are jeans bad for hiking: hiking man and child in woods

Are Jeans Bad for Hiking and When Can You Wear Them?

If you’re new to hiking, then my guess is jeans are your go-to hiking gear (they definitely were mine). And it completely makes sense why jeans are a lot of peoples go-to hiking attire. They’re durable, sturdy, and you have plenty of pairs already in your closet. But, you may be wondering are jeans bad for hiking?

Jeans are not recommended hiking gear for advanced trips and should be avoided if you’ll be hiking in wet, humid, or hot conditions, or if you’ll be hiking for long distances. However, if you’re new to hiking and are planning short trips on days with good weather, then hiking in jeans is completely fine. 

Let’s dive into why jeans are bad for hiking, when it’s okay to wear jeans while hiking, and some clothing recommendations if you’re looking to ditch the jeans while hiking.

are jeans bad for hiking: hiking man and child in woods

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Characteristics of Jeans that Make Them Bad for Hiking

If you’re looking to hike and all you have to get outdoors is jeans, then of course – wear them! Denim is definitely a durable material, and most people don’t mind getting some dirt on their jeans. Especially because we all have that one pair of jeans that gets put through the ringer, and most people choose to hike in that pair instead of their everyday pair. 

But, jeans have three main characteristics that make them not the best for hikes. These are: (1) Jeans do not handle moisture well (2) Jeans can be tight fitting, and (3) Jeans are not good at regulating temperature. 

Jeans are not great for hiking because they do not handle moisture well

Hikers are often hiking in wet or muddy conditions. At the very least, even on the sunniest of days rain is always a possibility. Jeans absorb moisture and seemingly never let it go. The ideal hiking attire is something that wicks water, sweat, or mud and dries as fast as possible and jeans definitely don’t meet this criteria. 

It’s an awful feeling when you’re on a hike and you’re wearing wet, heavy jeans the entire time. Trust me, this definitely isn’t something you want to experience. 

Jeans are not great for hiking because they are tight-fitting

When going for a hike you need to be able to move freely and be comfortable. Jeans aren’t the most flexible of materials and oftentimes they can be restrictive of movement. Women’s jeans especially are often particularly tight-fitting. 

Wearing tight jeans while hiking is not only uncomfortable, but it also can cause rashes or chafing which if not treated or prevented can be quite painful. But, even if you manage to avoid chafing in tight jeans – the restriction of the material isn’t the most comfortable. This alone convinces most people to get other types of hiking clothes for their adventures. 

Jeans are not ideal for hiking because they do not regulate temperature well

Unless it is a day with a perfect temperature, and you stay at that temperature and elevation all day, you’re likely going to need some temperature regulation while on a hike. 

Whether it’s a warm day, and you’re sweating, or it’s a cold day, and you need to stay warm – jeans aren’t the ideal attire for maintaining the right temperature. 

If you get too hot in jeans, they become even more uncomfortable and since they absorb sweat they make it hard to cool off when wearing them. If you get too cold in jeans, then you likely aren’t going to warm up. Jeans aren’t great insulators and you’ll likely remain cold if wearing jeans while hiking on a cold day. 

is hiking in jeans bad?

When Can I Wear Jeans While Hiking?

If all you have are jeans then you’ll want to find the perfect conditions to hike in so that you’re kept comfortable and dry. This means that you’ll want to look for days with good weather. You’ll want to only hike when there’s no chance of rain and when it’s not too hot or too cold. Jeans wont dry quickly or help you control your temperature, so be sure the weather is ideal before heading out to hike in jeans. 

You’ll also want to hike shorter trails that are closer to home. You definitely don’t want to start chafing and having a quick escape plan should a sudden downpour occur is important if you’re wearing jeans. So stick to shorter, local trails if you’re going to wear jeans while hiking. 

Finally, you’ll want to make sure the jeans you do choose to wear while hiking have some stretch to them. Don’t wear the most rigid pair of jeans you have in your closet – find a pair with some give before heading off on a hike. 

What Clothing Should I Wear Hiking Other Than Jeans

If you’re looking to expand your hiking attire so that you can explore beyond shorter, local trails on ideal weather days then you’ll want to pick up some different pants to wear while hiking. My top recommendations include finding a lightweight, breathable pant that dries quickly. If it’s a cooler day then I’d also recommend pairing that with a merino wool baselayer to help wick sweat and regulate your temperature. 

My go to lightweight hiking pants are these pants by CRZ. I find that they’re incredibly affordable and durable. They are lightweight, dry so incredibly quickly that I even wear them while kayaking, and are nearly impossible to stain. But, if you want something more “hiking official” then grab these Columbia Hiking Pants for Women here, or for Men here. 

Now Merino wool is my favorite outdoorsy material of all time. My go-to merino wool brand is Meriwool and you can grab the women’s pants here or the men’s pants here. It’s a little pricier than my recommendations above – but trust me, it’s totally worth it. 

Hopefully you’ve found your answer to whether jeans are bad for hiking. If you’re looking to get out and hike, check out our hiking adventures page to find some great local trails to explore. 

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