How to Choose the Best Leggings for Hiking
Choosing a set of hiking leggings isn’t all that different from picking out a pair of pairs of traditional hiking pants to wear on the trail.
It’s all a matter of finding something that can stand up to the abuses of Mother Nature, while also keeping you in relative comfort.
This is the main reason you’ll want to start wearing waterproof leggings for hiking:
They’re a whole lot more comfortable than hiking pants!
This is especially true when you encounter a downed tree blocking the trail and need the extra range of motion to swing your leg over it.
They should be form-fitting and the best hiking leggings should almost feel like you’re wearing nothing at all.
That’s not to say that all leggings will be equal on comfort and mobility though.
While leggings made for indoor activities like yoga are typically just a blend of polyester and spandex. Hiking leggings might have some nylon sections woven in for extra durability. These areas won’t stretch well.
Additionally, some hiking leggings and tights have a more comfortable design.
Many of them come with a gusseted crotch, which is a fancy way of saying that there are no seams running down the middle of the crotch section.
Instead, it will have a single piece of fabric stretching from the seams on the legs. This is an important feature for men’s hiking leggings that need e a little more room down there.
Everyone wants gear that’s good in a variety of situations, but it’s hard to find anything that can be good in all situations.
This is where getting a pair of waterproof leggings for hiking really shines though.
Unlike nylon hiking pants and shorts, leggings can actually look good on and off the trail. Like any piece of technical clothing, there are tradeoffs to be made.
Leggings that are more durable and have lots of reinforcement points will look less natural and probably won’t be suitable for off-trail activities.
Leggings that appear normal might not have the weather resistance necessary for serious backcountry adventures.
Additionally, there are some legging that are warmer than others and are only suited for winter temperatures.
It goes without saying, but even the best hiking tights are not going to have the same durability as high-quality nylon and polyester weave hiking pants.
Hiking leggings are built for comfort and mobility.
That being said, hiking tights vary widely in terms of durability, with the most long-lasting pairs being constructed from heavy-duty nylon.
Polyester is almost as good, and organic fabrics like wool are the least durable of them all.
To get a pair that can take some serious punishment, it’s best to go with a brand that uses reinforcing patches on high wear areas like the seat and knees of the leggings.
As with anything in outdoor gear though, it’s a tradeoff – fabrics that are more durable are usually less comfortable and are more likely to limit your mobility.
One of the most important features to look for in hiking leggings is their resistance to moisture buildup.
Different fabrics dry at different rates.
Cotton would be the slowest, which is why it’s not used in most hiking clothing, including leggings.
Wool is also not particularly quick to dry, so it gets blended with nylon and polyester, which also makes it a little more water-resistant.
Nylon and polyester are excellent moisture-wicking fabrics, they will dry out very fast and are generally good at repelling moisture, making them the best choice for weather resistance, all other things being equal.
However, a problem that many hikers probably don’t think too much about when choosing the best hiking leggings is wind protection.
A cold breeze cuts right through regular spandex leggings, so many manufacturers will add a tighter weave of nylon or polyester to provides extra protection.
This is also where wool has the advantage, as the fibers are better at trapping warm air from your body, which provides a buffer against the wind.
Leggings are very similar, and often, identical to base-layer clothing. They’re designed with sweat-wicking properties and breath sufficiently so you don’t become a hot mess and overheat.
The difference is that they need to perform this role while also being weather resistant. This can be a difficult balance to strike.
Like with any other outdoor clothing, the most breathable fabrics will be organic ones.
Cotton is not typically used for leggings due to its tendency to absorb water, but wool is not uncommon. Its anti-stench properties along with its breathability make it a great choice for high-intensity exercise.
Fully synthetic fabrics also have a fair degree of variability between them when it comes to breathability.
The best ones will be lighter-weight nylon and polyester. Which should have a lose enough weave to let heat and moisture out, while not allowing too much rain and wind in.
Thicker materials like polyamide are less breathable and will feel hot when hiking in warm weather.
Are Leggings Good for Hiking?
