outdoor ready: hiking pants

Ashley is returning to the blog today to add to the Outdoor Ready series which is all about using performance fabrics to make handmade outdoor apparel. So far she has shown us how to adapt Oliver + S patterns to make hiking shirts and camping capes. This time around she’s sharing hiking pants. Thanks so much for being here Ashley!


Customized Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants into hiking pants


When I first began thinking about making outdoor apparel for my kids, this was the item that immediately jumped out at me. If you have spent anytime outdoors with your children, particularly in the vicinity of water, you can appreciate the value of durable, quick drying pants. Be it an ocean, lake, river, stream or puddle, kids seem to find their way to any water source and jump in feet first. This reckless abandon is one of the wonderful things about childhood, but it also has consequences if your kiddo is dressed in cotton. In addition to splashing around in water, all kinds of accidents occur involving moisture that lead to discomfort when the fun is over and half their bodies are wet and cold!


Customized Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants


Customized Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants


Customized Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants

The idea of sewing outdoor clothing for my children originated from the immediate drenching of pants anytime we step outside the house. On a camping trip or a hike, I found myself budgeting two to three pairs of pants per day per child to account for soggy, muddy, slow drying garments, and I knew there must be a better way. The Field Trip Cargo Pants are pretty much the perfect hiking pants and required so few adjustments to make them outdoor ready, it feels almost too easy! I have my own favorite pair of hiking pants that have traveled many miles over many years, and the minor adjustments I will outline below result in a child-sized replica I think both adults and kids will approve of.


Customized Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants


The most critical adjustment to the pattern is quite simple–using performance fabric! For these pants, I used performance stretch woven wicking purchased from Rose City Textiles in Portland, OR. (Don’t worry, they have great online inventory if you don’t live close by and will send swatches.) As the name implies, this is a woven fabric with a bit of vertical stretch (which provides more flexibility for bending at the knee and sitting). The wicking properties allow it both to draw moisture away from the body and then to dry quickly, making it ideal for outdoor apparel with a high likelihood of getting soaked. In addition to the fabric choice, I added Velcro closures and loops to the cargo pockets, as well as button tabs to allow the pants to convert to shorts. I will walk you through each of these adjustments below.


Polyester thread and microtex needles


Do not be intimidated! There are only a few steps to keep in mind in caring for and sewing with woven wicking performance fabrics such as those used in this post:

1. Use microtex needles in your sewing machine, available at well stocked fabric stores including Jo-Ann.
2. Don’t be afraid to use pins.
3. Use 100% polyester thread.
4. Machine wash cool, line dry.
5. Do not use heat to dry the fabrics as it may disrupt their performance properties.
6. Iron on low heat.

Keeping those tips in mind, cut out the pattern per the instructions. The design of the pattern really lends itself to color blocking, which you’ll notice I had a bit of fun with! I also doubled the knee pad portion of the pattern to make that high-traffic area extra durable (i.e., I cut four knee pieces instead of two for each pair of pants I made). Assemble the pattern per the instructions. When you come to the knee portion, execute the dart instructions separately on all four pieces, and simply double each of them appropriately when the darts are complete before attaching to the rest of the front pant pieces as outlined in the instructions, so you have two layers of knee pads per pant leg. There are several opportunities to top stitch an extra line or two on a seam, which not only looks professional, but also serves to reinforce the seams, further increasing durability.


Customized Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants


Velcro has become my go-to closure for pockets on outdoor apparel. It serves the purpose of guarding treasures, but is simple enough for even the tiniest fingers to open and close with ease. In order to add Velcro closures to the cargo pockets, you will need to do the following:

1. On the right side of one pocket flap piece, center a piece of Velcro 3/4″ from one long side. You want the Velcro to be quite close to the bottom of the flap after you sew the 1/2″ seam allowance. Sew Velcro in place.


Adding Vecro to pocket flap


2. If you would like to add a loop for hanging tools (whistles, compasses, etc), cut a piece of ribbon or twill tape measuring 2.5″. The twill tape pictured here is 0.5″ wide.


