Hiking in Jeans: Good or Bad Idea?

To hike in jeans or not hike in jeans? It’s an age-old question that almost every single hiker has a strongly opinionated answer to. Some swear by it, and some act like it’s the end of the world. 

Since the invention of activewear, denim has been phased out as the number one choice for hiking apparel. Activewear is just typically more comfortable and faster drying than denim, making it particularly suitable for hiking or backpacking. 

That being said, although denim has its drawbacks, there are still some good reasons to choose it over activewear, and if you’re reading this I’m sure you’re interested to know what they are. So without further ado, here’s a list of the pros of cons of hiking in denim.

WHY YOU SHOULDN’T

1. Restrictive and Prone to Chafing

Denim is sturdier than activewear, but it comes at a cost – being restrictive and generally uncomfortable. This is true especially for traditional denim jeans like Levi’s. 

They don’t typically have a whole lot of stretch, which makes certain motions like big step-ups awkward and rigid. They’re also prone to causing chafing, especially on longer hikes.

2. Denim Jeans Retain Moisture

Another thing to consider is denim’s extremely slow evaporation rate. One of activewear’s key features is its quick drying properties that help sweat and water evaporate faster.

You might be thinking that it’s not that big a deal and you don’t mind being wet for a little longer, which in certain cases I agree with. But you’ve got to be careful because wet jeans stay wet, and can make you freezing or blistering hot depending on the weather. It can contribute to you developing hypothermia in cold weather and overheating in extreme humidity, so stay safe.

3. Heavy – Especially When Wet

The base weight of a pair of jeans is quite a bit heavier than a pair of leggings or hiking pants. While it’s not that big a deal for a short hike, backpackers and those who frequently partake in lengthy hikes might feel the pain if they pack denim rather than activewear. 

Ounces add up quickly in a backpack, and the difference in weight between the two types of apparel can cause additional strain caused by an already heavy pack.

Also, if you think dry jeans are heavy, wait until you’re walking around in sopping wet jeans. They are a breed of their own.

WHY YOU SHOULD

1. Extremely Durable

Now having said all that, one of denim’s biggest pluses is also one of its biggest cons – jeans are extremely durable, which makes them rigid.

If you fall a lot or are worried about tall foliage, a pair of jeans will protect you better than any other type of hiking clothing. I’ve seen firsthand how protective they can be – during a backpacking trip with my sister, she took a nasty fall, and while her jeans ended up ripped, she was otherwise unscathed.

2. Comfortable – If You Get the Right Jeans

You know what I said about jeans and denim being uncomfortable and prone to chafing? If you get the right pair of jeans, you can throw all that out the window. 

They make extremely comfortable, stretchy, and still durable jeans today that are great for hiking. Are they as comfortable or stretchy as activewear? No. But are they still comfortable enough to hike in? Yes. 

Remember, stretchy jeans are your friend.

That’s it!

Those are the pros and cons of hiking in denim, and whether you opt for a good pair of jeans or activewear, you should be comfortable enough. Just make sure to check the weather before you go on a hike in jeans! Try to hike in mild, dry weather.

Hi, I’m Ash!

I’m a laid back traveler who loves experiencing new things and spontaneity. My favorite hobbies are hiking, gardening, skincare, and all things tea.

My biggest goal is to spread the word about sustainable travel and show everyone how easy it is to partake in. If you wanna learn more about that or get to know me better, feel free to click here.


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