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Backpacking Tights - Part 1
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Kevin Flynn
(kmflynn_01) - MLife
Tights are Go! on 08/14/2013 21:46:45 MDT Print View

I was a competitive runner before becoming a hiker - and have continued to use running gear as hiking gear, so tights have always been in my toolbox.

I also like nylon pants and especially like the hybrid pants produced in the past few years. They fit slightly looser than tights, more like pants, but have good stretch, pockets and durability. Mountain Hardware, Kuhl and Outdoor Research each have a hybrid pant in their lineup. I think Craghoppers does too, and probably a few others that I haven't noticed. They cost a fair bit more than tights do however, so...

Andy Davison
(FurTech) - M
Tights in the UK on 08/15/2013 01:44:24 MDT Print View

A few observations:
I've used loose tights (if that isn't a contradiction in terms) a lot in the UK, particularly for two day adventure races. Commonly I've used Ron Hill's Tracksters in various weights and Paramo Stretch Pants. For such events I have tights and over trousers. The OTs are only worn if I get cold. I find that even after wading through streams or spending all day in the rain, I can wear them dry and sleep in them overnight. I also find that a small difference in thickness can make a big difference in insulation. On occasion it has been essential to add the OTs to keep warm, especially in wind blown rain. I also find these synthetic tights to be reasonably tough though susceptible to snagging, and suspect that they will be much stronger than wool. Most of my wool shirts have holes in them.
Perhaps the psychology of racing is a bit different to backpacking and thus shades my perception: I expect to suffer for speed. That said, I've been amazed how well these leggings work.
As far as the physics is concerned, I suspect that the conduction of the material is significant enough to be noticeable. I say this because the snug fitting thick and dense thermal sleeves I sometimes use (designed for cycling) don't insulate any where near as well as I would have expected and far less than loose fleece of a similar weight (when dry).
Also, my experience with wet none-stretch trousers is that they cling, chaff and feel uncomfortable and cold.
Finally, the loose/tights mentioned above are a bit less revealing than tight/tights.

Serge Giachetti
(sgiachetti) - M

Locale: Boulder, CO
mandex all the way on 08/15/2013 02:40:31 MDT Print View

My friend Justin proudly rocking his $2 halloween store mandex in the Narrows last fall.mandex

Linda Vassallo

Locale: Eastbay
Tights For Backpacking on 08/15/2013 16:44:20 MDT Print View

Good Topic for Thought, thank you for doing the trials and sharing your insights.

I have been considering switching to tights ever since my JMT hike last year. I met several hikers along the way who were wearing tights and it seemed to me that tights would be more comfortable and allow for better movement than my older nylon trail pants. I have seen several brands at REI (of different materials and thicknesses) that I thought would work. I am now encouraged to go out and buy a pair.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Backpacking Tight on 08/15/2013 17:57:13 MDT Print View

The title on the BPL homepage is "Backpacking Tight".

Brought to mind a whole different idea than stretchy leg coverings!

John Coyle

Locale: NorCal
Backpacking Tights on 08/15/2013 22:57:50 MDT Print View

Tights on the trail? No way. My backpacking friends already call me "Bird Legs." If I wore tights they would get even more specific and call me "Great Blue Heron Legs."

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Durability on 08/17/2013 11:43:16 MDT Print View

Tights need to be something like 8-10 oz to be durable. Midwieght. Anything thinner and they shred (and they are much more revealing).
I like my golite running tights. The fleece lining is so nice. I use them as long underwear to sleep in often.
They are durable enough for shoving through light brush.
I do creek bushwacking/canyon trips in them and they work really well for wet and cold. They take off the chill when crossing and they warm up almost instantly when I exit the water, letting me recover better.

Durable tights? Try baseball pants. A guy on ventana wild recommended them to me when I asked about bushwacking gear, Some of them fit like tights. Heavier and not as warm, but the material is more like regular hiking pants. They are now my go to bushwacking pants. I prefer to keep everything slim and work my way through brush instead of shoving through it.

Edited by justin_baker on 08/17/2013 11:48:02 MDT.

Diane Pinkers
(dipink) - MLife

Locale: Western Washington
running funky on 08/17/2013 18:23:19 MDT Print View

This summer I've been experimenting with running tights under a skirt, after last summer using nylon hiking pants and being tired of putting them on cold and wet in the morning during a four day hike. The last morning out I stayed in my long johns that I had slept in, and put wind pants over top, and was so much more comfortable! I haven't found a pair of hiking shorts that I like, so I've sacrificed pockets for now, and I'm rather liking the increased airflow with a short skirt. Much drier at the end of the day. I've got a pair of shorts that I can wear under the skirt, too. has a great selection of patterns if you are tired of black, black, black--my leopard tights get lots of commentary on the trail!

