Hiking in Leggings – How to Pick the Best Hiking Tights

If you are one of those girls that live in their yoga pants, then you already know and appreciate the level of comfort that leggings offer. It’d hard to think of a physical activity where leggings aren’t the superior clothing choice, and they seem to have become a common piece of a hiking apparel.

One might think that a pair of leggings is not the best choice for hiking, but that is not entirely true. Of course, you can’t just throw on your favorite pair of yoga pants and go roam the backcountry, no matter how comfortable they are. But there is a solution to be comfortable and well protected at the same time, and it’s a pair of hiking leggings.

Best leggings for hiking should be durable, and provide the level of weather protection that is on par with your hiking pants. Hiking tights are a comfortable and multi-functional piece of clothing, very flattering and work well for almost every activity.

Best Leggings for Hiking

Columbia Titan Peak Trekking Leggings

titan peak trekking tights

Moisture-wicking and abrasion resistant Columbia Titan Peak leggings are ready for anything the trail has to throw at you. They are made of combination of Polyester, Elastane and Nylon, and fortified with reinforced knees and a seat.

Under Armour Ultralight Hiking Leggings

under armour heatgear womens leggings

HeatGear Armour leggings are a base layer, but when the weather is hot you can wear them on their own, because they are one of the most comfortable leggings out there. Super-light HeatGear (polyester and elastane blend) fabric delivers superior coverage without weighing you down, while wicking sweat and drying really fast.

Fjallraven Abisko Trail Tights

fjallraven abisko trekking tights

These technical and durable trekking tights combine the freedom of movement of leggings with the durability of a pair of hiking pants. Made with highly functional stretch fabric, with reinforcements over the rear and knees, they can handle close contact with sharp stones and rocks and also resist moisture if you sit or kneel on damp ground, while providing maximum freedom of movement. Leg pockets offer practical storage, a large one on the right-hand leg has room for a map and a smaller zippered one on the left-hand leg fits a compass. There is also a zippered security pocket and a little loop on the left hip. Coming from the experts in trekking trousers, Fjallraven Abisko leggings are the ultimate pair of trekking tights

Leggings as a base layer

Hikers and backpackers are no strangers to leggings. Both men and women use them all the time as base layers, to wick away moisture and ensure the perfect amount of heat is retained. They work the best when worn snugly.

These hiking tights are usually polyester or a polyester mix, or a wool such as Merino. Wool mix and wool tights are very effective at keeping your body temperature and reducing bacteria that causes odor. Cotton is not the good choice, as it will absorb moisture and begin to feel heavy and clammy and damp cotton will make you feel chilled.

This kind of layering is only necessary for cold weather and winter hiking. But when you are out with the family for a day hike, it makes sense to hike in whatever you feel most comfortable wearing. So are leggings an acceptable piece of trail-led garment?

Why to wear leggings for a hike

happy girl hiking in leggings

They are super comfortable

This is the main reason why anyone would choose leggings over hiking pants. Leggings do not restrict movement, and they are so much more comfortable when scrambling over boulders. They are perfectly supportive and entirely non-restricting, and basically feel like another layer of your own skin.

Leggings are lightweight

Hiking in tights means that you don’t have to deal with things like heavy buckles, bulky zippers, and constrictive waistbands. Lightweight leggings are a great alternative for hiking shorts for hiking in summer, as you will not be hot, but your legs will be protected from the sun.

It is hard to find hiking pants that fit

Hiking pants are a tough fit. They tend to be tailored for straight legs and narrow hips, which doesn’t work for all body types. It seems that outdoor gear manufacturers have finally realized that there are girls and women out there that really love outdoor adventures, and that a range of often ill-fitting hiking pants is just not good enough. There are more and more very good tights designed specifically for hiking, trekking, climbing and other outdoor activities, which are stretchy, curve-hugging and fit perfectly, even if you gain or lose weight.

