Gear

The 9 Best Merino Wool Leggings For the Outdoors

by Arthur McMahon

best merino wool leggings outdoors

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Merino wool leggings are a hiker’s best friend.

And they’re useful for much more than a walk through the woods. A good pair of merino wool leggings can wick away sweat, keep you warm even if they become soaking wet, and are as cozy as a warm blanket beside the fire.

Merino wool leggings are a ubiquitous piece of clothing found hugging the legs of outdoor enthusiasts of every ilk. They’re an essential component of a backpacker’s gear kit, and they’re also great for lounging about a snow-covered backcountry cabin (or even in your own living room).

Merino Wool is Better

There are a few holdouts who haven’t yet tried merino wool clothing. Fears of itchiness pervade their thoughts, fueling misconceptions that were born of itchy holiday sweaters of decades past. Just the idea of those old crunchy sweaters sends shivers down my own spine. Gah!

But merino wool is far less itchy than the low-quality wool of the past. Most merino wool products are completely devoid of itchy fibers and scratchy seams. Clothing standards are held to a higher bar these days, especially in the realm of outdoor athletic clothing.

Modern merino wool leggings are exceptionally insulating and comfortable to wear. A unique feature of merino wool, which makes it such a sought-after material in outdoor clothing, is that it continues to insulate even if it becomes sopping wet. Merino wool also wicks away moisture and thus dries itself out.

These factors and more make merino wool leggings a great choice for hikers and all other outdoor enthusiasts. You can wear them while exercising, lounging, or sleeping. They’re a versatile tool and a great addition to anyone’s clothing collection.

The Best Merino Wool Leggings

We have rounded up the best merino wool leggings for women, men, and kids for your browsing pleasure. Whether you’re looking for lightweight summer leggings, warm winter leggings, or cozy merino wool sweatpants for lounging around the house, there’s a pair on this list for you.

1. Best for Women: Icebreaker 250 Vertex Base Layer

best womens merino wool leggings
Photo: REI

Designed to regulate your body temperature in all weather conditions, the 100% merino wool Icebreaker 250 Vertex Base Layer is without a doubt the best wool legging choice for women. This midweight offering from Icebreaker is ideal for cool and cold weather conditions.

They’re best for fall and winter hikes, snowshoeing, and skiing. The 250 Vertex Base Layer may be a bit warm for the high heat of a summer day, though they can serve as a comfy solo layer during a brisk summer night. These leggings also provide UPF 35 UV protection.

The crystalline jacquard knit design is attractive and provides a raised texture that is both pleasant to touch and extra insulating. Using wool that complies with the Responsible Wool Standard, these leggings are certified as being ethically and sustainably sourced. You will look and feel great while wearing them for a multitude of reasons.

Icebreaker has sealed the fabric panels with Flatlock seams to prevent friction, and a gusset has been fitted for enhanced mobility and comfort. The brushed elastic waistband ensures a comfortable fit for wearers of any size. They’ll travel well from the slopes to the sofa, which is good, because you’re not going to want to take them off.

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2. Best for Men: Icebreaker 260 Tech Leggings

best mens merino wool leggings
Photo: REI

Icebreaker has done it again, this time for men. The Icebreaker 260 Tech Leggings are made with 100% merino wool and mimic many of the top features that make the women’s Vertex Base Layer such a great option.

This is a heavier jersey knit that is well-suited to fall and winter outdoor activities. The odor-resistant and breathable wool knit does a fantastic job of regulating your body temperature no matter whether your sweating on an uphill climb or in the midst of a chilly mountain descent.

These leggings also feature Flatlock seams, a gusset, and a brushed elastic waistband for absolute comfort. Additionally, a contoured pouch with an accessible fly has been fitted for enhanced male comfort and utility. Men’s leggings simply do not get any more convenient than this.

Though form-fitting, these leggings are not restrictive. Men will find them to be a terrific solution for cold weather hiking, hunting, and snowsports. The 260 Tech Leggings will layer effortlessly under hardshell pants, snow pants, and camo, and they are comfortable to sleep in as well. They’re the whole package.

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3. Best for Kids: Icebreaker 200 Oasis Unisex Leggings

best kids merino wool leggings
Photo: Amazon

It may be fair to call us fans of the brand after this one, but nevertheless, Icebreaker takes the top pick again with the Icebreaker 200 Oasis Unisex Leggings. This is the kid version of the company’s best selling base layer bottoms.

While we chose heavier leggings for our top men’s and women’s picks, we have to admit that the 200 Oasis Unisex Leggings are the most versatile style in Icebreaker’s lineup. The lightweight design allows these leggings to be useful in warmer weather. They remain adequate for cool weather and can be easily layered upon for extreme winter temperatures.

Icebreaker is renowned for the quality of its wool products. The brand’s merino wool leggings are less itchy than other brands thanks to their virtually seamless design, making them a top choice for children.

No one wants to deal with itchy clothing, and parents do not want to camp with children who constantly complain about their scratchy pants. Icebreaker is a reliable no-itch solution to these possible problems.

The Icebreaker 200 Oasis Leggings are available for men and women as well, and come highly recommended for adults who feel that our other top picks are a bit too heavy and warm. All versions of the 200 Oasis have the same high-quality Flatlock seams, brushed elastic waistband, and comfortable gusset as the aforementioned Icebreaker products.

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4. Best for Summer: Smartwool Merino 150 Base Layer Bottom

best merino wool leggings for summer
Photo: Amazon

Those who want the comfort of wool in warm weather need look no further than the Smartwool Merino 150 Base Layer Bottom. The ultralight insulation is reinforced with nylon for the ultimate combination of comfort and durability.

