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Womens Petite Hiking Pants:
Some Great Options

By Diane Spicer

The best petite hiking pants are hard to find, unless you use these tips from Hiking For Her! #hiking #hikingpants #backpacking #hiking clothes #petitehikers #petitepants #womenhikers

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

My top petite hiking pants recommendations for women hikers are coming right up.

And keep reading to discover what the word "petite" really means, and how you can avoid frustration when you are shopping for women's petite hiking pants.

Womens petite hiking pants
top brands

Finding the best brand(s) for your hiking pants, regardless of your height (or, as "they" would say, your lack thereof) and weight, can turn into an epic quest.

I say this based on extensive experience with petite hiking pants quests.

  • 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.

The pants I wear on the trail are made of high quality durable fabric, and hopefully will deliver a perfect fit for you.

My top picks, with explanations

Let's start with this pair of hiking pants that give you shorts, too.  Hikers love multi tasking clothing, don't we!

  • Columbia convertible pants like these
  • Be sure to select the "short" version

I know, I know, these zip off hiking pants can fall into the "dorky" (unfashionable) category.

Their saving grace?

No pockets on the outside!

Less bulky pockets = more able to blend in with "real" pants!

These petite hiking pants are loaded with features

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 regular size gear.

On the positive side, they are one of the few outdoor clothing companies to provide extended sizes for women.

  • Read about options here

Another good choice for
women's petite hiking pants

Try these Baleaf quick dry, lightweight and water resistant hiking pants with elastic waist.

The cargo style makes it easy to cinch the bottom of the legs to accommodate your hiking socks and footwear.

  • Available in sizes XS - 3XL
  • Multiple color options

They also have these shorter inseam jogger style hiking pants, suitable for day hikes. Be sure to focus on the color choices with 25.5'' inseams.

Need womens petite convertible hiking pants?

REI Co-op Sahara Convertible Pants

REI offers these petite convertible pants in both regular and petite lengths.

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

Read my review of REI's Sahara convertible pants here.

Here's why I choose these hiking pants:

  • 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 on the zippers that tells you immediately (unless you are color blind, which is less likely for females) which bottom leg goes with which top leg.
  • Adjustable 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 ;)

Lots more options for REI
womens petite hiking pants

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

REI Co-op, that is. Inseam sizing starts at 27 inches.

Enjoy the hunt for the perfect petite hiking pants.

It's worth the investment of time.

Be sure to join the co-op to scoop up dozens of membership benefits!

Here's another trusted name
in women's hiking clothing

The North Face has been offering great outdoor clothing for decades.

Here is one of their best hiking pants for women.

Note the moisture wicking fabric with four way stretch, combined with a knit waistband, offering you a lot of comfort on a hike.

Available in XX - 3X short.

Think outside the box to find these
26 inch inseam hiking pants for women

REI makes Sahara convertible roll up hiking pants for girls, with a 26" inseam.

Many petite hikers have found them to work well, with waist sizes to 32 inches and hip sizes to 38 inches.

Check them out here.

A versatile roll up pair of
women's petite hiking pants

It's great to be able to switch between capri length and full length hiking pants when the weather and the trail demand flexibility.

These Kuhl petite hiking pants give you inseam options plus that versatility.

Here's another place to shop, giving you more selection for colors and sizes.

Read my REI Sahara women's hiking pants review for petite women - also available in regular and tall lengths.

My Kuhl Freeflex hiking pants review is here (30 inch inseams).

A worthy source of
women hiker petite rain pants

Rain pants can be tricky to find in shorter lengths, but these are my go-to pair: REI rain pants in short length.

Heads up: As with any REI item, it may be replaced with a newer version.

Why does this pair of womens petite hiking pants work over my regular hiking pants?

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 elastic and drawcord at waist to accommodate layers
  • 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.)

Recently I did this review of a different pair of REI rain pants, available in both petite and regular lengths.

Spoiler alert: loved 'em!

Female hiker in rain gear on rocks and snow

Or go with a hiking skirt

If you really can't find a reliable pair of womens petite hiking pants to fit your inseam as well as your waist, why not try hiking in a skirt?

You can pair a longer skirt with leggings for cool weather hiking, or go with a shorter hiking skirt or skort in warmer seasons.

And there are trail dresses worthy of consideration, too.

Like this Toad & Co skirt.

Not sure if a hiking skirt is for you?

  • Everything you need to find the best hiking skirt or trail dress is right here.

What exactly does petite mean?

Let's define "petite" the way a clothing manufacturer uses the term.

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

Just for the record, the term "petite" doesn't mean that a female hiker has to be teeny tiny in terms of weight..

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

  • Petite hikers need some meat on their bones to power up those steep hills with our short(ish) legs.

What does the label of petite
really mean for a hiker?

Being called petite might sound cute, but it boils down to this:

  • A petite woman's legs are not as long as "expected" for an adult female.

Short rant/bad pun

Who makes up these rules?

Why can't we use 2 numbers like the guys do, just waist size and length, to simplify our lives?

Why these silly descriptive labels?

Okay, rant over...

Petite hiker pants problem #1

Which brings us to the first problem for petite hikers:

  • finding the right length of pants if you don't "measure up" to these pre-ordained standards

Hiking pants for petites is all about not tripping over the hem, right?

This is especially important for safety on a hiking trail.

So let's tackle this length-y challenge.

Womens petite hiking pants: length

I think we can agree that petite is just another way to say short.

  • Or, as I prefer 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 is a safety issue, as well as a style concern.

Pants should fit and flatter.

You're a smart hiker!

But there's a hidden Problem #2

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

In other words, you desire pants for hiking which are perfectly proportioned.

  • 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.
  • And you need enough "clearance" between your hiking pants legs and your sandals to allow mosquitoes free access your ankles.
  • Also, you don't want to look like a dork with "high waisted" pants that pull the legs up above your ankles.
  • But you want enough fabric at the the waist to cover your skin when your backpack hip belt is in place, with enough left over for leg coverage.
Female hiker relaxing on porch of Longmire, Mt. Rainier National ParkMy ankles are now available for hungry mosquitoes :)

Inseams & why they matter on
womens petite hiking pants

This brings us to a third problem: inseam measurements for the best womens petite pants for hiking and backpacking.

The inseam 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.

So picking a brand and staying loyal to it is one winning strategy for wearing the best womens petite hiking pants.

Under five feet tall?

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.


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

Female snowshoer with camera surrounded by snowy firsYou don't want to be tripping over your pants when you're busy taking photos

Finding your size in
womens petite hiking pants

Outdoor clothing manufacturers have been slow to acknowledge the existence of women who are outside the tight range of sizes they manufacture.

Some companies are beginning to get it right, and I want to call them out here with their offerings for plus and extended sizes in womens petite hiking pants:

Womens petite hiking pants
can be found!

I have felt discouraged and frustrated when shopping for hiking pants, so I know how it feels to see pants legs puddling around your ankles.

Take heart, and take my shopping tips to heart so you can hit the trail in the best hiking pants for petite hikers.

You might like to read these next

Home page > Womens Best Hiking Clothing >

Best Womens Petite Hiking Pants

Interested in supporting Hiking For Her's mission to put free and detailed hiking tips into the hands of women everywhere on the globe?

  • Purchase your womens petite hiking pants through one of the above links.
  • Or purchase a gift card from REI Co-op so she can select exactly the pair she needs.

It costs you nothing extra, and helps keep the hiking tips freely flowing.

Thank you!

Female hiker with backpack resting one hand on a boulder while resting in a talus pile

About the author

Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.

She’s been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for nearly five decades, & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.