Have you ever been backpacking in a not-so-technical pair of hiking pants, or even worse, a pair of jeans? If so, you likely suffered chafing in the most uncomfortable places, the waistband was riding up to your armpits, and your legs were all sweaty from the lack of airflow.
To avoid such problems, most hikers invest in quality hiking pants. But there’s another option that may work even better for you.
Turns out, leggings aren’t just for yoga lovers and models on Instagram. There are many brands that make leggings for hiking and other backcountry adventures. Hiking leggings are designed to be breathable, moisture-wicking, water-resistant, and super comfortable.
Even though it’s a niche market, there are countless models out there. But not every pair of hiking leggings is worthy of your consideration.
To help you pick out the right pair for your next adventure, we filtered out all the gimmicky models and put together a list of the best hiking leggings available.
Table of Contents
- 0.1 Our Top Picks:
- 1 Best Hiking Leggings for Women
- 2 Best Hiking Leggins For Men
- 3 How to Choose the Best Leggings for Hiking
- 4 FAQ
Our Top Picks:
For women: Eddie Bauer Trail Tights
For men: Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights
Best Hiking Leggings for Women
Patagonia Centered Tight
The Patagonia Centered Tight is an exceptional pair of mid-rise leggings. Thanks to Patagonia’s exceptional polyester and spandex blend, sweat evaporates very quickly.
If you decide to wear these bottoms on a more demanding trail, you won’t have to worry about any embarrassing wet marks.
Even though they have a tight waistband, the Patagonia Centered leggings compress quite well. The polyester and spandex blend feels soft against the skin. The fabric is a bit thick, but the overall comfort level these leggings provide is still quite impressive.
Their thick nature makes them stronger and more durable than the average pair of hiking leggings. The Patagonia Centered Tight will show only light pilling after extended use.
Since these bottoms are a bit on the thick side, they can be a good choice for cool-weather hiking (provided that the temperature isn’t too low).
Related: Brands like Patagonia You will Like
- Key pocket
- Could be more breathable
Eddie Bauer Trail Tights
Whether we are talking about flat hikes or the steepest of climbs, these high-waist bottoms perform exceptionally well on any terrain.
Thanks to the Polygiene coating and FreeDry moisture-wicking polyester/spandex blend, the Eddie Bauer women’s hiking thighs won’t smell funky even after a multi-day hike.
They feature UPF 50+ sun protection as well. This makes them one of the best leggings for hiking in the summer.
The form-fitting design of these hiking thighs is particularly noteworthy. They remain close to the body and allow for greater freedom of movement at the same time.
The hidden pocket is quite a nice touch, and so are the angled side pockets. They are big enough for storing a map, pocket knife, and some snacks.
Even though the Eddie Bauer Trail Tights are designed for the great outdoors, they are sleek enough to wear around town.
- Well-designed pockets
- Anti-odor coating
- UPF 50+ sun protection
- Extremely flexible
The North Face Winter Warm Tights
The Winter Warm bottoms are likely the best warm leggings for women. As their name suggests, you can count on them to keep you warm on cold hikes. But it’s still a good idea to wear extra layers when you’re going winter hiking.
The Winter Warm leggings have a fleece lining that helps retain your body heat. Thanks to the fleece, these women’s hiking tights also offer a higher level of weather-resistance.
The smooth, flat locket seaming is a very nice touch. The wide waistband is very comfortable and the internal drawcord ensures it stays up throughout your hike.
The Winter Warm bottoms aren’t as form-fitting as thinner models, but they still compress in all the right places. There’s also a men’s version of the Winter Warm hiking tights.
- Lifetime warranty
- Solid weather resistance
- Best women’s leggings for colder weather
- Could be more stretchy
Mountain Hardwear Chockstone Rock Tight
These easy-wearing leggings are an excellent choice for day hikes. The Chockstone Rock Tights feature a 4-way stretch fabric that offers the perfect balance between comfort and durability.
The Chockstone tights are so light, you’ll feel like you’re wearing nothing at all. These leggings are designed primarily for rock climbing, so they come with a full climbing seat gusset. But this feature has also earned them a place among the best leggings for hiking.
Thanks to the knit accent panels, you can move and sit almost anywhere you want without worrying about the leggings ripping in half. The high waist cut layers well with a backpack hip belt.