One of the main issues with ultralight 100% merino wool leggings is their inherent strength and durability. Smartwool has solved this issue by utilizing core-spun technology in the creation of these leggings where merino wool fibers are woven around a nylon core. This design gives the fabric nylon strength while allowing only the pure merino wool to press against your skin.

The fabric is technically a mix of 13% nylon and 87% merino wool, but you’ll never notice the nylon. Men’s and women’s versions are available. Both have been fashioned to fit snugly, yet comfortably, and feature a wide merino-lined waistband for enhanced comfort. They also have been sealed with Flatlock seams to reduce chafing.

The men’s version also features a roomy pouch with a fully-functional fly for added convenience.

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5. Best for Winter: Smartwool Merino Sport Fleece Tights

best merino wool leggings for winter
Photo: Amazon

Designed with dual-layered protection from the elements, the Smartwool Merino Sport Fleece Tights are the best wool leggings for foul weather and cold temperatures. Wind, rain, and snow will bounce right off of their repellant surface.

These leggings have the least amount of merino wool on our list, comprising only 38% in the main body and 54% of the paneling. The stretchy knit fabric uses wool for its superior insulation and comfort, and it utilizes other fabrics such as polyester and nylon to stand up against harsh winds and wet weather.

The merino wool interior provides a layer of comfort for your skin that separates it from the durable, yet abrasive outer materials. An exterior front panel covers a large swath of the legs and hips with a hard-wearing, windproof fabric that protects your skin from brisk gusts of wind. The leggings have also been coated in a DWR finish for protection against rain and snow.

Featuring rear and side pockets, these leggings are quite practical. The zips on these pockets have been given a reflective touch for improved night visibility, as have the ankle zips and other aesthetic accents. The wide waistband and interior waist drawcord keep a cozy and secure hip fit that won’t slip.

Men’s and women’s versions of the Smartwool Merino Sport Fleece Tights are available. These are slim fit leggings, and there isn’t much difference to speak of between the men’s and women’s versions other than their general shape and sizing.

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Best of the Rest

Here are several more top-notch merino wool leggings that we think you will like. They may not have grabbed a ‘best of’ label from us, but they are still great options worth considering.

6. Icebreaker Crush Pants

icebreaker crush merino wool leggings
Photo: Amazon

The women’s Icebreaker Crush Pants are our favorite option for lounging and relaxed workouts. They’re one part legging and one part sweatpant which gives them a casual look and plush feel.

Made from 88% merino wool, 9% nylon, and 3% lycra, these leggings have exceptional comfort, impressive durability, and a bit of stretch. They feature a large elastic waistband with an exterior drawcord that can be pulled in tight for workouts and left loose during Netflix binge-athons.

Two side pockets have been fitted to warm up your hands or hold your personal belongings. The tapered leg design keeps the fit close to your body, unlike the bagginess of traditional sweatpants, and the cuffed ankles prevent these loose leggings from crowding your workout shoes.

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7. Wooly Clothing Merino Jogger Sweatpants

wooly clothing merino wool sweatpants
Photo: Amazon

For men, the pinnacle of athleisure bottoms has to be the Wooly Clothing Merino Jogger Sweatpants. They’re a versatile set of relaxed-fit wool leggings that can be used for lounging, workouts, and as a mid-layer for outdoor adventures.

At a glance, these sweatpants are quite similar to the women’s Icebreaker Crush Pants. They have a relaxed leg fit, cuffed ankles, handwarmer pockets, and an elastic waistband with a drawcord.

Where they differentiate, other than being styled for men, is that they are a bit heavier and feature a tighter-fitting waistband to accommodate thinner male hips. The high-stretch waistband and drawcord can hang loose when the clock strikes chill, but they still hold securely and can be drawn in tight when it’s time for a serious workout.

These pants are comprised of 95% merino wool and 5% elastane. They feature a tagless interior coupled with Flatlock seams to eliminate any chance of chafing and itching.

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8. REI Co-op Merino Midweight Tights

rei co-op merino midweight tights
Photo: REI

When it comes to combining value pricing with quality construction, few outdoor brands can compete with REI. That’s why the REI Co-op Merino Midweight Tights have made it on to our list. They’re great women’s wool leggings at a budget-friendly price.

There are few frills to speak of with these leggings, but REI made sure to get the basics right. They are made from 100% merino wool to ensure that they are as comfortable and insulating as possible. As a midweight layer, they are highly versatile and useable during all four seasons of the year.

The low profile waistband has been designed to make layering easy. Low-bulk seams also contribute to the ease of layering, and they reduce the amount of chafing or itching that could otherwise occur. Fitting heavier pants over these tights won’t be an issue.

These leggings are made in a Fair Trade Certified factory, which promotes worker safety and economic sustainability. Being that they are both affordable and well made, these might be the right choice for most shoppers on the hunt for a quality pair of women’s wool leggings.

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9. Helly-Hansen LIFA Merino Pants

helly hansen lifa merino wool pants
Photo: Amazon

Men also have a superb value choice for wool leggings, and that would be the Helly-Hansen LIFA Merino Pants. These leggings are warm and lightweight, a feat that is achieved by its unique two-layer design.

By combining a 100% merino wool outer layer with the brand’s proprietary LIFA material as the inner layer, Helly-Hansen has made these leggings which have become a fan favorite among snowsport enthusiasts.

This dual-layer construction combines the insulating properties of merino wool with the moisture-wicking superiority of LIFA Stay Warm Technology. LIFA fibers are supremely hydrophobic. When pressed against your skin, LIFA fibers will push sweat and other moisture away from your skin and into the wool outer layer where it can be quickly evaporated.

A roomy pouch has been fitted for male comfort, and Flatlock seams have been applied throughout for exquisite comfort. The technology and material quality woven into these leggings match or exceed what can be found in more expensive wool leggings from other brands. They’re a great buy, especially for the price.

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