Best long underwear?

6:59 p.m. on November 9, 2007 (EST)
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I'm looking for superwarm long underwear for VERY cold temperature hiking that would get too stinky. The North Face's bamboo line is appealing, but it's new & myseterious and I wonder if it's worth the hype. Any reccomendations? Something flattering to my girlish figure would be nice, too.

7:17 p.m. on November 9, 2007 (EST)
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The best I have found is Icebreaker merino wool, used most brands of merino and this is what works best for me.

I have worn merino wool under down at -25*F to -40*F to hike/snowshoe, camp and work in forestry here in BC, it surpasses ANY synthetics I have tried, quite a few, and I now use it exclusively.

8:11 p.m. on November 9, 2007 (EST)
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I'm with kutenay--I've tried cotton, polypropylene, and silk, but find that merino wool is the best. My favorite is Duofold 100% merino wool that I bought on sale a number of years ago and can't find anymore.

I don't know what you consider very cold, but for subzero hiking in northern Michigan, that's the best. It's too warm for hiking/snowshoeing/skiing at +10 F and higher. In that range, I often wear wool/poly blend underwear.

8:13 p.m. on November 9, 2007 (EST)
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Moreover, there's nothing more flattering to a girlish figure than black merino wool.

8:56 p.m. on November 9, 2007 (EST)
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Patagucci, er, I mean, Patagonia has a short comparison of the pluses and minuses of merino wool vs their Capilene (probably the best synthetic available). While Pata is expensive, I have found their price to be well worth it. And it is stylish for girlish figures (and for the ripped males, the men's versions are stylish for manly figures as well - not that this applies to anyone here, it just keeps us warm).

http://www.patagonia.com/web/us/product/shop/pbl_shop_landing.jsp?OPTION=PBL_LANDING

One thing on this page to note is that "performance base layers" (the current jargon for plain old longies) comes in different weights, depending on temperature and your activity level. For example, when backcountry skiing or ice climbing down to 10F, I wear the lightest longies. While crawling my way up the gentle slopes in -40F weather with winds blowing, I wear "expedition weight" longies under my insulating and windproof layers. So choose by considering both your activity level and the conditions.

Merino wool has a lot of advantages over poly, mainly warmth for weight and for some of the older versions of poly, more smell suppression (nothing is completely odorfree). Poly has the advantage of wicking better, so you stay drier during vigorous exercise (like during a cross country ski race, running in winter, or slogging uphill with a heavy pack). The newest versions are as odor-free as Merino.

Note the the wool mentioned is Merino wool. There is a big difference in wools, with Merino, as kutenay and rexim mentioned, being the only type that is really suitable for outdoor activities. There is also a big difference in quality between brands. Merino sheep used to be only found in a very small part of the world, but now they are grown in most wool-producing countries. Take a good look at what you are getting, where it is made, and the quality level. I have seen merino wool longies that were just plain junk (and at a high price, too).

To retain that shapeliness, it is probably necessary to get a merino/synthetic blend (Lycra blended in helps keep the elasticity). I have one merino top that stretched like an old home-made sweater, knit by someone just learning what a knitting needle was. My Pata tops have lasted just fine.

For a lot of my climbs, I use Capilene and other good synthetics, because of the wicking qualities. I don't have to worry too much on the climbs about staying warm, except for the clothing retaining moisture, which causes a lot of loss of heat. Since poly wicks better than wool (even merino), synth is the choice there. I have found that merino can retain a fair amount of moisture, and like all wool, takes a lot of time to dry out after a hard day of hauling loads up through an ice fall.

So consider your particular usage before choosing. Or better, if you can pack the weight, take both for different stages of the trip.

10:40 p.m. on November 9, 2007 (EST)
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What's the story with silk baselayers? I have a light turtleneck under a set of heavier silks. How do they compare to merino or capilene?

