If you’re like me, you like to be comfortable in your clothes both on and off the trail. And what is more comfortable than a good pair of yoga pants? There’s a reason they’ve become so popular and pervasive in women’s fashion.
Seriously, I don’t think that an article of clothing has ever caught on with quite the same fervor as yoga pants. And it’s all because they are the comfiest item of clothing ever. And they’re really versatile.
Yoga pants are form-fitting and flexible. They’re lightweight and breathable. When we hit the trail, it’s really tempting to pull on a pair.
But, are yoga pants good for hiking? Not exactly. A lot of yoga pants are made with a high percentage of cotton. They also tend to be very lightweight, thin, and prone to snagging. They were designed for working out in an inside environment – not the rustic environments of the great outdoors. Consider using hiking leggings, instead. These resemble yoga pants in style and fit, but are designed with special considerations for use on the trail.
Depending on the intensity of your hikes, yoga pants may be useful in your hiking wardrobe. You’ll want to consider the design and materials of the pants to make an appropriate decision. To understand why yoga pants are not the best pants for hiking, you need to understand what makes for a good hiking pant.
The best hiking pants will be durable, resistant to wear and tear, soft, lightweight, and moisture-wicking. They should be breathable and quick drying. A quality pair of pants marketed as “hiking pants” should never be made of cotton or a cotton blend.
That’s a pretty tall order for a piece of clothing.
Yoga Pants vs. Regular Hiking Pants
Because we live in such a gear focused culture, it’s easy to think of our hiking pants as another piece of gear. We can easily get in a “survivalist” mindset and choose our pants based on pure science, statistics, and practicality. If we do that, we will most likely end up with a pair of plain jane shapeless utility pants. We all know the look: neutral color, slightly baggy, fairly shapeless pants with a built-in belt.
Yoga pants, on the other hand, are super comfy and have no belts or bulky waistlines. And let’s admit it – they look good. But you shouldn’t decide what to wear in the backcountry based on looking good. That is an unfortunate mistake lots of ladies make these days, and it can be downright dangerous.
So how can you choose? How do you know if you should leave your yoga pants at home and opt for hiking pants? Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Cotton yoga pants have no place on the trail. Ever.
- Non-cotton yoga pants are fine for a light day hike or easy overnighter.
- Hiking pants or hiking leggings are better suited for true backcountry conditions.
- Hiking leggings or hiking pants are best for rock climbing, bouldering, and scrambling.
- What’s the weather like? Yoga pants can make a great base layer for colder weather, yet take longer to dry if you get caught in a downpour.
- Are you going to want to carry your phone, keys, etc? Yoga pants with pockets are ideal. If your yoga pants do not have pockets, stick with the hiking pants or hiking leggings.
- Do you tend to suffer from chafing? Yoga pants and hiking leggings should fit you really well in the crotch and thigh area. Otherwise, the seams combined with your sweat and movement of hiking could cause you problems.
I recommend that if you have only lightweight cotton yoga leggings or pants, you should leave them at home. If you have yoga pants with high-tec fiber blends, reinforced seams, and pockets, they should be just fine for the trail.
Best Materials for Hiking Leggings or Yoga Pants
You may have noticed that I have mentioned more than once that cotton has no place on the trail. There’s a saying famous amongst outdoor lovers that “cotton kills.” And no, we do not say that to justify buying super expensive tech fabrics. It’s because it is true.
Yoga pants made of cotton or a cotton blend have no place on the trail.
Having said that, the best and most common materials for hiking leggings are polyesters, spandex, nylon, elastane, and wool. These elements are usually combined to come up with a fiber blend unique to each pair of leggings.
Cold Weather Hiking with Yoga Pants
When going for a hike in cold weather, appropriate yoga pants make a great base layer. For extra cold weather, I recommend that you always carry along an outer layer to slip on just in case. You’ll want to pay extra attention to the conditions to make sure that you are as comfortable as possible.
- For rain conditions: I recommend bringing a pair of rain pants to layer over your yoga pants. Yoga pants take a lot longer to dry if they get wet.
- For snowy conditions: Ditch the basic yoga pants and invest in high-performance hiking leggings. You can still layer over them, but you will have better wicking action for when you work up a sweat.
Also read: What Pants Should I Wear for Winter Hiking?
Warm Weather Hiking with Yoga Pants
If there is a time you can get away with hiking in regular yoga pants, it’s warm weather hiking. Warm weather does provide certain challenges though – and you don’t want your yoga pants adding to your discomfort.