- Very flexible
- Lifetime warranty
- UPF 50+ sun protection
- No weather resistance
Patagonia Pack Out
If you want to wear something that is in between hiking tights and pants, the Patagonia Packout may be the best leggings for you. The Patagonia Pack Out tights offers an impressive level of comfort and mobility while being far more durable than the average pair of outdoor leggings. Read best women’s hiking shoes.
They are warm enough for chilly days. The Pack Out tights are also a good choice for sunny summer hikes, thanks to their breathable, moisture-wicking fabric. However, they offer limited weather resistance, so it’s best to wear them only in dry weather conditions.
The gusseted crotch allows for high-stepping and improves tear resistance at the same time. The handy zip side pocket and the drop in-leg pockets are surprisingly roomy.
- Very durable
- Handy pockets
Helly Hansen Rask Trail Tights
- Fabric: 88% polyester/12% spandex
- Weight: 9.9 oz
- Extra features: Zip pocket at hip
If you are going on a hike during shoulder season, you should choose the best water resistant hiking tights you can find. The Helly Hansen Rask Trail Tights may be just that.
The DWR (durable water repellent) coating will keep you dry if you sit on wet grass by accident. The water will simply bead off the leggings. For extra protection and mobility, the Rask Trail Tights feature stretch reinforcement panels on the knees and seat.
Since they are a bit on the thick side, they are also good leggings for hiking in windy conditions. Despite being a bit thick, the polyester/spandex blend is quite breathable and form-fitting. The 4-way stretch material also does a great job of wicking moisture.
The only problem with the Rask Trail Thighs is how they look. The seat and knee reinforcement panels are grey, while everything else is black.
So, they highlight parts you may not want to draw attention to. If you want your hiking thighs to be stylish as much as they are functional, it’s best to look elsewhere.
- Extremely versatile
- Very comfortable
- Solid weather-resistance
- The reinforcement panels look silly
Best Hiking Leggins For Men
Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights
The Abisko men’s hiking tights may be the best choice for those who are going for a more rugged look. These bottoms combine the functionality of hiking pants and the comfort of leggings.
Thanks to the high percentage of spandex, the Abisko tights offer an impressive level of flexibility. They also feature a gusset and reinforced knees. These patches improve weather resistance as well as durability.
The Abisko tights don’t have a DWR coating, but they are slim enough to easily fit under a pair of rain pants. The thighs are quite breathable and offer decent protection from the wind at the same time.
Their feature-set is also noteworthy. The Abisko men’s hiking tights feature a zippered left-thigh pocket, a side thigh pocket with a flap, and two zippered hand pockets. There’s also a women’s version of this model.
- Four convenient pockets
- Super flexible
- Very breathable
- Reinforcement patches
Salomon Agile Warm Tight Men
True to their name, the Salomon Agile is among the best warm leggings for men. Even though they are designed for trail running in freezing temperatures, they make for great hiking tights on cold spring and fall days. If you are into winter hiking, they serve as an excellent base layer as well.
The articulated knees allow for great mobility on all types of terrain. The high-quality polyester/spandex blend makes them exceptionally soft and stretchy. The Agile Warm tights won’t bind or pinch when you move or sit, thanks to their wide waistband.
The Salomon Agile Warm Tights are great for summer hikes as well. They are thicker in cold prone spots, but light in the lower legs. So, when things get hot, you can rest assured they will breathe well.
- Knee articulation
- Super soft and stretchy
- Hard-to-reach pocket
Smartwool Merino Sport Fleece Tight
When it comes to weather resistance, the Smartwool Merino Sport Fleece is likely the best leggings for hiking. Featuring both fleece and DWR coating, they offer excellent protection from wind and rain. The Merino Sport Fleece performance bottoms are almost as good as a pair of rain pants.
The unique blend of merino, polyester, and elastane makes the Smartwool Sport Fleece performance bottoms exceptionally warm and durable. The brushed merino lining feels super soft against the skin and wicks away moisture more than well.
You won’t have to worry about chafing, thanks to the flat-sewn seams. If you happen to lose some weight on your adventure, you can count on the adjustable waist cord to hold the bottoms in place.
- Very warm
- Best men’s tights for rain and wind
- Exceptionally comfortable lining
- Very flexible
- Easy-to-adjust waist cord
- Not so breathable
Patagonia Crosstrek Bottoms
If you are one of those guys who really appreciate the comfort and flexibility of tights but don’t like wearing them in public, the Patagonia Crosstrek bottoms may be the best solution for you.
