When I travel, I usually like to pack hiking pants. Obviously, they’re useful if I’m going to be doing any hiking. But they’re also great for general sightseeing, walking around different climates and landscapes, or spending long hours on a plane, train or bus.
The thing is, it’s hard to find hiking pants for petites. Most of what’s available in a standard length is way too long for me. And if the pants are made from technical fabrics or have features on the hems (like zip-offs, pockets, or convertible drawstrings), then they can’t easily be shortened, either.
But fear not, vagabonds: Petite hiking pants are out there. You just have to know where to look. Here’s a roundup of some of my current favourites.
The Shasta Pant
I’ve finally found them: The holy grail of travel pants.
The Athleta Shasta Pant may be the closest it’s possible to get to an all-purpose pair of travel pants. I bought them online and had them shipped to the border, since Athleta doesn’t ship to Canada. No matter; it was totally worth it.
I bought them in a neutral heather grey that goes with absolutely everything in my bag. The pants come in three lengths: petite, regular and tall. The petite length has a 30.5″ inseam that fits me perfectly in my usual size, 4P, with just enough extra length to sit over a hiking boot or shoe. They convert to capri length not via a zip-off (I hate those; they’re such a hassle) but via a bungee cord and snap system that is simple to use and actually looks cute while in the capri position — a rarity for travel pants.
The waistband is comfortable and has a bit of stretch for those long bus or plane days. They have zip cargo pockets on the legs to store loose items. The fabric is some kind of nylon/poly blend that doesn’t wrinkle, folds up small in a backpack, and keeps me cool in the heat and warm in the cold or wind. They’re rated UPF 50 for sun protection, and are even water resistant. I’m not entirely convinced that they don’t have superpowers.
My only regret? Not ordering more pairs of these while I had the chance. Please bring them back, Athleta!
The Skinny Wander Pant
As great as the Shasta pants are, they can’t be mistaken for anything but hiking pants. But what if you want to look a little classier while walking around a city, or going out for dinner to a nice restaurant?
Normally I pack jeans for such occasions. But Athleta, again, has an even better solution: The Skinny Wander Pant is a hiking pant that can go from trail to dinner. Available in two colours, black and dark grey, these are comfortable skinny pants that barely even look like hiking pants. They’re completely convincing in urban settings, too. I love multi-function items in my backpack, and these fit the bill.
The fabric on these is thicker and heavier than the Shasta pants, making them more suitable for cooler climates. They’re rain-resistant and don’t show dirt easily. They have zippered hip pockets — a particularly unflattering cut for us pears — but as long as I don’t put anything bulky in them, they look okay.
And the bottoms are also zippered, giving the option to either wear them as a skinny pant, or to open them to give them a bit of a boot cut. I personally find they look a little silly in boot cut mode, but your mileage may vary. Needless to say, they can’t be shortened due to this feature. But the petite length of these pants has a 28″ inseam, which fit me perfectly in my usual size of 4P.
I go back and forth on the usefulness of these pants. If I’m going to be spending more time in cities, I’d probably pack jeans instead, since I find them easier to pair with tops. But if I’m likely to alternate city and trail days, these are great. Heck, I can even get away with wearing them to work!
The MEC Cargo Capris
If I’m travelling to a hot climate, full-length hiking pants may be overkill. In those cases, I’ll tend to pack a pair of capri shorts, along with perhaps a skirt and a pair of lightweight Indian-style pants. Capris are useful because they’re cool and comfy like shorts, but they’re a bit more socially acceptable in more conservative countries since they cover the knees. I also find them more flattering than shorts on my petite pear frame.
My go-to travel capris are a pair of cargo crops from MEC, purchased a few years ago. Unfortunately, MEC no longer has petites, so these are regular length pants. But since they’re capris, and they don’t have any fancy gizmos or gadgets on the hems, it doesn’t really matter that much.
I love these because they’re cotton, which is the most breathable of all fabrics — that’s their main advantage over the nylon and polyester Shasta pants, actually. They’re also slim fitting enough to not look like shorts, and just short enough to look like they were intentionally cropped. (Actually, as purchased, they were ever-so-slightly too long; I shortened them by one hem length, and now they’re just right.) The charcoal grey colour also goes nicely with most of my tops, and I find it more flattering on me than the beige or khaki colours that are so often the only options for hiking pants.
Overall, I’d say casual pants aren’t all that difficult for me to find — at least, not compared to other items. Other than Athleta, some US retailers that carry petite sizes in hiking gear include Eddie Bauer, LL Bean, and REI. In Canada it’s a bit trickier, but if you get pants with a straight hem, they can usually be shortened.