(Joomy) - M
Tights for bush-bashing on 08/17/2013 19:41:16 MDT Print View

"Perhaps durability is the third reason. If you need to do some heavy bushwacking in nasty/thorny conditions, then yes, tights won't be the best option. In many conditions, especially on-trail, durability won't be an issue."

In Australia we often wear gaiters that protect our lower legs anyway.

Edited by Joomy on 08/17/2013 19:42:34 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Tights for bush-bashing on 08/17/2013 19:44:26 MDT Print View

Jeremy, you don't have any brush in Australia that grows above the knees?

(Joomy) - M
Re: Tights for bush-bashing on 08/17/2013 19:46:10 MDT Print View

Of course we do but in my experience most of the damage is concentrated on the lower leg, probably because the lower leg moves a lot more with each stride. And I guess most of the time the walking down here is less proper bush-bashing as much as heavily overgrown, rugged and narrow trails.

Edited by Joomy on 08/17/2013 20:06:11 MDT.

Jake S
People don't wear tights? on 08/18/2013 07:21:42 MDT Print View

Maybe I'm weird, but are you telling me people don't wear tights? They've always been a staple of my layering system

Coldest: Tights + Nylon mesh "Basketball" Shorts + Rain pants

A little warmer: Tights + Nylon mesh "Basketball" Shorts

A little warmer yet: Compression shorts w/ 9" inseam (or "half-length tights" if you will) + Nylon mesh "Basketball" Shorts

Extremely hot w/burning sunshine: Compression shorts + breathable full length lightweight pants

I really figure anyone wearing "hiking pants" would wear them instead of rain pants (which they probably also carry) and zip off the legs as temperatures dictated.

Maybe I'm only speaking from unfamiliarity with them, but for ultralight kits "hiking pants" really belong on the same archival shelf as "Tent poles" and "hiking boots" and "Tent stake mallet", as far as I'm concerned. Maybe the one advantage of hiking pants is bug resistance, but treating tights with permethrin and staying in motion buy hiking eliminates most of that advantage, doesn't it?

Edited by spags on 08/18/2013 07:23:13 MDT.

Sebastian Boenner

Locale: beautiful Rhineland (Germany)
tights on 08/19/2013 08:20:12 MDT Print View

Depending on the conditions tights are a favourite "tool" of mine. I prefer them during the shoulder seasons or as a baselayer in winter. (For me they just feel too warm in summertime)
When we spend 4 weeks of backpacking in Iceland they worked amazingly well. I used 3/4 lenght tights. Normally my lower legs don't get that cool and due to the amount of river crossings there was less fabric to dry. I combined the tights with a running shorts to give my upper legs a bit more wind protection. Only in the worst conditions I added a waterproof pair of trousers. I know this combination looks dorky, but function over fashion! ;-)

My wife uses tights all year long. During summertime she prefers short one to keep her upper legs warm while airing her lower legs at the same time.
(picture was taken last year during our thruhike along the GR20)

Well, and they prevent other hiker risking a look under her skirt while leading during an uphill section ;-)

Edited by racoon-on-tour on 08/19/2013 08:42:11 MDT.

Richard May
(richardmay) - M

Locale: Swamplands.
rain tights on 08/19/2013 08:49:22 MDT Print View

hmmm... I may have to give them a try this rainy season. Sounds like they'd do pretty well down here.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: tights on 08/19/2013 18:32:48 MDT Print View

I used to wear long underwear under shorts while skiing. This worked pretty well, but I would get a bit cold when I stopped for lunch. Then I bought a pair of full zip fleece pants. A bit heavier, but way better range. If it is hot, I can open them up or completely remove them (without taking off my skis). If it is cold, they are way warmer than tights.

When hiking, I find that I need them less. Most of the time I hike, I hike in shorts. So, my pants stay in the pack. However, when the weather gets bad, or I get to a summit, then I switch to either rain pants or wind pants. Both are lighter than tights.

I do think tights are fairly economical, though. You can get a good pair of polypropylene long underwear (AKA tights) for very little money. This covers a pretty wide range for very little money. When combined with a wind/rain layer, they also provide plenty of warmth. The biggest cost at that point is in terms of weight (puffy pants are lighter). They also make sense if you are sure that your trip is going to fall within this sort of temperature range -- personally, I rarely hike at that range very long.

Matthew Perry
(bigfoot2) - F

Locale: Oregon
Backpacking Tights - Part 1 on 08/20/2013 11:01:22 MDT Print View

When will we get a State Of The Market Report on Unbifurcated garments? Plenty of us kilted backpackers on here, ya' know?


Tim Zen
(asdzxc57) - F

Locale: MI
Re: Backpacking Tights - Part 1 on 08/20/2013 19:33:31 MDT Print View


"When will we get a State Of The Market Report on Unbifurcated garments? Plenty of us kilted backpackers on here, ya' know?"

You could start a new thread on genus 1 clothes.