What? Hiking in leggings? Or yoga pants?! What have you been thinking, girl? That’s why hiking pants were made, they have it in the name.
Yet hiking in leggings, running tights or yoga pants have become popular recently – and no, not only because girls want to look good on the gram… First of all, they’re so comfortable! Nothing can be like them as they’re stretchy and follow the shape of your body so you can move freely. You barely even feel that you wear anything.
They’re lightweight, too, taking up barely any space in your backpack. You can wear them on their own or as a base layer. They can be breathable and moisture-wicking. Of course, you can wear them (and love wearing them!) while hiking.
However, they’re not waterproof, and they pick up sweat easily (because they’re so close to your skin). They can’t compete with traditional hiking pants in durability, though some are more durable than others.
I don’t really get the “hiking pants vs leggings” debate though. I see leggings as an option which can work better for some people or for certain hikes. I have comfortable hiking pants, leggings and yoga pants. But here’s a fact: finding comfortable hiking pants that actually fit me is a pain! And I’m not the only woman struggling with this.
And do you know when I got to really love hiking in leggings? During my pregnancy when I didn’t have any other options, anyway. That bump might not even be visible in the first few months, but it was enough for my hiking pants not to fit me anymore. That’s when I realized that leggings and yoga pants are incredibly comfortable for hiking.
So if you’re a girl who wants to hike in leggings, just do it. 🙂 And let me help you choose the best trekking tights for your needs.
Things to consider before purchase
That’s the main advantage of hiking tights over traditional hiking pants. Both the fit and the material should make you comfortable. It should move with you and make you feel like you’re naked (while you’re not, and no one can see through that lightweight material that your leggings were made of).
Breathability is something that we tend to take for granted until we wear a piece that’s really not breathable enough. You don’t want to break sweat at the first intense movement. The perfect hiking legging should feel comfortable even when going steeply uphill or hiking in warmer weather.
It doesn’t only depend on the material. Leggings are tight and very close to your skin, and the tighter they are, the less breathable they are, as well. You want to find the sweet spot.
Yes, girls like being pretty, and – unlike in hiking pants – they absolutely can while wearing stylish and comfortable leggings. Some come in classic black and other dark colors, but you can find countless other color options.
A small pocket at the right place can make a difference. Though leggings are not known to have pockets, surprisingly many have at least one.
I’m not very convinced how useful they are though, but it’s just my taste. I don’t really like storing anything in pockets, especially not larger and heavier things, like a phone or a wallet, and I’ve never put anything other than a handkerchief in the pockets of any of my pants. Also, I never go hiking without at least a small backpack, a camera bag or a belt bag. I think the pockets of leggings are more useful to store small, crucial items, like a key or a card, while running.
It’s very important for leggings, hiking or not. It shouldn’t be too tight or too loose – or slipping down. Whether you prefer a high or low-rise waistband is a question of personal preference though. High waistbands usually feel more secure and protected, low-rise waistbands add to the breathability.
Water and wind resistance is important when hiking in high mountains, on windy coastal trails or chilly highlands trails. It becomes especially important in the colder months. While there’s no waterproof leggings for hiking, some of them offer relatively good protection against water and wind, and they dry quickly.
Which material is the best?
It depends on your needs. Here’s a quick overview of the materials that leggings are typically made of.
Cotton is breathable and very comfortable, but it absorbs moisture and dries slowly, so it’s not a recommended material for any clothes you wear while hiking (or doing any kind of sports).
Nylon is strong and lightweight, and it doesn’t crease easily, however, it has low breathability. It’s usually mixed with polyester, spandex or cotton to have the most desirable attributes, while eliminating some undesirable ones.
Polyester is moisture-wicking, breathable and dries fast which makes it a popular choice for sportswear.
Spandex (also known as elastane or lycra) is stretchy. Moreover, it has the ability to return to its original shape after stretching, and it’s also quick drying. It works well with other fibers (like polyester, nylon, cotton or wool) and increases their stretching ability.
