With so many legging options in stores and online, it can be tough to choose the best leggings for you. When you’re out on the trail, you want to be comfortable and confident. And sometimes those indoor leggings you love for yoga or lounging just won’t hold up in more technical situations outdoors.
As a legging buff, (I basically live in leggings), I’ve tried the gamut of legging styles to figure out what works best for me. In my home state of Montana, the weather changes drastically with the seasons — and with elevation. My activity level changes, too, based on different trails. So, knowing what leggings works best for each situation is key.
On my trail running days, I need a legging with support and comfort. For light hiking or light running days, I opt for a more comfortable legging that’s great for all-day wear and versatile to go from hiking to lounging around outside. In the winter, I need a legging that’ll keep me cozy and warm. For more rugged trails I know I need a more durable fabric so I can climb boulders and brush against rough surfaces in the backcountry without worrying about rips and snags.
Here are 7 of the best leggings I recommend that will perform well for you outside — from hiking to trail running.
1. Title Nine Mad Dash Reversible 7/8 Running Tights – Remodel
If you’re trail running, the Title Nine Mad Dash Reversible leggings will stay put and provide you with a comfortable and secure-feeling trail run. With 83 percent polyester and 17 percent spandex, you’ll have a lot of flexibility in these leggings.
There’s a side pocket on one leg that’ll easily fit your phone and the draw string waist helps keep these leggings from falling down on the trail. The fabric also allows you to easily brush off surface dirt if you want to sit on the ground to stretch at the trail head.
Be sure to check the length according to your height as the 7/8 legging length can seem more like a crop fit if you’re taller. A big bonus to these running leggings aside from the durable fabric is that they’re reversible! So, you’re getting two pairs of trail-running leggings in one.
2. Belong Designs Forest Peak Leggings
Designed with the mountains in mind, Belong Designs‘ Forest Peak Leggings have a trendy outdoor mountain pattern. But most importantly, they boast a PrimaFlex material that’s lightweight, breathable with 73 percent polyester, 27 percent spandex — they feel like a second skin, moving with your body and feeling soft inside and out. And, they aren’t see-through when stretched (nor will the image design blow out), so you’ll be hiking on the trail with confidence.
With two compression leg pockets, you can fit your phone and other small personal items securely while you’re on the trail. They’re full length and fit true to size without too much compression. For all-day wear, these leggings will keep you comfortable and could easily become your favorite hiking leggings.
3. Lululemon Align II Leggings
Weighing in as my personal favorite for comfort, Lululemon’s Align II leggings are buttery soft! For light hikes and shorter trail runs, these high-rise stay-put leggings are so light and feel like they’re barely there. The Nulu fabric is a nylon spandex blend that’s so soft with a generous stretch. They also come in different lengths, so you can choose the right legging for your height.
These Lululemon leggings also come in more than 15 colors and patterns, so you can personalize them based on your style. With no leg pockets, you’ll need to find an alternative place for your phone, but the minimalist style is sleek and there’s a small pocket inside the high-rise waist band that’ll fit a credit card and a key.
One thing to consider when wearing these Align leggings on the trail is to be careful where you sit. Avoid sitting on a down tree or log to tie your shoe or take a break as the bark could cause the soft Nulu fabric to snag. Overall, the best part about these Lululemon leggings is the soft feel and comfort for short hikes and trail runs. It’s no wonder some women use the hashtag “#alignaddict” on social media.
4. Carhartt Force Utility Leggings
For an outdoor-specific legging, the Carhartt Force Utility Leggings truly live up to their claims of ultimate flex and durability. With 95 percent nylon and 5 percent spandex, they’re thick, but not too thick. I’ve worn these leggings while working outside, camping and on hikes that require more contact with rugged terrain like climbing small boulders, brushing up against down trees and trail brush. The fabric makes you feel nearly invincible on the trail.
These leggings also wick away sweat as they’re made with Carhartt’s FastDry technology. They also have strong leg pockets that’ll easily hold your belongings without the worry of them falling out. For a utility legging, they’re very form flattering. But watch the length. For shorter women, these leggings can run long, so you’ll need to tailor them to fit right below your ankle. As more of a bonus, the leggings are bend-over approved! You won’t reveal anything more than your style in them. These leggings are my go-to leggings for long rugged hikes and they easily transition into camping leggings for all-day wear in the backcountry.
5. Cotipaxi Mariposa Leggings
With a high-waist and extremely supportive fabric, the Cotipaxi Mariposa leggings are perfect for a trail run or longer hike. Made of a recycled polyester spandex blend, the seams feature a flatlock seams throughout for improved durability, giving you confidence when you’re out on the trail. With a variety of bright colors, these leggings will provide you with a unique style.
One added benefit to these leggings is that they feature Cotipaxi’s odor-contol technology, Polygiene — allowing you to wear these leggings multiple times without a wash. This is a great benefit, especially if you’re hiking in the backcountry and camping overnight. These leggings can tend to run a size small, so check the sizing chart on their website before you buy.
Overall, these Mariposa leggings are another great all-day hiking and trail running legging that you can wear with confidence.
6. Icebreaker Comet Tights
These Icebreaker leggings are designed specifically for winter and are a great go-to legging for hiking or trail running in cold weather. With a merino wool, nylon and Lycra blend give you added mobility and stretch. These are also a great legging for Nordic skiing or snow shoeing out on trails.
With a zippered-stash leg pocket, you can securely stow away your valuables while you’re out adventuring. And, they’re a midweight legging, so you can easily layer them with a pair of pants or a base layer underneath for added warmth. The draw string waist helps keep them from sliding down. These comet tights are also quick to dry, so you don’t need to worry about melting snow or sweating out on the trail.
7. Patagonia Pack Out tights
Patagonia’s Pack Out tights fit snugly because they’re tights, but aren’t too, well, tight. The double-knit polyester/spandex fabric blend is soft, cozy, and substantially tougher than traditional leggings, so you can wear them alone or as a base layer. Thicker fabric also means these tights hold their shape after extended wear and aren’t see-through.
Easily our favorite feature is the number of pockets — three. Patagonia included two huge drop-in side pockets and a zippered hip pocket. You’re typically lucky to get one in hiking tights. The extra-thick waistband doesn’t budge, making them ideal for wearing with a pack or climbing harness.
Suzanne Downing is an outdoor writer and photographer in Montana with an environmental science journalism background. Her work can be found in Outdoors Unlimited, Bugle Magazine, Missoulian, Byline Magazine, Communique, MTPR online, UM Native News, National Wildlife Federation campaigns and more.
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