What Are Moisture Wicking Pants and How Can They Help?

Perhaps you’re shopping for work pants, hiking pants, or athletic pants, and every tag you see has that familiar phrase on it: moisture-wicking. But what are moisture wicking pants? And what are the advantages of buying moisture-wicking pants?

Moisture wicking pants are designed to combat sweat. They are made out of a fabric engineered to move sweat away from the body and disperse it across the outside of the fabric in a way which causes it to evaporate quickly. This helps the body regulate its temperature more effectively and helps keep you dry despite perspiration.   

While there are many situations that might call for moisture-wicking pants, they are particularly useful during the summer months for those who work or exercise outdoors.

In this article let’s discuss in more detail what moisture wicking pants are, and why they might be a useful option for you to consider. To see our favorite options, visit our article about the best moisture wicking pants. For shorts, visit our article about the best moisture wicking cargo shorts.

Defining Moisture Wicking Pants

Moisture-wicking pants are typically made out of synthetic materials and are built to keep you cooler and drier than regular pants would. Is moisture wicking waterproof?

No, they aren’t waterproof pants or built for use in the water like swimsuits, but instead meant to be worn in situations where you’d like to stay dry in the presence of heat and sweat.

Don’t think of them as pants built to repel moisture from the outside (like rain), but rather, pants built to help pull away moisture from your skin (like sweat).

If you need protection from rain, you will want either a waterproof pant (steady rain) or a water-resistant pant (light rain).

You’ll find a variety of moisture-wicking pants in almost any lineup of clothing types. For us workers, wearing moisture-wicking work pants during the summer months makes a lot of sense.

You can find moisture wicking pants in these categories:

Casual WearStaying cool and dry no matter the season. Everyday outings. For those who sweat easily, moisture wicking clothing are wardrobe essentials. 
Athletic WearVery popular for workout gear to be moisture wicking. Often used for running, biking, swimming, hiking, etc…
WorkwearYes, these type of pants can be very useful for us on the job to repel sweat and keep our body drier and cooler.
UnderwearUnderwear and undershirts will often be moisture wicking to provide a dry comfort for the base layer.

How Do Moisture-Wicking Pants work?

Moisture wicking fabric uses “capillary action,” which moves the liquid (or sweat) through tiny little holes in the fabric. And because the liquid does not absorb into the fabric itself, but rather moves to the outside of the pants, this allows the pants to dry quicker than normal fabric.

Certain types of fabric work better for moisture-wicking than others. Synthetic blends like polyester and polypropylene are built to be more breathable and moisture-wicking, while cotton tends to absorb and retain moisture.

Canvas pants are not very breathable. To read more, visit our article: Are Canvas Pants Breathable?

What Are the Advantages of Moisture Wicking Pants?

There are many reasons why you might invest in moisture-wicking pants. Maybe you are tired of being soaked and overheated during every workout or work day. Maybe you just don’t like the way heavier, thick fabric feels against your skin. Here are the advantages:

  • They Keep You Cool Because moisture-wicking fabric works by pulling the moisture away from your body, your body is able to better self-regulate its temperature. When it’s already warm and humid outside, the last thing you need is more humidity trapped in your clothing. Moisture-wicking pants help to get rid of that humidity and keep you drier and cooler than other fabrics. They make for great summer work pants.
  • They Are Breathable The same capillaries that help sweat to escape from your body allow air to flow in. These special little holes are the key to keeping your moisture-wicking pants cool and dry because they allow for better airflow than other denser fabrics. 
  • They Dry Quickly It’s understandable that a fabric meant to keep you dry would also dry quickly. This works well for times when you need to go from a workout to a casual lunch, or you’re biking to work and need to make a quick clothing change. You won’t have to worry about being wet, and you won’t have to worry about carrying wet pants in your bag.
  • They Are Lightweight – Most moisture wicking pants have a lightweight build that also makes them appealing for outdoor use like hiking, camping, and working.
  • They Are Easy to Care For – Because of the way the moisture-wicking technology works, moisture-wicking pants are easier to wash and tend to release stains better than other fabrics. Your pants will also require less water to wash due to the easy flow of the capillary holes.
  • They Can Be Less Expensive to Make – You might find that due to the synthetic nature of most moisture-wicking fabrics, they are less expensive to manufacture than natural cotton blends. Because manufacturing is less expensive, you may see more cost savings as a consumer.
  • They Hold Their Shape – Especially when it comes to pants, it’s important to know your fabrics aren’t going to shrink or change shape when washed. Moisture-wicking fabrics are made out of synthetic materials that hold their shape and aren’t likely to change much in the wash.
  • They Are Usually Long Lasting – Moisture-wicking pants are built to last. They are formulated to be durable and tough. Since they don’t retain moisture, they won’t break down as easily and quickly as other fabrics might. This is yet another reason they are great for a more active lifestyle. 

What Are the Disadvantages of Moisture Wicking Pants?

Yes, there are a lot of things to like about moisture wicking pants, but there are also some disadvantages to be aware of before you buy moisture wicking pants.

  • They Aren’t Winter Friendly Moisture-wicking pants are great for warm weather, but if you wear them in the winter, you might find that your legs are unusually cold. Because they are designed to keep your body cool and to let air in, they are not a good option for keeping you warm in the wintertime. 
  • They May Not Be Soft Since moisture-wicking pants are made out of synthetic materials, they may not be as soft as other types of fabric, such as cotton. Moisture-wicking pants are meant to be light and breathable, so some of the softness may be sacrificed in order to achieve that.
  • Not as Durable as Canvas – For workers, canvas pants and jackets give you something that is ultra-durable and can stand up to a harsh work environment. Although moisture-wicking pant are usually tough enough to handle a job site, and are often made from ripstop fabric, there’s no debating that duck cotton canvas pants will be more durable (but also warmer).

If you want the moisture-wicking benefits during the winter months, it might be a good idea to invest in a moisture-wicking base layer pant. That way you can get sweat pulled away from your skin to help keep you dry, but can still wear heavier jeans or winter work pants on the outside.

Paul Johnson

Paul is a lead content creator for Workwear Command. He has had several blue-collar jobs which have provided him a wide range of experience with tools and gear. He also has a business degree and has spent time in business casual office settings.

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