With colder weather approaching across the globe, I wanted to share a little secret for lightweight leg warmth which I quite honestly haven’t seen discussed before.
When the weather turns cold, many people like myself warm their legs with a variety of clothing options such as SmartWool or Capilene long underwear and for very cold temperatures down or synthetic insulating pants. The beauty of each option is that you can get different grades of both SmartWool and Capilene and even warmer synthetic or down insulation options. For the sake of mentioning it, some also wear nylon stockings (which can be found for men), but they are quite breezy, very fragile, and their insulative properties aren’t too impressive…but they are very lightweight.
One very effective option rarely discussed are tights. I’m referring to the same tights runners use in colder temperatures. Compared to standard long-johns style underwear like SmartWool and Capilene options, tights are often lighter or comparable in weight, plenty warmer, more durable, and can be worn as an external or internal garment without scaring fashion conscious hikers. They are an excellent in-between option when SmartWool and Capilene isn’t warm enough, but avoiding full blown insulated pants is desirable. Tights are also a great wicker of moisture and retain some warmth when damp.
My favorable tights are the Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Tights. They are made of PolarTec material which means they are fleece-like on the inside and slick on the outside. They feel puffy in the sense that they feel substantial yet very lightweight. Seams are also flat which makes them extremely comfortable. The manufacturer claims these tights can be worn as a base or mid layer if worn one way or inside out. I haven’t seen anyone wearing them inside out with the tag and steams on display to the world however. These range from $30 to $70 and there are quite a number of good sales right now as well as warmer or lighter pairs and some that are shorts or ¾ length.
For comparison purposes, below are examples from my own gear closet noting that each are in a size XL which may vary considerably in weight if you are a smaller size:
Bottom line, for a decent price and a lot of insulation for the weight, give tights a shot.