Hiking apparel has gone through changes over the years, especially when hikers started to prefer comfort on the trail over hardy safari wear that feels almost like a gurney sack. Hiking in leggings isn’t only fashionable but fulfills comfort, form-fitting versatility, and advanced freedom of movement.
The best leggings for hiking stretch and move with your body, offering unequaled mobility and flexibility since they can be worn on their own or as an inner protective layer. Hiking leggings are super lightweight when worn, and when packed for the trail, fit for the adventure seeker who isn’t afraid to venture out into rough spots.
On the other end of the spectrum, leggings for hiking are designed for cold weather excursions, featuring materials that muffle cold winds while delaying wetness. Leggings also happen to be cheaper than most other hiking apparel. They’re made for durability while being easy to launder.
One downside is that most leggings come in more sizes and options for women than men, whose hiking tights often have fitting considerations and feature monotone colors like black.
Hiking Leggings or Hiking Pants?
Leggings for hiking can double up as an outer or base layer, giving you the flexibility of temperature adjustments while on the trail. They’re more comfortable than hiking pants and can be rolled up when you need the wind rushing around your shins.
Although they don’t convert to capris or hiking shorts, leggings are better form-fitting while giving more freedom of movement than pants. The fabric is lightweight on your skin, offering protection against the elements but remaining breathable during hot day hikes.
A few downsides of leggings for hiking are how few the pockets are, plus they’re not fully waterproof. However, donning rain-resistant pants on top is more effortless. They are not made for bushwhacking hikes like pants and won’t offer much protection against thorns, briars, and rocks but will be quick drying. At the same time, the materials will readily absorb any sweat or trail-bound moisture.
Other than that, many leggings for hiking offer compression technology that helps minimize fatigue while increasing endurance. In contrast, not all leggings will have this innovative feature, those with a significant advantage over traditional pants for hiking.
Can You Hike In Yoga Pants?
Although there are significant differences between yoga pants and leggings for hiking, you can hit the trail wearing either. However, yoga pants aren’t designed to withstand the harsh outdoors elements, and you may end up getting bush whipped or have them torn up by branches.
Leggings for hiking are designed for long durations of wear in adverse conditions, providing comfort and protection on the trail. The essential differences to note when deciding between yoga pants and hiking leggings include;
Fabric Differences: Moisture-wicking fabric is used on leggings for hiking, durable, and thick for element protection. Yoga pants incorporate cotton in their construction, which doesn’t dry quickly and causes your leggings to collect debris when you’re hiking.
Cut and Design: Leggings for hiking are cut and sewn in ways that reduce chafing or frictional rubbing between your thighs and legs. The tights design for the trail ensures that your lower back isn’t irritated by a low-hanging backpack, while the waistband, seam placement, and pockets also matter.
Are Lululemon or Other Yoga Leggings Good for Hiking?
Lululemon leggings is the go-to option for many hikers. This brand offers outdoor and indoor tights characterized by high waits and cropped lengths. Their leggings are fair priced, well designed, and stitched to withstand rigorous movement on and off the trail.
I almost always pack a pair of Lululemon or other yoga leggings for a hike, even when I plan on wearing shorts or pants along the way as they’re super feather light in my backpack. With proper care, you can make these leggings for hiking go a long way without snagging or stripping.
Lululemon and other yoga leggings work better in well-maintained or open alpine trails, offering breathability, high coverage, and stretch flexibility.
Final Decision: What are the best leggings for hiking?
You can now convert from hiking with pants to snug, comfortable leggings, which will open a whole new experience for you on the trail.
Of all the leggings for hiking samples we tested, some of which couldn’t be included here, comfort isn’t traded for style, durability, or weather protection.
Fjallraven Women’s Abisko Trail Tights‘ innovative material construction makes it our favorite due to the fabric’s light weightiness, moisture-wicking capacities, and comprehensive style selection. The best hiking leggings for men are the 2XU Men’s Core Compression Tights for their versatile fabric make-up as well as fleece-lined paddings.
You can also consider hiking in our runners-up selection, the low-budget North Face Women’s Perfect Core High Rise Tight. These leggings for hiking have all the appropriate features while being stylish enough to pack for the trail.