How To Find The Best Hiking Leggings For Women

Bounding through the forest, brushing past dense shrubs and scrambling across rugged peaks without a worry in the world is the way I like to hike. But to feel this carefree, you need to know your gear is going to hold up. You need to know you’ve got limitless moveability and that your hiking leggings will win the battle with the wilderness.

Perhaps the most important piece of clothing is your pants. Your legs do a majority of the work and require a pair that will allow full range of motion as well as protection from the elements. Which leads us to the question – what are the perfect leggings to hike in?

Some are still asking – are leggings good for hiking? And the answer is yes. There is a stigma around hiking leggings that needs to be shaken. Many are still under the false pretences that leggings aren’t suitable for hiking. This may have been true in the past, but now it is dead wrong. 

The outdoor clothing industry has cottoned on to the love of wearing leggings while hiking and have produced tights specifically for hiking in winter and for the harsh conditions that the trails can bring.

Now we can find leggings that come with handy side pockets, some even zipped. We can find hiking tights that have durable material where it matters most and some are even lined with fleece to increase warmth. 

However, these upgrades to our much-loved leggings are both a gift and a curse. Now that there are so many options to choose from, it can become a huge nightmare trying to decide which hiking tights to buy.

And that’s where I come in, I have dug elbow deep into research (adding some of my own experiences) to bring you an extensive guide to help you choose the right hiking leggings for adventure. 

But first, let’s go over some of the factors that need to be considered before choosing the best pair of hiking leggings for women.

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Standing in front of Halls Falls admiring the beautiful scenery

Material

Like many other items of hiking gear – such as down jackets and hiking boots – understanding the material is, in my opinion, the most important factor. There are a few common materials used in leggings, some of which are great for hiking and some that should be left at home. 

Cotton: While cotton is super comfortable and strong, it has very poor moisture-wicking properties which will cause sweat to pool with no escape. As cotton takes a long time to dry, the sweat build-up will pool and when it cools you’ll be left with damp and freezing legs. This is definitely a ‘leave at home’ fabric, one you won’t likely find in a pair of hiking specific leggings.

Elastane: Elastane, which is more commonly known as spandex in the US, is a very common material in leggings. Its popularity for skin-tight clothing is due to its exceptionally high stretchability, high moisture-wicking properties and high breathability. LYCRA is the most recognised brand of elastane.

Polyester: Polyester is a water-resistant and moisture-wicking fabric that is very breathable and retains some heat. However, it has low stretchability and can be known to retain smells when used alone. 

Nylon: While nylon isn’t as great for breathability, it has good heat retention, some moisture-wicking properties and high stretchability. Compared to cotton and polyester, nylon is the most durable of the three when mixed with other fabrics such as elastane.

Merino Wool: While merino wool is most often used for your base layer, this material can sometimes be found in winter hiking leggings as well. It has high heat retention and great moisture-wicking properties. 

On almost every occasion, tights will be a blend of more than one material. This enables us to embrace the best qualities of each material while eliminating most of the negatives. By checking the percentage of each fabric, we can begin to decipher which leggings will be best for the conditions you plan to hike in. 

Finding the best hikes near me wearing all of my hiking gear

Warmth

When it comes to hiking, you’re constantly battling with the need to stay warm while trying arduously to avoid sweating. A pair of hiking leggings with a blend of moisture-wicking merino wool and polyester or nylon will keep you the warmest without sacrificing too much on breathability. 

If you’re hiking in alpine regions, in snowy or sub-zero conditions, you could also consider finding a pair of leggings that are fleece-lined for extra warmth. However, this will impede breathability, leading to an increase of sweat on strenuous hikes.

Breathability

While breathability is most important in summer, it is still a factor that needs to be considered year-round. No matter the season, the chances of you sweating after a hard climb are high and therefore a pair of tights that will allow your skin to breathe is necessary.

Elastane takes the cake for the most breathable fabric, with the highest moisture-wicking and breathability levels. Polyester has the second-highest level of breathability, while still offering a tougher pair of tights. Consequently, a blend of these two fabrics is the winning combination for breathability.

