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 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 had 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.
The material of the REI leggings is somewhat silky, but the thickness of those leggings were quite thin, and I was uncertain if they would provide adequate warmth in single digit and below zero temperatures. They had felt more like a lightweight layer to me, so I had set those aside to try on the other pair.
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 feels very supportive… kind of like a sock that is extra tight in the arch area. And, the fabric on these 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 wear. They do stay in place on my legs when I put my Craft ski pants over the top of them.
Additionally, the waist band on these is much thicker than on many other base layers, which I particularly like. I chose to go up one size larger just because I do not like anything squeezing my stomach/waist area super tight. But because I bought a larger size, there is quite a bit of excess fabric around my ankles that I have to roll up, and then pull down over the top of my boots. (The very bottom of the leggings is stretchy enough to fit over the top of my ski boots, but not over my snowshoe boots). The only issue I have in this regard is the pants tend to slink down a little bit in the crotch area, so I have to pull them up throughout the day.
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! I have worn the Odlo leggings while cross country skiing in below zero temperatures, and in temperature that were in the high twenties (always with my Craft pants over them). I was equally comfortable in the varied temperatures. The concern with having too heavy of a base layer when the temperature is twenty degrees+ is that you’ll get too hot and sweat. But the breathability and fabric of these Odlo leggings is truly ideal for any temperature for me, and I am impressed with their moisture-wicking capability.
I have also worn these leggings entirely by themselves (without anything over them) while cross-country skiing when the temperatures were forty degrees+, and I found them to be extremely breathable. When the weather is that warm, even skiing with just my Craft pants (without a base layer) is still way too warm because the Craft pants are lightly lined. So skiing in just these is absolutely perfect when the temperatures are that warm. I have even fallen in deep snow, and the water-repellant properties of these leggings had kept my skin dry.
SIDE NOTES: Everyone reacts to environmental temperatures differently, based upon one’s own unique internal and external physiology. I am 5’1” and about 120lb – my ideal weight is about 105lbs. So if I was at my ideal body weight, would these leggings be warm enough for me in single digit to below zero temperatures? Maybe/may be not. I would have to get my weight down to 105lb again to test that out.
A physique possessing an abundance of body fat has more natural insulation and will tend to become heated (or over heated) more quickly, thus lighter clothing may be more comfortable. Additionally, some people are just more warm or cold-blooded than others. These are vital concepts to keep in mind when selecting outdoor winter clothing, in general.
FINAL THOUGHTS: if you are looking for base layer leggings that would be comfortable underneath snow pants, ski pants, etc. to be worn in varied temperatures below thirty degrees, the Odlo Performance Warm Base Layer Bottoms may be just right for you. Conversely, if you are looking for excellent performance-based leggings to wear by themselves while skiing in warm temperatures, then these may also be a great option.
Overall: Excellent Purchase
Price paid: $70
Place purchased: REI
Link to REI website: REI
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