Smartwool Active Fleece Wind Tights Long-Term Review

At a Glance

  • Smartwool’s Active Fleece Wind Tights are a cold-weather merino blend tight for running, cycling, hiking, backpacking, and other active outdoor sports.
  • I tested these tights over many weeks of bikepacking and backpacking in chilly shoulder-season conditions ranging from 25 – 45 degrees F.
  • I recommend them highly! I’ve found them absolutely worth the price and now wonder how I ever survived my cold weather adventures without them.

If you can’t stop running, cycling, hiking, and other active adventuring even when the temperature plunges toward freezing, Smartwool’s Active Fleece Wind Tight might be for you. This long-term review shares how they’ve worked for me during many weeks of testing on the bike and on foot.

When you buy through affiliate links in this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks for your support! I always offer unbiased opinions based on real experience from the road and trail. Learn more.

Overview: Smartwool Active Fleece Wind Tights

Price: $140
Weight: 10.2oz for my women’s medium
Sizes: XS – XL (women), S – XXL (men)

My rating: 5 / 5 stars, I adore them

Shop these tights at:

What I love:

  • Seriously warm
  • Windproof front panels are amazing, especially on a bike
  • Comfy stretchy fit with full range of motion
  • Breathable, even during high-intensity activity
  • Merino blend keeps smell in check on backcountry trips

Could be better:

  • They’re not cheap
  • Newest women’s version lacks waist drawstring

My conclusion: These tights are a game-changer for cold weather exercise and multi-day outdoor adventures. I use them for backpacking and bikepacking when temps dip into the 40’s F or below. They’re comfy, stretchy, breathable, and keep me warm without overheating. I initially worried they were too much of a splurge, but they are worth every penny.

How I Tested These Tights

I’ve been using my Smartwool Active Fleece Wind Tights (women’s version) for about 2000 miles of bikepacking and 150 miles of backpacking, mostly during shoulder season mountain adventures from September to November.

I first bought them for bikepacking races like the Smoke ‘n Fire 400, a September event in the mountains of Idaho where I sometimes ride late into the night in freezing temps. Since then I’ve carried them on multiple late-season backpacking and bikepacking trips for warmth on the trail and while camping at night.

For example, these tights were especially key on the Utah section of my Western Wildlands bikepacking ride in October, and while backpacking the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood in late September.

Me bikepacking in the Smartwool Fleece Wind Tights on a chilly October day in Utah
Me backpacking in these tights on the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood

Smartwool has made a few small updates to the design since I bought my tights. Technically mine are the “Sport” wind tights and the latest version is the “Active.” I’ve noted the differences where applicable in this review, but the basics of these tights haven’t changed.

Best Uses

These tights work well for any active outdoor activities in cold temps. Merino wool is known for its breathability and temperature regulation even during high aerobic output, so runners will appreciate them in near-freezing temps or below.

Cyclists will love the windproof front panels for cutting that brutal windchill on cold descents, and the stretchy fit is cycling-friendly. The windproof panels also provide some light water resistance on misty days in exactly the places we cyclists need it (top of thighs).

Hikers, backpackers, and climbers in high alpine or shoulder season conditions will appreciate these tights as a mid-weight layer for both moving and sleeping.

Warmth

The Smartwool Active Fleece Wind Tights are considerably warmer than a typical midlayer tight. The merino fleece provides insulation and soft next-to-skin feel, while the windproof front panels cut windchill and reduce evaporative cooling. These panels have a DWR finish which also adds light water resistance on misty days.

As part of a full-body layering system, I use these tights in the range of 25 – 45 degrees F while hiking and biking. I might use them above this range if it’s really windy or I’m moving fast on a bike. When temps rise into the mid-fifties I start to think about taking them off (I’m usually wearing them over shorts) but it’s rarely an emergency; these tights can handle quite a bit of warmth without overheating.

These tights are now my warmest lower-body layer, replacing my previous combo of Columbia Omni-heat Tights plus rain pants over the top. They are MUCH more comfortable, practical, and breathable than that combo. Total game changer!

Fit and Sizing

These tights run true to size in my experience, but you might want to size up depending on how you plan to use them. The fabric is stretchy and the fit is next-to-skin slim, just as you would expect from tights or leggings.

I’m 5’5″ and 120 lbs and usually wear a women’s small. After trying both small and medium in the Smartwool women’s fleece wind tights, I kept the medium. I usually wear these tights over fitted athletic shorts or a bike chamois, so the extra space makes layering more comfortable. It also makes for slightly less fuss when wriggling into or out of these tights as temps change.

I sized up for a little extra space and easier layering underneath.

I’ve been really pleased with the stretchiness and movement-friendly fit of these tights. Aside from the warmth and very gentle feeling of compression, I barely notice I’m wearing them. This is even true while cycling — no uncomfortable feelings of binding or stretching at the knees or crotch.

The Smartwool Active tights have great range of motion for pretty much any activity.

Design and Features

Waistband: This is of course subjective, but for me the mid-rise waist on these tights is comfortable and unobtrusive. Smartwool removed the drawscord on the most recent women’s version in favor of a wider yoga-pant-style waiastband, which might reduce the range of bodies these tights will work for (men’s version still has a drawcord). On the bright side, if the waistband fits you it will be nice and smooth in the front.

Ankle zips: I appreciate how the zippered ankle cuffs make it easier to get these tights on and off. For me they are just barely big enough (about 7″ long) to slip over my running shoes for a quick mid-hike layer change, but they don’t fit over my cycling shoes. I have small feet and expect most people will need to remove their shoes before slipping into or out of these tights, even with the ankle unzipped.

Pockets: Both women’s and men’s versions have a drop-in pocket on the left thigh that’s convenient for carrying a smartphone. Both genders also have a zipper pocket that’s great for keys or a small wallet; it’s on the right thigh for women and the back of the waistband for men.

Reflective accents: The ankle zips, side pocket(s), and logos double as reflective accents for added visibility in the dark. This is always a good thing for runners, cyclists, and others who spend time around motor vehicles at night.

Durability

As much as I adore merino wool, it’s often not the most durable fabric. I initially worried that these Smartwool merino wind tights might not go the distance, but they’ve been perfectly durable so far. After wearing and carrying them for a combined total of at least six weeks, and machine washing and drying several times using delicate settings, my tights show literally zero signs of wear.

Price and Value

The Smartwool Fleece Wind Tights retail for $140, which is about what I would expect from this type of merino clothing from a premium brand (merino clothing tends to be pricier in general than synthetic alternatives).

Are they worth it? For me, 100% yes. I thought they were a splurge when I bought them, but they’ve added so much coziness and comfort to my cold-weather bikepacking and backpacking trips that they are worth every penny. I feel I’ve already gotten my money’s worth out of them, and with gentle care I expect them to last several more years at least.

More Outdoor Clothing Resources

If you liked this review, you might also like these articles:

  • Backpacking Clothes: Lightweight Comfort Packing List
  • Merino Sun Hoodies for Outdoor Adventure
  • Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket Long-Term Review

Or visit the hiking, bikepacking, and running archives for lots more!

About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve had the pleasure of hiking the Arizona Trail, Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, and countless shorter amazing trails throughout the US and abroad. I love solitude, big views, and a good lightweight gear setup. Learn more here.

Excited about backpacking but need help getting started? The Backpacking Trip Planner Workbook will help you start off on the right foot.

Hiking resources in your inbox?

There’s more where this came from! Sign up here for occasional emails full of inspiration and information about backpacking and hiking.

Leave a Comment

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00