Hiking in Cradle Mountain in my favourite Arc'teryx hiking leggings

Flexibility

Very rarely will a hike solely encompass a flat, groomed path. Most often you’ll find yourself rock hopping and contorting your body into weird positions to either avoid a hairy situation or climb higher. For this reason, hiking in leggings that are superb in flexibility is a massive bonus. 

Elastane, closely followed by nylon, have the highest stretchability and are commonly paired together for this reason. If you hike on trails that require manoeuvrability, this is an important factor for your decision-making process.

Durability

Nylon is the most durable fabric, with polyester coming in second. This is a factor that weighs in heavily if you’re planning to hike on trails with thick vegetation or loads of rock scrambling. In these circumstances, you want a pair of hiking leggings that can withstand scrapes and pulls and nylon is your best option for this. 

My favourite pair of hiking leggings for durability is the Arc’teryx Oriel leggings. I have put them through multiple tests and they’re yet to even show a blemish in the material. 

Hiking over fallen Dolerite rock in Hiking Leggings to reach the summit of Mt Victoria Tasmania

Comfort

If you’re planning to wear the same pair of hiking leggings for days on end in the backcountry, owning a comfortable pair of leggings is extremely important. You want a pair of tights that have high stretchability while keeping their shape, you want high moisture-wicking and breathability properties to avoid smelling, and you don’t want them to feel restrictive or tight in uncomfortable places.

Luckily, most tights tend to be quite comfortable but searching for ones with at least 20% elastane will help to feel the least restricted. 

Waterproof/Water resistance

I have yet to find such a thing as waterproof hiking tights, however, there are some that have a DWR finish (durable water repellent). This is generally enough for a light drizzle, but if you know you’re going to endure some unsavoury weather, packing some rain pants is the best idea.

And due to their tight nature, women’s hiking leggings fit perfectly under rain pants without being uncomfortable.

Falling in a river while crossing wearing water resistant hiking leggings

Style

Here’s where you can have a little fun. Although not too much if you’re looking for a serious pair of hiking leggings as they seem to all come in dark colours… Of course, this does make sense as you’re hiking in the wilderness and you’re bound to get dirty. 

Some factors of style to consider are:

Length: I generally stick to ⅞ or full-length tights. This is due to the fact I am usually around mud with blood-sucking leeches and low lying vegetation that love to attack your ankles. However, if you’re planning to hike on groomed trails for the majority of the time ¾ (or Capri) tights could be your go-to for better breathability.

Hiking Leggings with Pockets: This is something I highly consider before buying a pair of women’s hiking leggings. Luckily, quite a lot of brands have adapted pockets on the side of your tights. They’re perfect to keep a snack, a map or your phone in for easy access. 

Gusseted Crotch: If I’m being totally honest, before beginning my research for this post I didn’t know what this meant. But now, I am totally going to check this feature for every pair of hiking tights I purchase. 

Basically, a gusset is a diamond-shaped piece of material stitched into the crotch of your leggings to allow better mobility throughout the leg area and increased comfort (think no more camel toe ladies).

Reinforced Knees and Butt: Some of the tougher hiking leggings out there come with reinforced material on the knees and butt to keep you dry and less prone to rips when you sit or kneel on rough terrain. This feature usually comes in a different colour to the rest of the tights so it can be a little less flattering.

Candace sitting on a rough rock in her hiking tights in Freycinet National Park

Price

As is the way of the world, the better and more durable the hiking leggings, the more expensive they will be. 

But before turning your nose up at the price and buying cheap hiking leggings instead, take a look at the reviews and the length of time they seem to last. We live in a world where we waste so much material and, in the long run, money. Going for the cheapest pair may be good for the bank today, but when you need to replace your pair of leggings each season, the price increases and so does your impact on waste.

Sustainability

Sustainability is a huge factor for me, and luckily there are loads of companies determined to do the right thing and combat waste. Polyester can be made from recycled plastic, which will be indicated in the material used for each item. 

Patagonia is the leader in sustainability, with many others following their lead. The North Face and Arc’teryx, for example, are both working towards being more sustainable and using sustainably sourced fabric. 

