Hiking the outdoors is a getaway experience for many people who work typical 9-5 schedules in the office. The outdoor environment presents them with the freedom to explore new and beautiful sceneries and push their bodies to new limits.
There are no restrictions when it comes to how hikers dress for the outdoors. This is mainly because many novice hikers find it hard to buy an extra pair of pants just for hiking.
They consider hiking a casual activity, which means they believe casual clothes could do just fine with hiking. In the sections below, we discuss whether the all-time favorite fabric, “denim jeans”, is ideal for hiking.
I decided to dig in and check if you really can hike in jeans. Here’s what I learned:
Yes, you can hike in jeans. That is if you want to. However, experts warn against wearing a pair of denim jeans for a hike. Jeans were originally made for the outdoor worker. They are perfect work clothes on a ranch because they have wear and tear-resistant properties. However, when it comes to hiking, jeans are not the ideal clothes.
Why you should never hike in jeans
Jeans are sturdy and offer protection from scratches that could result from tough vegetation like grass blades. The dense weaving of the material that make up jeans makes them resistant to abrasion, and that is why construction and farm workers love them.
For the outdoors, jeans do a wonderful job of protecting your legs from scrapes and scratches, especially when you pair them with equally tough boots. What makes jeans bad for hiking is their highly absorbent properties. A pair of denim pants easily soaks up water and takes ages to dry after that.
This can cause a horrible experience when hiking, especially when it rains, or you have to cross a stream somewhere on the trail. The soaked pair of jeans increases its weight and causes the hiker significant discomfort.
When jeans absorb moisture, they take ages to dry. This means that you have to deal with cold cloths on your body for the rest of the hike.
Wearing wet clothes for a long time can cause the dreaded hypothermia condition. In fact, wet jeans, when combined with cold winds, are every hiker’s nightmare and should be avoided at all costs.
The dense denim fabric also restricts airflow in and out of the body. This means that when you sweat, which is inevitable during a hike, the sweat has no escape route and remains within the body.
This causes great discomfort and increases your chances of developing blisters.
Jeans are also very rigid and can restrict movement. Popular ways of styling jeans are either tight-fitting jeans, popularly known as skinny jeans, or loose-fitting jeans known as baggy jeans.
Both jeans styles present problems for hikers during a hike. The harsh and uneven roads require the hiker to jump or take long strides, which cannot be done comfortably when wearing a pair of jeans.
Owing to all the reasons outlined above, hikers should steer away from jeans when going for a hike. They should instead choose other types of fabric that are more suited to hiking.
What are jeans made of?
Jeans are essentially made from denim, which is mostly cotton. They have existed for decades and are popular among rural and urban folk because they are easy to style, durable, and comfortable.
Many manufacturers’ denim material to make jeans has existed for many years, but recent times have seen jeans that blend denim with other materials.
Denim jeans are made by passing the weft twice to come up with a fabric that is strong, thick, and durable. There are many types of denim, but the one that has gained much popularity is indigo denim.
The indigo denim features one side with a deep indigo hue and a lighter colored side worn on the interior. Manufactures achieve this unique look by dyeing the fabric when the weft is still white.
Blended denim jeans, on the other hand, combine the denim fabric with other materials to makes the jeans softer and more comfortable to wear.
One of the most used blending fabrics is cotton because it offers manufacturers a wide choice of styling and coloring jeans. Blended jeans, however, dilute the unique durability properties of pure denim jeans. They stretch more easily and tend to fade faster.
- Read more: How To Be a Minimalist Hiker
Polyester is another material that makes a popular line of jeans known as stretch jeans when combined with denim. The polyester material is used in small quantities of about 10%, but this makes a lot of difference in the way stretch jeans perform in terms of elasticity.
Stretch jeans can be easily folded and styled, unlike denim jeans. They are also much softer and lighter, which makes them ideal for outdoor activities.
What are good alternatives to jeans?
Probably the best alternative to the jeans are the dedicated hiking pants. Most pants are made of synthetic materials like nylon, polyester, spandex, elastane, etc.
Nylon and polyester are the most popular synthetic materials for hiking clothes. They offer almost similar properties in terms of water resistance. In terms of drying, polyester dries up faster than nylon fabric does. It is also warmer and more durable.
Furthermore, polyester fabric soaks up sweat more easily than nylon, making it better suited for hiking in cold weather. Nylon suits hiking in hot weather conditions where the hiker is more likely to experience sweating.
Polypropylene is also another great material for hiking clothes due to its lightweight and water resistance capabilities. The material, however, comes with some drawbacks because it is based on plastic.
Plastic easily catches fire, which makes polypropylene clothes not suited for hiking and camping. Moreover, the polypropylene material holds on to odors for a long time if not washed immediately. You should limit hiking with polypyrene clothes unless you have a laundry schedule during the hike.
Synthetic materials also come with many advantages for hikers when taking on a hiking trail. For instance, they are lightweight and waterproof, two properties that make them ideal for hiking in hot weather.
However, hikers who take on challenging hills and mountains cannot use clothes made from synthetic materials only. They layer clothes that keep them warm on the inside and take advantage of synthetic fabrics’ waterproof properties by donning them on the outermost layers.