Wool is warm and naturally breathable. Thanks to this it can be a great choice for both warm and cold weather. It wicks moisture and can absorb around 30% of its weight before you feel wet. Does it have any disadvantages? Some people find wool products itchy and irritating.
It’s not only the material that matters but also the fabric’s knit. If it’s not dense enough, you can see through it. You also need to consider what the weather is like where you hike when choosing the right clothes. You might need different pairs of leggings, like one extremely lightweight for summer, one warmer for the fall and to use it as a layer in winter. If you often hike in high mountains, you want to look for weather-resistant fabrics that protect you in rough conditions. And maybe you want to choose a legging that you can also use for running, exercising or yoga.
The best value for price: Helly Hansen Rask Tights
This legging is one answer to the popularity of wearing leggings when hiking as it’s specifically manufactured for that. It’s stretchy, moisture-wicking and comfortable. Water-repellent reinforcement panels on the seat and knees make it more durable and suitable for rough terrain.
When it comes to price, it’s one of the mid-range options. You can definitely find cheaper ones, but they don’t offer the features these Helly Hansen tights do, and it can compete with the more expensive models both in features and durability.
It’s not an urban wear because of the reinforcement panels, but great for hiking, backpacking or rock climbing. Reviewers liked using it as a base layer in winter weather, but they also noted that it’s a little loose in the waist and tight in the leg area, so not an ideal fit for curvy girls.
|super comfortable||not a tight fit (a bit loose in the lumbar area and at the waist)|
|reinforcement panels with water-resistant coating|
|two zippered pockets|
The best premium hiking legging: Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights
Another legging made with hikers in mind, suitable for rough terrain and weather conditions. Its thick fabric is durable and gives protection against bugs and vegetation, its knees and rear areas have reinforcements. Those patches look a bit restrictive, but reviewers highlight how comfortable and stretchy these tights are.
Because of its thick fabric and limited breathability, it can be too warm for hot climates or summer months. But it’s a great year-round legging for the high mountains, made of quality material with extra protection. And it’s also available for men.
It’s somewhat water-resistant, and it has two functional leg pockets. Fit is tricky, it runs a little big and long, but it has an internal drawstring. The real downside? Price. It’s probably not worth it for most people. Those who look for technical pants will rather choose hiking pants that offer many of these features for a better price, and those who like leggings will probably choose a more affordable, still very comfy, stretchy, breathable one. Then there are the exceptions – those who look for professional trekking tights.
|durable, reinforcement panels on the seat and knees||too warm in summer|
The most budget-friendly hiking legging: Columbia Windgates II
These polyester-elastane Columbia Windgates leggings have thick, stretchy, moisture-wicking fabric, making them a great choice for backpacking or hiking.
Their high waist doesn’t roll down and ensures a snug fit. It has several pockets, including a zippered one and a hidden waistband pocket. It certainly offers a lot for a favourable price.
|durable, thick, stretchy fabric||not water-resistant|
|good value for price|
|Omni-Shade UPF 50 fabric|
The best legging for winter hiking: Icebreaker Merino Comet Tights
This stretchy merino wool-polyester-lycra legging is the best in chilly weather, and it can function as a heavyweight baselayer in cold weather – either for hiking, snowshoeing or skiing. It’s soft, warm, comfortable, and – thanks to the merino wool blend – also breathable and odor-resistant. The lycra content makes it stretchy.
In addition, Icebreaker is a brand who takes pride in creating sustainable products.
|soft and warm||expensive (but merino wool is an expensive material)|
|zippered back stash pocket|
The best leggings for hiking and rock climbing: prAna Rockland Leggings
Originally designed for rock climbing, the prAna Rockland leggings are durable, with double-layer reinforcements on the knees and butt. The compression fit is snug, and it has two thigh pockets with zippers. It’s not the most stretchy pair of leggings and might be too much in hot weather, but it’s a reliable, durable piece of any hiking wardrobe.
