The ugly hiking pant is dead. Long live the good-looking women's hiking pant!
Best for Climbing: Columbia Passo Alto II
What I like most about these pants is also what I like least. In the back the waistband tapers up — like the opposite of a pregnancy pant — hitting high-rise heights. Not pretty. But as long as I'm wearing a longer shirt, they look and fit like a regular-rise pant and the waist is super comfortable; its seamless width cushions a harness or backpack straps and keeps drafts out. I love the three low-profile zip pockets — two hand, one thigh. The stretchy soft shell fabric is water repellent and wicks moisture.
Best for Backpacking: Merrell Belay Pant
Don't let the elasticized waist scare you away. Cleverly camouflaged into the attractive waistline, no one will ever know — and I loved the way they always stayed in place without digging in or making me feel fat. Plus, the stretchy fabric, tailored in a medium rise/straight leg with a chevron stitch out back, helped these pants win Best Butt of the test. On the trail, the water repellent treatment deflected a light rain and when the grade steepened, the soft interior wicked away sweat. Super light, these are my go-to pants for multi-day backpacking.
Best for Day Hiking: Patagonia Rock Craft Pant
When I worked as a guide, I called Patagonia: “PataGucci.” Their products were as nice-looking as they were out of my budget. No surprise, these pants are stylish and functional but now I can afford them too. The straight leg with articulated knee (for unrestricted mobility) can look good on almost any body type. Roll the pants up and they secure below the knee with a button. (I think this is a bit dorky, but better than zip-offs, and it comes in handy when fording a creek.) The highly breathable spandex-nylon blend beads light rain and dries very quickly.
Best Fashion Forward: prAna Meme
A sign of just how fashionable these pants are: I found myself wearing the on-trend, regular-rise fit to the mall. (The skinny-fit looks great with any boot.) But the Meme is no one-trick pony. Stretchy, water-resistant and wicking, the nylon-spandex blend never restricted rock hopping on a hike or during split-moves at the crag, though the unforgiving waistline did bite after one too many lattes. Button closures on the butt and thigh pockets kept essentials safe. Bottom line: this is what to wear on your next eHarmony hiking date.
Best All Around: Salomon Wayfarer Winter Pant
The perfect mix of fashion, function and technology? I think so. Proof: I comfortably hiked the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail in a light drizzle and then relaxed in the opulent lobby of the Chateau Lake Louise without feeling out of place. These pants are full of technology — welded thigh pocket, fleece lined waist, tiny zippers on the three pockets, water repellent treatment and wind-proof soft shell fabric — and they also look great. I think the medium rise, straight leg fit is perfect for being active and, especially if you have assets like a Kardashian, slimming.