Reviewer: 5’6”, 125 lbs.
Size: Women’s Medium
Color: Arctic Blue
- 100% merino wool
- 250 Midweight, form fitting
- Top Weight: 7.9 oz; Bottom Weight: 7.05 oz
- UPF 50+
- Flatlock seams to eliminate chafing
Test Locations: Niseko, Japan; Alta Ski Area; Colorado
Days Tested: 35+
Zip Top MSRP: $110
Zip Bottom MSRP: $100
It’s not fun to spend the day shivering on the chairlift, or slowing down the group because you keep stripping off layers. But getting that perfect combination feels great. After many seasons of experimenting with different fabrics, weights, and styles, I have reached a couple of conclusions:
1. Wool, wool, wool. I’ve never been completely happy with synthetics (I put in several winters with the Patagonia Midweight Capilene Crew, and it never smelled good) and have found that a good wool next-to-skin baselayer keeps me much warmer in the cold and stays warm even after I sweat. Less odor also means less frequent washings, and over time my wool long underwear has held up much better.
2. Two is better than one. This is probably just a personal preference, but I prefer to wear two pairs of long underwear on the top and bottom, except on the warmest days. With something lighter and tighter underneath and a heavier layer on top, I never have a problem staying warm. I’ve also found it more comfortable to wear zippers over a lighter crew so my neck doesn’t get cold.
In the weeks leading up to my trip to Niesko, Japan, last winter, I was checking the weather frequently, worried about the cold. The forecast posted temperatures ranging from -10°F to 10°F, with howling winds, and heavy snow. (OK, I wasn’t worried about the snow part.) Having spent my winters growing up in Vermont, I am no stranger to the cold. A mild winter in Colorado had softened me up, however, and I was thinking about what combination of layers I would need to stay warm.
One of my favorite long underwear tops has been the basic SmartWool Midweight Crew, which hasn’t stretched or frayed despite four years of constant use. I trusted the quality and durability of SmartWool, and decided to bring the Midweight Pattern Zip Top and Midweight Pattern Bottom to Japan to put them to the test.
A quick word about the “pattern” aspect of the top and bottoms: This year’s color palate is beautiful, with bright colors and interesting designs. The combination of a polka dot top and striped bottoms of the same color, however, has a unique look. While wearing both, my outfit soon adopted the name the “Lizard Suit,” which I happily wore throughout the season, both on and off the hill. The Lizard Suit garnered many compliments.