Leggings can prevent chafingwinter hiking in tights

Avid hikers know that chafing is a real problem on long hikes. A good pair of tights can solve this problem, if it fits you well in the crotch and thigh area. Most of the quality hiking leggings are designed in a way to prevent thigh chafing, made of materials that will allow sweat to evaporate quickly.

Tights are flattering

While looking good should definitely not be the most important factor to influence your shopping decision, it is a nice bonus. The way you feel about yourself can greatly influence your motivation; if you feel confident it will be easier to overcome challenges of hiking.

Why you should not wear yoga pants for hiking

With the expansion of athleisure trend, hiking in yoga pants, cotton leggings and running tights makes sense for a lot of girls. Yes, you can wear yoga pants an easy day hike, but more technical situations or multi day hikes require more technical legwear. What are the reasons not to wear yoga pants on your hike?

They are not the best choice for the harsh and cold weather

Hiking tights are not suitable for wet weather at all. They do dry quickly, but in case it’s raining, they will get wet. The fabric will be OK with some rain, but against harsher weather, you will have to layer it.

Leggings and pockets are an inconvenient combo

While sports leggings usually have no pockets, a lot of the good trekking leggings for women do have integrated pockets. However, while this may seem like a useful feature, depending on where they sit and how well they are integrated they may end up being really annoying rather than something that genuinely adds to the leggings.

girl on a hike

They cover your legs, but they reveal everything

Leggings are form fitting, which some girls may not be comfortable with, and that is perfectly fine. If you are not comfortable with wearing tight clothes, than a curve-hugging pair of leggings is probably not the right choice for you.

Hiking Leggings vs. Hiking Pants

Hiking pants offer much more protection that leggings and they won’t tear easily. Also, if you are walking through locations with lots of insects, it is much better to wear pants, as bugs can get you through leggings.

Leggings breathe better than hiking pants, and prevent chafing anywhere. They also wick sweat away nicely and don’t restrict the legs for scrambling up stuff.

If durability and pockets is what you need, wear pants. If it’s a pretty established trail and you’ll be going nonstop, wear tights that breathe better and don’t chafe. Always base your legwear choice on how long you intend to be hitting the trails for.

Hiking Tights FAQ

Are leggings warm enough?

Clothes for winter hiking should be warm, insulated, and weather proof. This does not exclude leggings. The secret lies in knowing what kind of material to will help prevent you from getting cold and wet. Active leggings made of blend of spandex, polyester, and nylon are suitable for winter activities. If it’s a really cold day or if you are snowshoeing, you can put on a waterproof shell to keep you dry.

hiking in woods

What’s the best fabric for hiking tights?

While cotton blend tights are super comfortable, they are not tailored for the trail. Leggings made with synthetic materials like polyester and nylon have the best moisture wicking ability, they are odor resistant and dry quickly. But leggings also have to be stretch. Materials like elastane and spandex will add flexibility, while designs like four-way stretch will offer increased mobility and comfort.

Will they tear?

If you’ll be scrambling over rocks and or past branches, your sports leggings can tear. However, leggings for hiking are made from more durable material that can withstand rubbing against rocks and brush, and sometimes have reinforced knees and rear. They are unlikely to tear on your hike, unless they are exposed to some seriously brutal conditions.

Is it ever OK to hike in yoga pants?

If you are going on a day hike, on a trail you know well that is not too challenging you can get by with wearing a pair of yoga pants or fitness leggings. Unless that are made of cotton or cotton blend, than you should definitely leave them in your closed and wear something more durable, resistant to wear and tear, and moisture-wicking.

Bottom line: They are not the most durable outerwear, you can’t climb Mount Everest in them, but if you are going for a pleasant day hike in the backcountry or planning a summer camping trips, a pair of good leggings will prove more than useful.

Just make sure not to take your favorite pair of fashionable cotton blend yoga pants from your closet, but leggings with high-tec fiber blends, reinforced seams, maybe pockets, they should be just fine for the trail.

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