by Diane Spicer
Who better to describe the perfect pair of womens petite hiking pants than a petite woman hiker who has been hiking for decades?
Drop down to womens petite hiking pants recommendations
Let's define "petite" first.
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.
Being called petite might sound cute, but it boils down to this:
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...
Which brings us to the first problem for petite hikers:
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.
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).
I think we agree that petite is just another way to say short.
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.
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!
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.
This brings us to the importance of inseam measurements on 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.
So picking a brand and staying loyal to it is one winning strategy for wearing the best womens petite hiking pants.
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.
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.
The pants I wear on the trail are made of high quality durable fabric, and hopefully will deliver a perfect fit for you.
Let's start with a pair of pants that give you shorts, too (hikers love multi tasking clothing, don't we!).
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!
And please look at these features and tell me you won't use them while hiking:
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.
On the plus side, they are one of the few outdoor clothing companies to provide extended sizes for women.
Rain pants can be tricky to find in shorter lengths, but these are my go-to pair: REI rain pants in short length.
Finding rain pants that fit over my regular hiking pants but didn't trip me up was a nightmare until I found this pair.
What I love:
Recently I did this review of a different pair of REI rain pants, available in both petite and regular lengths.
Spoiler alert: loved 'em!
REI offers petite convertible pants like these.
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 wear these pants:
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 ;)
REI makes Sahara convertible roll up hiking pants for girls, with a 26" inseam.
Check them out here.
Many petite hikers have found them to work well, with waist sizes to 32 inches and hip sizes to 38 inches.
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.
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.
Everything you need to find the best hiking skirt or trail dress is right here.
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.
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Best Womens Petite Hiking Pants
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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.
Hiking For Her: Hiking tips you can trust!