Leggings for Hiking in Cold Weather
The beauty of winter hiking is that it doesn’t require much gear to get out the door, unlike most other winter activities. But when you’re venturing out in the cold, it’s important to wear clothing that will keep you warm and dry. This post outlines our favorite leggings for hiking in cold weather.
Layering up top is an easier process to figure out, starting with a wicking layer to a warmth layer and an outer shell to block wind or precipitation. But what to wear on the bottom half of your body? In this post, we’ve compiled our team members’ picks for the Best Leggings for Winter Hiking.
These leggings all pair wonderfully with our favorite winter outdoorsy dresses too!
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Layering Tips for Winter Hiking
If you live in a cool or cold climate, the proper layering system is key for an enjoyable day on the trail. Proper layers not only keep you comfortable, but safe if the weather changes quickly.
Start with a sweat-wicking sports bra or tank top. I am loving the Ridge Merino Bralette recently! I bought it for sweaty summer hiking, but it works equally well for maintaining your core temperature in active cold-weather hiking adventures too. The Branwyn Essential Bralette is another great option, reviewed with other Branwyn Innerwear by TMM Team Member Laura.
Next, add in a wicking baselayer top such as the Iksplor Women’s Baselayer Top to keep you warm and dry. It’s NOT just for nursing mamas, by the way! Another great option is Ridge Merino’s Aspect Midweight Long Sleeve.
Don’t forget a good pair of wool or synthetic hiking socks! We love Darn Tough socks for the whole family.
Next is the mid-layer, whose job it is to retain body heat and protect you from the cold. One favorite mid-layer top is the Patagonia Re-Tool Half-Snap Fleece Pullover. Depending on the weather, you might be warm enough with just a base and a mid layer.
On extra cold days (or just in case the day turns colder), it’s always smart to bring along a puffy jacket too. We recommend the Women’s Torrid Jacket from Enlightened Equipment for maximum warmth and minimum weight.
Outer Layer or Shell
For a very cold or blustery day the last layer is the outer layer or shell, which protects you from the wind, rain or snow. This can be a technical shell jacket such as the Stio Women’s Exploit Jacket or a rain jacket like the REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket, which is a much less expensive option.
The kind of leggings or pants you choose obviously depends on the climate. If it’s cold, and you plan to exert yourself at all, you should never wear cotton leggings. They may be comfortable at first, but as soon as you start to sweat, you’ll find yourself freezing since cotton is colder when it’s wet and does not dry quickly. And cold buns = no fun!
On a chilly day with no or moderate wind, the Kari Traa Ane Hiking Tights or the Nike Therma-Fit Leggings would both be a great choice. Both of these options offer a thicker weight legging without being over-the-top warm.
On a cold and windy day, my go-to are the Woolx Piper Pocket Leggings, which are thick enough to block the wind and keep you warm even when wet. The Smartwool Merino Wind Tight is another great option for those blustery days.
If it’s very cold and or very snowy, you want something that will keep you warm, block the wind and keep the snow from creeping in. Look no further than the Fjallraven Abisko Varm Trekking Tights or the Crash 2.0 Polartec Tights from Title Nine. On really cold days, you can layer with a base layer underneath for extra warmth, like the lululemon Merino Wool-Blend Base Layer Tights or the Alpine Fit Backcountry Base Layer Bottoms that weave silver into the fabric for antimicrobial action that reduces smell.
Most of these options have been tested by the TMM Team, and we give our personal experiences with the leggings and our honest opinions below.
The Best Leggings for Winter Hiking
Leggings that are great for winter hiking should be warm, durable, and moisture wicking. They should block wind but still breathe when you start working up a sweat.
Some of the options in the post were gifted to us so that we could test them out, but as always we tell you exactly what we tell all of our friends!
Thermal Leggings for Winter Hiking
REI Co-op Swiftland Thermal Running Tights
The REI Co-op Swiftland Thermal Tights are a cozier and warmer version of their popular running tights with the same name. But they have a “brushed” inner to keep your legs warmer when you’re outside.
Like the Kari Traa (and most other active leggings), these are quick-dry too and moisture-wicking, so you won’t “feel” sweaty when you are in the middle of that uphill climb on your hike. If you the sweat is wicked away, you also won’t feel cold when you stop to take a break!
These also have internal pockets to stash snacks, keys, and credit cards.
Kari Traa Ane Hiking Tights
The Kari Traa Ane Hiking Tights are great for outdoor adventures. These are not necessarily as warm as merino wool or fleece-lined hiking leggings, but just a heavier-weight legging than a typical yoga-style legging. They are also quick-drying and contain 4-way stretch for ease of movement.
They also have front zipper pockets for carrying all the things.
Fjallraven Abisko Varm Trekking Tights
The Abisko Varm Tights are a super durable option for cold-weather hiking. These leggings are wind and waterproof to keep you dry and warm in cold and wet conditions. They also have extra wind-blocking panels on the front and the side of the thighs for extra protection.
Like the Swiftland Tights, these have a “brushed” inside to keep you warmer and cozier on your wintertime adventures.
Alpine Fit Bushwhacking Leggings
For leggings that will work in all the seasons, check out the Bushwhacking Leggings from Alpine Fit, a small woman-owned cottage brand based in Alaska.
These are a robust legging with water-resistant stretch fabric to keep your dry on your adventures. Wear alone on milder days or pair with a merino base layer (like their Katabatic Merino Wool Base Layer Bottoms.
One unique feature of these leggings are the different fits that are tailored towards different body types, from straight frames to curvier ones.
Bonus: These leggings are made in the USA!
