Best Hiking Leggings of 2020

Are hiking leggings even a thing?  We’re all familiar with the usual shapeless hiking pants we normally see in outdoor stores but what we wanted something more flattering and comfortable that isn’t instantly destroyed the second you graze a thorny bush?

I am pleased to report that yes indeed there is such a thing as hiking leggings.  But how do they hold up when the weather gets colder or wetter? What are the pros and cons of going for leggings instead of hiking pants?  Read on to find out.

Pros of Hiking Leggings

  • Comfortable – feels like you’re wearing nothing practically
  • Stretchy – no trouble hiking your leg up to climb on top of rocks
  • Flattering – show off your shapely legs! Especially flattering on more petite ladies
  • Light – can pack quite a few in your pack without making a huge load difference

Cons of Hiking Leggings

  • Less durable than hiking pants
  • Less likely to have useful pockets
  • Not great when it’s super cold or super wet

Our Top 5 Hiking Leggings

The Good:

  • Comfy wide waistband
  • Adjustable drawcord
  • Reinforced knees and bottom
  • Sweat wicking
  • Stretchy but durable
  • Pockets:  3

The Not So Good:

  • Not cheap

A pair of leggings in a beautiful dark garnet colour by renowned Swedish brand Fjallraven.  They have a lovely wide waistband for better comfort (like your favourite yoga pants!) that is also adjustable via a handy drawcord on the inside. A cheeky security pocket has also been added inside the waistband for keeping safe any money/keys etc.

As you can see from the photos, they have been specially reinforced on the knees and bum for when you’re scrambling or sitting and sliding on rocks and other rough terrain.  The material used for the leggings themselves is an extremely stretchy but dense and durable high-performance fabric composed of such materials as nylon and elastane. Nylon for increased durability and elastane for that crucial stretch.

An added feature of this material is that it is very good at wicking away sweat while on the move (this also means they dry fast after being washed).  A map pocket has been sewn onto the right leg and a smaller zipped pocket on the left leg but in a way that stays very close to the skin so you can maintain that svelte silhouette. 

Finally, a clip on loop has been added to the hip so you can attach any gear, keys, whatever takes your fancy.

Now let’s be honest, these leggings are not cheap but users have remarked how seriously technical these leggings are.  They can withstand a large range in temperature, keeping you cool in the heat and warm in the cold. One user even slipped and fell down 20 feet on snow and rock and the reinforced bum kept her dry and the leggings were unscathed!

Besides being durable when scrambling and bashing against thorns and rocks, they can also stand the test of time with one user saying she has washed hers 40 times and they still look like new.  Now that’s what I call a good investment.

The Good:

  • Versatile
  • Stretchy but durable
  • Sweat wicking waistband
  • Narrow seams
  • Pockets placed to accommodate climbing harness
  • Range of colours
  • Pockets:  2

The Not So Good:

  • Not cheap

No doubt one of the most versatile leggings you’ll have in your wardrobe, these wouldn’t look out of place at a yoga class, wandering around the shops or up a mountain!  Designs to withstand the rigours of rock climbing, the Oriel leggings are made from an interlocking material made of nylon (tough) and elastane (stretch) which makes them extra abrasion resistant.  Perfectly tough enough to stand up to being scraped and scratched when passing through thorny bushes or scrambling up some sharp rocks.

The seams are kept narrow to maximise comfort and the waistband is made from a stretchy mesh that acts to disperse sweat and make the fit more comfortable.  And finally, the leggings come with two pockets on the thighs (hallelujah) which have been placed lower down so they’re still accessible when wearing a harness.

Make sure you don’t get them too big as they’re designed to be nice and flush with the skin otherwise the pockets may start to pucker and waistband may start to fall.  

The Good:

  • Stretchy but durable (very durable!)
  • One of the pockets has a zip
  • Affordable
  • Comes in tall, regular and plus sizes
  • Pockets:  3

The Not So Good:

  • Due to it’s high nylon content, these won’t be quite as breathable

If you’re a woman who likes the functionality of cargo pants but don’t like the look of cargo pants then these are the workhorse leggings for you.

Carhartt are known for making hard-wearing durable work clothes including fire-resistant and hunting clothes.  So when they decide to create some leggings, you can bet your bottom dollar they are going to be the most durable leggings ever.  These mid-rise leggings are made from a 95% nylon and 5% spandex material, the more nylon the tougher the leggings are going to be, generally.

And yes they come with POCKETS, three of them – one zippered on the right side (perfect for a phone) and two of reasonable size on the left without zippers.  Users are remarking how the leggings are quite cooling on warm days, they can be used as breeches for horse days while being nice enough to wear to the office.  And most importantly, the material doesn’t hold on to cat, dog or horse hair! Also, unlike some work pants, these leggings allow a full range of motion – you know, for those days you may need to put your knee by your head.

Though these leggings are synthetic, users have reported that they did not smell after repeated wear – important if you need your leggings to work in a range of different environments.  And they come in regular and tall inseam lengths (but not petite) though petite users have said the regular doesn’t look too bad on them.

The Good:

  • Breathable
  • Comfortable
  • Warm
  • Anti-odour
  • Pockets:  3

The Not So Good:

  • Not cheap!

Smartwool, an American company started by two New England ski instructors in 1994.  I knew them first for their fantastically warm and durable 100% merino hiking socks but they’ve since branched out to making all sorts of other clothing – from base layers and jumpers to now, leggings!  

These leggings are one of the more expensive options out there but definitely worth it for the colder months if you have that little extra to spare – the merino wool element in these leggings take comfort to another level.  Whether you’re taking the dog for a strenuous hike or hanging around town with friends, these leggings will keep you warm, dry and comfortable.

This is a legging of two layers: a warm fuzzy inner layer next to the skin comprised of 54% merino wool and 46% polyester and a more durable synthetic outer layer for battling the elements made from 46% polyester, 38% merino wool and 16% elastane.

If you haven’t heard about the fantastic benefits of merino wool yet then let me tell you, it is:

  • insulating
  • breathable (prevents overheating)
  • moisture-wicking
  • anti-bacterial (so therefore odour resistant)
  • springs back into shape (so easy to look after)

The waist features an adjustable drawcord, two drop-in pockets on either side and a small zippered pocket on the waist. Finally, the Smartwool sport fleece tights feature contrast colour panels for style and reflective elements for low light conditions.

The Good:

  • Built-in sun protection
  • Wide non-roll waistband
  • Made in the USA
  • Can be worn in water, quick drying
  • Pockets: 0

The Not So Good:

  • Not cheap


These funky leggings are proudly made in the USA by the small surf brand Calafia.  Made from recycled polyester and spandex, these leggings have a lovely wide folded waistband so they don’t roll (don’t you hate it when waistbands roll!).  They’ll look right at home on a hike on a hot day, at the yoga studio or at lunch.

With in-built sun protection, these leggings are rated UPF 30+ to 50+.  UPF 30 means that if 30 units of UV fall on the fabric, only 1 unit will pass through because the fabric blocks or absorbs the rays, making it about 96.7% UV protective.  So if you fancy a dip in a lake after a hot hike, you can slip in knowing your leggings will continue to protect you from the sun and be dry by the time you’re back to your car.

That’s it for us, let us know your thoughts in the comments and do let us know if you’ve found some amazing hiking leggings that we’ve not included in our article!

Until next time,

Outdoor Wildling

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