Choosing The Best Hunting Pants

Choosing The Best Hunting Pants

More than any other single item of gear, your pants will make or break a hunting trip. If they’re too tight or too baggy, you can’t walk right. Too thin and you’re cold; no ventilation and you’re hot. A lot of hunters struggle for years to find the best hunting pants for their body shape and hunting habitat. In this article, we'll go through the factors we consider when choosing a hunting pant, and the pants that hit high marks on those factors.

What We Look For In Good Hunting Pants

Every experienced hunter has their own set of parameters for covering their legs from the elements. The criteria we focus on are:

  1. Durability
  2. Versatility
  3. Weight
  4. Fit

We want pants that we almost forget are there; pants that don’t impede movement, don’t tear, don’t make us chilly or overheated, and have pockets where you’d naturally reach. You don’t want this element of your kit to be what sends you back to the truck early.

Hunting Pants We Use

Our crew spends a lot of time in the field and the pants we've included here are the ones that we use most. There are plenty of other options like puffy pants for long glassing sessions, brush pants for upland hunts, insulated bibs for tree sits and a collection of women's hunting pants. Keep the criteria above in mind; we think they will help you choose the best hunting pants for your next hunt.

What Makes a Good Hunting Pant

Here's a detailed breakdown of the criteria we use to choose the best hunting pants. There are more things to think about for specific pursuits and conditions, but for us, these four criteria apply across the board.

1. Durability

Barbed wire, sharp sticks, broken rock, briars, and cacti all conspire to shred fabrics that aren’t up to snuff. Standard hiking pants and low-end hunting models may function for a while, but they’re likely to fail right when you need them most—ripping out the knee on a belly-crawl stalk toward a bedded buck or unstitching the crotch as you chase a bugling bull through deadfall timber. It’s important to have serious materials in those failure points so you can stay focused on the moment of truth.

2. Versatility

Hunt long enough and you won’t be fooled by the current conditions or even the weather forecast. Far too many weekends have started sunny and wound up snowy, or the reverse. Do you want to carry three pairs of pants in your backpack? Probably better to just wear one pair that can adapt to whatever weather you might encounter. We look for pants that breathe well but still insulate, whether that’s through high-end materials or well-placed, zippered vents. Side zips let you lock in body heat when you’re not moving and dump it out when you are. Many pants can also be worn from early season to late by adding baselayers underneath, dramatically increasing versatility.

3. Weight

It's easy to stay warm in thick wool pants that weigh ten pounds. It’s easy to stay cool in thin nylon hiking pants. But neither will serve you particularly well for any normal day of real hunting. Rather, we’d prefer warmth without the weight or coolness without the discomfort. Because they’re on your legs, your pants have an outsized effect on your exertion as you hike. Weight does come with insulation, but it can be kept to a minimum. By the same token, durability and low weight are not mutually exclusive.

4. Fit

Finally, and obviously, you need a pair of pants that fit. But that can be surprisingly hard to achieve when the offerings only come in small, medium, and large. Leg and hip sizes vary widely among us hunters, so only you will know which pants allow those hiking muscles to swing freely. Pants offered in a variety of waist and length measurements help the discerning hunter dial in their fit. Ergonomic construction aids your athletic ability as well, whether that’s used for climbing trees or climbing mountains.

Field notes from the MeatEater Crew

We could talk for hours about each piece of gear in our kits, and we know a lot of you love the details. We've summarized the key specs below along with comments from the crew.

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