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I was thinking about titling this “The post where we actually show pictures of ourselves in our underwear”. Would that have been better or worse? What if I told you that it’s actually LONG underwear? Phew, you’re safe! HA!
If we get technical, I’m actually talking about base layers (you know, what we called long underwear or thermals growing up). Long gone are the days of waffle-weave cotton thermals. They’ve been replaced with fancy things like merino wool, bamboo, and silk.
Sadly, there is often a STEEP price tag that accompanies base layers. As much as I love my nice merino wool base layers, their $100+ per piece price tag makes them really impractical for a family. Luckily, there are several companies that make base layers that are affordable, durable, and functional that you’re going to absolutely love.
Here are a few great options that will keep you warm, dry, and with a few bucks still in your wallet:
Price: Starting around $40 per piece
Pros: While this is a lightweight base layer, it still does a good job of insulating. We’ve tried it snowshoeing, sledding, and skiing (all of average temp days) and have been very impressed. They have the most AMAZING feel to them and they feel super luxurious (serious understatement). I don’t ever want to take them off. I find myself reaching for them to layer under my regular clothes on any day that is even slightly cold. They are contoured so that they fit better and it’s very clear! Since they are a lighter-weight base layer they are thinner and work well even under jeans (but are as warm as many mid-weight base layers). Since Andrew and I are both tall (5’9″ and 6’2″), length is extremely important to us. Both the tops and bottoms were plenty long, and even had a few extra inches (however, because they are so soft and flexible, it was no problem at all). We were also both big fans of the fit because it was fitting without being uncomfortably tight.
Cons: We both loved these pieces SO MUCH. The only thing we would improve is to offer them in more colors, since only grey is available.
Price: About $40 per piece
Pros: This is a mid-weight base layer that is nice and stretchy (as the name implies). The top is a little looser while the tights are fairly tight. I’ve worn them all over the place and really like them. The top is nice and smooth and has quickly gotten thrown into my weekly clothing rotation. My favorite part about them is that they clean up super easily. With 3 little kids, I am usually covered in sticky fingerprints, snot (Jimmy likes to use my shoulder for a Kleenex), and all sorts of craziness! With this set, I can easily just wipe it all off with a damp cloth and it looks as good as new. They dry SUPER fast, so I’m not stuck with a wet shirt for the rest of the day. In fact, I got water on the sleeve 5 minutes before we took this picture, and when we took the picture, it was dry to the touch – SUPER IMPRESSIVE. As you can imagine, that same quick drying action I described also does a great job at wicking away sweat away from your body while you’re active (I’m thinking this will have to get a try on the river this summer). Love it!
Cons: The pants are really short. When I first held them up to me, they looked like they would be mid-calf. Since they have so much stretch to them, they hit a few inches above the ankle when they were on. The pants would probably fit people under 5’5″ great though!
Morgan Polypropelyne Base layer Set
Price: $10-$15 per piece
Pros: Polypropelyne base layers have been around for decades, and for good reason. They work and they’re cheap. Though not as soft and comfortable as the other pieces we’ve mentioned, they are still fantastic. In fact, they are ALWAYS the pair that Andrew grabs on a really cold day, and have yet to disappoint. They are good at wicking moisture away (though not nearly as good as the Polar Max), which explains why we always wore them rafting as kids (and they insulate when wet). The Morgan brand doesn’t seem to have any unique features, but overall, we really like polypro.
Cons: Smell! After a while (a season of really heavy use or several seasons of light use), polypro starts to stink. You know like the stink that doesn’t come out? Since they’re so cheap, you can easily toss them and buy a new pair or try Nikwax’s Basefresh to get the stink out and keep them smelling fresh (this stuff works great).
Isn’t it a relief to find good outdoor gear that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? Once again proving that getting outside is more about your attitude and less about your wallet.
Thanks to PolarMax and Terramar for providing products for this review.