- Mosquitoes and biting flies can bite through thin yoga pants. I know from experience. Take my word for it.
- You’ll sweat a lot more. Invest in a good pair of hiking leggings that boast about their wicking capabilities.
- Hot, humid rains are uncomfortable. Again, always bring along an outer layer for rainy conditions. You can always take it off later.
To Wrap it Up:
Yoga pants, if they are not made of cotton, are good for hiking under certain conditions. If you are a serious hiker, backpacker, or climber – hiking leggings especially designed for the trail are worth seriously considering.
Let’s take a look at certain yoga pants that are good for hiking and hiking leggings to give you an idea of what to look for.
Also read: Best Budget Hiking Pants (7 Top Picks)
Recommended Leggings and Yoga Pants for Hiking:
Lululemon Leggings for Hiking
Lululemon started selling yoga pants in 1998. They were the first brand that marketed leggings specifically as workout wear for yoga. From there, they have expanded exponentially. They now offer all kinds of different styles of leggings and work out wear depending on what you want to do in them.
If you are loyal to the brand, I recommend that you check out the leggings marketed for runners instead of yoga enthusiasts.
The pros: These leggings typically include a nylon/elastane/lycra blend. They are designed to be breathable, wick away sweat, and are stretchy where you need them to be. They also have pockets!
The cons: The cost. These leggings tend to cost upwards of $100. Some customers complain about poor seam quality.
Check out this model: Speed Up Tight 2 Full-On Luxtreme
Columbia Hiking Leggings
Columbia has been a trusted name in outdoor clothing for a long time. They offer a pretty wide variety of leggings and yoga pants that are great for hiking and others that are not so great for hiking. A lot of their yoga pants have cotton in the blend, which makes them super comfy but not so great for the trail. Be sure to read the product description carefully to know exactly what you are getting.
Here’s a great pair I highly recommend: Titan Peak Trekking Legging
Columbia’s Titan Peak Trekking legging is an excellent style. It’s an affordable hiking legging, designed especially for trail conditions.
The pros: These leggings are made from a polyester, nylon, and elastane blend and have reinforced knees and seat. They are designed for excellent wicking action, boast comfort stretch flexibility and are abrasion resistant.
The cons: The pocket can be a little uncomfortable because it doesn’t stretch like the rest of the material. They can also be a challenge to find because of how popular they are!
Also, check out the Women’s Windgates II Legging
These leggings are marketed for trail running, so you know they’re good for hiking.
The pros: The fabric boasts UPF 50 sun protection, and high-tech wicking capabilities. They are high waisted (great for preventing bunching under a pack) and have a discreet mesh side pocket.
The cons: These hiking leggings are not reinforced in the bum nor the knees.
Ever Brand Sweatflow Leggings
If there ever was a dual purpose legging that worked just as well in the yoga studio as on the trail, this is it. You can definitely hike in these yoga pants! In fact, they are designed to be sweated in. They’re remarkably convenient for backpacking trips due to the anti-bacterial nature of the silver that is included in the high-tech synthetic blend fabric.
The website boasts that they can be worn up to five times without getting smelly!
The pros: The other major selling points for these leggings is that they are super wickers, and claim to dry extra quick. They have a comfortable high waist and convenient side pockets.
The cons: They don’t have a reinforced seat or knees. There are also some complaints that they snag easily and that the sweat stains don’t disappear with the sweat.
See them here: Sweatflow Leggings
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can you wear jeans for hiking?
Jeans might be acceptable for a relaxing day hike in perfect weather. In general, though, they should be avoided. Jeans are made of cotton. When they get wet they do not dry quickly. They are not very breathable and can become damp from your sweat alone. This can be dangerous in cold, hot, or rainy weather.
Why is cotton bad for hiking?
Cotton is terrible for hiking because it ceases to be insulating once it is wet. This means that you are more susceptible to hypothermia in cold weather. Nor does it wick humidity away from your skin. Your sweat will absorb into the cotton and stay right against your skin. Aside from affecting body temperature, you can cause yourself blisters from cotton socks and chafing with cotton leggings and shirts.
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Traci is a lifelong traveler and adventure seeker. She is currently raising her free-range children in rural Venezuela, works as a part-time dairy farmer and a freelance writer. Follow her on IG @traciraymond