Each company will have their pledge to sustainability and ethical working standards on their website, and if you can’t find one, chances are they’re not very sustainable. 

Looking out over the Victoria Forest reserve vallley watching the sunset light the sky golden

7 Of The Best Hiking Leggings For Women In 2023

Now that you’ve got yourself a little background knowledge in the factors contributing to the best hiking leggings, we can dive into 8 of the best. 

If you don’t want to read each description, here is a list of the best hiking tights for each factor below:

Best leggings for summer: The North Face Flight Stridelight Tights

Best leggings for winter: The North Face Active Hybrid High-Rise Tights

Most durable leggings: Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights

Cheapest hiking leggings: Amble Outdoors 

Most sustainable: Amble Outdoors

My pick: Arc’teryx Oriel Leggings

1. Arc’teryx Oriel Leggings

The Oriel Leggings from Arc’teryx were designed with rock climbers in mind, meaning they’re built tough and flexible. These leggings are created from a highly abrasion-resistant interlock of nylon and elastane, which I have personally put to the test time and time again. 

They’re super lightweight and thin, seriously making you feel as if you’re wearing nothing. However, this does mean they’re not so warm and adding a pair of thermals underneath is necessary for near-zero degree conditions. 

The Arc’teryx Oriel Leggings come in either ⅞ or 28” length with three earthy colours to choose from. 

Features

  • Gusseted Crotch
  • 2 thigh pockets
  • High waist
  • ⅞ or 28” length
  • 3 colour choices

Price: $130 AUD

Material: 71% Nylon, 29% Elastane

Durability: High

Breathability: High

Warmth: Low

Water Resistance: No

Weight: 165 g

Arc'teryx Oriel Hiking Leggings

Pros of Arc’teryx Oriel Leggings:

  • Extremely durable
  • Gusseted crotch for increased movement and comfort
  • Light and breathable

Cons of Arc’teryx Oriel Leggings:

  • Sizes run a little big
  • Waist loosens after a day of wear
  • Not warm enough for winter hiking

2. The North Face Paramount Active Hybrid High-Rise Tights

The North Face Paramount Active Hybrid High-Rise Tights are perfect for hiking in unpredictable winter weather. They’re constructed of quick-drying and moisture-wicking knit material that keeps you warm and dry on the trail.

However, they may not be for everybody. They are hybrid, meaning they’ve got a different material for the front and back. The front is constructed to stretch and the back to be tougher for the trail. Their fit is closer to a pant feel rather than a leggings ‘next to skin’ feel which could be a great bridging option for those moving from hiking pants to hiking leggings.

See the latest price for the Paramount Active Hybrid Tights on the North Face

Features:

  • 4 zip pockets, 2 in front waist and 2 on the backside
  • FlashDry -XD Technology
  • Hybrid fabric for comfort and durability
  • Comes in two colours – Black and Taupe Green
  • ⅞ length

Price: $150 AUD

Material: 80% polyester, 20% elastane with FlashDry-XD™ / woven piecing 94% nylon, 6% elastane with FlashDry™

Durability: High

Breathability: Medium

Warmth: High

Water Resistance: Quick-dry

Weight: Unknown

North Face Paramount High Rise Hiking Tights

Pros of the North Face Paramount Active Hybrid High-Rise Tights:

  • Warm
  • Fast drying
  • Not as tight
  • Zippered pockets
  • Durable

Cons of the North Face Paramount Active Hybrid High-Rise Tights:

  • Some reviews have stated the hybrid material feels weird and uncomfortable
  • Less flexibility
  • Pockets on the front in a weird position

3. Amble Outdoors Leggings

Cheapest and Most Sustainable

Amble Outdoors (previously named Team Timbuktu) is a small Australian brand that is sustainable and ethical! They use recycled plastic bottles to make their polyester for their leggings. If that’s not enough of a reason to support these guys, I don’t know what is!?

But back to the leggings, they’re high waisted and come in a length of either ankle length or ⅞ with two super handy side pockets. The material used to make them is breathable and moisture-wicking, with the added elastane for good flexibility.

