Over the years, leggings have transcended their reputation as pajamas in disguise, elevated loungewear, and yoga pants that play at Saturday brunch. With the addition of premium fabrics and technical features typically used for high-performance apparel, athletic leggings have even managed to rise from simple athleisure to clothing that is totally acceptable, and for many, preferred, for hiking and backpacking. Yep, on the trail, the right pair of leggings can be the quiver-killer middle ground between hiking pants and a base layer.
However, not all hiking leggings are created equal. The decision is ultimately yours to choose a pair of leggings that fit your body type, feel good, and give you the freedom to move. But in an oversaturated market like this one, it’s helpful to have a few rules in place to guide you towards the best choice.
Below we'll breakdown all you need to know and look out for when shopping for hiking leggings, followed by our top 11 picks.
What to Look for in Hiking Leggings
Like a sturdy pair of hiking boots, durability is the key to a high-quality hiking legging—as opposed to a run-of-the-mill cotton-spandex pair. But what to look for when you want your leggings for day hikes, backcountry treks, or even rock climbing and trail running? Hone in on things like abrasion-resistant or ripstop materials that won’t easily fade or tear from snags and strenous wear. Some leggings have reinforcement panels in areas that are liable to see scratches, scuffs, or rubbing up against abrasive surfaces like rocks while hiking, too.
Moisture-Wicking or Quick-Drying Fabric
Certain fabrics like cotton retain moisture from sweat, body oils, and even humidity in the air around you, ultimately, requiring your body to work harder to keep cool and forcing you to burn energy otherwise saved for your hike. Synthetic materials like nylon and polyester, as well as natural fabrics like merino wool or bamboo inherently pull moisture away from your skin and dry quickly so you stay comfy and dry. Always go for hiking leggings with moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties to regulate your temperature and prevent you from overheating—or in colder climates, risking hypothermia.
Similar to moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics, pick a hiking legging that indicates it breathes well and doesn’t trap heat to avoid wasting valuable energy trying to stay cool on that demanding uphill.
Four-Way Stretch and Recovery
In a literal sense, 4-way stretch fabric can be stretched in all four directions—laterally and vertically—to give the wearer full freedom of movement. Wearing restrictive clothing when you’re tackling a challenging section of a trail is a bummer, and so is putting on your hiking leggings to realize they’ve stretched out and lost their shape. So, look for a pair that don’t only provide freedom to move but the ability to recover their original shape.
The Best Hiking Leggings for Women
Despite being snug and form-fitting, the Abisko’s have a feel-good stretchy construction bolstered with durable details that will inspire you to high-kick and hike to your heart’s content. These trekking tights have a stretchy fabric made of polyamide and elastane that's alternately ventilated in high-output areas and reinforced with a ceramic print in high-wear areas for extra reinforcement where it counts.
Perfect for the hiker who prefers roomy, loose-fitting pants on the trail over next-to-skin leggings, these versatile joggers are made from a super-soft woven stretch fabric that’s made to move with you. They're ultra-lightweight with a comfortable high-rise waist that flatters all different body types (though not available in plus sizes), and you don’t have to be afraid of getting sweaty in these—an antimicrobial material keeps you feeling and looking fresh. The UPF 50 fabric also has some weather resistance thanks to a DWR water-resistant finish.
Deceptively soft, the Kalpana tights feel like a pair of cotton leggings or well-worn sweats, while packing a punch with their rugged abrasion-resistant material so you don’t have to worry about snags or wear and tear. Made to wick away moisture and stretch in all directions, they have a gentle compression that feels good without being too restrictive. A thicker material makes them great for cool weather hiking, but they’re still breathable enough for staying comfortable on warmer trails, too. Other features include zippered pockets on both legs for easy access to necessities and a UPF 50+ sun protection rating.
Smooth and durable on the outside, yet soft and comfy on the inside, the Sannes are ideal hiking leggings whether you’re trekking through foreign fjords or local trails. While they are intended for medium-impact activities (so don’t plan to put them through the ringer time and again), they’re a great all-around hiking legging for staying comfortable and active outside. Flatlock seams minimize chafing, multiple side pockets provide places to store essentials, and reinforced knees add durability. Made from recycled materials, the Sanne also come with an Oeko-Tex 100 certification, which ensures there aren’t any sneaky, toxic chemicals in your leggings.
Cold weather calls for a warmer layer, and when it does, you can slip on Norrona’s sustainably-made, high-quality wool hiking and mountaineering leggings to protect you from wintry conditions. Made in a mid-rise design from a softshell material designed to both trap heat and breathe, they’re almost as durable as it gets, but still function well in rugged alpine terrain just as well as they do for fireside lounging.
A yoga-style legging (comfy, stretchy, gentle compression) that’s made for the trail (sweat-wicking, durable, sun protection) or the campsite in a good-looking performance knit fabric—what more could you ask for in a versatile hiking legging? The Transcender gets bonus points for adding a protective layer of Durable Water Repellent finish in case of rain, and soft panels at the sides and inseam enhance comfort and breathability.
When it comes to these hiking capris, the name of the game is cool comfort. The North Face's high-waisted leggings are cut so they hit just below the knee, with mesh paneling on the back half of each leg providing plenty of breathability. The compressive and wicking fabric holds you in and keeps you dry for long hauls to the summit on sunny days when it’s damn near sweltering. A side pocket means you don't have to leave anything behind.
In the Rosa, Nordic outdoor apparel brand Astrid Wild designed a pair of hiking leggings made to give you the perfect fit. Smoothing recycled Italian fabric has a gentle compression that holds you in and gives you the freedom to move around, with a sleek look that can easily go off-trail. When you are on trail, these leggings are a breathable, durable, quick-drying, and wind-resistant option to wear on every hike. They have two side pockets, and plus sizes are available.
With a snug fit and comfortable high-waist, Ibex’s thermoregulating hiking tights are made from a merino wool blend that keeps you warm when you’re cold and cool when it’s hot. Don’t be fooled into thinking that wool makes them delicate, a touch of nylon adds stretch and strength for one seriously hard-wearing pair of trail-ready tights. Side pockets included.
The Best Hiking Leggings for Men
Just like their women’s counterpart, Fjällräven’s men’s Abisko Tights aim for versatility and don’t skimp on technical performance or active comfort. Built with a combination of all-way stretch tights and a trouser-like woven knit fabric that resists abrasion, this is essentially two pants in one. Layer them underneath a pair of hiking pants for winter hiking or wear them solo for an ultra-durable and versatile hiking legging suitable for warmer climates.
Highly breathable with a slim fit, the Agile Long Tights are perfect for moving fast through the alpine. Their sweat-wicking properties are designed to keep you comfortable and dry as you go with tons of four-way stretch for ease of movement and a drawcord waist for fine-tuning your fit. And when you’re ready to change into something fresh, a bottom leg zipper makes for an easy/off.
The Glide Tech Tights are made to be a comfortable and stretchy layer with rugged durability that can withstand miles of wear and tear during your toughest outdoor pursuits. Brushed on the inside for next-to-skin softness, they wick away sweat and resist odor to keep you feeling fresh on long days. A drawstring waist helps you keep the fit dialed, and a thigh pocket serves as a handy place for your phone and credit card.