Rowers: Just in time for your Christmas wishlist, this is a list of my favorite places to go find great rowing gear. There are very few rowi...

Rowing Gear

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Rowers: Just in time for your Christmas wishlist, this is a list of my favorite places to go find great rowing gear. There are very few rowing specific brands, so I've had to cobble together pieces from different sources. Save yourself some time and check these place out! I've tried to give the lowest cost option without losing quality.

In high school, I never got cold, so I survived with a few pairs of spandex shorts and cotton t-shirts. I had a few technical long sleeves for the coldest winter days, and suffered a few winter mornings.

In college, Princeton provided Nike gear for student athletes. We got a lot of great stuff: long tights, long sleeve tops, short sleeves tops, unisuits, sports bras and more. That gear has been the basis of my wardrobe ever since. But it's getting to the point where that is no longer enough, especially as the older items start to wear out.

The Nike gear we were given was of high quality, especially the cold weather gear. I wear each pair of the long tights at least once a week for 6 months of the year, and the only visible wear is from rips and snaps I've created. I've owned some of them since 2008. So when it was time to restock gear, I definitely went to Nike.

There's a Nike Outlet in the east bay that has some great deals, especially on non-basics. Black tights and plain sports bras rarely make it there, but I picked up an awesome collection of long sleeve technical shirts that were apparently so-last-season. Since I'm hoping these will last me for 5 more years, I'm not too worried. I love the Nike Outlet because you pay super low prices for great, long-lasting gear.

Their labeling system is also really helpful. Most gear is labeled as either "hyperwarm" or "hypercool". It turns out, some long sleeve shirts are meant to cool you down, not warm you up. It's good to know which is which before you wear a thick wicking shirt out into the winter rain.

Since the outlet isn't great for basics, I have to look elsewhere for those.

Sports bras are one of the least important basics for rowing, so I usually go relatively cheap on these. I have a few dedicated running bras, but the super low impact of rowing means I don't need much support. I strongly prefer a racer back and thinner straps help prevent bad tan lines. (Pro tip: so does sunscreen.) I've had success purchasing these at Forever 21, although the quality varies. Nothing beats their prices. Target's Champion brand also has some decent (and cheap) sports bras. I've also purchased some sports bras, running shorts and racerback tanks from Old Navy with success.

So far, only one company has produced an acceptable spandex short for rowing: JL Racing. They seem to wear out after about 2.5-3 years of weekly (or twice weekly) usage, which is a lot better than other brands (especially since they take a lot of abuse from the seat). They're the only company that has nailed the fit: long enough but not too long, enough room in the seat, and double thickness where the seat hits the fabric.  The waist doesn't pinch, the compression is just enough to prevent chafe, and they're generally comfortable. (Note: if you're a woman, get the women's cut trou!!! They're very different.)

I've been uninspired by JL's other products. Their long tights don't come in a women's cut and don't have enough room for serious rower thighs.  I bought some of their super warm tights about three years ago and found that they aren't very warm. And the low back on their tech shirts means I have a bare belly when I'm standing around on land—not very flattering.

Tights have been very difficult to find. I tried products from Lululemon, Nike, Patagonia, SmartWool, R.E.I., GAP and more. They were all unflattering, not stretchy enough, poorly fitted or poorly constructed.

Finally, I went into Athleta and found what I was looking for. Their products are on the lower end of the price bracket for similar quality items. The feel is similar to Lululemon, but I find the material they use to be a lot more pleasant to wear. (I'm not a fan of Luon.)

Although they only carry women's clothing, they've got a lot of options for tights. I got one of their newer styles, the PowerLuxe Revelation tight, which feels like wearing technical cotton. Their labeling isn't very informative in the store, but the staff were really helpful and knowledgeable. The website is also a bit confusing because there are so many options (each individual color has a separate entry, so there is a lot to navigate). If you live nearby, go into the store and ask for help finding the best options. Some criteria to consider: breathability, warm, length, comfort and stretchiness.

The last piece of gear: headwear. A lot of people wear sunglasses. I'm a hat person. Hats are good for sun and good for rain, and hats never fog up. Hats also keep your hair and sweat out of your eyes. I have a small head, so hats can be hard to fit; my favorite so far is Headsweats. I also love that the ponytail holders on their hats don't have velcro, just a clip!

That's a summary of where I get my athletic gear. I have a few pieces from elsewhere: socks, tanks, etc. For the most part, though, I find what I like best, and I buy a lot when it's on sale.

Here's what I've got in my wardrobe:
Spandex shorts
Running shorts
Socks (incl. a few wool pairs)
Sneakers
Sports bras
Tanktops
Technical T-shirts
Technical longsleeves (warm and cool)
Tights (warm only)
Hats
A windproof vest

Note: None of these companies are sponsoring me. I just really like their stuff. Of course, if anybody wants to send me things to try and review, send me an email at lightweighteats (at) gmail (dot) com! When I find something I like, I make sure everybody knows about it.


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