2.5" of twill tape


3. When assembling the pocket flap, be sure that this piece of Velcro is at the bottom of the flap which will be seamed shut, not the top which is left open. Fold the twill tape in half to form a loop and center on the bottom of the pocket flap (using your Velcro as a guide), with the closed side of the loop facing in, raw edges of loop aligned with raw edges of pocket flap.


Adding twill tape loop to pocket flap


4. Sew the two pocket flap pieces, right sides together, as instructed. The loop will be formed as the raw edges of your twill tape or ribbon are caught in the seam allowance. Turn, press, and top stitch as instructed.


Pocket flap with twill tape loop


Once the rest of the cargo pocket is assembled and attached to the pants, you can use the flap as a guide of where to affix the other half of the Velcro. Attach the other half of the Velcro to the Velcro on the flap, then close the flap and mark on the main pocket where the other half should be placed for the pocket to close comfortably. Sew in place, being careful to sew only the pocket piece and not catch the pants in the seam.


Attaching the Vecro to the pocket


I made one other addition to these pants that really contributes to versatility. There seems to be two main types of convertible hiking pants: roll up vs. zip off. My personal preference is for roll up because I have a sneaking suspicion I wouldn’t be able to keep track of several different pants pieces. With the roll up version, you still have the option of converting the pants to shorts, but can change them back to pants with no difficulty and never have to worry about them accidentally becoming shorts permanently! An added bonus, creating a button tab to roll up the pants can be achieved in just a few simple steps. I added one tab per pant leg, but after watching the pants in action, I would recommend adding an additional tab for extra security, centered on the inseam (the steps outlined below result in a tab on the side seam of the pants).


Roll up tab steps


1. Cut two rectangles of fabric, keeping the following in mind: the finished width should be wide enough to accommodate the size of button you choose to use for the button tab, and the length needs to wrap from the inside of the pants around the rolled cuff and attach on the outside of the pant leg. For both the three and four year pattern sizes, I used rectangles 3″ x 7″.
2. Fold and press the rectangles in half length wise, right sides together. To prepare for turning a narrow tube, I place a safety pin in the crease close to what will be the closed end of my strap, facing what will be the open end. Sew around the strap, leaving one short end open. We will address finishing that raw edge when we affix the strap to the pants.
3. Turn your tube to the right side, however you like to do so.
4. Press, edgestitch if you wish, and add a buttonhole about 0.5″ from the closed short edge of your tab.


Roll-up tab


To affix the button tab to the pant leg, turn your finished pants inside out. Because the cargo pocket is positioned across the side seam in the middle of the pant, you will most likely want to place your button tab just under the bottom of the pocket vs. over the top, or you would have some rather short shorts! Locate the the seam at the bottom of the pocket, and center your button tab just underneath it over the side seam of the pants.


Narrow zig zag stitch on roll-up tab


To attach the button tab, set your machine to a tight, narrow zigzag stitch. I had mine set to 0.5 stitch length and 2.5 stitch width. You may want to manually check the needle placement before affixing the strap, as those tight little stitches are a pain to rip out! You want to overlap your stitches between the raw edge of the strap and the sleeve so that you both finish the edge of the strap and attach it in one step, like machine appliqué. This reduces bulk at the seam and is both neater and easier than fussing with folding over and pressing a tiny edge. Optionally, you may choose to use a contrasting thread for top stitching and affixing the button tab as a neat design detail.


Narrow zig zag stitch from roll up tab


We put these pants to the test over several days in Yosemite National Park, where they came up against creeks, rivers, streams, sandy beaches, dusty paths, craggy rocks, and sappy trees. I put the kids in these pants for three straight days of hiking, wading, biking, and climbing without washing them in between wears, and they are everything we dreamed hiking pants would be. They provided ease of movement for all of these activities, ample storage space for treasures, dried quickly in between wet activities, rolled up in the heat of midday and back down when the sun began to set.


Customized Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants


Customized Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants


Customized Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants


I tried to capture on film how absolutely filthy these pants were becoming, but somehow they belie all the mischief they endured. A quick brush off, and they could pass for clean in spite of what they’d been through, with nary a snag or tear. One trip through the wash (and some sap spot treatment with rubbing alcohol) and they were good as new. I packed backup pants and never had to use them–exactly what we need to simplify packing for future outdoor trips.


