Because hiking is a big part of my life, both for work and leisure, I own multiple pairs of women’s hiking pants. I have waterproof ones, thermals for walking in snow and freezing temperatures, and light pairs for summer walking. But in all those trousers which are specifically designed to be worn by women hikers, not a single pair is exactly right.
At the moment, the only trousers I feel comfortable wearing for summer hiking, is a pair of Karrimor, light men’s hiking pants (photo above) which, after one wash, literally came apart at the seams and the zips. My abysmal attempts at mending have resulted in pockets that don’t open properly, a split side seam that reveals part of my hip, and at least one zip that hangs on my leg like an odd appendage but at least they’re long enough. I have been trying to replace these pants for the past two years.
What’s wrong with women’s hiking pants
These are the biggest issues that plague my hiking pants wardrobe: firstly, length.
At 5’ 10” (1.7m), I do not consider myself to be exceptionally tall but apparently, manufacturers of women’s hiking pants would beg to differ. Having tried on multiple brands at numerous outlets, I simply cannot get a pair of women’s trousers that are long enough for me. The longest pair of women’s hiking pants I own are my Peter Storms which, as you can see, are what I would call half-mast.
At the start of this summer, I popped into a branch of Mountain Warehouse in Ambleside where they were having a sale. As we didn’t have a lot of time to spare, I asked the assistant if she could point me to a pair of light women’s hiking trousers, 28” inside leg.
“Oh, I’m afraid we don’t have women’s in a 28-inch leg”, she responded.
Incredulous, I asked her why that was, and she explained that the manufacturers didn’t produce a woman’s hiking pant longer than a 26-inch inside leg. How can that be possible? Do only women 5’ 8” and under, go hiking? Or do the manufacturers of hiking gear simply not bother finding out what their market looks like? Perusing the racks of men’s hiking pants which is what I always end up having to do, there’s no shortage of leg lengths in there, from short arses to giants, they’ve got you covered.
I consider this imbalance to be in contravention of the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975; I may just bring a case against outdoor clothing manufacturers in the UK.
And while we’re on the subject of discrimination, the second biggest gripe I have is pockets.
Why do manufacturers of women’s hiking pants think that women do not require such essentials as maps, GPS devices, mobile phones, and compasses? Do they consider our multi-tasking skills rise us above the need for such rudimentary aids to navigation, or do they simply assume we’ll have a man with us to do all that tiresome route-finding business while we get on with the much more important task of looking good on the trail? Or perhaps they think we’ll just pop those things into our handbags along with our lipstick and a spare tampon?
Back pockets are semi-useful but no substitute for sturdy side and leg pockets, preferably deep enough to take a mobile, and zipped. You have only to look as far as the racks of men’s hiking trousers to see what I mean. Again, I reference my Peter Storms which have good, deep side pockets and , joy of joys, a leg pocket but alas, no back pockets.
No, I do not want saggy, baggy pants that look like they’ve escaped from a 1970s Army Surplus store, nor do I want skin-tight trousers whose back pockets would be hard-pressed to take anything fatter than a credit card. Certainly, I want my hiking pants to look good on me, but I also need them to be functional, every bit as functional as men’s.
Is that really too much to ask?