Can You Hike In Leggings? Hiking can offer many challenges to your clothing. Between temperature, abrasion, and insulation, you may find it challenging to decide what to wear. Leggings are very popular clothing today, and you may find yourself wondering if you can wear your favorite pair for hiking.
It could seem hard to pass up, especially if you have a great outfit idea and a scenic hike to take some pictures for Instagram. As a comfortable Choice for working out, you probably strongly considered bringing them on a hike.
If you are tired of utilitarian, baggy, or uncomfortable hiking pants, leggings can be an excellent choice if you pick the right type!
Yes, you can wear them while hiking. Leggings are great for hiking, but you should wear a pair made of the right fabric and style. Look for non-cotton, abrasion-resistant, and waterproof leggings if you want to wear them for hiking.
Many companies make leggings specifically designed for hiking, constructed for both men and women. You can also seek out yoga pants or tights, as they are mostly constructed with lycra or spandex which is more suited to hiking conditions. If you plan to go on a longer hike or multi-day trek, they may not be your best option. Always plan for the task at hand.
I’ll discuss several options and their best applications for hiking. The dilemma of leggings vs. pants when hiking can be irritating, but after this read, you will have a better idea of how to choose what fits your next adventure best!
Will regular leggings or yoga pants work for hiking?
If you’re planning to go on a shorter day-hike or casual trek, a regular pair of moisture-wicking, athletic-style yoga pants or leggings will work fine. Since most leggings are designed to be used in athletic activities, don’t feel concerned if that’s all you have.
As long as you’re using a pair that is made of synthetic materials, you most likely won’t face major issues. If you end up on a last minute amble through some mellow trails, regular leggings aren’t generally going to be a problem.
Even if your trip is all day, you shouldn’t necessarily feel the need to go out of your way to purchase hiking-specific pants or leggings. While this is your best option and you’d be more comfortable, athletic clothing is often alright for relaxed hikes in good weather.
Once you begin planning for a long backpacking trip, multi-day hikes, or moving through rough terrain, you should begin looking into hiking specific leggings. A good thing to remember with hiking clothing is you’re often looking for the same qualities, whatever the item is.
Hiking leggings generally have protective pockets or at least feature closures, water-resistance or repellent qualities, reinforcement in high wear areas, and fabric that can hold up to abrasions. Notice, these are almost exactly like what you see in hiking and outdoor pants!
In hard conditions, your average leggings will not hold up to standard, and you’ll probably be miserable if you have any problems on the trail, whether that be a rip in your leggings, rain, or losing an item like your phone due to a lack of pockets. Hiking-specific leggings are often constructed with polyester or some form of a polyester mix, with materials like merino wool for example.
What issues could regular leggings cause?
You may find it a bit dramatic to worry about what problems your clothing could cause on a hike. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll have an issue wearing the wrong leggings, or any clothing for that matter while hiking.
Just remember that you’re often putting yourself in a more dangerous environment, and while you most likely won’t have a big issue or disaster scenario, it’s better to be prepared.
A shortlist of examples of problems you could encounter is below:
- Cotton leggings can lead to temperature problems in the cold or damp conditions
- Thin leggings can make you more susceptible to bug bites
- A scramble or branch could easily tear leggings if they aren’t abrasion resistant
- Many leggings leave the skin on your legs exposed, which is an easy recipe for things
- like scratches or poison ivy
- Most fitness leggings not designed for warmth
Many other things could be an obstacle, but these represent the style of thinking you should have before a trip. While a lot of this is minor, you don’t want to ruin a beautiful day outdoors because you wore the wrong clothes!
What kind of leggings should I avoid?
The real disqualifier for any pair of leggings, and almost every piece of clothing for hiking, is if it’s cotton. The infamous phrase of the outdoorsy, “Cotton kills” holds true. When cotton gets wet it loses any insulation capability, and you are at greater risk of developing hypothermia.
It also will absorb and hold any sweat, which makes temperature regulation difficult and can cause discomfort. Moisture-wicking fabrics are best for hiking, especially for anything other than sunny and dry conditions.
If you’re planning for any moderate to intense hikes, hot or cold weather, or any other less than perfect weather, you need to opt for non-cotton clothing. It’s always imperative to choose clothing and gear for hiking or outdoor sports that are fitting for the activity rather than fashion or personal preference.
