Q:

What's the best clothing to layer against the cold and dp?

My daughter has moved from the desert of Arizona to Seattle. Apparently, by the time she layers for warmth and closes out the rain for her walk to work, she's become a cold, dp sauna after only five minutes. For a holiday gift, I would like to get her an undergarment that can wick away the moisture, but I don't trust everything I see tagged onto the garments. I want to get her something that really works, but I'm getting baffled by the marketing folks. Ken Tucson, Arizona

Dec 12, 2003
Outside
Outside Magazine

Alchemy Jacket

A: It can get a little confusing when comparing all the performance-oriented long underwear out there. I've found that the stuff put out by "name-brand" outdoor apparel makers works more or less the same. Mainly because it all IS more or less the same. Patagonia, REI, L.L. Bean, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Lowe Alpine—they will all argue that "theirs" is the best, but I've used them all and like them all.

Still, I do have a few favorites. I'm extremely enamored with Patagonia's silkweight underwear. It's available in a variety of styles—I have the T-shirt and bottoms ($32 each; www.patagonia.com) and the now-unavailable zip turtleneck. Patagonia makes a Mock Turtleneck for women for $37. I also like Marmot's mid-weight stuff; your daughter might like their Midweight Zip Long-sleeve top ($45; www.marmot.com). This is all very nice stuff. Recently, though, I've also been using some woolen long underwear made by a New Zealand-based company called Icebreaker. It's soft, warm, wicks well, and works across a wide temperature range. I especially like their Long Sleeve Crewe ($70; www.icebreakernz.com), an excellent cold-weather base piece. It's available in women's styles, too. Icebreaker stuff isn't widely available yet in the United States, but web retailers such as Backcountrystore.com carry it.

That said, if your daughter is soaking after just a short walk, maybe she needs to re-think her layering system a little. Most rain jackets have pit zips and other venting options, which can be opened even if it's raining. In this part of the world, usually a light base layer, maybe a vest or light fleece jacket such as the REI Muir Woods ($68; www.rei.com), and a light rain shell is more than enough. And the Pacific Northwest's climate is tailor-made for the new generation of "soft-shell" garments, which will easily beat off Seattle drizzle while breathing well. An example: Mountain Hardwear's Alchemy Jacket ($240; www.mountainhardwear.com), which would be ideal layered over the Icebreaker Crewe for a combination that will handle cool weather, wind, and light rain with aplomb.

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