Whether you are out there in the Himalayas or hiking the Appalachian Trail, you need to be ready for anything. Aside from bringing the right equipment, you should also be wearing the right hiking gear.
The fabric or material used for your hiking clothes are important in battling the rigors of mountain or trail life whether it’s the changing temperature or terrain difficulty. A lot of hikers are already asking which is better—nylon vs. polyester hiking pants. What they do not know is that they have more choices apart from those popular fabrics.
In this article, you are going to discover more about the nylon vs. polyester hiking pants debate, as well as three more types of materials that are ideal for hiking. Also, you will learn about the importance of layering in any outdoor activities. Below are their description and comparison.
Choosing the fabric: Nylon vs Polyester Hiking Pants?
These two types of fabric are usually worn as base layers, especially during the winter. The general reason you would want to wear base layers is to keep you warm. On the other hand, the science behind the choosing of a wicking base layer is to move your perspiration from your skin so that you won’t feel cold. Wicking, waterproof, and windproof base layers like wool and synthetics are both good at thermal insulation.
Wool is said to be better at keeping you warm in the cold. This fabric can absorb moisture faster than synthetic fabric but it is slower in drying. By contrast, synthetics are quick-drying fabrics, rapidly transporting perspiration from the skin. They are also cooler than wool, making them a better base layer in summer or warmer seasons. In terms of fabric care, synthetic is easier to wash and maintain than wool. Synthetics are also more durable.
Another good option for a base layer garment is polypropylene. Like the first two examples, it is good at wicking moisture. It is even hydrophobic or non-water absorbent. Many hikers like undergarments made from this material because they do not get soaked with their sweat while wearing it.
The drawback of this material is that it is created from plastic which can melt when burned, creating holes and burning your skin. Aside from this, it can also retain odor if not immediately washed.
Nylon vs. polyester
Hiking pants are often made of these two types of synthetic fabric. That is why hikers often argue about whether nylon or polyester hiking pants are better for the outdoors. The answer depends on your preference.
Developed in 1930, nylon is a synthetic fiber that was first made by Dr. Julian Hill. The chemist discovered that the long thin strand of the polymer material can remain soft, strong, and flexible. Eleven years after, another synthetic fabric, polyester, was invented.
While both are made of crude oil, nylon and polyester have different qualities and properties. Polyester hiking pants, for example, are oleophilic, while nylon hiking pants are less hydrophobic. In other words, polyester absorbs more oil while nylon absorbs more water at about 3-4%
When it comes to drying and keeping you warm, polyester dries faster and is warmer. When are nylon hiking pants ideal to wear? Any season will be fine. It’s just that polyester is better to wear during winter. On the other hand, nylon is more versatile since it is also wearable during the summer season.
It is slower in evaporating water, making it cooler and more comfortable to wear on a hot sunny day in the mountain. Another drawback of polyester hiking pants is it is so good at absorbing moisture that your perspiration can stink. This is not a major problem with nylon hiking pants.
Factors in choosing the right fabric for hiking pants
There is no single fabric that can do everything for you. That leaves you with another option, which is layering. If you want to make your adventure comfortable, choose hiking clothes that are moisture-wicking and quick drying. You can also find brands that already have a sun-protective covering.
You need more pockets than you think when hiking. So, choose hiking pants and top layers with plenty of pockets where you can keep snacks and other survival equipment.
Whether you are going to wear your hiking clothes or pack them first, you will want something that is lightweight. If it’s not lightweight, then make sure it is thick enough to be used as a pillow during the hike.