If I'm planning to go on a backpacking or extended climbing trip I try to reduce the amount of clothing I take with me overall. That is an excellent place for non-cotton materials that can be worn multiple times to take over.
Are there any benefits to using leggings for hiking?
If you’re eyeing a pair of hiking or outdoor designed leggings, but you feel skeptical about pulling the trigger, you should know how they can be ideally used. Even if you don’t want to wear a pair of leggings instead of pants, they make an excellent base layer.
I have used leggings as a base layer on cold climbing trips, and they work great as an alternative to thermal underwear or long johns. If you choose a moisture-wicking, sturdy and insulating pair of leggings, they make the perfect choice to wear on your coldest adventures.
A good base layer makes all the difference, and using a pair of leggings like you would long johns or thermal layers is an excellent way to stay warm. A moisture-wicking pair will also keep you warmer, as they will help prevent sweat buildup in your other clothing.
Other examples of benefits include:
- Antimicrobial fabrics
- Flexibility (Great for climbers, skiers, etc.)
- They can prevent chafing
- Variable thickness for different weather
- It’s easier to find leggings that fit compared to pants
- Many types are durable
- Printed, fun patterns
What should I look for in hiking leggings?
When seeking out a pair of leggings that work well for hiking, at the very least you should research and select products that are made for athletic activity. While not ideal, you should be fine on casual meanders in nature.
The fact to consider beyond anything else is that you are planning for your environment and activities, not what you think looks best.
It’s wonderful to have hiking clothing that you find flattering, but it will be no help in challenging conditions, and annoying attire can ruin a great day.
Qualities to seek out in hiking leggings are overall the same as what you look for in other hiking wear. Non-cotton, moisture-wicking, protective, comfortable, and flexible qualities are what you seek.
In cooler weather a warmer style is better, a blended wool fabric or something similar will keep you warm but stay flexible and comfortable. There’s a wide selection of available fabrics, from nylon to polyester, and so on. Research what is best for your outdoor activities, and find what is comfortable for you.
The best options for the desert won’t fit a mountain hike, and so on. Many online reviews will likely come from people performing similar activities that you do. Other hikers and nature lovers are your best resource when choosing gear since nothing beats first-hand experience.
Even just chatting with locals in your area, or observing gear other people use is a great method to find products that will work well for your environment. If every review you see recommends a style of legging that’s different from what you see on your regular trials or hangouts, there could be a reason!
What are some examples of good brands of hiking leggings?
I can’t tell you what brand will work best for you, but some of the most reputable and trusted companies on the market make hiking leggings. I’m going to list a few that are known to be great choices, but the best option is always to check out an outdoor store near you and find what fits you well, as opposed to what people tell you they like.
If that’s not an option, do your best to perform research online, use hiking gear websites, forums, and so on. Prices will also vary between brands, which may help inform your choice. Many outdoor companies have multiple models of leggings that are appropriate for different activities, hiking styles, or sports.
A few good brands to look into are:
- Prana (I love my Prana climbing pants, and I’ve heard great things about their leggings as well!)
- The North Face
- Eddie Bauer
- Mountain Hardware
As you would imagine, many of the best brands to look into are typically reputable outdoor hardware companies. Something important to remember with outdoor gear is that a higher price doesn’t always correlate with higher quality.
While more expensive items can be manufactured better, that does not always directly translate for every item. If you research the specific products you are considering purchasing, you may find a cheaper item is touted as more durable or effective. Research is imperative for gear purchases, especially if you want the most bang for your buck!
Leggings offer a great option to those who may not want to wear hiking pants or want a more flexible layer. As a rock climber, I know a ton of people who often opt for leggings over pants, and I can see why.
They’re incredible for the versatility you can get out of a nice pair, especially going from a long hike into a crag where you need flexible and comfortable clothing. When hiking, leggings offer a comfortable and aesthetic option, and for many people, that’s a selling point.
Only you can really know what clothing is ideal for your adventures, and you have to research and decide what will make your days trekking and exploring more comfortable.
I hope I’ve made your decision a bit easier if you’ve been worried about wearing leggings on the trail, and I hope you have a great day outside wearing them!
For more related guides, read my other posts: