Friday, January 11, 2013

Tested: Craft PXC Storm tights

Just as we get a break from the cold, snowy weather here in Southern Ontario, this week I'll be reviewing the Craft PXC Storm tights.

Stock photo in black - mine are "pipeline", a medium grey.

What they are: Lightweight yet warm and windproof tights for winter aerobic activities.

Why you want them: Because -30c is no reason to miss a training session. Run, nordic ski, snowshoe or cycle in comfort during the worst of winter weather!

Front, showing the overlapping articulated construction of the knees.

Back - everything above the first band of piping is soft, warm, stretchy fleece.

Duration used: 1 year (purchased sometime over the winter of 2011/2012)

Price paid/purchased from: I paid approx. $120USD buying direct from (available for men or women).

Ankle zips and rubbery grippers.

Internal pocket and drawstring.

What rawks: I'm a total wuss about cold, yet I am a staunch advocate of getting outside in winter to enjoy the beauty and stillness of a world painted white with snow. This disconnect is resolved through the application of really good clothing to protect my sorry butt from the cold wind and frosty temperatures, and these tights are about the best thing I've found! Trust the Swedes when it comes to cold weather gear, particularly a company chosen as the apparel supplier to the Swedish national nordic ski team. While the tights are ostensibly made for cross-country skiing (the "PXC" designates Performance X Country collection), they work great for running, snowshoeing or cycling (worn over a pair of shorts or bibs with a chamois), or any other aerobic cold-weather activity you can think of. Fleeced on the inside throughout, the entire front and lower part of the back of the legs is covered with a smooth, soft windproof fabric that moves without restricting you - even the knees, a perennial bunching point for windproof wear, flex effortlessly thanks to an ingenious overlapping layer contruction. From the back of your knees to butt on the back you're covered with a smooth-faced material that's as thick and toasty warm as your favourite sweatshirt, but which breathes and allows you to dump excess heat. You really will appreciate the ventilating when you get moving, too, as these tights are warm. Really warm. Don't wear them unless it's below the temperature at which water gets all hard and slippery, but do wear them when even polar bears are hiding in caves because they're finding it a bit too nippy for their tastes. I've seriously run in these at -30c with windchill somewhere around absolute zero and not had cold legs afterward, though I had to look to make sure my fingers hadn't fallen off. The fit is more like a narrow pant than a clingy pair of tights, so you could even throw a base layer underneath if you were going nordic skiing on Pluto or something. I have had no issues with the pants riding up, and an inner, flat drawstring at the waist prevents them from drooping. They're quite high cut, which should help prevent any gap between your jacket and the pants while you're in motion - a boon if you want to use them for cycling. Other touches include a small inner pocket at the front right-hand side of the waistband for a key and a bit of emergency cash, rubbery grippers at the bottom hems, and useful-length ankle zips that let you get tall socks or boots on without fuss. For their warmth they're very lightweight, and the windproofing is really effective. You won't really notice them at all while you're out training, you just won't be cold! Other people will notice you, though; there are plenty of reflective elements to keep you safe during the long dark of winter.

Inside of knee showing articulation.

Outside of lower leg.

What sucks: The ankle opening is too large and gapes a bit, and the inseam is too short for my (admittedly ridiculously long) legs - this means I either have to wear very tall socks or deal with frostbite from skin exposure, and snow will occasionally get tossed up the bottom of the legs. I can solve the problem by wearing gaiters, but I feel like winter tights should err on the long side. The fit is a bit odd - I enquired with customer service before ordering my pair as I seemed to be on the border of size small or medium, but didn't want the legs to be restrictive to my super-sized thighs (I'd tell you it's all powerful muscle, but I'd like you to be able to stop laughing long enough to read the rest of this review). I was told to go with a medium to get the extra leg room, and I'm glad I did; the thighs fit fine and I sure wouldn't want an inseam any shorter, but the the calves near the top of the ankle zips are very snug. I don't have unusually large calves, so the fit is a bit puzzling - it may be an effect of the short inseam. The waist and abdominal/crotch area are rather baggy on me, too, and since the seams are not flatlocked this can lead to chafing unless I wear a layer underneath (tri/compression shorts work a treat). The inner pocket is a bit laughable in size - you could probably get a key and a $20 bill in there, but nothing more, and I don't think it would fit even the smallest single-serve gel packet. If your snowshoes tend to chuck snow up the backs of your legs (like mine), you may end up with snow sticking to the back of the tights, getting you wet and chilly. The construction of the knees results in some odd contours around the calves and combined with the potbelly-accommodating abdominal tailoring the overall look isn't terribly attractive.

Reflective piping and logos - but not all of the piping is reflective.

A bit baggy here and saggy there.
The tights could fit better, too.
What I'd like to see: A longer inseam, more fitted ankles, relaxed calf diameters, a little better tailoring in the abdominal area and flat seam construction.

What I'm saying: When winter gets all Armageddon-y, I pull these tights on and run, ski or cycle in toasty warmth. If you hate treadmills and love the briskness of a howlingly cold day spent crunching over snow and ice, you absolutely need to treat yourself to a pair of these. They may not be the most flattering thing you'll ever wear, but I'm more concerned with staying warm than looking good!

No action photos - the conditions I use them in would freeze a camera!

For further edification: See the review from Fleet Feet Chicago, or this one from All Seasons Cyclist.

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