I may look like a rodeo clown, but I’m well-protected against the sun in these tights (with shorts over the top), sun shirt and cowboy hat. Chris LeBlanc photo

I’ve never had a problem peeing in the woods. In fact, I generally prefer squatting behind a tree to some of the restrooms I’ve encountered at roadside convenience stores.

But long-distance paddle racing presents its own array of challenges, especially when it comes to bathroom breaks.

I raced the Texas Water Safari, a 260-mile paddling race from San Marcos to the coastal town of Seadrift, in 2019. Since most boats never pull over to take a break, I had to learn how to balance in the boat and pee into a plastic cup. Pulling down a pair of shorts and peeing while riding in a moving canoe takes skill, and I’m not very proficient at it.

To complicate matters, most female canoe racers wear tights to protect their legs from sun exposure during long races. (My team finished the Texas Water Safari in 53 hours, plenty of time to get a brutal sunburn if left uncovered.)  Many of us resort to cutting a hole in the crotch of our tights, and wearing a pair of loose fitting shorts over the top of them. Cutting up your tights tends to doom them to an early retirement.

This week, I tested out a new pair of tights by ZipHers.

Designed for runners

I met Debbie Mercer, a Houston entrepreneur and marathon runner who designed the product, while photographing and writing about this year’s Texas Water Safari. She’d set up an info booth at the check-in tent the day before the race started.

I expressed interest, and she sent me a pair of long white tights to test out while paddling. This week I tugged on the UPF 50 plus Maxidri leggings with four-way stretch. I got them in white not because I like the way white tights look (I don’t), but because dark tights tend to heat up more in the sun.

They sell for $95 online at www.ziphers.com.

Mercer, the owner of USA Fit, a marathon training program, came up with the idea for the tights after noticing women waiting in lines for porta-potties during marathons. While the women waited, the guys discretely peed behind bushes, trees, or porta-potties, and got back under way. No fair.

ZipHers tights open from the front waistband to the back waistband. Women can pee without pulling down their pants. Because of the handy fabric flaps that conceal the zipper, the metal never touches skin.

“It was created especially for our paddlers in mind, but it has the right amount of stretch and comfort for most any activity, even casual wear or just lounging around,” the webpage states.

Test driving ZipHers tights

I wore the tights for a two-hour run down the San Marcos River. It was a hot day, and I hate having anything on my legs for a short run. I wore a pair of board shorts over the top of them.

Thoughts? ZipHers tights open wide, and really do make it easy to pee. The fabric is nice and soft, but remember that zippers don’t stretch. Make sure you get the right size for your crotch. (Haha.)

I wish the waistband wasn’t as wide. (The band on the tights is 4.25 inches.) That wide waistband holds a secret pocket big enough to stash a key or an ID, though, which might be nice.

The fabric is midweight, not super lightweight. One seam goes down the inside of the leg; there are no seams on the outer leg, which makes them comfortable.

But they’re white. Yeah, I know. I picked that because they’re cooler in the summer heat. But dang, if they were black, I might be able to use them hiking or something. White being white, if you wear underwear beneath them (I don’t), they’ll show through. And if you don’t wear underwear underneath them, well, that’ll show right through, too.

Bottom line? They’ll probably become my go-to pair of tights for summer paddling.

They’re available online here.





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