Pants get glossed over or given belittling nicknames like “Long Johns”. The Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch Tights might be a baselayer for your legs, but they are much more than Long Johns. Made of stretchy, comfy Polartec Power Stretch, these tights will wick moisture away from your legs during high-output activities and keep you warm during down times. But the unique thing about these particular Power Stretch Tights is that, because Mountain Hardwear used thin, bulk-reducing flat-lock seams throughout the construction, they are reversible. Keep the fuzzy side in (smooth side out) and they insulate like crazy and easily fit under a shell layer. Switch them around for the smooth side in and you can easily slide them over a thinner base layer if the temperatures are truly arctic.
I wore these pants snowshoeing in Colorado’s Tenmile Range, and was amazed with their ability to wick away sweat on the climbs and then also keep me warm during snack breaks. I also wore them up Mt. Rainier in early June. Sideways rain and sleet soaked through my pack, and when I unpacked the tights for bedtime they were soaked. I wrung out the water, which changed them to merely damp, then slid them on and climbed into my bag. While I wouldn’t say that wearing soaked clothes to bed was pleasant, it paid off: the pants dried in about two hours and I was set for the next day.
The subsequent day I eventually overheated and had to strip down to take the tights off. Removing the base layer from your legs when you’re wearing crampons is a rather arduous process, but they were simply too hot to keep wearing once the sun started to warm the glacier.
The Power Stretch Tights don’t have a front opening (a la whitey tighties), so you can wear them as an outer piece without shame. In fact, the only way I can think to improve these tights would be the addition of some hand warmer pockets. I know pockets would look rather silly if you turned the pants inside out, but I found that I primarily used them in the smooth-out configuration, and some small pockets would be nice for winter running use.
These tights are toasty, so they might be overkill for merely cool conditions. But for winter conditions or shoulder-season overnights, or big mountain climbs, you will be hard-pressed to find a more comfortable, versatile pair of tights. Just don’t call them Long Johns.