2020 was the year we collectively became more acquainted with the great outdoors and, much to the surprise of some, we discovered that, actually, we really enjoy a good ramble around the countryside. So, it's time to hang up the jeans and yoga tights we've been making do with and invest in a pair of the best hiking leggings so we can continue to enjoy our newfound hiking hobby in 2021 and beyond (and hopefully further afield, eventually).
In this guide, we've rounded up the best hiking leggings around. For fear of sounding like we're sitting on the fence, we really rated all of the leggings we tested. Team any of these with a pair of the best women's hiking boots (and probably a decent waterproof jacket) and you're guaranteed a comfy hike. That said, we think the best hiking leggings right now might just be Helly Hansen's W Rask Tights: they're comfortable all-rounders that you can wear to wander your local park or ascend a mountain.
Read on for some key buying advice, followed by our top five picks right now. Note: many of these picks are women's cuts. Some will be unisex or have a men's version in the range, but for more alternatives you could head to our roundup of the best walking trousers (which includes men's and women's picks).
How to choose the best hiking leggings
If you take outdoor adventuring seriously, shopping for a pair of hiking leggings isn't quite as simple as adding any old pocket-having pair to your online cart (though, the best hiking leggings almost always do have pockets). It's important to make an informed decision when investing in hiking leggings – the best running tights might see you comfortably through an at-home HIIT workout, but wear them when exploring the great outdoors and you might be left soaked-through, freezing and, frankly, miserable.
The best hiking leggings are comfortable, water resistant and moisture-wicking, so always look for these qualities when scouting for a new pair. Leggings made from synthetic materials, such as polyamide or nylon, are preferable for their durability and quick-dry properties, while cotton should be avoided at all costs. Reinforcements over the rear and knees, which help to protect against sharp stones and provide additional moisture resistance when sitting or kneeling on damp ground, make the world of difference for hikes that involve scrambling or descending by way of sliding on your back side (it happens!).
Finally, bear in mind the thickness of the leggings, and make sure it's compatible with the climate you'll be hiking in. Thinner, more lightweight designs are often better suited to warm-weather walks, whilst those that are thicker tend to be preferable for hikes in cooler climes.
The best hiking leggings 2021
The Helly Hanson W Rask Tights are a firm favourite of ours for throwing on when a moment of inspired spontaneity means you aren't quite sure where today's walk will take you and you haven't even thought to check the weather (not something we'd recommend for long, challenging hikes, but fine for hour-long ambles around the park, we reckon). They're supremely comfy with a structured – but not cutting – mid-rise waist and soft, stretchy fabric that allows for easy striding, climbing, and scrambling. Reinforced seat and knee panels provide extra protection for the times you find yourself sitting on (usually damp) tree trunks, and a zipped pocket allows the safe stashing of cards and keys. It fits a mobile phone, but becomes quite bulky.
They're super lightweight, so ideal for packing for multiple-day trips, but less so for chilly winter walks. They can withstand a little water, but probably wouldn't be our first choice for a hike when a downpour looks to be imminent. Our one gripe is that they're a little shorter in length than other leggings we tested. Perfect for those of petite or average height, but perhaps a little on the short side for those with slightly longer legs.
No, not a particularly purse-friendly option, but the exceptional quality of Fjallraven's Abisko Trekking Tights makes them worth the investment if you're a regular on the trails. The fabric, which is moisture-wicking and impressively quick-drying, is ideal for unpredictable weather. It also feels robust and hard-wearing – so no need to beware unruly twigs – and reinforcements on the seat and knees provide additional protection against stony or soggy ground. A wide, high-rise waist with a drawcord makes for a comfy, kind-of custom fit, and 4-way stretch fabric allows for freedom of movement. They are ideal for mild-weather walks, but are probably best worn over a base layer during winter or under shell trousers on particularly rainy days. There are four pockets, one made to fit a map and one, with a zipper, for a compass, so you can leave your day sack at home.
For easy to moderate hikes in fair weather conditions, you can't go far wrong with Craghoppers' Velocity Tights. No, they don't quite boast the same high spec as other, more expensive hiking leggings, but if you favour gradual inclines and short distance walks then what these leggings lack in fancy features they make up for in value for money. The fabric is lightweight and comfortable, and a drawstring at the waist allows an adjustable fit. A UPF rating of 40+ provides protection against the sun's UV rays, while SmartDry Eco technology makes them suitably splash-proof and quick-drying for adventures in the great outdoors. There are no knee or seat reinforcements and they err on the thin side, so save these ones for more mild, dry days.
Patagonia's Pack Out Hike Tights come highly rated by those in-the-know. One quick scroll of the online reviews reveals that the initiated tend to own multiple pairs and, honestly, it's easy to see why. The recycled polyester fabric is thick and soft – almost brushed – to the touch. Not ideal for summer hiking attire, but a dream to don during the cooler months – particularly since it's so quick-drying. Panels made from recycled nylon on the rear, knees and shins provide extra water resistance on areas most likely to be exposed to damp, and three pockets – one which has a zip closure – allow you to hike (almost) hands-free.
They're form-fitting and snug (consider sizing up if you prefer a slightly more relaxed, less contouring fit) with a mid-rise waist and, happily, a waistband loop for hanging them up (it's the little luxuries, hey?). They're super durable, and are likely to survive a few snags and catches too.
Acai's Outdoor Trousers are like a legging-meets-trouser hybrid. A tregging, if you will. Sporting all the functionality of a quality pair of hiking leggings and the attractiveness of a smart pair of skinny jeans, you could, if you wanted, take these trousers from trail to cocktails. Super-stretchy fabric and a snug, skinny fit makes them comfy and easy to walk in without restriction. They come in three thicknesses; lightweight, best for summer strolls, all season, for the in-betweeny days, and winter thermal for, well, winter hikes. We found the all-season trousers comfortable for most mild walks, but not warm enough for those really nippy days.
They're shower-resistant and extremely fast-drying, plus, they're wipe-clean too. Impeccable attention to detail, like the flattering high-rise waist, the copper-coloured hardware and the well-thought-out pockets (five in total, one with a zip closure) reenforce how high quality they are. One issue: they can bobble if washed too frequently. Size down if you like a snug fit.