Lower Body Layering for Backpacking


“What do I wear?” is not just a question for a night out, but for a backpacking trip. Here are some options for legwear to handle various conditions and activity backpacking.


In a majority of conditions, ultralight backpackers choose shorts. The reason is simple: hiking generates heat from the constant movement of legs and shorts provide an effective way to ventilate. There are hundreds of different options and choices, largely coming down to a choice of personal preference. Some hikers prefer shorts that use an integrated or standalone belt. Others prefer shorts with integrated liners. One important consideration is how the shorts will ride under a hip belt. We recommend trying with a weighted pack before hopping on the trail.

Wind Pants

Many ultralight hikers choose to add ultralight wind pants instead of pants if conditions deteriorate. Wind pants are lightweight, breathable and low bulk, and layer comfortably on top of shorts.

Softshell Pants

Some hikers always wear softshell pants for sun coverage, while others may only opt for pants in cooler conditions. Softshell pants provide warmth, block wind, and shed precipitation. We recommend pants that have both mechanical, and technical stretch to provide a range of motion while hiking.


Some hikers prefer shorts over tights to softshell pants, while others may opt for tights under softshell pants in winter conditions. There are several weights that we recommend matching to activity and conditions based on personal preference.

Torrid Pants

Our ultralight torrid pants provide a high level of insulation while weighing less than most pairs of softshell pants. This makes them ideal for stationary camp use or hiking in extreme cold (below 0F).

Rain Pants or Rain Skirt

In instances of heavy, consistent rain, waterproof legwear may be necessary. We recommend a Rain Wrap for maximum breathability and minimum weight. More activities, such as canoeing or mountaineering, may require rain pants.