|double-layer reinforcements||not the most stretchy|
|durable, thick fabric||not water-resistant|
The best leggings for hiking & yoga: Handful Squeeze Play Leggings
This super lightweight, breathable and comfy legging wicks sweat and dries fast, and it can be a good choice if you’re looking for yoga pants that you can also use for hiking. It uses a temperature-regulating technology that keeps you cool when it’s hot, and warms you when it’s cold. It provides good compression and shaping.
|quick-drying, breathable fabric||not as durable as other leggings made specifically for hiking|
|affordable price||not enough for cold weather (not even as base layer)|
The best budget-friendly yoga pants: iKeep high waist leggings
Why should you buy hiking leggings if you already have yoga pants? Sure, a pair of leggings specifically made for hiking could make sense if you hike a lot and often in harsh conditions. But if you mostly do day hikes in relatively nice weather, you can choose a pair of pants that are just as good for hiking as for yoga, running or other workouts. Or everyday wear. (Khm… The work from home era made everyone fall in love with leisure wear, anyway, or is it just me?)
Take a look at this super stretchy pair of iKeep high waist leggings in that case. Its polyester-spandex material wicks moisture and dries quickly, making it suitable for a variety of intense activities. It’s thicker than most leggings, but I like it, because you absolutely can’t see through it, and it’s protective and durable enough even for trails where vegetation is dense.
It’s not weather-resistant though, so I’d pair it with a waterproof outer shell on wet days. I also like wearing it as a winter base layer. Putting my waterproof pants on top of it, the two layers kept me warm enough even around 0°C on my first winter hike this year. For colder days, use softshell pants or insulated snow pants as a second layer. The only weather these leggings are not suitable for is hot summer days.
Their price is well within the affordable range, yet they don’t only offer you the bare minimum. Like they have three pockets which are all actually functional! The side pockets can hold your phone (even my phone which is 5.5″), the hidden pocket on the inside of the waistband is for very small items, like a few keys or a bank card. I don’t really like putting anything in the pockets of my pants in general, but when it comes to running, that’s often the only option.
|affordable price||too warm in summer|
|versatile usage||not water-resistant|
|three functional pockets|
The best high-rise legging: The North Face Perfect Core High Rise Tights
The fitted, high-rise tights from The North Face are great for any intense activities. They have a compression waistband for increased core support. The nylon-spandex fabric resists tears, dries quickly and is quite breathable.
|compression waistband with internal pocket||not super stretchy|
|breathable||some find the logo too large|
The best waterproof legging: Gore Tex Infinium Women’s Running Tights
Designed for runners, this Gore Tex legging could be just as good for bikers, hikers, trail runners and backpackers. The brand is famous for high performance waterproof breathable characteristics, but in this case the main focus was on flexibility and breathability. Thanks to the Gore Tex technology, this legging repels drizzle and resists wind which puts it among the best leggings to wear in poor weather conditions or unpredictable weather.
The fabric is durable and breathable, it’s made to be used outdoors and can function as a great base layer in cold weather. It has a high waistband that securely hugs your body, and ankle zips allow easy pulling on and off.
|windproof and highly water-resistant (but not waterproof!)||many struggles to find the correct size|
|breathable||back pocket is useless if you wear a backpack|
The most lightweight leggings: Lululemon Align II
Though not designed for hiking, this Lululemon legging is a great choice for day hikes in the summer. But you can also wear it in yoga class, while running or around town. Its thin material makes you feel like you’re not wearing anything at all, but be careful kneeling on rocks or walking in densely vegetated terrain.
It features a high waistband that’s also very comfy, and it even has a small pocket. The real disadvantage here is again the price. But for a lightweight legging that’s not very protective, many will find it too expensive.
|thin, incredibly comfortable material||not very durable|
|versatile usage||not weather-resistant|
Leggings are versatile and comfortable, and recently they have become incredibly popular for any kind of sport activities, indoors or outdoors. No wonder that several brands started to manufacture their own hiking leggings featured with specific attributes that make them fit for the trail. But even if hiking is not your main purpose to buy leggings, you can find ones that are suitable for everyday wear, jogging, biking and day hiking, too.