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Best Womens Petite
Hiking Pants

Who better to describe the perfect pair of womens petite hiking pants than a petite woman hiker who has been hiking for decades?

But let's define "petite" first.

A petite woman hiker is shorter than "average", when "average" is defined as 5'4" (162 cm) and above.

  • Picture Reese Witherspoon.

Just for the record, the term "petite" doesn't mean that a female hiker has to be teeny tiny like Reese.

No Tinker Belle/Reese Syndrome for most of us women hikers, thanks anyway. 

  • Petite hikers need some meat on their bones to power up those steep hills.

What this label of "petite" really means for a hiker?

  • Her legs are not as long as "expected" for an adult female.

(Short rant/pun: Who makes up these rules? Why can't we use 2 numbers like the guys do, waist size and length, to simplify our lives? Why these silly descriptive labels?)

Which brings up to the first problem: finding the right length of hiking pants if you don't "measure up" to the standards.


Womens petite hiking pants: length

I think we agree that petite is just another way to say short. Or as I like to think of it, small but mighty.

According to our friend Wikipedia, 40% of American women are 5'3" or shorter.

That's a lot of petite women!!

If you're a short hiker and you try on "regular" length hiking pants, you will trip over the excess pant leg material.

This is to be avoided at all costs on a hiking trail.

Thus, your desire to locate pants of the appropriate length.

But there's a hidden problem here.

You want hiking pants that are long enough, but not too long.

  • Your pants legs should cover the tops of your boots, to keep trail debris out of your socks.
  • You want pants that are long enough to cover the back of your boots without bunching.
  • Also, you don't want to look like a dork with "high waisted" pants.
  • And you need enough "clearance" between your hiking pants legs and your sandals to allow mosquitoes free access your ankles.
Female hiker relaxing on porch of Longmire, Mt. Rainier National ParkMy ankles are now available for mosquito bites :)


Inseams & why they matter

This brings us to the importance of inseams in the best womens petite hiking pants.

This measurement is exactly what it sounds like, and you can measure it by following these steps (including a video).

If you're lucky enough to already have a pair of womens petite hiking pants that fit well, simply measure the inside seam.

  • Petite pants have inseams ranging from 25 to 31 inches, with no standards across the clothing industry.
  • This means each brand will have its own interpretation of "petite" lengths.

If you are under five feet tall, the inseam problem is even more complicated because you are in the category of "extra short" petite women (I am not making this up!).

And if you don't fit into the "accepted" weight categories for petite sizing, you're a "plus" petite.

Yikes!!

Which brings us to the next problem in womens petite hiking pants...

The best brands for
womens petite hiking pants

...finding the best brand(s) for your hiking pants, regardless of your height (or, as "they" would say, your lack thereof) and weight.

As a woman who proudly stand five feet three inches tall (in my hiking socks), I have tried just about every brand of hiking pants available.

Here are my top picks, with explanations.

1. Columbia convertible pants like these

I know, I know, these can fall into the "dorky" (unfashionable) category.

Their saving grace? No pockets on the outside! Less pockets = more able to blend in with "real" pants!

And please look at these features and tell me you won't use them while hiking:

  • They convert quickly to shorts when the day warms up and you're sweating like the delicate flower that you are.
  • There is a zippered (i.e. secure) pocket for your car keys, drivers license, or precious lip balm.
  • Lots of freedom of movement, thanks to the articulated knees.
  • Stain and water repellent nylon fabric, priceless for "butt belays" down steep sections of rocky trail.
  • The tiny amount of elastane in the fabric guarantees that these pants are capable of moving with you, not against you, when you lift your legs to step over trail debris.

Note: These run a bit small, so don't be offended if you have to order up a size or two. It all depends on your waist size and inseam length, so experiment a bit.

I find small sizing to be true in general with Columbia gear.


2. Rain pants: REI Rhyolite pants

Finding rain pants that fit over my regular hiking pants was a nightmare until I found this pair.

What I love:

  • Absolutely bomb proof in windy rainy conditions, or when sitting on wet ground. The seams are tightly sealed!
  • Durable material - I've had mine for over 4 years and there is no sign of wear or tear, even after some rugged backcountry hiking trips.
  • Pull on easily, with adjustable waist thanks to a draw cord.
  • Fairly good mobility, due to articulated knees. But be realistic: these go on over another pair of pants, so don't expect miracles. (I sometimes wear these by themselves for snowshoeing, and it improves my mobility.)
Female snowshoer with camera surrounded by snowy firs


3. REI convertible pants like these

I've been a fan of this type of convertible pants for over twenty years.

Here's why:

  • Side zippers so you can quickly peel them off while standing. Sometimes it's impractical (or dangerous) to sit down in the outdoors. Plus, your muddy boots won't stain your pants legs.
  • A color code that tells you immediately (unless you are color blind, which is less likely for females) which bottom leg goes with which top leg.
  • Elastic waistband to accommodate multiple clothing layers.
  • Fast drying, thanks to the nylon fabric.
  • Lots and lots of pockets. I'm a pocket lover, so I really  love this feature. Lip balm, trail candy, car keys, trail directions...
    But you will have to work out a system for which items go in which pocket!

Tip: These pants have a more relaxed fit than the Columbia pants above, with a customizable "button" waistband.

That's good for hikes with lots of elevation gain and loss because you'll be able to move easily both before AND after lunch ;)


My Trail Co pants might work
for you

Recently I tried a pair of My Trail Company lightweight nylon hiking pants with a regular length inseam, and was pleasantly surprised that they weren't too long for me.

You can read my review and see some photos here.


More options for
womens petite hiking pants

Want to peruse even more options from a reputable hiking clothing store with great return policies?

Here they are!

Enjoy the hunt for the perfect petite hiking pants. It's worth the investment of time.

Send me any questions you have, using this CONTACT link.


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Womens Petite Hiking Pants


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