Ridge Merino Crowley Tights
Ridge Merino's Crowley Tights are a highly compressive, warm, and durable running tight for women. Made from a nylon-spandex-merino wool blend, they offer the best of synthetics (stretch and durability) with merino wool (comfort and odor control) for cold-weather active pursuits. I've been wearing the Crowley Tights for running during Maine winters and find them most comfortable in temps below freezing.
These tights are...tight, so if you're not looking for a lot of compression consider sizing up. If you want a durable, warm compression tight that includes wool, keeps its shape, doesn't get stinky, and is comfortable on the run, check these out. Ladies, you'll have to wait till fall to get a pair as they sold out. Gentlemen, Ridge Merino is planning a men's version, but probably not for this year.
- Synthetic-wool blend
- Lots of compression
- Excellent odor control
- Retain shape well
- Durable exterior, not prone to snagging
- Large, stretchy pocket on the thigh
- Tight (well, they are compression tights)
- Women's only (for now)
- Wool can shrink in dryer (this was user error)
The Crowley Tights from Ridge Merino are made from panels of Polartec Power Wool, a synthetic-wool compression combo. The garment is one fabric, but inside against the skin it's a soft merino wool twill (288 g/sm) for comfort, moisture wicking, temperature regulation, and odor control; while the exterior is nylon jersey for durability and stretch.
Polartec Power Wool's material breakdown is 53 percent nylon, 26 percent Spandex, and 21 percent wool. You can find a few running tights with more wool, however, the Crowley Tights have far more compression (thanks to all that Spandex) and durability. It's a blend that promises "superior shape retention" and I agree. These tights have retained their shape after several months of use.
Fit & Comfort
Every running tight I wear (and I wear a lot) is a women's medium, so for comparison I selected a medium in the Crowley Tights. As expected with compression tights, the fit is snug, though similar to my synthetic compression capris (see comparison picture below). Ridge Merino suggests "for more casual use, size up." And I agree. This is a call for personal preference. Personally, I'd stick with the mediums for the compression and for highly active use, like running, but if I wanted these for more low-key endeavors I'd consider a large.
In comparison, while most of my running tights are synthetic, I have another wool pair which is less compressive and looser than the Crowley Tights. To be fair, that pair doesn't call itself a compression tight, and it is comfortable...until it sags when running, which is annoying.
The Crowley Tights stay in place, every time.
The rest of the Crowley Tights' fit is pretty standard for a running tight. They have a mid-rise fit across the stomach. They also have a 7/8-length, the same as most of my tights. This length works well for my 5'4" height.
The Crowley Tights are Ridge Merino's first performance tight, and so far they're only available in women's (five sizes from XS to XL) and in black. A men's tight is in the works, but you'll need to wait for now. I'd also love to see Ridge Merino add a second color option in grey or dark blue, to break up my collection of primarily black tights.
For comparison, all women's medium running tights, top to bottom: The North Face (87% polyester, 13% elastane), Smartwool (56% nylon, 24% merino wool, 20% elastane), Ridge Merino Crowley compression tights (53% nylon, 26% Spandex, 21% merino wool), CW-X compression capris (80% polyester, 20% lycra). The top two are non-compression tights and are similar sizes; the bottom two are compression and are closer in sizing.
There's no definitive answer about whether compression apparel aids in exercise or recovery. So let's call it a personal preference for now. I occasionally wear compression gear for running or recovery (bottoms and socks), but most of my running tights are of a regular tightness. I'd put these Crowley Tights around medium on the compression level scale.
Regardless of the type of tight, I want them to stay in place, with no sagging, drifting, or chafing, especially over longer distances—these deliver. They stay in place over many miles of running with little to no adjustment needed.
With Polartec Power Wool's dense weave, plus compression designed to help "keep muscles warm," the Crowley Tights are best for cold weather running. For me that means temperatures below freezing. I've worn them comfortably down into the single digits. Depending on personal comfort, you might want to add a base layer around the single digits, and likely below 0°F.
Above 32°F and these tights are too warm for me. Obviously if you wear them hiking instead of running or for casual and less-aerobic pursuits they'd be comfortable in higher temps.
In my collection of running tights, I place the Crowley Tights among the warmest. They also offer some wind resistance thanks to the synthetic exterior. You may not need them as often as your average synthetic running tights, but you'll be happy to have them whenever temps drop.
Wicking & Moisture
The next-to-skin merino wool is soft, not itchy, and has kept me comfortably dry even when sweating in cold winter weather.
The synthetic exterior has some wind resistance but is still breathable for highly aerobic activities. Snow sheds off it as well and moisture doesn't readily soak in.
