The development of technical fabrics and design innovation has had surprising impact on humble walking trouser choice.
When I first started rambling there were practically no specific walking pants. In summer there were shorts of course, but cold and wet weather was always a challenge.
First choice was to explore the army surplus stores. Failing that it was any stout work trousers you could find. Corduroy was considered a good material. The worst candidates were often denim jeans. Anyone who has had to walk in wet jeans on a cold, rainy winter day will understand. The soaking cloth clings to your legs, chills and refuses to dry.
There were over-trousers of course. These were often created for other purposes such as cycling, but were a useful solution.
Into the breeches
The first specialised gear I remember were walking and climbing breeches. In fact, many die-hards still consider these ideal garments. Comfortable, generous cut, with a fastening just below the knee. In summer they could be worn with just short socks, but in cold and wet weather a good pair of woollen socks and possibly gaiters completed a very functional outfit.
The material was often tweed, or the excellent Hebden cord. They are almost impossible to find these days although plus fours (once essential for golfers) are still popular with the shooting and field-sports fraternity.
Enter the kiwi
The popular Kiwi style of walking trousers, from makers such as Craghoppers, soon became ubiquitous wear for walkers. Early versions were cotton cloth but soon polyester materials predominated.
These trousers were a generous, comfortable fit to allow plenty of flexibility for bending, climbing and scrambling. Purpose-designed, they had ample pockets – usually at least one to accommodate a folded OS map – and with secure fastening. The polyester-based fabrics, while not waterproof, did not absorb rain the way cotton would, and quickly dried in the wind.
The latest iteration is an even better design incorporating stretch material. The only issue I ever had with the original kiwis was that they could sometimes be too generously cut and somewhat flappy. New stretchy fabrics allow all the flexibility you need without the bulk. The slimmer fit around the lower leg makes them less likely to snag on branches, rocks and brambles.
I now own two pairs and they are my go-to choice for the outdoors.