The Patagonia Crosstrek Bottoms look like your average pair of sweatpants, but they are as stretchy and comfortable as yoga pants. The fleece lining offers great protection from the wind and the cold. But, at the same time, it feels nice against the skin.
The bottoms have a more relaxed fit, but the ankles are pretty snug. So, your legs have more than enough room to breathe and you can easily tuck the bottoms into your boots or socks.
The Patagonia Crosstrek bottoms only have one pocket, but it should be big enough for your essentials. These bottoms are designed to be worn on their own, but you can also wear them as a base layer under your hiking pants. Read also How To Layer for Outdoor Activities.
- Flat-seam stitching
- Smooth lining
- Very mobile
- The drawstring takes some getting used to
2XU Men’s Compression Tights
Compression tights are an excellent choice for high-output hikes. These performance bottoms are designed to improve blood circulation and stabilize muscles. Like most other compression pants, the 2XU tights are great for all outdoor activities, and not just hiking.
The bottoms are made from 2XU’s proprietary PWX fabric. It is 28% high-end spandex. This makes the 2XU one of the most flexible and most comfortable models on the market.
The 2XU bottoms also feature a Polygiene coating. It offers excellent protection against bacteria and odors.
The wide waistband has a covered elastic that does a great job of keeping the bottoms snug around your hips. You can rest assured they will stay in place throughout your whole hike.
The 2XU bottoms are quite light, and they come with a UPF 50+ rating, so they are best worn in the summer.
- Excellent compression
- Snug and cozy waistband
- UPF 50+ rating
- Exceptionally flexible
How to Choose the Best Leggings for Hiking
You should never wear cotton leggings on the trail. In fact, you should avoid cotton clothing altogether when you are hiking.
Whether you are hiking in hot or cold weather, sweat is inevitable. Cotton gets saturated with sweat very quickly, and it takes ages for it to evaporate.
As you can imagine, wearing cotton on the trail in the summer is uncomfortable. Wearing cotton leggings in colder weather may seem okay, but it isn’t. When the weather is particularly cold, sweating puts you at a greater risk of hypothermia.
Cotton traps every drop of sweat. When cotton gets wet, it loses its insulating abilities and rapidly saps away our body heat. So, leggings made from cotton don’t even make a decent base layer.
If you want to get a pair of leggings for hiking, choose a model that’s made from one of the following fabrics:
Polyester is an extremely hydrophobic fabric. It is the most widely used synthetic fabric in leggings. On top of doing a great job of wicking away moisture, polyester is quite durable. Polyester can be quite breathable as well; it mostly depends on the knit and yarn sizes.
While it’s more affordable, polyester generally doesn’t retain heat as well as natural fabrics. It also isn’t as stretchy as other synthetic fabrics.
Nylon wicks away moisture just as well as polyester. It also dries very quickly. However, nylon is more stretchy and more durable than polyester. Nylon is also better at retaining heat, but it generally lacks breathability.
Also known as Lycra or elastane, spandex is a synthetic stretch fabric commonly found in hiking leggings. It is super flexible, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying. Spandex is also durable, lightweight, and highly breathable.
Most high-quality hiking leggings made from synthetic fabrics usually feature a polyester/spandex or nylon/spandex blend.
If you want a pair of warm leggings for hiking, you may want to go for a model made from merino wool. Wool does a great job of regulating body temperature. So, this fabric feels cool when the weather is hot and warm when it’s cold. Read icebreaker vs Smartwool.
On top of being a great substitute for traditional hiking pants in the summer, fall, and spring, wool leggings make the best base layer in winter. Like synthetic fabrics, wool has great moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties.
Wool leggings don’t retain funky smells like those made from synthetic fabrics. This fabric is generally softer and more comfortable than nylon and polyester. However, wool isn’t as durable as synthetic fabrics.
Comfort and Mobility
When it comes to hiking leggings, comfort is paramount. After all, their comfiness is the biggest advantage they have over hiking pants. The average pair of hiking leggings is made from stretch fabric that allows for greater freedom of movement.
Unlike traditional hiking pants, hiking leggings are designed to move with you as you hike and form-fit to your legs. For good or bad, they should fit your body shape. So that they won’t slip off when you’re hiking, choose hiking leggings that have flattering high-rise waistbands.
