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The Expertise Behind a Basic Pair of Long Johns

Icebreaker's Bodyfit Zone baselayers are smart and well-made

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Price: $120

Materials: Body: 96 percent merino wool, 4 percent Lycra
Side Panels: 85 percent merino wool, 14 percent nylon, 1 percent Lycra

Features: Odor-resistant
Gusseted side panels
Flatlock seam construction
Slim fit

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Everybody needs a basic pair of long johns, a set of thermals that will last a long time and be worn often. There are, of course, a hundred and more options out there for baselayers. But basic is not easy. It's a balance of minimalism, function, and quality, and is often the result of many hours of design. Icebreaker, based out of Portland, Oregon, is one company that succeeds at basic.

This winter, I got a pair of Icebreaker long johns, their Bodyfit Zone long sleeve crew and leggings. True to expectations, they arrived lightweight, slim-fitting, and well made.

The Bodyfit Zone is Icebreaker's lightweight baselayer for people who are going to sweat in the mountains. Mesh panels under the armpits are stitched to durable, corespun merino wool fabric (96 percent merino wool, 4 percent Lycra). It's soft, but not quite as plyable or stretchy as other baselayers I've worn. I recommend sizing up, otherwise the slim fit can feel a little too constricting. That said, these baselayers are made to be layered over and feel like a second skin. There is no bulk.

I tended to forget about the slim fit as soon as I pulled my ski pants on and walk out the door. I also haven't needed to bulk up because they simply work. They keep my body insulated and warm, but they are also breathable so I don't overheat. The best part is that even after wearing them for a solid day of skiing, they retain their shape and they don't smell. I've been wearing them (and washing them) regularly for about a month now, inbounds and in the backcountry, and they still feel brand new.

Icebreaker is a company of perfectionists when it comes to choosing merino wool for their products, a material they've chosen its temperature regulating and anti-microbial properties. It stays warm in the winter, and keeps your body cool in the summer. Their merino is imported from New Zealand, and the company has criteria specifying the fiber length, strength, diameter, crimp, and more. The company also follows up on how the sheep sourcing their wool are treated, making sure they are well hydrated, roam freely, have shade and shelter, and are treated well. So you know when you pull on an Icebreaker shirt that the wool has been vetted and is as good as wool can get.