Hiking in leggings may seem too good to be true. But, with the right pair of leggings, you really can have it all—that cozy-at-home comfort AND protection from the risks of the great outdoors.
If you’re ready to ditch those uncomfortable hiking pants for the durability, comfort, and style of hiking leggings, you’re in the right place. But the biggest question remains: “Which hiking leggings are worth the investment and which ones fall flat?” Let’s find out!
In this article, we offer up our unbiased opinion and technical review of our top 9 picks for both men and women, followed by an in-depth buying guide to help you make the best choice for your next hike.
Our Top Three Picks
The 9 Best Hiking Leggings – Our Top Picks for 2021
- Arc’Teryx Oriel – Best all-around women’s hiking leggings
- Under Armour ColdGear – Best all-around men’s hiking leggings
- Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights – Most durable option for rugged hikes
- Minus33 – Best for use as a base layer in the winter
- Meriwool Lightweight – Best base layer option for spring or fall
- Salomon Trail Runners – Best water-resistant leggings for hiking
- Baleaf Thermals – Best fleece-lined hiking leggings (women’s only)
- Abisko Trail Tights – Best lightweight summer leggings
- Salomon Agile – Best everyday leggings
1. The Best All-Around Women’s Hiking Leggings
I’ve put around 20 miles (so far) on my Arc’Teryx Oriel’s, and they’re the best hiking leggings I’ve ever owned. They’re breathable and cool in warmer weather but also suitable for cooler weather and cold conditions with proper layering.
The moisture-wicking technology is superior to other hiking leggings I’ve tried, and the fit is perfect.
I’m a bit on the shorter side at 5’5,” and mine fit perfectly with a bit of extra fabric at the ankles.
One drawback I noticed is that the waistband rolls down when I bend over or crouch down to tie my shoes. They never slide down while I’m hiking, walking, or running, though.
And since these hiking leggings are built for rock climbing, they’re notoriously durable. You can tell the second you pull them on that they’re not your average yoga pants. Instead, they have a slick texture that feels durable but doesn’t restrict range of motion or breathability.
I also wear them around the house and when we go out… all the time. These leggings are THAT comfortable. Plus, the colors are neutral and easy to pair with your favorite hoodie or t-shirt.
My favorite thing about them, though, is the pockets. There’s one generous cargo pocket on each leg with plenty of room to hold my iPhone 11, keys, and debit card.
If you want an excellent all-around pair of hiking leggings that are suitable for just about every type of terrain and condition, these are it.
- Built for climbing – notoriously durable
- Won’t snag or pill – abrasion resistant
- Very soft against the skin
- Perfect for use as a solo or base layer
- Generous cargo pockets on each leg
- Gusset for full range of motion
- Stylish enough for off-trail use
- Pockets are well placed & don’t restrict movement
- Pockets can stretch out over time
- The waistband slips when you bend over
- Not for extreme cold or heat
- Tend to run a bit short (although I’m 5’5″ and have no issues with this)
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2. The Best All-Around Men’s Hiking Leggings
If the Oriel’s came in a men’s version, I’d undoubtedly recommend those as the best choice for men. But unfortunately, they don’t. However, the Under Armour ColdGear tights are an excellent contender.
They’ll quickly become your favorite tights to reach for on those cool and chilly mornings that turn into warmer afternoons.
The material feels lightweight, which is surprising given the double-layer construction. The outer layer dries lightning fast, and the inner layer wicks moisture away from your skin so it can evaporate as fast as possible.
Plus, the lightweight feel doesn’t mean sacrificing durability or insulation when you need it.
These leggings also offer just enough compression to help reduce muscle soreness and promote fast muscle recovery after your next adventure.
If it’s frigid outside, you can grab the ColdGear 4.0 winter edition for added warmth and total comfort all snow season long.
The biggest letdown is that there aren’t any pockets.
But that’s a small price to pay when you consider all the other benefits of these phenomenal leggings.
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3. The Most Durable Option for Rugged Hikes
Comfort and durability usually don’t go hand in hand, but this time… they do. Finally, you get the comfort, breathability, and range of motion of tights paired with the durability of typical hiking pants. So, the Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights are the best of both worlds.
They’re a versatile and practical pair of hiking leggings that can stand up to just about any condition on the trail.
Practical leg pockets provide easily accessible storage space for your phone or a trail map. At the same time, the drawcord waistband is designed for comfort + the perfect fit when worn with (or without) additional layers.
As goofy-looking as they are, the padded reinforcements are strategically placed to protect you if you fall, slide down a rock face, or need to tie your shoe.
The reinforced construction prevents tears, snags, and scrapes by sharp rocks and underbrush. Plus, you can sit down or prop yourself up on a knee without worrying about moisture soaking through. The all-over polyamide material provides excellent protection against insects, too.
