Leggings have become super popular on the trails lately, and for good reason! There are so many hiking leggings out there with different color combinations and fits. They’re also super comfortable and will fit just about any body type. Some hiking leggings even come with pockets! Which is unfortunately very uncommon in leggings. C’mon, give us more pockets!
With so many choices out there, we’ve put together our list of favorite hiking leggings for the outdoors. All leggings are free of animal products and some are even made from post-consumer recycled plastics.
Do you really need hiking pants?
What you prefer to wear hiking is based on your personal preference of course. However, there are a few things to consider when choosing between hiking pants and hiking leggings. If you are embarking on more than a day hike or maybe an overnight backpacking trip, you will likely want to go with a more technical hiking pant. Leggings tend to be best for dry weather and shorter trips. Hiking pants will offer more protection from inclimate weather, bushwacking, and UV rays. Finding yourself 3 days into a backpacking trip with a bad chaffing situation or rained-on leggings is a recipe for disaster.
What are the best leggings for hiking?
What makes a great hiking legging? Let’s jump into some of the finer details that can make a big difference in your overall comfort on the trail.
We’ve probably all heard the saying “cotton kills” when referring to outdoor gear. Cotton absorbs moisture from the skin and traps it against your body. This can cause you to freeze when in cold weather or it can become a source of skin irritation and even infection. Look for materials that are moisture wicking and/or quick dry like nylon, spandex, and lycra.
Now that we are all set on materials, let’s consider the must have features of any great hiking leggings. Personally I love a high-rise waist that will not be constantly slipping and need readjusting at every turn.
Many hiking leggings have a tiny little pocket for your id or some extra cash placed discretely inside the waistband. However, it is becoming more common for leggings to have actual side pockets that will hold your phone, some snacks, or even a camera.
A gusseted crotch will allow more movement when scrambling up rocks or hiking across uneven terrain. The extra fabric makes tears less likely and your leggings will ultimately last longer.
One of our favorite brands right now is Girlfriend Collective. Their leggings are not only high quality and stylish, they are also the most eco friendly activewear brands out there. All of their products are made from recycled plastic water bottles. Their factory is SA800 certified and they only use dyes that are environmentally friendly. Their website features all types of bodies and diverse people. We love that. It’s actually really cool to see how recycled plastic is turned into leggings! check out this video of the process.
Our favorite designs from Girlfriend Collective:
Compressive High Rise Legging
These compression leggings are great for high intensity hiking or trail running. The compression fabric is made from 27 recycled water bottles and spandex. The extra high waist is super comfy and includes a small hidden pocket.
High Rise Pocket Legging
Yay pockets! These hiking leggings have not just one, but TWO deep side pockets on either hip. They are big enough to hold your phone, trail snacks, or whatever! The fabric is made of the same quality compression fabric as above.
Float Seamless High Rise
The float legging is has a seamless design and a lightweight fabric that is super comforatble against your skin. These are best for warm weather hiking and backpacking. They even have built-in sun protection of UPF 50+
We love that Girlfriend Collective has a maternity line for women who need a little more support for baby. These leggings are made from recycled fishing nets. The fabric is supportive and buttery soft. All fabrics are 100% free from harmful substances and are bluesign certified.
Arc’teryx Rho LT
The arc’teryx Rho hiking leggings are awesome for winter weather. The fabric is made of quick drying torrent polyester that keeps you totally dry and stink free all day.
Nikita Breaker Legging
The Nikita leggings have a cool design and they even have a hidden hip pocket for your phone or extra cash. They are great as a base layer under snow pants or on their own!
Columbia Tidal Legging
We love these leggings because they have all of the features you need an none you don’t. These are a great everyday legging with a hidden pocket, flat-lock design, and quick dry fabric.
North Face Winter Warm
As the name suggests, these North Face leggings are wonderful for all of your winter activities. They can be worn around town or as a base layer when you’re on the slopes.
The Eddie Bauer hiking leggings are made specifically for scrambling and hiking. They have angles zipper pockets for the important stuff you don’t want to lose. They have built-in SPF 50 sun protecton and the material is made of a moisture wicking polyester with odor control technology.
With a dual layer fabric system, these hiking leggings are designed to carry moisture away from the body and dry sweat super quick. The welded seam prevents chaffing no matter how long you hike or climb. The double layer fabric makes these leggings perfect for the colder months.
Lululemon Wunder Train Leggings
The special Everlux fabric in the lululemon hiking leggings allow sweat and moisture to escape quickly, keeping your legs dry and chaff-free. The four-way stretch lycra allows maximum movement and the compressive properties of the fabric create a comfortable support.
Flashdry technology fabric makes these North Face Hiking Leggings a great choice for high intensity hiking or trail running. The dual layer structure and high rise waist create extra support to keep you comfortable while being active. The 36″ inseam will keep your ankles safe when trekking through bushes and rough grassy terrain.
Leggings can be perfectly suited for hiking. It depends on the specific design and fabric technology. However, many hikers prefer to wear hiking specific pants for their loose fit, UV protection, and some even have insect repellent built in! Some backpackers will only wear leggings on an overnight trip or a day hike. Pants are typically best for longer thru-hikes and to protect your body when conditions may not be ideal (i.e. wind, rain, snow) Ultimately it is a personal choice.
It depends! If you’re hiking in the shoulder season when temperatures tend to be cooler, leggings may be the better choice. However, if you’re hiking in the peak summer months you may want to opt for shorts instead. Leggings can also be useful in the hot summer months by providing UV protection from the sun and they can protect your legs from tall grass and rough vegetation. It’s always best to do a bit of research about your route and the time of year you plan on going to make the right choice for yourself.
Always wear leggings that are specifically designed for intense physical activity. Poor quality fabrics and designs can cause chaffing, rashes, and even infections. Check the fabric contents and design features of any hiking legging you plan to purchase. High quality hiking leggings will have fabric that is specifically designed to wick moisture and dry quickly.
Do you hike in Leggings? Why or why not? Do you have a favorite pair of hiking leggings that we missed? Let us know in the comments below! Looking for warmer weather gear? Check out our Hiking shorts guide.