Outdoor Research Enigma Bottoms
The Outdoor Research Enigma Bottom is a base layer whose forte is wicking moisture and keeping you dry when you’re active; though the fabric has some wool content, it’s mostly synthetic (12% merino, 88% polyester). The fabric is relatively thin and very stretchy and slightly prone to pilling in high-friction areas. It’s an outstanding option for high-output cool and cold weather activities (four-season if you live in a cooler place), except you’ll want to wear them under a shell or fleece when it’s really cold.
- Moisture handling
- Stretchy, great range of motion
- Prone to pilling
- Not as warm as layers that are heavier-weight or that have more wool
The synthetic part is Outdoor Research's DriRelease E.C.O., "Environmentally Correct Origins,” which is made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET, the material used to make plastic bottles and containers, and blended with natural fibers like wool. The bottoms have a one-inch wide elastic waistband, a fly, and a couple of seams mid-leg that run roughly above and below the knee.
FIT AND FEEL
The Enigma Bottoms are true to size—you can rely on Outdoor Research's size chart. They come in sizes small through XXL for men, extra small through extra large for women. The fabric is stretchy, so they should fit a wide variety of body types. They are not particularly loose or tight on my legs; if you have really large legs, they might feel tight.
The blended fabric feels smooth against the skin, and they’re put together with flat seams that avoid chafing. The bottoms developed some limited pilling between the legs. It in no way compromised the integrity of the fabric, but with fabric this light, it’s worth understanding how it’s going to wear.
Similar to the Enigma Half Zip top, blending in some wool gives the fabric a slightly softer feel and a little more substance than a 100-percent synthetic layer. Overall, the light weight, soft feel, and flat seams make it particularly good as a next-to-skin base layer.
The stretchiness means these bottoms have exceptional range of motion. Runners and cross-country skiers should love these.
Bottoms don’t need to provide quite as much insulation as tops, for me, so I actually liked the bottoms over a wider range of temperatures than the Enigma top. These are warmer than many polyester running tights I have used, but they don’t keep my legs as warm as thicker wool or fleece bottoms. Adding a light pair of wind shell pants expands their temperature range more than I anticipated. If you’re heading out into the Adirondacks or White Mountains in the winter, these might serve you well for an initial hard hike up to a tent platform. If you’re going to be out all day in subzero weather, go for something that keeps you warmer than these.
The flipside of that is these will function well into the 50s if you prefer to wear a light layer when you hike.
WICKING AND DRYING
These are one of the best layers out there for getting sweat away from your body. They're highly efficient at wicking moisture and drying quickly, on par with the best fully synthetic bottoms. Much better at that than any mostly-merino wool bottoms I have worn. Wool usually takes a while to dry as you wear them; these were often dry by the time I drove home from local hikes to my house. I nearly always wore these on their own or under a pair of non-waterproof shell pants in low 20s or colder, or when it was very windy.
CARE AND DURABILITY
The manufacturer's instructions say this should be line dried. I ran them in the dryer for a short while because this fabric, particularly in black, tends to collect some lint. A couple of minutes in the dryer at modest temperatures takes care of that, then remove them damp and let dry on a line or drying rack.
See my comments above about pilling in high-friction areas. Anyone who has worn merino wool clothing knows that wool can have long-term durability issues. Wool is prone to tearing or developing holes as it wears, particularly merino wool layers in the 150-weight range that are most like the Enigma. I expect these to survive a lot more use and wear than similarly lightweight wool bottoms. I didn't take these off-trail, so I can't comment on how they would do with snags, but a thorny hike can damage most knit fabrics and nylon shells. If I were bushwhacking with these, I would wear them under some kind of synthetic twill pants or a pair of hemp pants I like.
Very good, but they do tend to develop odor after a while. Having some wool definitely helps, and when they do start to smell, there is that "wooly" quality that I think is easier to tolerate than with all-polyester base layers. I intentionally went without washing these for a week and a half to test this, and by the end, they needed a run through the laundry and smelled worse than an all-wool layer would.
The past couple of months during the winter in Maryland, hikes up our closest local "mountain" and on several local trails. Lots of day hikes, in temperatures ranging from high teens to low 40s (I wear shorts most of the time when it's over 40 anyway). I primarily wore these alone, in the same way I would wear a pair of running tights. Low 20s or colder, or with a decent cold breeze, I wore them under a pair of non-waterproof polyester/nylon wind pants. A couple of hikes in cold rain, I wore them under a pair of eVent shell pants.
A good option for winter sports, if you're moving. When you stop, these are moderately warm, but there are better options for really cold weather.
I wore the Enigma Bottoms regularly for the past three months for walks and hikes.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample for testing and review provided by Outdoor Research)
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