Updated Fit and Materials
Since our testing period, REI updated their Lightweight Tight. The fabric is now 92% polyester and 8% spandex, providing some stretch (the previous model was 100% polyester). The fit has also been amended, with new seamlines added that seem to contour better to the female form. See the new pant in the first image, followed by the version we tested.
We have yet to test the updated product, so the review that follows is our account of the previous version. We are, however, linking to the updated version above.
Hands-On Review of the Lightweight Base Layer Tights
This lightweight base layer is perfect for aerobic sport on cold days or while lounging around the fire on a brisk evening in the fall or spring. Use it as a wicking layer as it doesn't provide a whole lot of insulation.
The REI Co-op base layer tighters are a lightweight synthetic option that is very inexpensive.
Designed as a lightweight option, it's not warm. It's a great option for cool weather worn with an overlayer. While this is a lightweight design, it is perfectly suited for aerobic activities like snowshoeing, skiing, and busting your buns uphill. While you could add many more layers to make it a decent base layer for any condition, it's ideal as an additional wicking layer that doesn't add a whole lot of insulation. Take it out if you intend to turn up the heat in your body, but opt for a warmer base layer if you're planning on hitting frigid, polar temperatures with little reprieve.
The thinner materials makes this piece less warmth and a great wicking layer.
Comfort and Fit
The synthetic materials are quite soft and feel nice on the skin. The 100-percent polyester design does not integrate any additional stretch materials, but the material itself is inherently stretchy. Wear them all day long. Also, the bottom is super lightweight, weighing only 5.2 ounces.
Front - Model is 5'6", 140 lbs.
REI Co-op Merino Wool
The waistband is not super tight and pretty bare bones. It's a simple elastic sewn into the material of the pant and feels okay next to the skin. The ankle hem is nicely fitted and opens up nicely to fit all shapes of calves. The length is a little bit short, which isn't ideal for taller women who want a full-length base layer bottom. Aside from that, we are surprised at how soft and fabulous this lightweight contender's fabrics feel. Since it's not the thickest materials, it doesn't earn the highest score, but we still like it to wear under a pair of hiking pants, or for lounging around the house.
Breathability and Drying Speed
This lightweight design doesn't offer a whole lot of insulation but wicks and breathes exceptionally well. If you're searching for a simple base layer that will wick away moisture to ensure your skin stays dry, this lightweight option will do the trick. In our in-lab tests, when we put a little moisture on the face of the fabric, it immediately absorbed, showing that the polyester isn't as hydrophobic as merino wool contenders (that wouldn't allow it to absorb). That said, when we dunked this bottom in the water, it absorbed only 6.7 ounces of water. It dried at roughly the same rate as other long underwater bottoms.
The synthetic material readily absorbs water.
These tests and our running tests verify that while this fabric isn't super insulating it is exceptionally breathable, regulating moisture well. Use it for everything from cold winter day runs to layering underneath insulated pants. If you feel the need to go charge in the winter months, this may be the base layer bottom for you.
Fully loaded with 100-percent synthetic materials, this base layer is fairly durable, but not perfect. We didn't notice any major pilling or signs of wear and tear, but we did manage to wear a small hole in the knee after encountering a few sharp sticks on the trail. That said, base layer bottoms are not meant to be worn on their own, and we realize that. Had we just worn these under a pant, it would surely last for many years to come. Overall, this is a durable base layer, but because of its thinner materials, it can rip easily.
After use (both alone and with a layered system) we evaluate the relative durability of all fabrics. While long underwear is not meant to be worn on its own, some bottoms are more durable than others. Here we see a hole as a result of crack climbing in Indian Creek on fall afternoon.
Looking for a lightweight base layer for aerobic endeavors and cool weather? This piece has your number! Take it with you on cold, sweaty days. Or wear it on cooler summer nights as a stand-alone layer.
Looking for an additional layer to hike uphill all winter with? This ultra-breathable and low cost option is a perfect fit for just this function!
As the least expensive product in this review with a decent performance rating (it is a lightweight piece after all), this base layer offers exceptional value. If you're considering a base layer on a shoestring budget, this is the best option.
This lightweight synthetic base layer does an awesome job controlling moisture. While it's not very insulative, it's a perfect option for those in need of an inexpensive, high value, wicking layer that does well for any big aerobic endeavor.