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Buying Guide: Outdoor Trousers

At Blacks, we understand that trying to find the perfect pair of outdoor trousers can be a confusing and time consuming process. The different styles, fabrics, technologies and features can make finding that perfect pair difficult. This expansive guide is designed to help you choose the right outdoor trousers which will keep you comfortable and protected on your next outdoor excursion. Tighten your belt and read on!

How do Outdoor Trousers Differ from Standard Trousers?

If you have ever worn your everyday jeans on a gruelling expedition then you should understand why there are trousers available which have been designed specifically to tackle the great outdoors. If you enjoy an active lifestyle then it is certainly worth investing in a pair of outdoor trousers as they will make your adventures much more enjoyable.

Standard trousers, such as jeans, do not offer you the comfort, stretch or protection that you need in the great outdoors. Fabrics used in standard everyday trousers have little stretch in them and therefore can restrict natural movement. Fabrics like denim, can be rough on the skin which will rub and create unnecessary friction when walking long distances; especially when wet.

Standard trousers can be problematic when hiking or climbing because they offer little protection against wet, cold and windy weather. There are outdoor trousers available which use weatherproofing technologies and fabrics to ensure that you remain protected from the elements and comfortable during activities.

Many styles of outdoor trousers have features which allow them to efficiently deal with moisture, sweat and heat to keep you comfortable on long hikes or climbs. Standard trousers do not have these features and therefore cannot deal with these issues; turning a relaxing stroll into an uncomfortable trek.

Our tip

Using standard trousers like jeans when exploring the outdoors might appear to be an easier and cheaper alternative to investing in outdoor specific trousers. However, what you save in time and money, you will certainly pay for in discomfort and annoyance.

Types of Outdoor Trousers – What is Available?

There are many styles and types of outdoor trousers which are widely available; each designed to suit different weather conditions, activities and body shapes. The most common types of outdoor trousers include:

Walking Trousers

Walking trousers use durable performance fabrics to create lightweight apparel which is ideal for activities like hiking. Many types offer water resistant protection and use breathable fabrics to aid ventilation. Some styles are quick drying and provide sun protection to keep you comfortable outdoors. Common fabrics used in walking trousers have moisture wicking and antibacterial properties to keep you cool and dry. Most are made from a polyester and cotton mix or lightweight nylon. Shop walking trousers

Mountain Trousers

These trousers are more durable and rugged than walking trousers and are designed to withstand contact with rock faces and extreme weather conditions. Abrasion resistant and hardwearing materials help you to climb safely without adding bulk. Some feature integrated stretch panels to increase the level of free and natural movement available. Most are made from a polyester and cotton mix, lightweight nylon or durable polyamide.

Ski Trousers

Ideal for ski holidays and winter activities, these trousers use thick, insulated and durable materials which feature performance qualities to keep you warm, dry and comfortable in cold conditions. Shop ski trousers

Waterproof Over-Trousers

These use performance fabrics which offer outstanding rain protection and can be worn over trousers or shorts. The fabric is treated with a waterproof coating which repels water to keep you comfortable and dry. Most are made from a durable polyamide or a nylon rip stop which are water repellent. Shop waterproof trousers

Convertible/Zip-Off Trousers

These multi-purpose trousers are ideal for changing weather as they zip-off at the knee to create shorts when things heat up. You can simply zip the material back on to protect your legs from low brambles and weather changes when necessary. Shop zip-off trousers

Stretch Fabric Trousers

Ideal for physically demanding activities like climbing, these trousers use stretchy fabrics to promote free, natural movement to aid performance. Features like a gusseted crotch and leg articulation pads allow you to stretch further and reach higher.

Our tip

Due to the wide range of outdoor trousers available, it is important that you understand what you will be using them for before you buy a pair. Knowing how you will use them will allow you to find a pair which features the fabric, protection and functions that you require.

What Should you Expect from Outdoor Trousers?

Different manufacturers use a great variety of fabrics and innovative features in their outdoor trousers to help them adapt to different activities and weather conditions. Below are the main things that you should look out for when choosing a great pair of outdoor trousers.

Comfort and fit

The choice of fabric will greatly affect how comfortable you feel when exploring the outdoors. Many outdoor trousers perform better than standard trousers because they lay a waterproof outer shell over a stretchy and soft breathable inner. This inner is soft on the skin, whilst the tough outer protects you against the elements. Some use technical fabrics which draw moisture and sweat away from the skin, allowing it to evaporate from the outer.

Fit is a vital component of any outdoor apparel and therefore your trousers must fit comfortably to ensure that you can complete activities effectively. Standard trousers, like jeans, do not have stretch in their fabric which aids mobility. Many outdoor trousers use good quality stretch material which allows you to move freely and naturally. Features like a gusseted crotch and articulated leg pads allow you to stretch each leg further, which makes them ideal for climbing.

Fit can also be improved by the style, shape and features that specific outdoor trousers have. Many have elasticated waists and ankle covers which allow you to adjust the fabric to suit your body shape. When trying on outdoor trousers you should work out what your waist and leg size is to find a pair which fits comfortably. Too tight and you will be gasping for breath on an expedition; too long and they will become a trip hazard.


Many styles of outdoor trousers use performance fabrics which are treated with waterproof and water resistant coatings to repel water and keep you dry.

Some of these technical fabrics combine exceptional waterproofing with wind protection to shield you from strong winds, allowing you to remain warm and comfortable.

Technical fabrics often feature breathable linings and mesh sections which aid ventilation and improve comfort, keeping you cool. These linings draw moisture from the skin whilst repelling rain.


Some outdoor trousers are made using thermal fabrics which have layered constructions composed of air pockets. These pockets of air catch and trap heat to provide optimum warmth in cold conditions. The thermal fabrics used in outdoor trousers also increase comfort levels and improve cold weather performance.

Additional Features

Zip-off capability – features in many convertible trousers which allow you to zip-off and remove material below the knee to transform them into comfortable shorts or capris. Ideal for changing weather patterns and fluctuating temperatures.

Pockets – a great variety of pocket constructions are made up of different sized and shaped pockets which allow you to carry essential gear. Often these pockets are zipped to improve security and have storm flaps which stop rain water reaching the inner.

Elasticated drawcords – these are usually placed in areas where fit and comfort is important such as the waist and ankles.

Our tip

Don’t panic when exploring the many different fabrics, styles and features used in outdoor trousers. By understanding where and how you will use a pair of outdoor trousers, you will be able to search for a pair which has the qualities that you require.

Shop Outdoor Trousers

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Blacks Author

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Lynda Drummond 09-03-16 11:45
Your info is very good BUT why do ladies' trousers manufacturers seem to assume that women who walk etc are all tall. I am 5ft 2.5ins tall (fairly average I would have thought) and cannot find anywhere (not just in Blacks) trousers that are not too long in the leg. I don't want to pay £30 (or more) to then have to set about shortening them!
Blacks Team 10-03-16 08:28
Hi Lynda, thanks for commenting.

We have passed your feedback onto the correct department and will look to rectify this in the near future. This isn't the first time someone has expressed a concern of this nature and it is something we are working on.

Many thanks,

Blacks Team

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Blacks Outdoor Retail Ltd. Registered office Edinburgh House, Hollinsbrook Way, Pilsworth, Bury, Lancashire, BL9 8RR. Registered in England.
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