Customized Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants


Customized Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants


Customized Oliver + S Field Trip Cargo Pants


I hope this post has been helpful and that you’re inspired to make some hiking pants for your own little ones. Even as we transition into cooler weather, these will make a great layering piece over long johns or fleece. You will need little else to have the kids outdoor ready!



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  1. Well done, Ashley! I love the color blocking, too.

  2. Margery

    Great Job!

  3. They look Amazing! I have had a terrible time getting Miss Loofie to wear appropriate trousers when hiking, however I think she would like the colour blocking and I know she would love the extra big pockets (she is a great collector of treasures); I think I will be making a pair or two of these soon
    Great work!

  4. emily

    Awesome! And I was going to say, just by looking at the photos…”I know where you are!” We love having Yosemite in our back yard. Great job on the pants- I will be doing this as well for my three little nature lovers. 🙂

  5. Tammie

    Wow! These are great!

  6. Sarvi

    This has been my favorite series yet! Such great posts with so many useful ideas and resources. Thank you, these are fantastic!

  7. Sarah Helene

    I agree with other comments: AMAZING photo shoot of your 2 kids wearing Field Trip Cargo Pants, an Oliver & S pattern. So thorough with detailed instructions and accompanying sharp photos. BRAVO! These pants are “perfect” as you stated for kids’ outdoor adventures and exploring in nature. I’m certain many moms will be inspired to follow your tutorial. THANKS for sharing. Sarah in Minneapolis

  8. Wonderful job! I am just catching up on the blog and read your other posts with outdoor fabric. Clever, clever! With fall now here in Texas, it is finally camping weather again! My boys are H.A.R.D. on clothes! Some of their longest wearing pants have been made of this kind of fabric. I will be testing these out very soon. Thanks for sharing!

  9. oh my goodness, everyone!! thank you so much for your incredibly kind and positive feedback! i am both so flattered and so happy to hear you’re inspired to make your own versions. i do believe these are the most useful item to date in the outdoor ready series and i hope you find the information sufficient to make some of your own! please leave any follow up questions in the comments. happy hiking!


  10. Ashley I’ve LOVED this series too. It’s making me want to sew and go play in nature! Your photos are stunning. A tour of America’s national parks is on my travel bucket list.

  11. Sarvi

    I do have one question — I got a little lost (or enchanted) looking through the fabrics online. Could you link to one or two specific ones that you think would work well? I’m not quite familiar with the categories yet. Thank you again!

  12. hi sarvi,
    i know exactly what you mean! when i knew i would be starting this series, i purposely planned a trip to a major outdoor apparel fabric retailer (rose city textiles in portland, or) and spent the entire day there to get more familiar.

    here is a link to their stretch woven selections (hundreds!): http://www.fabricline.com/searchResults.php?a=1&CATDDM=SW&CATTYPEDDM=&COLORDDM=

    these wovens are moisture wicking with 4 way stretch, which might add even more ease of movement: http://www.fabricline.com/ProductDetail.php?rctno=65418

    i worked extensively with annette leiser, who handles retail sales, and she is an absolute darling. she is truly passionate about outdoor fabrics and would be happy to communicate via phone or email. i told her i would be referring people to the site and she welcomes any inquiries. you might start with those, see what you like, and contact her regarding swatches of what she thinks would be suitable for hiking pants. annette_leiser@rosecitytextiles.com (503) 224-5666 ex 2.

    you are also welcome to email me personally and i’d be happy to discuss further.


  13. Sarvi

    That’s so generous! Thank you so much! Off to check out those links. Really, I’m blown away, this is so helpful!

  14. Woah. I am insanely jealous that you have a fabric shop like that. thanks for the links.

  15. Lyndsey Stanfill

    Hi Everyone,
    I know its been a while since this was posted. Rose City Textiles is closed now. 🙁 I have been trying to find a similar fabric by searching “performance stretch woven wicking” but that search only comes up with knit fabrics. Does anyone have an idea of a good search term to use?

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