat. This can be dangerous, or even fatal, as you could get pneumonia, cold fatigue, or several other complications as a result. Even if the weather doesn’t drop below freezing, the moisture inside the cotton will continue to steal valuable body heat from you.

Jeans are especially not recommended when you are lightweight backpacking, as you likely have not brought anything additional to keep yourself warm.

Lower comfort level while walking long distances

Another drawback of wearing jeans to hike is the low level of comfort they provide. Jeans could be considered acceptable attire for shorter trips or nature walks where the risk is low.

However, with better alternatives that are made of synthetic materials that are waterproof and still manage to breathe, I would recommend leaving them at home. Jeans can be stiff and be restricting, stopping you from having a full range of motion. Also, if you are hiking in a warmer climate, denim can cause chaffing and irritation to your skin.

They could make the experience unenjoyable as you become more occupied with your discomfort rather than basking in the beauty of the nature around you. No one wants that! That is why jeans aren’t on my short list when going hiking.

Friction while walking

I don’t know about you, but I generally have a hard time walking longer distances in jeans, just because they cause a lot of friction! At the end of the day, I find that my hair tends to be in pain caused by the jeans rubbing.

This alone is annoying enough to make the switch to something better.

Sure, jeans will work while camping, but not hiking long distances!

What are the best alternatives to jeans for hiking?

Now that we know that jeans are not the best option out there, what ARE the best options for you to enjoy your hiking experience the most?

Hiking pants

Hiking with the wrong gear is never fund, so that is why hiking pants exist!

As the best alternative to jeans out there, hiking pants will give you so much less restriction when it comes to its stretchiness, and it also helps remove moisture away from your skin (you will find this is the key to comfortable hiking pants).

I really like these here, as they are relatively inexpensive, yet very high quality.

Base layer pants

If you are starting to get serious with your hiking, then you should be thinking about upgrading to a base layer under your hiking pants. This base layer stays in contact with your skin at all times and helps with friction, and also removes moisture away from your skin, and then dissipates it. This keeps your warmer, and considerably more comfortable.

Thankfully these aren’t all that expensive, and make all of the difference while hiking!

Hiking Shorts

Sure, hiking pants and a base layer are great when it is cooler out, however what if it is just too hot out to be wearing pants? That is where hiking shorts come into play.

These shorts have all of the benefits of hiking pants, such as moisture wicking, flexibility and more, however they are shorter and better for that crazy heat in the summer.

We like these shorts right here, as they are a great price, but have all of the benefits!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to hike in jeans or shorts?

If it is warm outside, and won’t be getting cold later in the day, then shorts will most definitely be the better choice. Shorts will allow your skin to breath better, are less restricting, and mean you will have a better experience. If it is going to get cold, you might want to think about wearing those jeans, or even better find some moisture wicking hiking pants.

Should I hike in jeans or sweatpants?

Sweatpants are actually going to be the better choice in this circumstance! Sweatpants are less restricting, and are generally better for allowing your skin to breath as well. I mean, “sweat” is quite literally in their name.

Are hiking pants worth it?

If you are someone that does any more than just a casual walk, then hiking pants are going to be very worth it! You will find you enjoy the activity more, as they give you a ton more comfort than jeans.


In the end, you should wear what you enjoy. Honestly, on shorter hikes, jeans shouldn’t cause you any issues, and are actually what I wear many times. However you will quickly find that moisture is not your friend when it gets cold, so you should consider looking at alternatives for longer hikes.

In the end, you will be better off getting yourself some hiking pants, a base layer, or some shorts to help you enjoy this activity that much more.