It is difficult to truly appreciate the value and importance of thermals (base layer clothing) until you’re in a situation where you need them – and do not have them, or the ones you have are not adequate. I (Stella) am a bit embarrassed to admit that I have had the same base layer leggings for about twenty years. They were a pair of light blue polyester thermal long-johns from Cabela’s that I think may have even been my mother’s prior to that, which she had worn in the 80’s snowmobiling – Yikes!
A few weeks ago when I was working with the staff at Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center trying on cross-country ski boots, I was embarrassed when the bottom cuff of those old Cabela’s thermals became exposed. Immediately that next week I researched base layer leggings at REI and then went there to pick some out…it was past time for an upgrade! Choosing base layer clothing can be an overwhelming experience because there are so many brands, styles, thicknesses, fabrics, etc. to choose from. Fortunately, I had a solid idea of what I was looking for.
Initially, I was planning to purchase the REI Co-Op Midweight Base Layer Tights. But as I was walking around, my eye had suddenly caught on the Odlo Performance Warm Base Layer Bottoms. I read all of the information available about Odlo’s material and thermal rating scale, so I decided to try them on, along with the REI leggings. While these are both rated on the scale as ‘midweight,’ I am uncertain of how accurate that really is. This is always a subjective category with clothing because everyone’s thermodynamics are different.
The material of the REI leggings were somewhat silky, and the thickness of those leggings was quite thin, so I was uncertain if they would provide adequate warmth in single digit temperatures. They felt more like a lightweight layer to me, so I had set those aside to try on the Odlo leggings. The Odlo Performance Warm Base Layer Bottoms, in contrast, felt more like a true midweight layer, and perhaps bridging just a smidge to a heavyweight layer.
They have a tight-stitched pattern around the thighs that is very supportive, kind of like a sock that is extra tight in the arch area. And, the fabric does not only feel a little thicker, but it also possesses a different type of weave that reminds me of the Champion base layer shirt that I love. Additionally, the waist band on these is much wider than those of many other leggings, which I particularly like because the wider band not only provides good belly/core support, but also helps them to stay in place.
However, I chose to go up one size larger because I do not like anything squeezing my stomach/waist area too tightly, so I found the larger size to be very comfortable in that regard. But because I bought a larger size, there is quite a bit of excess fabric (length wise) around my ankles that I either roll up, or just tuck into my ski boots. But, the very bottom of the leggings is stretchy enough to fit over the top of a nordic ski boot as well. And, the pants fit snuggly against my skin, allowing them to stay in place while I put my Craft ski pants over them.
Larry had suggested that I purchase both the REI Co-Op Midweight Base Layer Tights and Odlo Performance Warm Base Layer Bottoms so that I would have options for different outdoor temperatures; however, I felt no need for that because I was confident that the Odlo would fit the bill all around, and I was right. Additionally, the breathability of the Odlo leggings is remarkable, and I am impressed with their moisture-wicking capability. Further, when I have worn the leggings by themselves (without my Craft pants over them), and have fallen into very deep snow, the water-repellant properties of these leggings had kept my skin completely dry.
After much experimentation with these leggings, I have learned when I need to wear them, and when I do not. As I mentioned above, the thermal ratings assigned to clothing are subjective, and though these are rated as a mid-weight layer, which they are due to the properties of the material, I still find these leggings to be very, very warm. Please read below.
The way I chose my clothing layers differs according to whether I will be cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. I get much warmer while skiing simply because I am moving so much faster. And I have a tendency to get overheated very, very quickly, and it is essential that I have the ability to cool off and remain comfortably cool during outdoor activities, otherwise I will be miserable (and will likely make Larry miserable, too).
For skiing, when the temperature is 20+ degrees, I usually do not need to wear any leggings underneath my Craft pants, which are lightly lined (unless it is high wind that day). Despite the breathability and moisture-wicking benefits of these leggings, it is just too warm for me to wear both. I have also worn these leggings entirely by themselves (without my Craft pants over them) while cross-country skiing when the temperatures were 30+ degrees and they were absolutely perfect in every way! But when the temperature is below 20 degrees, that is when I need to wear both the leggings and my Craft pants.
For snowshoeing, I usually require a bit more warmth since I am not moving as quickly. So when the temperature is 25 degrees or below, that is when I need both the leggings and my Craft pants. When then temperature is above 25 degrees, then I am comfortable in my Craft pants alone. In order to solely wear these without the Craft pants over them while snowshoeing, the temperature would have to be at least 35 degrees before I would consider it.
Recently (Jan 2021), I wore these underneath my craft pants while on a snowshoe trek in Grand Teton National Park where the temperature had dropped to the single digits. And I can say, with confidence, that these were not warm enough. To be comfortable trekking in the single digit temperatures, I would need to upgrade to Odlo’s heavier weight leggings.
NOTE: Everyone reacts to environmental temperatures differently, based upon one’s own unique internal and external physiology. I am 5’1” and about 115lb. My ideal weight is about 100-105lbs. So if I was at my ideal body weight, would that have an impact upon when I wear these leggings? Maybe/may be not. I would have to get my weight down to 100-105lb again to test that out. Not sure if that will happen.
Also, a physique possessing an abundance of body fat has more natural insulation and may tend to become overheated more quickly, and some people are just more warm or cold-blooded than others; I tend to be very warm-blooded. These are vital concepts to keep in mind when selecting winter clothing layers. The ideal concept is to layer your clothing so that you do not become overheated right away, because if you peel away too many layers, the excess heat escapes from your body, and then you could get cold. Once that happens, you may then have to battle warming back up again, thus repeating the cycle. I find that it is a delicate balancing act.
FINAL THOUGHTS: These leggings are warm! Regardless if you are looking for base layer leggings to wear underneath snow/ski pants, and/or want leggings to wear by themselves (without a layer atop of them), then these may be a great option for you. I find these leggings to provide the versatility that I need for different temperatures and outdoor activities.
Overall: Excellent Purchase
Price paid: $70
Place purchased: REI
Link to REI website: REI
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