Fleece-Lined Hiking Leggings
The Athleta Altitude Polartec Power Stretch Tights fit snug (no crotch sag), have a high-rise waist that stays in place, and best of all – they come in different lengths!
I LOVE the Athleta Polartec fleece leggings since they fit snugly, have a great high rise for comfort and come in lengths. I am 5’3″ and this is huge for me since most leggings end up long on me.TMM Founder Amelia Mayer
Title Nine Crash 2.0 Polartec® Tights
Of all the pants on the list, these are probably the warmest leggings for hiking.
The Crash 2.0 Polartec Tights are fleecy soft and smooth on the inside with a stretchy, wind-blocking exterior. It really is everything you could ever ask for in a winter legging.
If you have had a pair of these in the past, the sizing has changed over the years. Amelia has had some from 3 of the past 4 years and this year fits the best, by far!
Note, they do run slightly large, so size down if between sizes.
The mid-rise waistband stays in place with no crotch sag. There is a zipper pocket big enough for keys and a cell phone. And they wick sweat like a beast! These are plenty warm enough on their own, or they could be layered under shell pants on an exceptionally freezing day.
Nike Therma-Fit Leggings
The Nike Therma-Fit Leggings provide a nice, warm layer that doesn’t limit your range of motion or feel bulky once you start moving. These are also an excellent layer under snowpants or a waterproof shell-type pant.
These are also made with Polartec fabric for extra warmth.
They also come in a wide range of sizes, which we love!
The fit is snug, but I’ve found these to be comfortable. I think they’re a great option for someone who tends to warm up fast and wants a layer that’s easy to move around in and also someone looking for a budget friendly option.TMM Team Member Stephanie Johnson
Wool Hiking Leggings for Women
Smartwool Women’s Merino Sport Fleece Wind Tight
The Smartwool Merino Sport Fleece Wind Tights are TMM Team Member Jami’s favorite winter running and hiking leggings, and a great pick if you prefer wool over synthetic materials.
These are my go to winter running leggings. I love the wind panel on the front and soft merino on the inside. They are warm and breathable. I also love that these can be worn many sweaty times before they need a wash thanks to the merino!TMM Team Member Jami
Ridge Merino Ediza Merino Fleece Tights
TMM Team Member Sarah loves these wool leggings both for layering and for wearing under skirts or dresses for hiking. They are a 7/8 length, fit true to size and come in sizes XS – XL. She says they also have a high rise waist and stay put – no sag or bunching.
“Partnering with Polartec®, this features a Power Wool™ fleece, a patented bi-component knit fabric that combines the best of both natural and synthetic fibers.”
These are less wool content (47%) than the leggings below, but still very warm and cozy.
thick band so they don’t dig in. Perfect for under an insulated skirt when I’m out and about or under my snow pants when exploring more of doing homestead chores. Tuck nicely into my xtratufs without bunching at the ankle. We were in the mid 30’s all weekend and I was perfect without any other layers.Sue Knoth, TMM community member
Winter Hiking Pants…
….that are just as cozy as leggings.
Iksplor Grown-Up Adventure Jogger
These ultra soft and cozy merino joggers are made of 100% wool and are a wonderful, high-quality option for winter hiking (and chilling out!) pants.
They are warm and breathable, and merino wool wicks away sweat while also keeping you warm when it’s wet.
We love Iksplor’s options for kids outdoor merino clothing, and they have nailed it with their adult line too!
Use code MTNMAMA to save 10% off Iksplor
Title Nine Alpine Air Polartec® Joggers
The Alpine Air joggers are a loose fitting jogger pant with a very warm, very durable feel. If you’re looking for a more relaxed winter hiking pant that can double as an everyday jogger, these fit the bill.
The waist is low to mid-rise, sitting much lower than your typical leggings. These are a more relaxed fit and the inseam is great for shorter folks (a Medium has a 28″ inseam). I suggest ordering your regular size in these.
The outside fabric is abrasion resistant, which initially felt a little stiff on my legs. The stiffness has decreased after a couple of washings, and I can deal with it because these joggers are so warm. I wore these on a blustery 12 degree F. walk with a girlfriend and her legs were freezing, and I was toasty.TMM Team Member Sarah
The Cold Killer 2.0‘s are technically pants, not leggings, but I promise you they are just as comfy as leggings! They are a winter pant that’s soft, stretchy and warm. The front of the pants is a thicker, windproof softshell material while the back is a thinner nylon.
When I first tried these I thought my butt would get cold because of the thinner fabric, but as long as I’m moving and not doing any sitting down, my buns stay toasty in these pants.
There is a calf-zip with reflective accents. My favorite feature is the loose drawstring waistband. It’s delightful and not tight at all.
These run true to size, and also come in lengths. I have worn these on winter hikes, cross country skiing and shoveling snow and they are comfortable and warm.TMM Team Member Sarah
Cowgirl Tuff Work Hard Play Hard Pants
This is not a traditional hiking company, but the Cowgirl Tuff Pants are awesome for hiking or being active in cooler temps. Team Member Domo got these as a comfortable fall/winter chore pant.
They’re stretchy, the inner microfiber lining is super soft so feels warm, the pants are somewhat water resistant & the length is customizable with scissors since the material doesn’t fray when cut.
Warm Leggings for Hiking in the Winter
Winter hiking can be a truly amazing adventure. You hardly need any gear to get out the door and once you out there, trails are way less busy than in the summer.
Just don’t let the simplicity of winter hiking fool you into not being properly dressed. With the right pair of winter leggings (and of course baselayers, shell, socks, etc.) you’ll stay warm and dry on your winter hike.
- Epic Winter Gear Guide for Women
- Winter for Outdoor Families
- Ice Cleats for Winter Hiking
Best Leggings for Hiking in the Winter
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