This pair of breathable merino bottoms is the go-to choice for high-movement activities because it regulates body temperature effectively with strategically placed mesh paneling. Notify me of new comments via email.
What’s the Perfect Thermal Underwear?
We can now move on to a more in-depth analysis of the best thermal underwear the market has to offer. This high end piece of thermal underwear is made out of premium merino wool. It is by far the best fabric there is for cold weather clothing. The Minus33 come in 7 sizes and several color designs just in case you want them to look stylish and suit your taste. The sizes will accommodate even the tallest people and those who are below the average height.
Underwear made from synthetic fabric can make you sweat too much or in the worst case not provide you with the much needed ventilation. It ventilates your skin and in the same time prevents the cold air from reaching your skin. Being physically active and wearing warm clothes can lead to unpleasant odor. Well this is the case with synthetic materials, whereas the merino wool will stay odorless.
It has this feature because of the breathability. Overall the Minus33 is the finest piece of thermal underwear available on the market. If you have the opportunity to get a pair, go for it! It may not be as flexible as with a set of separate bottom and top thermal underwear, however, wearing this suit will keep you warmer than a set will. You can pick one of the 5 sizes available.
Make sure you get a big enough sample as you need some room for the air to act as additional insulator. Also, having more room will make you feel more comfortable and will let your skin breathe easier. Flat lock seams are stronger, helping your garments last. Years of Wool History.
Minus33 Merino Wool Clothing and Wool Baselayer was started with the foundation of providing high quality, warm, comfortable and functional Merino Wool Clothing and Merino Wool Socks to the active and Outdoor community. Read more about our history. Merino Wool garments are biodegradable and return to their natural elements. Let Minus33 help keep you prepared for the unpredictable elements of nature so you can make the best out of your experience.
Superfine Merino Wool creates a fabric that is soft to the touch, allowing you to stay comfortable all day. Each of our distinct fabric weights utilize small micron measurements in the fibers before they are spun into yarns, keeping you itch-free. We kept our eyes peeled for American-made long johns, as well as companies that offered recycling or take-back programs for used gear. We also thought about ethics in the manufacturing process.
People care about the treatment of the sheep raised for wool more than ever. It creates a warm microclimate, like a thin, personal temperature-regulated bubble. So the other job of a base layer—besides warming and cooling—is to wick sweat away from your skin to keep you from feeling chilled. Which fabric makes the best base layer is an age-old debate in the outdoor sphere. Wool and synthetics each have their advantages and disadvantages.
Blends aim to the capture the benefits of each one, but also have their drawbacks. The days of scratchy or itchy wool outdoor garments are gone.
Base layers these days are made of soft merino wool or a Rambouillet wool both of which are named after their respective sheep breeds specifically treated for use right against the skin. Wool has much-noted antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that resist absorption of the short-chain fatty acids in sweat that cause odor.
Wool fibers are naturally stretchy, which makes the fabric feel formfitting and look flattering on a wide variety of people. Unlike synthetics, merino wool naturally wicks sweat away and breathes well after all, sheep use it to regulate their temperature, too. If a spark jumps out of your campfire, the wool layer will resist it better than the synthetic which will likely melt. Most of our testers agreed that wool offered more warmth than synthetic options of comparable thickness and weight, which makes it perfect for less sweaty adventures like downhill skiing and snowshoeing.
Generally, the finer the wool fewer microns , the more easily the yarn will bend and flex as you move, meaning it will feel less coarse and itchy. The biggest advantage of synthetic fabric over merino wool is its quick drying time. In our drying tests, the synthetics came out of the spin cycle dry, whereas the wool and blends took almost an hour to lose moisture.
What this means for outdoor athletes is that synthetics wick more efficiently than wool—they pull sweat away, and it evaporates faster. Gram-counting backpackers may find that lightweight synthetics have an advantage over heavier wool. Synthetic-merino blends aim to get the benefits of both fabrics while offering a high-quality base layer at a good price. Of course, these blends often also come with the negative features of their parent fabrics—odor retention, reduced insulation, and long drying times.
