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Hiking, though a leisure activity to many people, can have harmful effects to you if you do not prepare properly for the elements.

Having the proper gear on when hiking is a key to making sure you stay safe and can hike for a long period of time.

One way to make sure you have the best hike in a desert region is to wear the best pants for desert hiking to help properly cover and protect your legs.

Protection and Coverage

One main issue with desert hiking is the negative effects of walking in the exposed and harsh sunlight.

While wearing sunblock and reapplying it can help prevent sunburn or sun poisoning from taking effect, the best way to protect your skin is to cover your skin with a layer of clothing like pants.

Wearing pants not only provide great coverage from the sun, but it also protection from different elements you may experience on the desert terrain.

Bugs, sand, and vegetation can all prove irritating and harmful to your legs.

Pants vs. Shorts

One misconception about hiking in a place as warm and humid as the desert is to wear less layers and clothing over.

But deserts can be cooler during nights and colder seasons.

While you may think that wearing less clothing may keep you from sweating as much, it will leave you more exposed to the sun.

One of the greatest challenges when desert hiking is preventing sunburn, as it can be extremely uncomfortable and damaging to your skin.

Keeping this in mind, it is often best to find a loose-fitting pair of lightly colored pants, rather than a pair of shorts.

Pants provide the most protection and based on their material can still be breathable and cool.

Short can be good for brief hikes or days when the weather has a heavier cloud coverage and shade.

If you are looking for shorts, consider finding a pair that is knee length or purchasing a pair of convertible pants.


When purchasing your pants, you will want to find a pair that is lightweight, durable, and breathable.

These features will guarantee you will have a more comfortable and cool experience with the best protection.

There are two main types of pants to consider when looking for your desert hiking pants: cargo pants and convertible pants.

Cargo pants work well for desert hiking due to their loose fit and comfortable feel.

The main difference between cargo pants and regular pants is the number of pockets on the pant’s sides.

Pockets can be beneficial during a hike, as they can easily store the smaller, lighter gear you may need.

Convertible pants, or zip offs, are made to be zipped off on the knees of the pants.

Even with a zipper, these pants provide a loose styled fitting around your legs and can be made from the same materials as cargo and other hiking pants.

The zip off legs work well for those looking for a pair of shorts as well.


There are some features of pants you will want to avoid when purchasing your hiking pants.

Materials like cotton or regular blue jeans do not work well for desert hiking.

Though both materials are extremely comfortable to wear, they are often heavier in weight, absorb water, and slow to dry.

They can easily become uncomfortable to wear and a disadvantage during a hike.


Most of the required characteristics you will want in your pants-durability, sun protection, lightweight feel, quick drying abilities- will be found in your pants material.

Some materials to look for are polyester and nylon. These two materials are able to function as water resistant, quick drying, and abrasion resistant fabrics along with the ability to have UV protection and wick moisture.

The UV protection found in your pant’s materials is similar to the protection found in sunblock. 

The UV protection works to keep your skin from being burned and harmed by harmful UV rays.

The material is designed to absorb the rays and prevent them from affecting your skin.

UV protection is measured at different levels of Ultraviolet Protective Factor (UPF).

Similar to the numbers on sunblock and sunscreen, the levels are set at 15, 25, 30, 40, 50, and 50+. 

These numbers represent the among of UV rays being absorbed by the clothing.

So, a material featuring UPF 50 is absorbing nearly all, 49/50, of the rays are being absorbed.

The second feature mentioned is moisture wicking material.

This means that the material is not only water resistant but that it prevents the material from absorbing moisture.

This prevents your pants from becoming uncomfortably damp. 

This wicking ability works by transferrin sweat and other moisture from the material’s inside to the outside, where the moisture can easily evaporate and not soak into the material.

Adding spandex or elastic can help your pants have a more flexible and comfortable waist and insure you have proper movement.


As mentioned, you want good, ample coverage for your body during a desert hike, so covering your legs in no exception.

We recommend you wear full length pants for your longer hikes. This is due to the overall coverage and protection for your legs.

You can use shorts if you are planning a brief or shaded hike.

If you do wear shorts, remember to add the proper amount of sunblock or sunscreen to make sure your legs are not burnt by the time the hike ends.

You can also use convertible pants to zip off your pant legs and switch to shorts throughout the day if you desire.

