This article is part of our series of 2020 Ski Clothing Gear Guides, in partnership with Collett’s Mountain Holidays. We tested key products from our ski collections in the heart of the Dolomites – giving you advice and insight about the best kit for snowsports this winter.
Isobaa Merino 180 Long Sleeve Crew & 200 Zip Neck Hoodie
Super.Natural LS 140 Baselayer & SS ID Tee
Untrakt Celestine 3/4 Tights
Pyua Spin Fleece Midlayer
Marmot Featherless Hybrid Jacket
Planks Cloud 9 Insulator
Fjern Arktis Down Hooded Jacket
In previous posts we’ve covered the key things to look for when choosing outerwear for snowsports, your next ski jacket and ski trousers. You should now be protected from the worst of the weather – wind, rain, snow and anything else the mountains throw your way. Beneath that protective outer garment come a set of clothing – often called a “layering system” – that will help you adapt your temperature and comfort to the conditions.
How you choose to layer is often down to personal preference, as well as the environment in which you are active, how warm you get when you ski or exercise, and how much you feel the cold. In our testing we picked out key examples of each different type of layer to demonstrate their function in a layering system:
– Baselayers for next-to-skin comfort and moisture management (allowing sweat to move away from the skin and evaporate).
– Midlayers for warmth and versatility in different conditions.
– Insulators to boost your warmth when the temperature really drops.
The general rule is to start with a baselayer appropriate for the conditions, and add midlayers or insulators according to your preference. Remember you will be wearing an outer shell that may or may not include insulation, and bear this in mind when picking your other layers. Check out this video for a useful summary of how to layer for snowsports:
A note on our reviews:
Our testing team from SportPursuit HQ used products on location in the Italian Dolomites to form reviews from hands-on experience. We aim to offer a useful summary of the product based on the performance for regular snowsports enthusiasts without too much technical jargon. Any specific questions about an item we tested? Let us know in the comments.
They say: Get the best out of nature with 100% natural merino
We say: reliable and versatile merino wool layers
When it comes to the layer you have next to your skin, merino wool is a very popular option (read why in our merino Gear Guide). The natural properties of the yarn make it exceptionally good for temperature management and wicking sweat (shifting it away from your skin) – especially important in unpredictable mountain environments.
Our test team approached the Isobaa 180 Long Sleeve Crew as a do everything, go anywhere baselayer – it didn’t disappoint. The superfine wool means it feels soft and comfortable on your skin, and the smart seam placement meant there was no rubbing or discomfort, even around the usual trouble areas like under backpack straps.
For a slightly warmer layer we also tested the 200 Zip Neck Hoodie – a good option for a midlayer but soft and comfortable enough to be worn on its own. Again, testers were impressed by the temperature management. Early January in the Dolomites meant cold mornings in the shade and much warmer in the sunshine – 100% merino rose to the challenge.
They say: Merino Made Better
We say: simple, performance-led staples for your layering system
We’ve been playing with Super.Natural layers on long-term test since last winter – their straightforward styles have made the I.D. Tee and the Base LS 140 essential items for active days. The premise behind Super.Natural is to overcome some of the shortcomings of merino wool by blending wool and synthetic fabric – the best of both worlds.
On the hill the breathability of these layers is comparable to high quality merino wool like Isobaa – testers were happy to put in high intensity effort and stay relatively comfortable. Away from activities, the blended material is more durable in response to hard wearing and regular washing. 100% merino remains superior in terms of natural odour-resistance, so you can wear it more often without washing, but the Super.Natural layers are a great compromise.
They say: Blended for performance and comfort
We say: well constructed tights for a range of conditions
Another brand using blended merino wool to harness certain attributes of the fabric is eco ski brand Untrakt. The Celestine tight is a more breathable and comfortable alternative to thick wooly “long johns” or thermals, while giving you enough warmth under a shell for cold days on the mountain.
Their choice of blended fabric helps to maintain the sustainable angle of Untrakt’s clothing. Tencel, and eco-friendly fabric made from wood pulp is extremely absorbent and when paired with merino means these tights wick sweat quickly and effectively.
They say: the simple half-zip for every activity
We say: a versatile go-to midlayer
Sometimes simplicity is the greatest attribute. Pyua‘s Spin fleece is made from an innovative fabric that uses both recycled polyester and recycled coffee grounds. With that radical start point, they have created a near-perfect simple midlayer. Enough stretch and a soft lining make the Spin super comfortable, and the smooth face fabric and elasticated cuffs mean it’s works well with other layers as well.
They say: Keeps you warm and dry without weighing you down
We say: the most versatile midlayer for high intensity activities
Often with an active sport like skiing it can be tricky to find the right balance – you heat up with the dynamic movement of skiing, and then cool off on the chairlift. Marmot’s Featherless Hybrid hits a sweet spot – warmth where you need it, without the bulk.
A light jacket made from stretchy ripstop nylon is combined with stategic placement of the “Featherless” insulation – a Thinsulate™ synthetic insulation with 75% recycled content – around the upper body and upper arms. This keeps your core warm without overheating you during the energetic downhill. The stretchy fabric also means it doesn’t restrict your movement and can be paired with a variety of other layer. If you run pretty warm but want to carry a versatile extra layer, the Featherless Hybrid packs down small and won’t weigh you down.
They say: Recycled insulation to keep you warm inside and out
We say: a warm but stashable insulator
For layering under a shell on cold days, the Cloud 9 is will bring the necessary warmth thanks to Repreve recycled insulation a full hood. There is definitely room for layers underneath, so if you prefer a slimmer fit you might look to size down, but the longer torso size means good coverage in the cold.
A few useful pockets are dotted through the Cloud 9, with massive dump pockets on the inside of the jacket. More general users might use these open interior pockets for a spare hat or gloves; backcountry skiers will find them perfect for tucking away touring skins between laps.
They say: a versatile insulated layer with lofty 750 down
We say: warm enough for all but the worst conditions
Few skiers will need a seriously warm “puffy” jacket in most conditions – the active movement of skiing will keep you warm and layering systems can cover a wide range of conditions. For those days where the temperature really drops, the Arktis gives you a toasty amount of warmth and can pack away into its own pocket if the sun comes out.
Our test team took to grabbing the Arktis for colder moments – stopping for a break at altitude or pausing to take photos of kit in action. The filled hood and elastic cuffs mean you can quickly wrap up and stay warm. If you do get caught in wet conditions then the outer fabric is treated with a water repellent coating and the ethically sourced goose down is teflon treated to make it water resistant. For regular use in damp conditions an additional outer shell is recommended.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our 2020 Gear Guides for ski clothing.
Got a question about one of the products we reviews, or more general opinions on choosing new ski gear? Let us know in the comments below.