3:03 a.m. on November 10, 2007 (EST)
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I have a mid weight turtleneck Capilene top and bottom from the mid 80's that have had a fair amount of use over the years. They still look good and are quite warm. They are the only insulation base layer I have and I highly recommend them. The best investment in hiking clothes I ever made.

6:27 a.m. on November 10, 2007 (EST)
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I have found that synthetic longjohns tend to make your skin feel cold and suspect this is due to the "wicking" mentioned as a part of their appeal. I find this uncomfortable at best and have yet to see a synthetic that will feel as warm as merino wool in COLD, to me, 10*F or 0*F is not "cold", -20*F when you must be out all day, in the wind beside a large, deep lake is COLD.

No offence intended here, but, how many of the synthetics users have actually TRIED high quality merino base layers as well as Patagucci plastic and in sub-zero conditions? I started with the old British "Mellofleece" in 1965 and it was excellent, the Icebreaker is a bit better and superior to anything I have yet tried...it DOES cost a bit, tho'.

1:25 p.m. on November 10, 2007 (EST)
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Me (he says as he raises his hand). I have used both Patagucci merino and Capilene on Denali and in Antarctica in measured temperatures in the -40F (plus windchill, or I should say "minus" windchill). In both places, I found the capilene felt warmer by the end of a vigorous "big pack up the ice fall" day, mainly because it wasn't damp. The merino held the moisture and took most of the following rest day to dry, despite the extremely low humidity conditions. Same kind of thing as with wool socks (I use Smartwool almost exclusively, which are merino), except in that case I carry multiple changes of socks, so a day's wear gets to dry out completely before they are next worn.

I do note, kutenay, that you are talking about higher humidity conditions (next to a large lake), where I am talking about on glaciers and rock, where the humidity is extremely low. This does make a significant difference.

Also, since merino is warmer for the weight, it is important to compare the same thickness, not just the same weight.

1:51 p.m. on November 10, 2007 (EST)
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Well, I will buy a set of that new supposedly non-stinky Capilene and try it this winter, so far, synthetics leave me cold, crappy punn intended.

I have had such sucess with merino at -40 in wet BC conditons that I tend to always use it and have never felt "wet"in it. However, I am sure open to trying other stuff, especially for training walks/hikes here on the BC coast, where ir has been known to be a mite damp!

11:28 p.m. on November 10, 2007 (EST)
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I've worn wool, but not as a base layer. I am not making a comparison between wool and Capilene. I like what I have; have never felt cold in it, in all kinds of conditions and see no reason to buy something else. Maybe Merino wool is better; but, I have no idea how it would be and have no desire to spend the money to find out. One reason I like Capilene is that it is very easy to take care of and can be machine washed. Another is that it dries quickly-you can wash it and it's almost dry enough after the spin cycle to put on right away.

I've worn mine in the cold and rain in New Zealand (wearing the bottoms under a pair of Birdwell surf shorts), cross country skiing in Yosemite under Marmot Precip rain pants and downhill skiing at Big Bear and Mt. Baldy under my snowboard pants (some cheap brand) or under a one piece ski suit. Wet wool is warm, but it is still wet a lot longer than Capilene in my experience with socks, pullover and handmade sweaters.

I've worn the top just as a shirt under a jacket in all kinds of weather too. Never in anything colder than about +10F, though.

8:41 a.m. on November 11, 2007 (EST)
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What's the comparsion between silk baselayers and merino?

5:14 p.m. on November 11, 2007 (EST)
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At their site, they seem to have a lot of overlap for the uses of Capilene 1,2,3 +4. Fly-fishing for Cap 4? Any ideas? I'm guessing Cap 3 for most winter activities: x-c sking, hiking, etc..

10:49 a.m. on November 12, 2007 (EST)
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I use capiline as well as merino wool depending upon what activity I happen to be engaged in. If I had to pick one I would take merino wool, but both are fine. Patagonia has end of season sales so the price on capilene comes down a bit. Nearly anything is better than old polypro. I've not use silk. If the North Face product is anywhere near as expensive as something by Patagonia, but the later as the quality will likely be better.

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