Overall, the Crowley Tights offer a good balance between warmth, moisture control, and wind resistance for cold weather running.
Ridge Merino says the Crowley Tights are designed for running or long-distance hiking.
I've used them for winter running, plus a few walks, in Maine over the past three months and find them an excellent option for those pursuits. I plan to try them on some spring hikes as well in the next few months.
Ridge Merino also says they perform "just as well at the gym, during yoga, and through all your daily errands." Personally I'd find them too warm for the gym or yoga, but comfortable for errands. You could try them as a base layer, as others have, but I prefer a combo of my thinner base layers and boot cut options to pair with my ski boots.
The Crowley Tights are unique in that there is one pocket and it's located on the side of the left thigh. The pocket is flat, stretchy, and unobtrusive. It's big enough to fit an iPhone (reportedly up to an iPhone 10) or gels or ID. There is a flap to hold the items in, though the fabric's compression helps with that.
At first I was not sure about this location; it seemed awkward to stash my phone on my thigh. If I had headphones attached to my phone having it down on my leg could feel awkward. But I have run with my iPhone 7 with Pelican case in it without any bouncing or taking any notice. I've also run with an ID and/or money in the pocket, which works well and feels secure. It also would be a good spot for pepper spray.
Personally, I'd like to add an additional pocket at the back of the waist, maybe with a zipper for security. That wouldn't hold a phone comfortably though.
iPhone 7 with Pelican case stowed in left thigh pocket, with room to spare
After several months of use the Crowley Tights don't show any signs of wear. The stitching and seams are all intact. The tights are still tight.
The exterior shows no pilling or snags at this point either. I'll keep an eye on durability once I use these for hiking.
The Crowley Tights do an excellent job of resisting odor. I've worn them on numerous runs for weeks without any washing and noticed no smell. I even removed them from the laundry hamper a few times to keep them going, and still never noticed any smell.
I finally laundered them since they were getting dirty and I wanted to test the care.
Usually I wash any wool layers on a cold/delicate cycle with Woolite and then hang them to dry. In this case I wanted to follow the manufacturer's recommendation on the tag. It states: machine wash warm, line dry in shade, iron on cool. I don't iron my running clothes. However, I did wash the Crowley Tights in a warm cycle of laundry...where they were mixed with regular clothes and then accidentally transferred to the dryer.
Uh oh. There was shrinkage. I was worried. However, the tights still fit fine, perhaps with a bit more compression. Remember to hang dry.
Ridge Merino, based in Mammoth Lakes, California, aims to use all-natural, renewable, and/or biodegradable fabric and material in its products. The company also sells direct to consumer to keep prices lower. The Crowley Tights retail for $120, not cheap, but comparable to what you'd pay for tights from the big-name wool brands.
Here are a few more examples of its initiatives:
- Merino wool—The company only uses wool from non-mulesed sheep, and 100 percent of its wool is sustainably sourced from certified humane sheep farmers in Australia and New Zealand.
- Made in the USA—The Crowley Tights are sewn in the Polartec factory in San Francisco.
- Environmental—Ridge Merino is a member of 1% for the Planet, which means they donate at least one percent of annual sales to environmental nonprofits. They also have a Green Business Certification from the California Green Business Network.
The company clearly has thought about its values and how it wants to do business.
The Crowley Tights from Ridge Merino are well crafted, comfortable, and secure. They provide plenty of warmth and compression for winter running and hiking in a comfortable, durable, synthetic-wool combination. They don't move, chafe, or bind while running, and they show no signs of wear so far after three months of regular use. They also stay odor-free longer than fully synthetic tights. If Ridge Merino added another color option they'd stand out from the masses of black running tights even more.
I'd recommend the Crowley Tights to other female runners in colder winter environs who appreciate wool in their outdoor clothing. In fact, these tights are so popular they're sold out until August 2020.
I have been running for more than 30 years (and they still haven't caught me!) and in that time have worn innumerable running tights and capris, as well as compression shorts and capris, plus lots of wool and synthetic base layers. Brands of running tights include Arc'teryx, Brooks, Craft, CW-X, The North Face, Oiselle, Patagonia, Smartwool... I wear running tights whenever I run in winter or when needed during shoulder seasons. I often wear them during the day to cut down on laundry since I'm just going to change into a pair later anyhow. I'm probably wearing a pair right now.
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps
(Sample for testing and review provided by Ridge Merino)
Where to Buy
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Polartec Power Wool compression fabric with Merino Wool Twill next-to-skin with a durable, stretch Nylon Jersey on the exterior / 53% Nylon, 26% Spandex, 21% Wool, 288 g/sm
Compression fit, 7/8 length, mid-rise (for more casual use, size up)