Even though top-shelf hiking pants allow for greater freedom of movement, they are still very thick and heavily-featured. After a few hours of hiking, even the most comfortable hiking pants start to feel restrictive.
Leggings that have a higher percentage of spandex tend to be more comfortable.
But, keep in mind, hiking leggings are not the same as regular leggings. They are designed to be more weather-resistant and abrasion-resistant than everyday leggings. To make proper hiking leggings, brands have to sacrifice some level of comfort.
Leggings that have a higher percentage of spandex tend to be more comfortable. But beware of pocket-friendly hiking leggings that are suspiciously super stretchy.
Low-quality leggings usually become see-thru when stretched. To keep your privates private, it’s best to spend a touch more money on quality leggings.
If you want to get a pair of leggings for hiking in the summer, make sure they are breathable. The more spandex in the leggings, the more breathable they are.
Hiking leggings made from a spandex/polyester blend tend to have the highest level of breathability. If breathability is your main concern, it’s best to go with hiking leggings that have a relaxed fit. Thin and lightweight leggings also do a better job of promoting airflow.
Higher-quality leggings usually feature a gusseted crotch. A gusset is simply a piece of sewn-in material that prevents the seams from converging in the crotch.
Leggings that have a gusseted crotch are more comfortable and allow for greater freedom of movement. The gusset also increases the durability of the leggings as it reduces the stress on the seams.
Flat Sewn Seams
The best leggings for hiking have seams that are sewn against the legging fabric. Unlike plain seams, flat sewn seams help minimize skin irritation and chafing around the waist, angles, and up the legs.
Some hiking leggings feature extra fabric around the knees. This is also called knee articulation. Compared to the standard hiking legging design, leggings with articulated knees allow for greater freedom of movement.
Zipper Cuffs and Pockets
Even though many people wear leggings because of their minimalist design, some hiking leggings and thighs come with extra features.
For instance, some leggings have zippered cuffs that make them easier to take off or put on. Other models feature a thigh or side pocket that allows you to store your ID, keys, and other essentials.
Hiking leggings lag behind hiking pants when it comes to weather resistance. But some models can hold up pretty well against the elements.
If you don’t want your leggings to be one of those ever-wet items, go for a model that is treated with a DWR (durable water repellent treatment) finish. This is the same coating that makes rain pants and jackets water-resistant.
There are hiking leggings that are specifically designed for cold weather. These may feature a fleece-lining that makes them warmer and more weather-resistant. Related: best fleece jackets.
They will keep you warm for a couple of hours at a time if you are hiking in early spring or late fall. But if it is really cold, or if you are out for the whole day, it’s best to wear them as a base layer under proper hiking pants.
No pair of leggings is as durable as a pair of hiking pants. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should avoid wearing leggings when you are hiking in an alpine environment or doing a multi-day trip.
If you want to get a pair of leggings that can take a beating, look for a model that has reinforcements in high contact areas (knees and seat). The most durable legging are the ones made from heavy-duty nylon. The thicker the fabric, the more durable the hiking leggings.
Can I Hike in Yoga Pants?
No. Even though yoga pants are great for some athletic activities, make sure to get leggings that are made specifically for hiking, trail running, rock climbing, or other outdoor activities.
Many yoga pants are made from a cotton blend. Moreover, most yoga pants are designed for indoor use only. Some yoga pants may be okay for short day hikes, but only the ones that are made from non-cotton fabrics.
Why Wear Hiking Leggings Instead of Hiking Pants?
Hiking pants are great for bushwhacking and blazing through particularly rough trails. But, if you are going on a short and easy hike, hiking pants are overkill. As your adventure progresses, hiking pants start to feel heavier, stiffer, and more restrictive.
Hiking pants are designed to be functional and durable above everything else, and they are the best option for demanding hikes.
But if your hike doesn’t require you to sacrifice comfort, hiking leggings are the best choice. The form-fitting design of leggings allows for greater freedom of movement and helps minimize fatigue.
Is It Better To Hike in Shorts or Leggings?
While it mostly comes down to your personal preferences, do know that hiking leggings do have some advantages over shorts. For instance, leggings offer better protection against bugs.
Like shorts, leggings promote airflow and help you stay cool. But, when the temperature drops in the evening, they will keep you warmer than a pair of hiking shorts would.
Read also: 12 Reasons to Start Hiking
I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.