Buying Guide: Outdoor Trousers

Cameron Sims6 min readAdvice & Guides

Trousers designed specifically for walking and other outdoor activities are often overlooked; but once you’ve tried a pair, you’ll never want to head out on a hike without them.

There are lots to choose from at Millets, so here’s an expert guide to finding the right pair for you.

Walking Trousers


What are outdoor trousers?

If you’ve ever gone for a long walk while wearing jeans, you’ll know it can be an uncomfortable experience. Familiar problems include chafing and skin irritation as well as lack of mobility. However, none of these issues are likely arise if you’ve got a decent pair of outdoor trousers on.

Outdoor trousers (also known as walking trousers) are designed to provide comfort and protection. The stretchy materials help prevent chafing while offering excellent mobility. They’re hardwearing too; the anti-abrasion fabric protects against the usual scrapes, snags and scratches you come across when you’re out hiking.


Types of outdoor trousers


Walking trousers are your basic outdoor trouser - suitable for most situations, with the exception of cold winter walking.

A comfortable, unrestricted walk through the countryside is the aim, and most walking trousers live up to the billing by being both lightweight and functional. Practical features include knee articulation (for freedom of movement) and a water-repellent coating to keep you dry.

The materials used are the perfect combination of lightweight and durable, so you’ll be given the protection you need, without getting weighed down.



Worn as an outer layer, waterproof trousers offer long-lasting protection from wind and rain, without compromising breathability. There are two types of waterproof trousers to choose from, depending on the activity.

2+ layer trousers:

These trousers come with a waterproof outer layer to stop water from seeping through. They're made with a highly durably, breathable fabric so exterior abrasion won’t be an issue either if you’re scrambling through the wild.

Meanwhile, the inner layer is lined with softer materials (mesh or fleece lining) that will insulate your legs and prevent irritation.


Overtrousers make a great addition to your walking kit. They pack down small and can be brought out and worn over existing trousers as soon as it starts raining.


Convertible / Zip-off:

When the weather is unpredictable, being able to alter your outfit to match the conditions can be a godsend. Convertible zip-off trousers give you the versatility to change between trousers and shorts depending on the conditions.

The materials used are hardwearing, water-resistant and moisture wicking, so they’re perfect to take away with you on your next hike or camping trip.

For further practicality, you’ll find that there are plenty of pockets for maps, snacks and other essentials.



Softshell trousers are slightly thicker than most, making them the best choice for when it starts getting chilly outside.

Nearly all outdoor trousers are designed with mobility in mind but softshell trousers take it a step further by using ‘stretch’ fabrics that flex and expand in line with your movements, giving you a fit that’s always comfortable.

Softshell trousers usually offer some form of weather resistance too, including water repellent and UV protected fabric.



Designed for those who want to be active and stylish, leggings have all the features needed to help you achieve optimum performance.

They’re lightweight and come with an active fit that hugs your body, keeping you warm without restricting movement. As well as providing insulation and flexibility, leggings offer exceptional breathability and sweat-wicking capabilities, to leave you feeling comfortable, no matter how active you get.

Walking Trousers


When should I wear outdoor trousers?

As you’ve seen, there are many types of outdoor trousers to choose from. Deciding on the right pair will depend on the activity type as well as the anticipated weather conditions. It’s important to find a suitable match for the activity you’re doing as you could end up catching a chill or overheating.

The summary below outlines the recommended choice for each activity.


Lowland walking:

Distance should be a key consideration when getting dressed for a walk. If it’s going to be a short walk (3 miles or less), then you should be okay to head out in jeans. If you are going for anything longer than that, then a pair of walking trousers are a good idea to ensure maximum comfort.


Winter walking:

When heading out in colder conditions, it’s crucial that you stay warm. Softshell trousers have an insulated lining to lock in body heat, and a wind-resistant outer material to keep cold air out.



Comfort and durability are important when hiking through differnt terrains in changeable weather conditions. A pair of walking trousers will suit you perfectly in most scenarios. If bad weather seems likely, you can always opt for waterproof trousers or pack some emergency overtrousers in your bag.



When travelling, you want to be able to keep your packing light while being prepared for anything. In this case, the best choice is a pair of zip-off trousers. They’re lightweight and can easily be turned into shorts if the temperature increases while you’re out an about.



A pair of softshell trousers work well for scrambling because they give you the stretchiness and mobility you need for climbing. They also have great abrasion resistance too, so they’ll be around for many outings to come.

Walking Trousers


How should outdoor trousers fit?

Outdoor trousers generally come in a straight leg, which gives a closer fit for reduced chafing. In some cases, the design will incorporate a gusseted crotch to allow additional stretch, while protecting against fabric tears and abrasions.

Another feature to look out for is articulated knee sections; they accommodate the natural bending movement of your knees for greater mobility.

Adjustability is something else that helps outdoor trousers stand apart from jeans. As well as an adjustable waist section, outdoor trousers feature adjustable cuffs that tighten up to prevent cold air and water sneaking in.

Walking Trousers

Washing your outdoor trousers

The good news is that the vast majority of outdoor trousers are machine washable; we recommend washing at 30-degrees with a non-bio detergent. Always check the label before washing or drying as care instructions may vary.

If you’re looking to prolong the effectiveness of your waterproof trousers, you can also pick up some specialist cleaning and proofing products.

Now you’re an expert, all you need to do is to purchase some outdoor trousers of your own. Shop our range for great products at great prices.

Buy Outdoor Trousers

Cameron is a young(ish) family man finding whatever time he can to read, write and kick a football around. His weekends involve getting the kids out in the Cheshire countryside for adventures, increasingly involving tents! Photography is the newest of his hobbies – documenting days out and doing his best to capture wildlife on film. Follow his blogs here for a candid view of family fun in the great outdoors.

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