However, those reinforcement areas won’t stretch as much as the rest of the tights, which may take some getting used to.
If you want a pair of rugged hiking leggings that’ll last for years to come (and don’t mind paying for an investment piece of gear), these are the best option.
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4. The Best to Use as a Base Layer in the Winter
When the temps drop below freezing, layering is a hiker’s best friend. Minus33 leggings, while not the most stylish option, are an excellent skin-tight base layer if you want warmth without suffocation.
Whether you’re ice fishing, backcountry skiing, or summitting your next mountain peak, you’ll appreciate how well these tights keep body heat in, while letting moisture out.
Unlike synthetic base layers, which can smell like plastic and leave you feeling like you’re wrapped in plastic, these wool leggings will wick sweat away from your skin to ensure you stay warm—even in the coldest of temps—while resisting odor all day long.
The superfine merino wool material is all-natural, eco-friendly, and incredibly soft against your skin—no itchiness here.
However, merino wool material is prone to pilling and snags. It’s also not the most durable material in the world, which is why we only recommend Minus33 leggings if you plan to wear them as a base layer with a protective layer on top.
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5. The Best Base Layer Leggings for Hiking in Spring or Fall
If you’re hiking in the spring or fall with cool mornings and warm afternoons, Meriwool Lightweight leggings are an excellent option to wear under your hiking pants.
They’ll keep you warm when the sun’s down, but they’re lightweight enough for all-day comfort when temps rise throughout the day.
As a 100% merino wool base layer with fast-drying and moisture-wicking technology, they reduce odor better than their synthetic counterpart.
So, they’ll never feel wet or heavy against your skin (even if you sweat a lot). Plus, you don’t have to worry about your leggings getting too smelly on the trail.
These hiking leggings also pack down really small, making them an excellent option for lightweight backpacking if you need an extra layer to navigate changing weather conditions.
As with the other merino wool leggings on our list, these aren’t as durable or meant for use as a solo layer since they’re prone to snags and pilling. You should also pay close attention to care instructions to prolong the life of your investment.
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6. The Best Water-Resistant Hiking Leggings
If you’re anything like us, a little rain won’t stop your weekend adventure. However, wearing the right clothes is key to a comfortable day hike in the rain or snow.
The Salomon Trail Runner Wes hiking leggings offer the most water (and wind!) resistance out of all the hiking leggings we’ve seen.
With Gore-Tex panels in certain areas, you get the breathability and all-day comfort of leggings with the water-resistance of a rain jacket in one pair of bottoms. All without feeling like you’re wearing a trash bag on your lower half.
The breathable calf materials let sweat out while ensuring none of that pesky rain or snow gets in, keeping you all sorts of dry. All day.
They even come with reflective sections that make it easier for others to see you in low-visibility conditions.
It’s important to note that these aren’t near as stretchy as other hiking tights because of the water-resistant areas. It’s not a deal-breaker, though, since they’re definitely more comfortable than wearing suffocating rain pants for hours on end.
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7. The Best Fleece-Lined Hiking Leggings (Women’s Only)
Fleece-lined, well… anything is not something I’d typically choose for high exertion activities in the cold. But it’s probably okay if you’re going on a winter day hike that doesn’t have a lot of elevation gain and won’t make you sweat a lot.
If you’d like to snag an affordable pair of incredibly warm fleece-lined leggings, Baleaf Thermals are our top pick.
Whether you want to wear them around the house (as most people do) or for short hikes in sub-freezing temps, they’ll keep you nice and cozy. Maybe a bit too warm, though.
Fleece isn’t known for drying fast, so the moment you start sweating, the fleece material will soak it right up… and hold onto it. Over time, they’ll begin to feel very heavy and uncomfortable against your skin.
I’m skeptical of their performance in hiking/high exertion situations. But this may not be a huge deal if you’re just getting into hiking or are on the hunt for leggings you can wear off & on the trail. In any other case, I recommend using a layering system for winter hiking pants instead.
With that said, the Baleaf Thermals are great at what they’re made for—keeping you warm during light to no exertion activities when it’s cold.
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8. The Best Lightweight Option for Hiking in the Summer
Wearing leggings in the summer is a smart way to protect your legs from bugs, the sun, and scrapes. However, you need a lightweight pair that won’t make you sweat even more.
Enter… the Abisko Trail Tights—the lightweight, bulk-free little sister of the Abisko Trekking Tights.
Their comfy and breathable fit paired with stretchy fabric makes them comfortable for all of your warm-weather adventures, whether you’re taking a short day hike or climbing a mountain peak.
