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Winter Workout Tights Built Tougher Than You (or Me)

Photo credit: Jason Cornell
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Professional adventure racer Jason Magness went on a mission to find the best winter workout tights for men. These picks will keep you warm and stand up to all manner of bushwacking, trekking, trail running, scrambling, and adventuring.

There are plenty of winter training tights out there. And many are perfectly suitable for high-octane winter activities like trail running, biking, nordic skiing, and even skinning up the local cone. But not many are made for hard use on the trail.

And while it’s more than sensible to “add a layer” over your base when things start to get rowdy, there’s something magical about moving through the mountains with nothing more than a second skin.

I’ve spent the last 20 years racing professionally and building my adventure legs. And I admit that I love to show them off by wearing anything made of Lycra or spandex, or that has “compression” in the title.

As the speed of my youth has slowly seeped away, my adventures have taken on a rougher quality. I spend less time on groomed trails and polished sport climbs and much more time thrashing through thickets and groveling up remote alpine climbs.

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Not surprisingly, my spandex is now full of holes. But I was determined to find something that could withstand an entire season of adventures while keeping me warm. So last year, I went on a search for cold-weather workout tights that could handle misery at least as well as I can. These are my three favorites.

The Best Winter Workout Tights for Men

inov-8 Winter Tight: $130

inov-8 Winter Tight

I’ve never been that impressed with inov-8’s ultralight clothing line. Most of it is featherlight and specced to meet the minimum requirements of some iconic endurance race out there. But it’s just that — the minimum. And most of it never made it unscathed through a single off-trail excursion.

But the Winter Tight is totally different. It has design details aimed at durability and ease of use. I’m especially fond of the calf zips, rear center pocket, and zoned reinforcement in key areas.

The Winter Tight can take abuse from the elements and the terrain while maintaining total freedom of movement and breathability. A snug fit (but not compression tight) and only mildly stretchy fabric mean the pants never snagged or ripped. Our race team wore them for 7 days during the brutal Patagonian Expedition Race through some of the toughest terrain and weather on the planet.

Verdict: These are nearly perfect for big cool- to cold-weather endurance adventures.

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Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights: $175

Fjallraven Abisko Trekking Tights

These win the award for showing off my legs. With a leg-hugging fit and uber-technical look, the Abisko trekking tights are certainly my pick for looking hardcore. The performance matches the look, and the reinforced knees and seat were favorite features when I was thrashing through dense brush or perched on a rocky seat for an alpine belay.

Stretchy and tighter than the inov-8 Winter Tight, the Abisko’s tight-knit fabric never snagged or caught either. The butt of the pants held up better than any of the others, even after repeated dirt and rock picnic perches throughout the year. Best of all is the thoughtful map and compass pockets — basically telling you that these pants were designed for off-trail exploration.

But the fit was a little bit more difficult for me, with the higher and tighter waist and longer legs. I fell right in the middle between small and medium, forced to choose between the right-length legs and a comfortable waist. But if you can find a Fjallraven store, the brand offers tailoring to help you get the fit perfect.

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Wild Country Gear Summitskin Bombshell Pants: $69 on Sale

Wild Country Gear Bombshell Pants

Yep, these Chinese-made pants make my top three. I also know that some readers might look down on that fact alone, but I just had to try them after hearing my friends’ rave reviews. They did not disappoint. The Bombshell pants are a snug-fitting, fleece-lined technical softshell that wears warmer than either of the other pants.

I wear them more often as lounging sweatpants on crisp winter days than I do on hardcore adventures, but luckily they excel at both of these equally. They are comfortable, water- and snow-resistant, and super durable. Performance-wise, they compared favorably to many other more expensive brand-name softshells.

Similar pants can be found on many super-discount websites (Wish.com, lightinthebox.com, etc.) but of all the ones I’ve tried, the Wild Country Gear tights have the best fit and detailing by far.

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As I move into my second fall and winter with these, I find myself considering cleaning out all my other adventure pants from my closet.

With the Bombshell’s sweatpants alter ego, the Abisko’s high performance on technical terrain, and the inov-8’s ability to excel in just about any conditions, I haven’t worn another pair of pants for at least 2 months. And unless I get a sweet pair of flannel pajamas for Christmas, it might just stay that way until summer.

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