Can You Hike in Jeans for Longer Distances?

Are you wondering if you can go on a longer hiking trip wearing jeans? They're durable and cheaper than traditional hiking pants. But will it even work?

man and girl hiking in jeans

Hiking is not something that you probably think of as a complex task, and you would be right. At the end of the day, you are just exploring a trail or mountain on a path in the woods.

However, that does not mean that there are no things for you to learn. Notably, people that have never gone hiking before might not know what to wear when they go out for their first excursion.

Notably, they might wonder whether hiking in jeans is a good idea. Here I will look at the pros and cons of wearing jeans while hiking.

Can you go hiking in jeans?

Photo by Paul Pastourmatzis / Unsplash

You can obviously go hiking in jeans, regardless of the advice you get from experts.

However, just because you can do something does not mean it is the best idea. Some people are of the belief that you should always be prepared for anything that could happen while you are on a hike.

While this is a good practice, it is not really necessary when you are going on a casual hike that only lasts a few hours. That being said, you can sometimes get away with wearing jeans on several day long hikes.

In fact, most people wore jeans exclusively while hiking a few decades ago. Hikers in the 70s, 80s, and 90s primarily wore jeans while hiking. Jeans have not changed a lot in that time in terms of materials, and as a result, they are still safe to use. All that has changed is that more advanced gear has been developed to replace jeans.

With all that in mind, there are times when it is not a good idea to wear jeans while hiking. Notably, it is a bad idea to wear jeans while hiking in the rain, snow, or on long, difficult trails. You can wear jeans on shorter hikes, but if you are hiking in bad weather or for a long time you should stick to more proven hiking pants.

Pros of hiking in jeans

Hiking in jeans is the first thing most new hikers will think to do.

As a result, most of those new hikers are probably looking for reasons to keep doing what they are doing. With that in mind, I will outline some of the benefits of hiking in jeans.

Jeans are very durable

The first and most obvious reason to hike in jeans is their durability. They are made from original denim, which is 100% cotton.

It is weaved in a special, reinforced pattern, which results in extra abrasion resistance. As a result, it is much more durable compared to most cotton based fabrics.

In fact, jeans remain more durable than most pants that are designed for hiking.

As a result, it can be better to wear jeans than traditional hiking pants if you are bushwhacking or walking down rough trails.

Jeans are much cheaper than traditional hiking pants

While jeans are worn for their simple and stylish design, most people opt to buy them because of how inexpensive they are.

They typically do not exceed $50 unless you are buying designer brands, and there is no reason to wear designer brand jeans on a hike.

Conversely, hiking pants can range anywhere from $50 to $200 in price.

Jeans are comfortable and they look good

When you are going for a hike, you should be looking for a few things in your pants, and one of those things is comfort.

You do not want to be uncomfortable while you are on the trails for hours at a time. As a result, it can be tempting to wear jeans for their comfort.

Jeans that are loose enough not to feel tight while still being tight around the waist can perform almost as well as good hiking pants.

That being said, jeans only remain breathable and comfortable in the right conditions. They do well on dry days that are not too hot. You can even wear a pair with thermal bottoms underneath if you would like to use them in the winter.

A big problem that hiking pants have, is that most of them do not look great. While your personal aesthetic is not as important as other factors while hiking, I would be lying if I did not want to look my best for the hikers I pass on the trail.

So, I assume most of you have the same feeling.

While this is a subjective opinion, I believe that jeans look better than the vast majority of hiking pants. Looks come down to personal preference, by the success of jeans across the world indicates that most of you would agree with me on this.

Cons of hiking in jeans

While the above factors may have given you a few reasons to go hiking in jeans, I want to paint the entire picture. That means that we need to discuss the cons of hiking in jeans.

Wet jeans result in a terrible hike

I am sure we have all experienced getting the bottom of our jeans wet after walking through a puddle on a rainy day. Your leg gets cold, and they never seem to dry.

You obviously do not want that feeling on a long hike, but it is something you risk while wearing jeans. While denim is not 100% cotton anymore, it still contains cotton, and cotton soaks up water incredibly easily.

Denim fabrics soak up more water than any other clothing material. When this happens, your jeans will become abrasive, and you will quickly notice irritation on your skin.

This can be more than an inconvenience when you are hiking in colder weather. Wet jeans provide no insulation, and as a result, you could quickly become hypothermic.

Jeans are heavier than most hiking pants

When you go for a hike, you want to pack as light as possible. You do not want to carry extra weight while you are walking up a mountain.

That is especially true in your pants as you will feel it with every step.

Unfortunately, the average pair of jeans weighs 0.34 to 0.45 kg. Conversely, the average pair of hiking pants weighs 0.22 to 0.28 kg. It might not sound like much, but trust me, when you are on the trails all day, you will notice the difference.

Jeans can cause chafing

If you have experienced chafing before, you should thank your lucky stars because it is terrible. It is the result of skin exposure to humid environments.

Typically it occurs when a section of skin consistently rubs up against a damp material. Jeans do nothing to dispel moisture, and as a result, it is common for people to chafe in jeans when it is humid.

This might sound like something you can deal with, and it is true that it is not crippling, but chafing will ruin your day and make your hike much less enjoyable.

So, it should be avoided if possible.

Should you wear jeans while hiking?

Mountain man
Photo by Karsten Winegeart / Unsplash

So, after discussing the pros and cons of hiking in jeans, should you wear them on your next hike? Ultimately, that decision is up to you, but I would recommend wearing hiking pants, especially if you plan on going on an extended hike.

Jeans can be an acceptable option for shorter hikes, but they get less practical the longer your hike gets. Their tendency to get wet and cause chafing is not great.

Adding on the fact that they are heavier than most hiking pants makes them less than ideal.

That being said, there is no need to go out and buy a pair of hiking pants if you are only going to go on a few short hikes this summer. Jeans are perfectly acceptable for that scenario.

So, now that you know what you need to know about hiking in jeans, all you need to do is find a good hiking trail to get your first journey started.