When You Shouldn’t Hike in Jeans

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There are a lot of things to consider when you’re getting ready for a hike. What time of day is it? What’s the weather like? What should I bring? One of the most important things to consider is what you’re going to wear. In this blog post, we’ll talk about when it’s appropriate to hike in jeans, and when you should probably leave them at home.

Is it Okay to Hike in Jeans?

Of course, no one can tell you what you can and can’t wear on a hike. However, jeans may not be the ideal hiking pants for a few reasons. So, should you hike in jeans anyway? The short answer is it depends 


If the weather is cool and dry weather, it’s probably not going to be too much of an issue. The main problem with jeans is their moisture retention. If the weather outside is nice, and there won’t be any rain or the location doesn’t have high humidity, then you’ll be just fine.

Length of Hike 

Also, if your planned hike is only going to last for an hour or so, you’ll likely be able to hike in jeans with little to no discomfort. However, if the hike is going to be hours long, the denim will rub against your skin and can cause chafing. Not to mention, jeans can become quite hot and uncomfortable on long hikes where you’ll probably sweat.


If the hike has a simple trail, you’re less likely to come across movement-heavy obstacles, like steep inclines and descents. Since jeans can restrict movement, you’ll want to avoid them if the hike includes any of these.

Fabric Type 

Some jeans offer a bit of stretch from elastane. If you are wearing stretchy jeans, you’ll have more room to maneuver. Jeans with less cotton are typically more elastic, giving you a little more wiggle room (literally). 

If your hike includes any type of scrambling or bushwhacking, you’ll want to make sure your jeans have some elastane or skip them entirely.

Hike Difficulty 

Is the hike easy or difficult? If the hike is short and easy, the weather is cool, and you’re wearing a more relaxed jean fit, you might be able to get away with it.

However, if you’re planning on doing a more challenging hike, or if it’s going to be raining or hot out, you’re going to want to leave the jeans at home.

Advantages of Hiking in Jeans

Jeans are durable

They’re made to last, which is why you’ll often see people wearing them on construction sites or when they’re doing manual labor. This also means that they can withstand a lot of wear and tear, making them decent for hikes that include lots of overgrown greenery.


Jeans are cheaper than most dedicated hiking pants. If you’re just starting out as a hiker, and you’re not sure if you’ll enjoy it, don’t want to spend too much money, or are on a budget, jeans may be a good option for you.


Jeans are comfortable and breathable for some people. If you find a pair of breathable, relaxed-fit jeans, they can actually be comfortable to hike in. Just remember that everyone’s body is different, so what works for one person may not work for another.

Taking in a great view in jeans

Disadvantages of Hiking in Jeans

Poor Insulator 

Jeans aren’t good in cold and wet conditions. Though most jeans are now a blend of materials, you’re still getting a hefty amount of cotton in your typical pair of denim jeans. Unfortunately, cotton is one of the worst choices for hiking gear fabrics since cotton easily soaks up water.

If you hike in jeans and they get wet, it’s going to take a long time for them to dry out. And once they’re wet, they’ll start to feel uncomfortable and heavy.

In some instances, jeans can even be dangerous, especially if it is cold and raining. When they are wet, jeans do not provide any insulation and can even accelerate the transfer of heat, which could cause hypothermia. 

Don’t dry Quickly 

Jeans aren’t good in hot climates. In hot weather, jeans can become extremely uncomfortable. The heavy fabric can cause you to overheat, and the lack of breathability will make you sweat more. When you begin to sweat, the jeans will hold moisture against your skin, which can lead to a nasty case of chafing.

Heavy and Bulky 

Jeans are bulky and heavy. They’re made out of thick fabric, which can make them quite warm to hike in, especially in the summer. Compared to other fabrics, denim is much heavier and can make your hike more difficult since you’ll be carrying around extra weight.

Don’t Move Well 

Jeans are constricting. Jeans are typically made of sturdy fabric that doesn’t stretch. This can make them not have a lot of give, which means they can restrict your movement. This is not ideal for hikes that require a lot of maneuvering and could lead to scrapes and scratches if you’re not careful.