Features:

  • Two side pockets
  • High waist
  • Ankle length
  • Made from recycled plastic bottles

Price: $99 AUD

Material: 78% recycled polyester, 22% elastane

Durability: Medium

Breathability: High

Warmth: Medium – Low

Water Resistance: No

Weight: Unknown

Team Timbuktu Hiking Leggings

Pros of the Team Timbuktu Leggings:

  • Sustainable and ethical
  • Side pockets
  • Affordable
  • 7 colours to choose from

Cons of the Team Timbuktu Leggings:

  • Not as warm
  • Less durable

4. Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights

Most Durable Hiking Leggings

The Abisko Trekking Tights from Fjallraven, a Swedish brand, are your go-to for extreme hiking in serious conditions. With reinforcements on the knees and butt, you can expect extra durability and protection from the damp ground. 

These tights aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, as the reinforced sections do stand out. But if you’re more about practicality and having a pair of hiking leggings that will stand up to harsh weather and terrain, these are the ones.

Find the Best Price Here

Features:

  • Gusseted crotch and flatlock seams
  • Two pockets on the side of the thigh, one big enough for a map and the other zippered
  • Internal drawstring
  • Clip on loop on the hip for gear or a light rain jacket
  • Internal security pocket in the waistband
  • Reinforcements on the butt and knees
  • 4 colours
  • Ankle length

Price: $294.95 AUD

Material: 62% polyamide, 16% aramid, 12% elastane, 10% polyester, Stretch: 82% polyamide, 18% elastane

Durability: High

Breathability: Medium

Warmth: Medium

Water Resistance: On the knees and butt

Weight: Unknown

Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights

Pros of the Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights:

  • Super durable
  • Functional pockets
  • Flexible
  • Protection from some moisture on the knees and butt

Cons of the Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights:

  • Expensive
  • Not particularly flattering with the reinforced sections

5. Patagonia Pack Out Tights

Patagonia’s Pack Out Tights are simple, yet effective. They have double-knit mossed stitching for extra durability that doesn’t compromise the stretch of the leggings. The waistband on the Pack Out Tights is mid-height, which is not my preference as it seems to sit a little weirdly with a pack. 

Patagonia also has a pair of hiking leggings called the Pack Out Hike Tight which is similar to the Pack Out but with reinforced panels on the butt and around the knees.

Find The Best Price Here

Features:

  • 2 side pockets
  • 1 zippered pocket for valuables above one of the side pockets
  • 29” length
  • Medium waist height
  • Gusseted crotch

Price: $139.95 AUD

Material: 87% polyester, 13% spandex double-knit mossed jersey

Durability: Medium

Breathability: High

Warmth: Medium – Low

Water Resistance: No

Weight: 306 g

Patagonia Pack Out Hiking Tights

Pros of the Patagonia Pack Out Tights:

  • Well placed pockets with the added zippered one
  • Slim fit and stylish
  • Sustainable and ethical
  • Great flexibility

Cons of the Patagonia Pack Out Tights:

  • Not high waisted (this may be a pro for some)
  • Getting pricey
  • Only one colour

6. Montane Ineo Pro Pants

The Ineo Pro Pants from Montane aren’t quite hiking leggings or hiking pants, but somewhere between. They are made from a fabric they call Mala stretch which is wind resistant and highly durable. The pants are then sprayed with a DWR finish to top them off.

While their style is a little strange, without the skin tight feel around the waist and hips, there is no denying these pants are perfect for harsh terrains.

Features:

  • DWR finish (water resistant)
  • Internal drawstring
  • Zipped pockets on either side of the hips
  • Gusseted crotch
  • 4 way stretch for wind and abrasion resistance
  • Ankle length

Price: $140 AUD

Material: Mala Stretch (polyester and elastane)

Durability: High

Breathability: Medium

Warmth: Medium – High

Water Resistance: DWR finish

Weight: 300 g

Montane Ineo Pro Hiking Pants

Pros of the Montane Ineo Pro Pants:

  • Water resistant
  • Durable
  • Wind resistant

Cons of the Montane Ineo Pro Pants:

  • Not as form fitting as tights
  • Getting pricey
  • Pants may not fit all body types as well as leggings do

7. The North Face Flight Stridelight Tights

Best Hiking Leggings For Summer 

The Flight Stridelight Tights from The North Face could be your go-to for summer hiking. These tights have perforated zones to vent heat and are the lightest on this list. They are one of many hiking leggings with pockets and support great breathability as well as flexibility.