Fit and other features

You do not want to wear tight pants while doing any type of hiking as they can restrict your movements and flexibility.

It can also make the hike uncomfortably warm and trap moisture in more easily.

Find a pair of pants that has a loose fit, maybe even order a size up if the sizes seem to close fitted.

You will also want your pants to be made with a lightweight and stretchable feel.

Another is to find pants that are lightly colored, as darker colors will draw more heat.

Pockets can also be beneficial but make sure there have a closure such as a zipper, Velcro, or button and that they do not affect how you move.

Best Pants for Desert Hiking

There are a number of pants that could potentially work for desert hiking. It’s important to always consult an industry professional before using any new products on your desert adventures.

The following options may help to get your search started.

Little Donkey Andy Men’s Quick Dry UPF 50+ Cargo Pants, Stretch Lightweight Outdoor Hiking Pants

These cargo style pants are made by Little Donkey Andy. They come in a variety of men’s sizes and are designed to be a lightweight, stretchy, and breathable pair of hiking pants.

These cargo pants are made from a combination of polyester and spandex, which helps give them the comfortable and loose fit.

These materials make sure your pants will work well in the humid desert conditions with water repellent and quick dry features.

The cargo pants are also made to be moisture wicking based pants, so they will not become damp.

The polyester material is also a ripstop fabric. This means the material is designed to be scratch resistant and durable.

The pants are also designed to have more flexible and comfortable seams in the knees and crotch to allow for more freedom in your movements.

The material has a UV ray protection of UPF 50+ meaning it absorbs and blocks nearly all of the UV rays.

The partial elastic waist of the pants helps ensure a better fit with extra comfort.

As cargo pants, there are plenty of pockets for you to utilize to carry your gear.

There are six pockets overall with two slash pockets and two thigh pockets on either front side.

There is also an open front pocket and a back pocket.

The back pocket can be closed with a zipper mechanism and the other pockets feature a snap button.

View at Amazon for more information on how this product could work for your desert adventures.

Columbia Men’s Silver Ridge Convertible Pant

These pants are by Columbia and they come in men’s sizing.

These pants are convertible, meaning they can be unzipped at the pant’s knees and be worn as shorts rather than long legged pants.

The convertible pants are made from nylon material. This means the pants are not only durable and flexible, but they are also an ideal moisture wicking material.

The moisture wicking function asks as a way to repel water and keep moisture from being absorbed by the material.

The convertible pants also have a partial elastic waist which helps give you a more comfortable feel around your waist while still maintaining a good and secure fit.

With a UV ray protection at UPF 50 these pants are ideal for hiking through the desert and keeping your legs protected from possible sunburn or harmful sun rays.

There are several pockets for these pants as well.

These pockets are either closed with a zipper or hook and loop closure system to help ensure that your items are secure and will not fall out of the pockets.

There are two slash pockets and two thigh pockets on either side of the pant’s front legs.

There are also two back pockets, making six pockets total.

Each of these pockets has a polyester mesh pocket bag to help keep the items inside your pockets cool and prevent moisture from affecting them.

View at Amazon for more information on how this product might work for desert hiking.

5.11 Tactical Women’s Stryke Covert Cargo Pants, Stretchable, Gusseted Construction, Style 64386

These cargo pants are sold by the 5.11 company as covert pants for outdoor activities, including desert hiking.

The polyester and low cotton-based material is very comfortable and breathable.

Though the amount of cotton featured in the pants is low, it can still absorb water.

Partnering the cotton with polyester will help lessen cotton’s negative effects, but the material will not be able to wick moisture as efficiently.

The material is resistant to water, dirt, and stains making it great for outdoor activities.

There is also ripstop fabric featured in the cargo pants to help prevent the fibers from being torn or weakened by abrasions.

The cargo pant’s fabric has a two-way mechanical stretch to its function as well to help you move more easily and create a more breathable feel.

With double stitching, knee padding, and bartack stitching at major seams and stress points, the pants are extremely durable.

There are twelve pockets overall on these pants, but none have any closing mechanisms which can be a problem as you could possibly lose your items.

The pants feature a fixed waistband that helps prevent slipping or rubbing that can cause discomfort and interrupt a hike.

This can however limit the movement of your waist band and limit some flexibility.

View at Amazon for more information on how this product might work for you.

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