Best hiking leggings for women

Best hiking leggings for women

In a former blog post I wrote about how to find the best hiking pants and I promised to give you some hiking tights recommendations too.

Weather you are looking for hiking pants or hiking leggings/tights, you want to consider the usual factors: weight, material, breathability, waterproofing and maybe like me: sustainability.

I can still remember the time when leggings have been a part of the 80ies and been called old-shool and laughed at, but these times are gone. 
You’ll see leggings everywhere, in all colors. Women going shopping, going to coffee dates, running, partying and hiking in leggings. 

So for sure brands and companies got on board, designing nice looking, colorful leggings and tights for every occasion.

Think before you buy

I will recommend a few leggings in my article but as usual, try to think if you really need a new pair (maybe you do still have a good one to use and you actually don’t really need a new pair?). If you need a new one, try and find one second hand. Ask your friends if they do have a spare one they don’t need, check thrift stores. If there is no good thrift store in your area, check online, there are more and more online second hand shops opening too. If you’r hiking pants are still good to use don’t throw them away. You could try and sell them, or donate them to a homeless shelter, or if you are hand-crafty, use the fabric to sew something, a patch work blanket, a bag, a camping pillowcase, etc.

After considering all this and you still need a new pair, here we go, my hiking leggings for women recommendations.

Hiking leggings or pants?

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Hiking pants:

Some women might feel more comfortable in pants that fit a little looser. Hiking pants have been a staple of outdoor gear for a long time. They are mostly made from durable material that can stand up to some rough conditions in the back country.

If you plan any off-trail hiking where you need to hike through bushes, thorns, briars, a full-length pant will be the best choice and offer more protection than leggings.

They mostly have more pockets and can often get converted to shorts or capris when you hike on very warm days.

Find your favorite hiking pants here.

Hiking leggings/tights:

Hiking leggings and tights on the other hand are more comfortable than most hiking pants. And if you feel comfortable in a little more form fitting/tight pans, you should give them a try. 

They are great as base layer in cold weather.
Sizing is a little more forgiving than pants, also you should be aware that some materials could become see-through if they are too tight.

They give more freedom of movement but are less durable if walking through bushes etc. They also can’t compare with proper hiking pants in wet conditions, also it is easy to layer with a waterproof light-weigh rain-pant.

If you walk through mosquito land, the fabric could be too thin as protection though.

How to find the best hiking leggings/tights:

You won’t see many “real” hiker in jeans or inferior hiking pants on trails. The wrong pant can cause all kind of problems. From chafing, sweaty legs, wet and cold legs, to cut up legs from lack of protection.
While I really don’t mind going on shorter hikes in my old blue jeans (they are really comfy for me) or just wear my old running tights in summer, for longer hikes or multi day hikes I would recommend to look for really good hiking leggings.

If you are looking for hiking clothing you always need to consider the same factors: material and weight, weather protection, durability, breathability,  waterproofing, weather conditions and terrain.

Material:

Depending on climate, terrain and weather, you would like to have a tight warm enough (for winter) or not too warm (summer), you’d want a quick drying leggings and one that wicks away the moisture or you want something waterproof. 

Most leggings are not water resistant and none I found have been water proof, so you might want a good waterproof pant for layering.  

Cotton will not be the right choice for long hikes, multi day hikes or back country hiking.
If you are just going for a short stroll where there is help just “around the corner” you can go in your cotton pants for sure.
But if you are further out and your cotton clothing will get wet you might face some troubles like hypothermia, and that could become very dangerous (read more about this issue in my winter hiking post).

The most common fabric for outdoor clothing is again plastic (remember, plastic is made from fossile fuel).
These fabrics are light, cheap, drying quickly, stretchy, and durable. But they also smell funny quickly so you need to wash them after each usage (talked about micro fibers getting released already).
A few sustainable outdoor brands are already using recycled plastic for their outdoor gear.

Sustainable Wool

Fabrics made from wool is nice because it doesn’t smell (don’t need to wash after each usage), keeps you dry and warm. Merino wool is much softer than normal wool.

If you buy wool based clothing, look for some made from responsible/sustainable sourced wool, or recycled wool. Nowadays we face the same problems with wool or down “harvest” than with the mass meat industry. A lot of cruelty going on here. 
So try and find some more responsible brands like United By Blue (they use Bison wool that would have gone to landfill otherwise), or Icebreaker, Patagonia, Vaude, Haglöf, Rei and Smartwool. They all use sustainable sourced wool or offer products made from sustainable wool/materials).

Relatively new for outdoor clothings are also fabrics made from wood, bamboo, eucalyptus, and even pineapple as leather alternative, etc.

