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Hiking In Jeans: Is It Worth It? (Maybe)

hiking in jeans

Thinking about hiking in jeans on your next outing? While you might prefer to wear your favorite pair of dusty converse on your next hike, the general consensus is that you opt for a sturdier, more durable hiking shoe. 

But when it comes to clothing that’s best for hiking, well, rules certainly aren’t as strict. 

Some people might choose to rock swanky hiking gear that can help enhance performance. Others prefer to keep it more casual, choosing to wear their favorite pair of jeans instead. 

In this article, we’re gonna break down hiking in jeans. We’ll find out if it’s a good idea, and how it compares to other types of pants. So if you’re trying to weigh out if you should leave your Levi’s at home for that 6-mile hike, you’ve come to the right place. 

Can You Go Hiking in Jeans?

Hiking in jeans certainly isn’t forbidden, but is it the best idea for when you’re hiking in mountainous terrain? Well, that certainly depends on who you’re asking. For some, hiking 16 miles in a day strapped with a 60-pound backpack while wearing jeans is completely okay. But in reality, these people are likely part of a tiny, highly experienced group of hikers. 

If you’re less experienced and just planning on a spry day hike, then get out your favorite pair of jeans.

However, you should keep in mind how long you’re going to be outside, as well as the weather conditions. As long as the weather is fair, you have a hiking buddy, or a good connection to call for help if anything goes wrong, hiking in jeans should be perfectly safe and okay.

Can You Hike in Jeans While It’s Raining?

Weather conditions such as rain and hail can sometimes happen unexpectedly, no matter how well you plan for your hike. With that in mind – having wet jeans in less than ideal weather is not only annoying but could also be potentially hazardous to your health. 

Suppose you find yourself with wet jeans in temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. In that case, you are far more susceptible to contracting hypothermia than in other types of material.

Wearing jeans in colder weather can potentially make you sick because the wind can whip past your jeans. Although this may seem like an efficient drying solution, this evaporative cooling is actually very dangerous. It can suck all the heat from your body. 

This can be a potentially life-threatening situation.

If you don’t have an extra pair of pants, consider the method of drying your pants by fire (if possible). But of course, be careful doing this, so you don’t burn your jeans or potentially cause a devastating wildfire.

If all else fails, and you find yourself with no other option – the best thing you can do is end your hike and go look for some warm shelter to wait out the rain. Don’t take chances!

Is Hiking in Jeans Okay in the Winter?

There’s a saying called “cotton kills” in the hiking world. While it might sound like a cute little phrase, nothing is pretty about the dangers the phrase is trying to protect you from. You are far more likely to contract hypothermia in extreme weather, such as winter storms, if not layered properly.

Let’s talk a little bit about the phrase “Cotton Kills.” The dangers of wearing cotton in the cold are sometimes exaggerated, but there is some underlying truth to these words. 

Cotton, the fabric jeans are generally made out of, does not insulate well when it’s wet, and dries very slowly. So if you’re caught in a winter storm, and your jeans get wet, you’re going to be in for a long, cold night. Cotton is also a very lightweight fabric, so it won’t provide much warmth even when it is completely dry.

What should you wear if you want to go hiking in the winter? A good rule of thumb is to layer your clothes with materials that will keep you warm even when they’re wet.

Some examples of these materials are wool and synthetic fabrics such as polyester or nylon. These materials will insulate your body heat even when they’re wet and dry much faster than cotton. For an in-depth guide, learn the differences between cotton vs polyster.

So if you are really bent on sporting a pair of jeans while hiking in colder temperatures, consider layering up with thermals that can be worn comfortably under your clothing.

hiking in cargo shorts

Hiking in Jeans vs Other Types of Pants

Let’s take a look at how jeans fare vs. other types of pants when it comes to hiking.

Jeans vs Sweatpants

Sweatpants are the universal clothing item of comfort. Many people prefer to wear them while doing physical activity like going on hikes. ​​However, wearing sweatpants is generally not recommended when going on longer, more technical hikes due to potentially unpredictable elements.

You must never forget that abrupt weather changes, challenging terrain, temperature inconsistencies, and other factors may be out of your control. 

But generally, for more casual, less intense hikes, sweatpants are absolutely an excellent option. Sweatpants can be super soft, roomy, and comfy. Perfect for hikes that require you to utilize your agility and flexibility. 

You get a vast range of motion with sweatpants, perfect for all the squatting and climbing you might be doing on your hike.

Compared to hiking in a pair of jeans, sweatpants might be the more comfortable option. You can roll them up for when the weather gets too hot, for when you feel like you might want to dip your legs into a refreshing stream, or if you need quick access to your legs, such as treating scrapes and cuts. 

Depending on the type of jeans you wear, it’s more likely that you just won’t have the same versatility as if you opted for some sweats.

Jeans vs Khakis

Hiking in other types of pants such as Khaki’s might seem like a more practical option, but like jeans, Khaki’s are often made up of cotton. So if you choose to rock beige on your hike, make sure weather conditions are favorable, and layer up if conditions are looking to take a colder turn.

Jeans vs Shorts

In the summertime, shorts are probably the most popular hiking attire. They’re light, airy, and perfect for hot days.

However, one thing to consider before wearing shorts on your hike is the length of the shorts.

If you’re feeling inclined to wear a pair of shorts for your hike, just be mindful of the type of trail you’re taking. Wearing shorts is typically the most preferable option, weather permitting. Still, oftentimes due to weather, the ruggedness of the trail, or the length of the hike, it might be better to wear long pants that can cover and protect your skin. 

This is especially crucial if you are hiking through greenery that you’re unfamiliar with. 

You could get rashes brushing against certain plants, such as poison ivy. You could be more susceptible to getting scratched and cut. If the weather is scorching, you could potentially get a painful sunburn. Lastly, you won’t have as much protection against ticks.

Conclusion 

Although hiking in jeans can be a durable, more fashionable option, it’s not ideal. Instead, opt for hiking clothes that are good at wicking moisture, breathable, warm, and comfortable. 

Making this choice could ensure your comfort and your safety for a generally happier, more satisfying time on hiking trails. 

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