Our top pick, the Smartwool Merino , is constructed of an 87 percent wool and 13 percent nylon fabric made of a yarn constructed of merino wool spun around a nylon core.
We reached for blends when doing endurance activities like backpacking and mountaineering because we wanted the thermal qualities of wool plus the durability of synthetic.
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition created an index to rank the environmental friendliness of various fabrics used in outdoor clothing, including base layers. It takes into account the social and labor impacts of outdoor wear, as well as the life cycle of the piece including what happens to it after it wears out. Some scientists argue that, as a natural fiber, wool is more sustainable than synthetic materials because synthetics are made of petrochemicals.
The process of manufacturing base layers—regardless of how sustainable it is—leaves an impact on the environment.
The most sustainable choice you can make is finding one or a few base layers you really like and wearing them for a very long time. The SAC also tracks the ethics and labor-supply policies of outdoor-apparel companies.
Brands that use wool in their base layers have been criticized for sourcing from farms with reported animal-welfare issues. Meanwhile, the relationship that outdoor-apparel companies have with their labor and suppliers is an ethical issue for both synthetics and wool, because regardless of the fabric, someone has to sew these garments.
Project Just tracks some of the brands in this guide and can give you an idea about the work conditions the sewers face based on where the garment was constructed or where the fabric was woven. If environmental, ethical, or animal-welfare concerns influence how you shop, be sure to read up on the brands highlighted in this guide.
Ultimately, the base layer you choose should have the fabric you find most comfortable. Some people are allergic to wool. Others may find synthetics scratchy. Look for a fabric that feels soft and that has a texture you like.
Made from merino wool spun around a tough nylon thread core, this machine-washable and machine-dryable, odor-resistant shirt is a practical choice if you want to own only one base-layer top. When dry, the Smartwool Merino works well as a thermal layer despite its light weight.
Then I took a break in the shade at the top of the mountain in the wind, and after the surprisingly quick dry time, it was warm! Because this shirt was thin with unobtrusive flatlock seams, it layered well in cooler temperatures without chafing us. The raglan sleeves, stitched in the same way as on a baseball shirt, prevented rubbing or chafing when we wore it with a backpack, and increased our mobility when we went rock climbing. These tailor tricks work: Our testers found the Smartwool Merino to be flattering on the mountain as well as back at the lodge.
The result is a garment that offers the benefits of wool directly against the skin, plus the strength and resilience of nylon. Our testers found base layers that used core-spun yarn to be lighter, stretchier, and softer against the skin than many of the other fabrics we tested, including the merino in the fall model. As with any good base layer, the Smartwool Merino is meant to be formfitting, but not to cut off circulation or feel like a wetsuit. It is loose enough to allow mobility and to hide a muffin top, but tight enough to feel like a second skin under layers.
All our testers commented that the sleeves were long enough to cover their wrists well, although almost all the testers also lamented the lack of thumbholes.
It was long enough to keep their torsos covered when they reached for a rock-climbing hold, with only Ibex and Under Armour offering longer shirts. Reviewers on Amazon and the Smartwool website say that the fit of the Merino is looser than other Smartwool shirts or other models of the NTS Micro , which Smartwool has sold since I confirmed by comparing it against my almost year-old Smartwool microweight shirt: Our testers preferred the somewhat looser fit, especially compared with the skintight fit of the Duofold by Champion Brushed Back Crew.
Many of the layers we tested this year had a looser fit. The shirt is very thin. With the fall model which Smartwool does not construct with the nylon-core technology , after two months of use, the stitching on the elastic along the sleeve has become loose. Amazon reviews also voice concerns about this downfall. Several testers and other people we interviewed found the shirt to have impressive longevity: One individual hiked the entire 2,mile Pacific Crest Trail and half the 3,mile Continental Divide Trail in one microweight Smartwool shirt.
Another started seeing holes about halfway into a thru-hike of the PCT. Both testers, however, said the shirt performed so well that it was well worth the investment, even if they had to buy a new shirt when they finished. We will continue to test this top to determine its long-term durability. We were impressed that a functional, flattering design—including a reinforced neck, thick cuffs, and thumbholes—was available at such an affordable price. What made the Cuddl Duds FlexFit crew our synthetic pick was its fit.