Perhaps one of the best parts is that they don’t lose their shape and stay true to size even after a full day on the trail. So, you never have to worry about hiking these bad boys back up after wrapping up your last mile back to the car.
Like the Trekking Tights, these summer leggings have reinforced knees and added protection on the bum to protect you when you sit or kneel.
All without making them too warm for summertime trekking.
They also feature a large pocket on each leg so you can keep your essentials close by—your snacks, map, camera, and phone are never out of reach.
But keep in mind that you can’t toss these in the dryer.
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9. The Best Everyday Leggings for All-Day Comfort
If you’re looking for a multi-purpose pair of hiking leggings, Salomon Agile tights are where it’s at.
Whether you’re going for a jog, heading to the grocery store, or hitting the trail, you’ll quickly fall in love with these stylish and durable leggings. They’ve quickly become my go-to for just about every occasion, except when they’re in the wash.
There are tons of colors to choose from, plus you can decide between full-length or 3/4 length depending on your preferences.
Since they’re designed for running, the AdvancedSkin ActiveDry sweat-wicking technology is second to none. As a result, they dry fast, and you get the benefit of feeling comfortable all day.
Regardless of how sweaty you get.
The biggest downside? These leggings aren’t made for hiking, so there aren’t any cargo pockets. The only pocket is tiny—it’s only big enough for chapstick or a single key.
You’ll need to pair these with a jacket or day pack if you want a place to store your gear.
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Overview: Our Top Picks for 2021
Under Armour ColdGear
Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights
Salomon Trail Runner Wes
Fjallraven Abisko Trail Tights
Salomon Agile Leggings
Honorable Mentions: 5 Budget-Friendly Options
It’s no secret that durable, high-quality hiking leggings can get expensive… fast, especially if you want to buy more than one pair for different weather conditions or are just getting started with hiking. So, here are our top budget-friendly recommendations:
- Dragon Fit – The most versatile women’s budget leggings (Women’s)
- Willit – The most versatile men’s budget leggings (Men’s)
How to Choose the Best Hiking Leggings for You
Typically, the most challenging part of choosing hiking leggings is finding the right size. But there are quite a few other factors to think about if you want max comfort on the trail.
Fit and Range of Motion
Let’s start with the obvious one. Finding the right fit that doesn’t restrict your range of motion may take a few iterations. It’s obviously impossible to tell when you’re shopping online, but there are several things you can do to reduce the back-and-forth, including:
- Deciding what type of fit you want (compression, skin-tight, a bit looser, etc.)
- Accurately measuring yourself (it’s easiest if you have a buddy to help!)
- Reviewing the size chart & associated sizing tips closely
- Picking a size based on the fit you want + your measurements
- Reading reviews to see if you should consider sizing up or down
Lastly, you should consider the stretchiness of your chosen material. If it’s more rigid, like weather-resistant, rugged, or winter leggings, you may have a restricted range of motion if you go with a snug fit. In that case, it makes more sense to aim for a bit looser so you can still move around comfortably.
If you’re in-between sizes or unsure, order one of each (if you can).
You may find that you like both fits for different occasions. And if not, you can always send one pair back if they don’t fit.
This way, you don’t have to wait several days (or even weeks) for the exchange process to have a pair of hiking leggings ready to go in your closet.
When trying them on, do some squats and move around for a few minutes. There shouldn’t be any pinching or uncomfortably tight areas as you move, particularly in the reinforced areas. Also pay close attention to the waistband—does it fall or roll down after a few minutes?
This is a huge issue with a lot of leggings and can get rather annoying. The right fit shouldn’t sag at all.
However, an adjustable waistband can help them stay in place, even if they’re a bit too roomy.
Temperature + Weather Conditions
Leggings come in all thicknesses and lengths with different built-in technologies or coatings designed for various types of weather. Although you may want to buy one pair that’s suitable all year, you’ll be a lot more comfortable on the trail buying separate pairs for different conditions.
You wouldn’t want to wear lightweight cooling leggings as a base layer in the winter since your legs will get too cold. But they’re an excellent choice for summer, spring, and fall.
Other weather conditions also play a role in which hiking tights are best for you. There are weather-resistant leggings you can reach for on rainy and/or windy days. However, I typically go for a lightweight pair of rain pants rather than relying on my leggings to keep me dry.
I have one ultra-lightweight pair for summer, one lightweight pair for spring + fall, and one thicker pair to wear as a base layer in the winter.
Choose Your Preferred Material
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as the perfect material. However, there’s one you should avoid at all costs—cotton. It dries painstakingly slow, gets very heavy when it gets wet (AKA… when you sweat), retains odor, and is just all around not a good material for hiking gear.
For the most part, everything else is fine. But every material does come with its fair share of positives and negatives.
