The Gear Junkie Scoop: Salomon Athletic Tights

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A man in skin-close, anatomically-contouring athletic tights is a man with his priorities in the right place. I am going to stake that claim. There are haters of the body-hugging look, no doubt. But I say vanity and self consciousness about style — decency even! — must at times be abandoned in the name of athletic performance in the great outdoors.

Now, this is all just a long way to say that I am a bonafide and committed wearer of tights. (Tights for me growing up — the Midwest, 1980s — were reserved for dressed-up ladies and little girls in tutu dresses, so maybe I have a weird stigma.) And to cut to the chase, I am an unabashed fan of two particular pair of athletic tights made by Salomon.

Salomon's EXO III and WS II tights, two models in a line of made-for-the-outdoors athletic wear, have become my de facto pants in the outdoors for the past year. After hundreds of miles of running, trekking, biking, and adventure racing in these tights, I can give them a special Gear Junkie stamp. No shame at all.

What makes the EXO III tights, in particular, special is a funky honeycomb grid of rubbery overlay material that adds compression characteristics as well as durability. Salomon calls it the BODY PERFORMANCE concept, touting that “muscle support and recovery” properties are built in.

For me, the EXO IIIs, which cost a pricey $120, are the tights to wear for tough training days and on shorter races. They fit super tight — being a “compression” product that is for par for course — yet are not restricting as you run. The honeycomb overlay, as noted, does double duty to add rip-stop-like protection to the thin fabric of the tights underneath.

Even closer to my heart, the WS II tights are ultimate leg-wear for three seasons of the year. They are too hot for summer temps, but the rest of the year I wear these softshell tights almost nonstop.

Salomon put Gore's WINDSTOPPER softshell fabric over the front of the legs, and on back the material is thinner and more breathable. With this construction, wind chill is cut out dramatically from the equation for running in the cold, even on nasty winter days.

I have used the WS II tights for up to a week straight on long, crazy endurance events. They hold their own to the abuse of the outdoors superbly. But as with any tights I have tried, bushwhacking can cut and shred the thin material — be careful.

The WS II tights cost $110. They come in men's and women's versions. Both have a small pocket on back, a simple string tie on the waist, and zip-open ankle cuffs for easier on and off.

For running, fast hiking, climbing, and biking I give a thumbs up — all my vanity aside! — to either of these Salomon products. From training runs to endurance races, they have stood out as my primary pants for any aerobic-oriented outdoors challenge.