Weather resistance
 Most leggings are not water proof. Some might be water resistant, but if you are hiking in a terrain that could shift to rainy weather quickly, a water proof/wind proof pant** would be a “must have” to pack.

Our top 4 hiking leggings (and a rain/storm pant)

1) Fjällräven - Trekking Pant

The most expensive on our list but also the most professional one.

These Legging from Fjällräven** is a very durable trekking tight. Made with highly functional stretch fabric.

Reinforcements over the rear and knees can handle contact with stones and rocks and resist moisture if you sit or kneel on damp ground. The four-way stretch fabric gives you maximum freedom of movement. Great for either shorter or longer climb and also fit comfortable under a shell pant if it starts raining.

The tight is perfect for hiking and trekking in rough terrain.

You also have two practical leg pockets, one bigger (for a map or so) and a smaller one. There is a zippered security pocket and a little loop on the left hip where you can attach a light jacket or other gear to.

The waist is a little wider for more comfort and can be adjusted with a drawcord on the inside.

Easy to wash and dry overnight and great for hiking in areas where the temperature can vary from 30 to 90 in one day.

(Get more informations and read the reviews on Amazon-> Fjällräven Abisko Trekking Tight**)

2) Columbia luminary leggings

Another great legging for hiking is the Luminary from Columbia**.

Moisture wicking fabric moves perspiration away from the skin.

The four way stretch fabric improves the range of motion.

Flat elastic waistband and a smaller zip cargo pocket at the right leg.

Contured back yoke and inseam gusset. The fabric is a little thicker than normal leggings and you might get sweaty if running or doing hikes in 80 degree weather, so I won’t recommend these as summer pants but a great one for autumn, spring or winter exercise.

Measurements vary by size so please check the paragraph for sizing informations before you order.

3) prAna Ashley womens capri leggings

One of our favorites for summer or warmer weather. With socks going up to the knee I even wear them in a little colder autumn weather.

Since a lot of hiking pants are dark colored I like to have a little brighter color option here.

This low rise compression pant is made with moisture wicking fabric, has a flatlock construction and a triangle gusset for durability.

There is a hidden mesh key pocket in the wide waistband.

The waist is a little higher, so if you are looking for a low waste legging this is not the right one for you.

4) Icebreaker Merino Comet Leggings

Slim fit tights from Icebreaker**. Made from sustainable Merino wool these are perfect for cold weather hiking, trail running or nordic skiing.

They are soft, stretchy and breathable. There is a drawstring in the wide waistband and a zip back stash pocket for small items like a key.

Flatlock seams, tapered leg opening, gusseted design, can also function as a heavy base layer under a shell for snowboarding, skiing or hiking in stormy conditions.

Rainproof shell pants

Columbia women’s storm surge pant**.
These lightweight, waterproof, breathable pants feature an Omni-Tech exterior for ultimate protection when you are hiking into stormy conditions.

Easy to slip on and off over the boots (they have a wide leg opening that can be strapped closed) they are protecting you against wind and rain as a layer on top of your favorite leggings.

4 leggings care tips to make them last

1) Directly after the usage hang them up and let dry, or if you can give them a quick rinse with luke warm water.
Sweat and bacteria can break down the material, so if you can just spare a few minutes to take care of them it will make your leggings last longer.

2) Consider hand wash only. If you still want to wash them in the machine, don’t wash hot and use a mild detergent. don’t use softeners or bleach or anything. These can inhibit the wicking process and speed up the fabric breakdown.

3) Hang dry! Don’t put your fitness or outdoor clothings into the dryer. They are made of quick drying materials, so they will dry quickly. It is important to avoid overheating, stretching or misshaping your favorite leggings/clothing to make them last.

4) Last but not least you could use a Guppy Friend Washing Bag. This bag reduces the fiber shedding/breaking and protects your clothes this way. Not only does it protect your clothing to make them last longer, it catches the tiny micro fibers that are too tiny to get filtered from the water treatment and prevents this way that the plastic micro fiber gets washed down the drain. You are preventing micro plastic pollution of our oceans this way. If you live in Europe you can order directly from “Guppyfriend”, if you live in America Patagonia is selling the bag in their online shop too.

These Tips are not only for leggings but for all of your other fitness, outdoor clothings too.

The sustainable choice:

  • Buy a sustainable product (sustainable wool, recycled materials, sustainable brand).
  • Buy a product that lasts! 
  • Save some money for a great product, to wear for a few years and don’t buy cheap stuff that needs to get replaced often. 
  • Buy second hand, or if you can even think about renting special clothing that you don’t use all year round, like extreme winter clothing, snowboard equipment, etc.

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