Polyester & nylon/polyamide – polyester is better at moisture control and sweat-wicking than nylon, but nylon outperforms polyester when it comes to odor resistance and durability—nylon is typically used in reinforcement areas because of this.
Both materials are:
- Very stretchy and breathable
- Easy to care for
- Comfortable against the skin
However, both tend to get stinky much quicker, don’t offer as much insolation as merino wool, and are not eco-friendly, biodegradable, or recyclable.
Note: nylon and polyamide are the same things.
Merino wool – excellent at keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer while still being breathable and more odor-resistant than synthetic options.
You can wash them less and wear them longer without that awful, stinky smell. However, it can be harder to care for and is much less durable over time. So I typically only choose merino wool for use as a base layer with a protective layer over them to avoid rips, tears, and snags. It’s also eco-friendly.
Blended materials – a combination of wool and synthetic fibers. You get more durability plus the insulating properties of wool. However, these aren’t eco-friendly.
Ventilation material – super lightweight material typically used in the crotch area and on the back of the legs (where you sweat the most) in warm-weather leggings. This helps heat escape and lets fresh air in so you stay cool.
Terrain and Durability
If you’re going out on a rugged trail or are planning to climb/scramble on rocks, it’s crucial to choose leggings with reinforcements in the rear and knees. Otherwise, your leggings will tear or snag if you fall on your butt/knees or get too close to something that can catch—like a thorny plant or a tree branch.
There are other options with additional reinforcements in the same areas that work well for more mild terrain. But those are our go-to’s if you’re looking for the most durable option that’ll stand up to almost anything.
Ease of Care + Cleaning
Merino wool is notoriously hard to clean and care for. Most wool leggings require hand washing and air drying. Some say you can toss them in the wash—although I wouldn’t recommend it if you want them to last as long as possible.
But the good news is that merino wool doesn’t retain odors or moisture, so you can wear them a few times in between washes without having to worry about smelling like poo.
With synthetic leggings, you can usually toss them in the washer and dryer. But you should wash them shortly after you get home to reduce the possibility of bacteria buildup. ‘
So, both synthetic and natural materials have their pros and cons. Either way, make sure to follow the directions and properly care for your gear, so it lasts as long as possible—especially if you’re dropping a lot of money on them.
When in doubt, always hand wash and air dry.
I’m a HUGE fan of pockets! Even if I have a jacket or pack—I’ve always found pants pockets to be more convenient for snacks + my phone (for quick photos).
Some hiking leggings have numerous pockets, like the Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights. But some only have a small waistband pocket that’s virtually useless for anything bigger than a credit card.
For a base layer, this doesn’t matter since you’ll have a second layer of pants with pockets over them.
But if I’m wearing them as a solo layer, I gravitate towards those with large pockets. It’s more of a personal preference, though, since they can make your leggings a bit less flattering.
Either way, it’s something to pay attention to when making your final choice(s).
Many of the hiking leggings on our list are flattering and stylish enough to wear walking around town or even out to dinner.
But some of them look more technical and may not be as suitable for off-trail use.
It’s more of a personal preference. But if you’re on a tighter budget, it may make more sense to opt for multi-use leggings you can wear for other occasions as well to stretch your dollars (pun intended) as far as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions
The easy answer is it depends! We’ve found the most versatile hiking leggings are the Arc’Teryx Oriel leggings for women and the Under Armour ColdGear leggings for men. If you’re looking for something rugged and technical, go with the Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights—they’re seriously the best of the best when it comes to durability on the trail.
Absolutely! But not all leggings are created equal. Avoid cotton at all costs and stick solely to nylon, polyester, or merino wool options for ultimate comfort as you work up a sweat.
Ohhhhh spring. Cold mornings lead to warm afternoons, so it really can feel challenging to find the right outfit. We highly recommend lightweight leggings like the Fjallraven Abisko Trail Tights as a solo layer if it’s warm enough or the Meriwool lightweight leggings for use as a base layer on colder spring days.
If you’re hiking in the winter, rain/snow, or rugged terrain, we highly recommend hiking pants. You can wear them over a base layer or on their own. They’re durable, insolating, and an excellent barrier between your legs and the elements. Without them, you’re susceptible to getting cold, wet, or scratched up. All of which… is not ideal. However, you can probably get by with moisture-wicking leggings or shorts if you’re hiking in the spring, fall, or summer.
There’s not really a right or wrong answer, although there are pros and cons to both. For example, shorts are more comfortable and breathable when it’s warm, but you leave your legs vulnerable to bugs, scrapes, and the sun. On the other hand, pants or leggings are more protective and versatile for different conditions but less breathable when it’s warm.
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We’ll talk soon! Until then,