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Smartwool Tights – Are They The Same Thing As a Base Layer?

A Short History of Tights

Tights are, according to Wikipedia, a kind of cloth leg garment, most often sheathing the body from above the waist to the feet with a tight fit, hence the name. The wearing of tights has a history going back several centuries, when they were worn by men. Smartwool tights are worn by both men and women usually while running or bike riding, though not exclusively!

Tights are generally thought of as heavier weight than pantyhose which are normally worn under a skirt or dress. Tights can also be used in this regard yet are thicker so they are most often worn in cooler months. Tights can also be made specifically for running or cycling. When made for this purpose the tights are normally totally opaque to prevent any “see-through” effect and are normally made with a spandex blend to aid in ease of movement.

Smartwool Tights

Smartwool tights are produced in two main categories, function and fashion. Opaque tights like the Smartwool Men’s PhD HyFi Zip are functionally made with runners and cyclists in mind. They feature a semi form fit with a mid rise, wide waistband, crotch gusset, concealed zip pocket, and reflective 8 inch ankle zips. They are a blend of merino wool, nylon, polyester, and elastane.

The Smartwool Tights too are a more translucent fashion tight. Smartwool makes several varieties of fashion tights including footed and footless in solid colors and patterns. These fashion tights are designed to be worn with a long top or under a skirt or dress due to the potential of see-through. They are made of a blend of merino wool, nylon and elastic with a comfort waistband and arch support in the footed varieties.

Smartwool Base Layers

Smartwool base layer bottoms are made with a fly for men so they cannot be worn like the Smartwool Women’s PhD HyFi Zip Tights, they must be worn under another layer. The women’s and men’s base layer bottoms come in a varying degree of thickness: microweight, lightweight, midweight, and heavy weight. The lighter the fabric the more likely you will want to wear them with a covering layer of shorts or pants. However, if it is cold enough for an expedition weight base layer you will most likely need a top layer anyway!

Best Choice for your Activity

Depending on the temperature and what your activity level will be a Smartwool base layer or tights that will make you comfortable and happy.

If you need something to wear under a tunic or dress go with the tights in either a solid or print color. You could easily go with a micro weight base layer or a light weight base layer also if it is winter. The base layers will have less of an elastic feel than the tights and a higher concentration of merino wool. But don’t worry, just like all of Smartwool’s products their tights and base layers are not itchy.

For running or cycling the PhD Tights are a great choice with their reflective strips and snug muscle hugging fit you will be very comfortable wearing these on a workout.

For hiking, backpacking or other outdoor pursuits the base layers are the way to go. They wick moisture, resist odors, and keep their shape through wear and wash. All you need to decide is what temperature will you be in and how active will you be. The base layers are perfect to sleep in when camping. I have a heavy weight top and bottom that I use almost year-round for sleeping in. And if I am travelling to the mountains where the night-time temps can get cold even in the summer I usually bring my mid or lightweight base layers.

The base layers are great to hike in, they are a snug fit and keep in warmth. This is a downside though if you get really hot once you hit your stride. It may not be great fashion but the easiest solution to this is to combine the base layer with zip off pants and just remove the legs if you get too hot. Even in winter this is a great solution as you don’t want to get overheated and sweaty because the resulting cool down when you stop walking can be dangerous at worst and uncomfortable at best.

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