This week I spent awhile trying on scads of base layers at Cabelas & REI, as well as countless hours researching online. Here are the fruits of my labor–one pair purchased, and a bunch of commentary for anyone else facing The Long Underwear Conundrum! I’ve ranked them below 1-5 in order of my preference. (The photo above is me as a ninja in my new Smartwool balaclava (one size fits all, $25 @ REI).)
- 2, lightweight leggings, XS & 3, midweight leggings, XS
- pros: quite warm, feels very moisture-wicky, extremely low-rise (only ones that looked decent with my jeans)
- cons: while the waistband is fairly flat (not gathered), it’s not quite as attractive or comfortable as that on the Smartwool (see below)–but it wins out by virtue of the low-rise and the good price
- bottom line: these don’t feel too bulky under jeans and are actually true low-rise, the only thing that would improve them would be a waistband more along the style/comfort of the Smartwool pair (but for $20-30 cheaper, I can’t complain!). These were my purchase today.
- crewneck top, XS, blue, pro/cons: comfortable, but I’m not much for crewneck style or this color.
- 1/2 zipper top, XS, black, pros: good fit, comfortable, good price–I’m considering this as a later purchase.
- pros: good fit, very warm, brushed interior, lots of features (see below)
- cons: not as low-rise as most of my everyday pants, slightly long (but not unworkable), maybe too thick for everyday wear (they are runner tights after all)
- lots of features (ankle zippers, zipper back pocket, drawstring waist, wide flat waistband, semi-low-rise)
- bottom line: If I was a runner, I’d buy them in a heartbeat. They may be good under snowboarding pants… I might get them later for this purpose.
3) Smartwool, XS ($70-80 @ REI)
- microweight leggings, XS & mediumweight leggings, XS
- pros: some of the most comfortable pants (especially midweight), good length/fit
- cons: not low enough rise for my everyday pants (they look ok when folded over once, but this makes them not worth the higher price to me)
- bottom line: I’d rate these higher if they weren’t at least $20-30 more than the others and/or if they were lower rise.
- microweight top, XS (black and lavender), cons: not nearly as comfortable as the leggings, oddly sort of scratchy (though a nice fit)
- (5, bottom left) REI Airflyte tights, XS, cons: waaay too long (need a petite to be even close), possibly a bit thick for everyday use
- REI polarfleece top, XS, cons: this was huge on me (baggy and too long in arms), plus not very soft, unpleasant synthetic feel to fabric
- (4, top right) REI boy’s base layer bottoms, S ($25), pros: fit pretty well, super-cheap (might buy a pair as a backup); cons: elastic waist not terribly ugly but not hugely flattering
Fitting room tested, but not photographed:
Cabelas MTP silk leggings, S ($30-50)
- pros: silky texture, multiple color options including black, white
- cons: doesn’t come in XS (too large, too long), gathered/loose style, thin elastic waistband, very “grandma” style
Cabelas MTP regular polar-weight leggings, S ($40)
- pros: um… not really any
- cons: doesn’t come in XS (too large, too long), gathered/loose style, thin elastic waistband, uncomfortable, very “grandma” style
Under Armour Evo Cold Gear tight, S ($50-60)
- pros: very warm, brushed fleecy interior
- cons: doesn’t come in XS (so too long, waistband slightly loose), super-thick (a running tight, not good as base layer), expensive at $70-80
Not available for fitting room trials:
These were some of my earlier considerations. I decided the Athleta were too expensive, particularly when the “petite” inseam measurements differed with different types. Plus, all of these are running tights, which I determined from trying similar tights are too thick for everyday base layer under jeans. I thought I’d list them in an effort to be completist about my research.
- Under Armour ColdGear Fitted Print Hit Tight ($59)
- comes in XS, brushed interior, stirrup ankles, odor blocker
- Athleta Windwarrior Tight ($98)
- comes in petite (24″ inseam) XS & XXS, midrise, ankle zips, rear zip pocket, front wind panels
- Athleta Protillo Tight ($74)
- comes in petite (28.5″ inseam) XS & XXS, midrise, ankle zips, rear zip pocket