underlayer gear locker
underlayer gear locker


The best layers to go under your base layer, aka the under-under layer, aka underwear

Likely, you already know a lot about layering and you probably already have your layering setup dialed: a breathable shell, maybe a midweight synthetic puffy, a set of merino longjohns. Keep going… some socks. Yep, keep going… underwear!

Wait, underwear? But I just use the same undies I always wear, you say.

If that's true, then you are in for a treat. Take your layering a step further. Because the closest piece of fabric to skin will keep your tush warm on that frozen chairlift seat. And if your tush is warm, then chances are the rest of you is warm, too.

The Vie Active Alyssa, Mons Royal Sierra Sports Bra, and Smartwool PhD Seamless Racerback Bra. PHOTO: Maggie Kaiserman

Mons Royale
Hannah Hot Pant ($45) and Sierra Sports Bra ($50)

A New Zealand company based in Lake Wanaka, Mons Royale caught my eye for its brilliant colors and clean design. The company, which was founded in 2009, backs their style up with merino wool that is super soft and warm.

The Hannah Hot Pant are briefs, but a touch longer. The cut hits mid-thigh, which I really appreciated for the comfort factor. A wide elastic band secures the hold at the waist so they stay put and don't hike up when I'm moving, be that skiing hot laps in the resort or skinning into the backcountry. And the merino was ever so soft, with no itch at all. That's a crux factor when it comes to underwear.

I was especially grateful for this extra layer of warm merino to regulate my temperature during the cold snap in December. Come spring, the thin, super-fine merino will be perfect to regulate temperatures and breathe when the sun warms up. I'd even wear them sans longjohns.

Up top, the Sierra Sports bra is also made of merino, a triple-layer weave gives the bra more support and structure. A thinner mesh in the back keeps air flowing. There were pads, but I took those out immediately. I've always used sports bras with more stretch, so I was pleasantly surprised by how these held up and kept up. It has a racer-back cut to encourage movement, but the armpit was a bit too high and tight.

Smartwool’s PhD Seamless Boy Shorts and Racerback Bra (left) and men’s briefs. PHOTO: Maggie Kaiserman

PhD Seamless Boy Short ($40) and Racerback Bra ($60)

If you like dancing in your underwear, you'll appreciate the flexibility and stretch of Smartwool's Seamless boy shorts and sports bra. There are some places where a seam just shouldn't be, and your woo-hoo is one of them. The fabric—71 percent merino, 23 percent nylon, and 6 percent elastane—has all the ingredients for a blend that wicks moisture, stays breathable, and is warm and stretchy.

I appreciated that Smartwool knows a skier has power thighs, and they designed their boy shorts to accommodate. The cut flatters, but more importantly, it stays put above the hips and around the waist, as well as around the legs. If you're packing light, these undies are easy to hand wash and dry easily overnight.

The Racerback Sports bra is a tad less stretchy than the boy shorts, but it keeps everything in place. The bra has an inner and outer lining. A seamless merino wool interior does wonders for comfort and warmth. While the outer shell adds polyester and more nylon to the recipe to give it structure and support. An elastic band secures the sports bra around your rib cage. Wide straps loop over your shoulders and connect in a racerback. I wouldn't grab this sports bra and take it to my hot yoga class. But for anything outside in the mountains, it's a winner.

(Clockwise from top left) Patagonia Active Hipster, Cordelisse, Active Mesh Boy Shorts, and Compression. PHOTO: Maggie Kaiserman

Cordelisse Bra ($49), Compression Bra ($55), Active Hipster ($24), and Active Mesh Boy Shorts ($29)

Yes, even sports bras can stand for a good cause. Patagonia's Fair Trade Certified sports bras come with an extra investment that goes directly to the workers at the factory, money that is intended to raise wages, promote health and safety, as well as improve the standard of living. This is why I love Patagonia.

Patagonia has been in the underwear business for a while. They wash easily, dry quickly, and last a long time. On long post-college backpacking trips, I wore the same three pairs for five months. (Is that TMI?)

Inspired by their yoga line, the straps on the Cordelisse sports bra cross in the back, giving full range of movement and no resistance in the armpit area. A quick-dry and moisture-wicking mesh lines the inner part of the sports bra, while a polyester and spandex blend gives plenty of compression to hold your ladies' up.

If you're on a more high-intensity adventure day, pull on the Compression Bra. A scooped V-Neck and a racerback gives a little more coverage and support.

Down low, Patagonia's Active Hipsters and Mesh Boy Shorts are both in the butt-warming game. While not as warm as merino, they are extra good at wicking moisture. And with a body-conforming synthetic blend, they're the stretchiest of all the undies in this roundup. The boy shorts and striped hipsters are 93 percent nylon (70 percent recylced; 43 percent recycled in the hipsters) with 7 percent spandex jersey. Patagonia claims they come with polygiene permanent odor control, but that's no excuse to not wash your underwear.

Vie Active Alyssa sports bra. PHOTO: Maggie Kaiserman

Vie Active
Alyssa Sports Bra ($65)

If you're in the market for a sports bra that is more geared toward a fitness class, but can also be taken to the ski resort, look at Vie Active, an Australian company that specializes in sports bras and long underwear for women. The company's founder was originally from the land down under, but they have recently moved their headquarters to Sun Valley, making them more ski-minded in their design. Their line is more fashion oriented. The Alyssa is a solid choice for moderate to high-intensity workouts. A high neckline gives you coverage and peace of mind that everything will stay where it needs to stay. Light, high-performance compression fabric gives plenty of support and structure—though I did feel like the fit was a bit loose on the sides, under the arms.