The shirt was sufficiently long in our hands-above-head test, and the sleeves were long enough to always keep the wrist area covered, especially when we were using the much-beloved thumbholes.
The cut of the neck is flattering, showing more collarbone and sternum area but not enough to make you feel cold. In our tests, no part of the top squeezed, constricted, or hung loosely—the fit was just right, no matter the size or shape of the tester. The fabric wicked away moisture well for us, and was warm and comfortable in dry conditions. However, the amount of spandex made this base layer slower to dry than other synthetics we tested.
In our tests, multiday backpackers and those who did not wash it after a single wear complained of a smell. Because this layer is not as warm as others we tested, it is best suited for situations where you will not be outside for extended periods of time or will be in warmer, dryer conditions.
Our testers enjoyed this layer for yoga, runs, or downhill skiing when they would return to warm, indoor conditions shortly after. The testers who took this Cuddl Duds top on hikes on cooler, misty days found that it did not thermoregulate as well as the competition. It was recommended to us by low-cost hiking guru Paul Magnanti, who runs PMags. The Paradox top uses a polyester-merino blend that feels somewhere between lightweight and midweight fabric, but because the spandex is so minimal, the shirt does not have a silky sheen on the outside, which we loved.
Unlike with the Cuddl Duds top, Paradox treats this top with an oleophobic treatment a so-called odor-eliminating technology billed as Freshguard on the inside of its yarn to control odor and aid in wicking, which polyester fabrics do not naturally do.
Although the treatment is supposedly embedded in the polyester fibers, our testers found that our merino wool picks still smelled better than either of the synthetic picks after a day of use. Pierre Kim of Rhone warned us that some coated treatments in synthetics could often wash out completely after as few as 30 washes. Our testers found the zip to be an excellent addition to the basic design, especially for the price. Multiple people we interviewed said they had owned this top for years and that it showed less wear than other base layers.
Sizing tends to run about half a size larger than with the competition. It wicks away sweat while keeping you warm, all without feeling bulky. What impressed us is that it managed to offer a fit that was flush with the skin—not too tight but not too loose. Usually, a bottom works for one body type and not on everyone. But among our testers, from the bigger bootied to the skinny legged, the Rho LT Bottom fit a variety of body shapes. The gusseted crotch and side panels along the leg made a difference not just in sizing and look, but also in movement: Our testers felt much more mobile in this pair than in many of the other bottoms we tried.
But most notably, this pair never felt plasticky, unlike a lot of the bottoms we tested. The weight of the fabric is thin enough to breathe but thick enough to keep you decent when worn alone and, more important, warm.
A lot of the bottoms we tried had fabric that bunched in the area behind the knees. Instead, it has just the right amount of stretch to move with you—and your knees.
Flat seams prevented the rubbing, chafing, and itching that our testers experienced with other bottoms. This unusual waistband ensured that the bottoms never felt like they were falling down—regardless of the shape of our tester or where our tester wore it on the waist.
Unlike the Lululemon pant, the Rho LT also never felt like it was sucking us in. Our snowshoeing tester found them so comfortable and versatile that she used the same pair during a day in the snow on Mt. Hood, while hanging out in the backcountry hut, and then when she was wrapped in her sleeping bag at night.
Like many synthetics, this pair retained odor more than the wool pairs we tried, but it does have an anti-odor treatment. In fit and comfort, the Hot Chillys model was leaps ahead of similarly priced bottoms. And unlike most of the base layers we considered, this one is made in the US. Our snowshoeing tester loved that even when she sank in deep snow near Trout Lake, Washington, these bottoms stuck in place on her waist.
Straight out of the box, this pair had a strong factory odor that subsided with a washing. The BodyfitZone pair is designed to breathe well, with strategically placed mesh paneling in areas of the body that can overheat, like the back of the knee—a difference that our testers could feel during some winter mountaineering outside Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
But like all the wool pieces we considered, this pair is expensive. Performance—not style—is the priority here. Depending on how you roll, you may not want to wear this pair in public without pants.
Choosing the Right Brand
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