And with their FlashDry XD technology, The North Face claim these tights are just as durable and resistant to abrasions as ones made with nylon.

See the latest price for the Flight Stridelight Tights on North Face

Features:

  • Internal drawstring
  • Durable FlashDry XD to help stay cool and dry
  • Zip pocket at lower back
  • Perforated zones for breathability in key heat zones
  • High flexibility
  • Gusseted crotch

Price: $190 AUD

Material: 73% recycled polyester, 27% elastane-knit interlock with FlashDry-XD 

Durability: Medium

Breathability: High

Warmth: Low

Water Resistance: No

Weight: 210 g

The North Face Flight Stridelight Hiking Tights

Pros of the North Face Flight Stridelight Tights:

  • Lightweight and very breathable
  • Great for summer
  • High waisted and well fitted

Cons of the North Face Flight Stridelight Tights:

  • No side pockets
  • Not as durable as some others on this list
  • Expensive

The Difference Between Yoga Tights And Hiking Leggings

I’m sure many of you are still wondering why you shouldn’t just grab your favourite yoga or gym tights and head out into the wilderness. And before I explain why, I will start with the fact that yes, of course, you can do just that! 

Wearing your favourite yoga tights or sports leggings is perfectly fine for many situations. If you’re planning a day hike where you’re sticking to a groomed trail then you can absolutely wear them, though I would still recommend leaving your cotton ones at home!

However, if you’re planning to go further into the wild, where the trails aren’t always nice and wide with steps to guide you higher, then you may want to rethink your decision. The reason being that yoga tights are generally made with material that isn’t as durable and won’t stand up nearly as well against the rough terrain you may find yourself in. 

Sunrise from the peak of Mt Freycinet while hiking the Freycinet Peninsula Circuit

Hiking Pants Vs Hiking Leggings

This debate between hiking pants vs hiking leggings may well become as big as the hiking boots vs trail runners debate!

Some hikers have been known to diss hiking in leggings, claiming they stink and don’t let your legs breathe enough. Or that they’re not as durable as hiking pants. And while this may be true if you choose the wrong leggings, I have found that the right hiking leggings have indeed stayed fresh and intact on many of my wildest hikes.

For me, I will choose hiking leggings almost every single time. I love the freedom you feel, the full range of movement they allow on those tricky climbs, how compact and light they are and, especially, the comfort level you receive.

But they’re certainly not for everybody and there are some factors that we can go over to help you make your decision. 

Warmth

Hiking pants are most often warmer with a thicker material that is wind resistant. However, if you choose a pair of tights with a fleece lining they may be just as warm.

Waterproof / Water resistant

More hiking pants have water resistance added to their material, though I am still yet to find a pair of waterproof pants.

Flexibility

This factor is a no brainer. Most hiking leggings will have a far greater stretchability than hiking pants.

Comfort

This factor is highly dependent on each person. However, for me, hiking leggings are the winners in comfort for many reasons. The first being their ‘next to skin’ feel and the second being the elimination of zippers, buttons and extra material around the waist. 

I, like many of you, get quite sore hips from the waist belt of my pack and a pair of hiking pants with all of these above-mentioned features aggravates them even more.

Durability

Hiking pants may have won this round in the past, but with so many innovative designs coming out for hiking leggings, I would have to bring this one to a tie. There are plenty of options out there for hiking leggings that are just as durable as hiking pants.

The take-home message from this should be to wear what you feel is most comfortable for you. But don’t devalue hiking leggings until you’ve had a good hard crack at a hiking specific pair!

Beautiful view of Cradle Mountain from Hansons Peak hiking in leggings

Now that you’re armed with all the information needed, get out there and grab a pair and test them in the wilderness. We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject and if you have a pair you swear by that I haven’t written on this list, please let us know in the comments below.

Happy Hiking!

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