What Kind of Jeans Work Best? 

If you’re determined to hike in jeans, there are a few things you should look for:

Good Fit 

When choosing a pair of jeans, you’ll want a comfortable fit. You’ll want to make sure the jeans are not too tight or too loose. They should be comfortable enough to move around in, but not so baggy that they’ll get caught on things.

Fabric Type

Stay away from 100% cotton. Since most jeans nowadays have a blend of cotton and synthetics in the fiber, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find non-100% cotton denim in stores. Jeans like these will be more elastic, water-resistant, and breathable. So, make sure to pick up a pair of synthetic blended denim jeans instead of 100% cotton.

Best Pants to Hike in Instead of Jeans

In general, the best type of hiking pants will be non-cotton. Depending on your situation, you’ll want different types of pants. For example, if you’re mostly walking, hiking or cargo pants will do just fine. If you’re trekking through the mud on a rainy day, you’ll want to go with water-resistant/ rain pants.

If you’re trying to decide what material to use, go with a synthetic option. The best mix of materials would be 90-98% nylon with 2-10% elastane/Spandex/Lycra. This provides optimal breathability, fit, water-repellency, odor resistance, and durability.

If you’re looking for a better alternative to hike in instead of jeans, consider this style of pants:

Hiking Pants

Hiking pants are made from lightweight and breathable materials that will wick away sweat and moisture. They often have features like zip-off legs that can convert them into shorts, making them ideal for hikes in hot weather.

Outdoor Research Ferossi 

Cargo Pants

Cargo pants are also made from synthetic materials like nylon or polyester. They often have multiple pockets that can be great for storing snacks, your phone, or a map.

Columbia Silver Ridge Cargo  

Convertible Pants

Like hiking pants, convertible pants can be converted into shorts when the weather gets warm. They’re made from synthetic materials that are lightweight and breathable.

Prana Stretch Zion Convertible 

Frequently Asked Questions: Pertaining to Hiking in Jeans

Why is cotton so bad to hike in?

Cotton is an absorbent material, which means it will hold onto moisture instead of wicking it away from your skin. This can lead to chafing, blisters, and overall discomfort.

Should I hike in jeans or shorts?

Believe it or not, shorts are much better to hike in, even when it’s cold out! Shorts are lighter and more breathable, so you won’t overheat on your hike. And if it rains, your skin will dry much faster than jeans. 

If I can’t wear jeans, can I wear sweatpants?

You can wear whatever you want! But sweatpants aren’t a good option either. Since sweatpants are made of cotton, they will retain moisture and take a long time to dry, just like jeans. If you had to pick between the two, it might be best to stick with jeans. 

What kind of pants should you wear when hiking?

It’s best to go with nylon pants that are designed for hiking. While they may be a bit more expensive than jeans, they tend to be more stretchy, water-resistant, and comfortable. 

How do you wear jeans with boots?

If you’re committed to hiking with jeans, you can cuff your jeans, tuck your jeans inside your boots, or just let them hang over your boots. Typically, letting them hang over is the best option for comfort, although they will get dirty much quicker than the other two options.

Is nylon the only other good hiking pant material?

Not at all! Polyester fabrics may be best, but you can also find fluffier, softer, and non-synthetic feeling fabrics to wear. Merino wool is one that is fantastic to hike in! Merino wool is an excellent material for clothing because it insulates well, transports moisture away from the body, and doesn’t stink! It’s also lightweight and keeps its shape. Best of all, this thin wool is a completely natural and sustainable material.

Final Thoughts 

So, should you hike in jeans? Jeans may seem like a good option for hiking due to their affordable and familiar nature, but they actually have a lot of disadvantages. 

They’re not good in hot, cold, or wet weather, they don’t have a lot of give, they’re not very breathable, they can restrict movement, and they can feel heavy. If you’re looking for a better alternative to hike in, consider one of the options listed above. Though in some cases those trusty pair of jeans will be just fine.

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