Can you love your base layer? Aren’t they all about the same? It turns out you can and they are not. Watson’s, based in Montreal, Canada, where it gets very cold, has been keeping people warm since 1946. The family-run business has kept up with trends in base layers, creating a bamboo line and, most recently, a merino wool line. They have base layers for men, women and children in different weight and warmth ratings, from heavy weight microfleece to mid-weight blends and lightweight, 100% merino wool.
I tested the black Performance mid-weight base layer, both tops and bottoms, and found them to be shockingly comfortable. Made from 85% micro polyester and 15% spandex they slid on like a second skin, snug but not tight. The four-way stretchy material felt more like yoga pants than my usual long johns that I wear skiing. The material didn’t bunch up under my arms or make me feel bulky and, in fact, my ski pants slipped on easily, like I wasn’t wearing anything under them. The top was thick enough to look decent even on its own. The fabric is brushed on the interior so it felt very soft and cool against my skin. An antimicrobial treatment controls odor. The seams and waistband were flat and well constructed.
The day I wore the Performance base layers it was a nippy (for California) 28 degrees F, not excessively cold, but an east wind made it feel frosty on the Tahoe ski slopes. I found that, as the day wore on, I grew chilled though I had my usual outer layers on. The fabric felt cool and though I was exerting myself it didn’t warm up. I didn’t want to take them off once I got home, however, because they were so comfortable. The Watson’s weren’t as warm as what I was used to for winter but I look forward to using the base layers in different circumstances, for spring skiing and cold weather hiking. I would relish the Performance pieces for Sierra summer backpacking—the softness against the skin and the warmth would be so welcome after shedding a heavy pack in the perpetual chill of a Sierra sunset. For winter the Watson’s Merino 150 or Double Layer ( a cotton/polyester blend) would offer more warmth, while the mid-weight Performance layer is more appropriate for moderate temperatures.
Watson’s prides itself on providing a range of base layers for adults and children that is affordable and well-constructed. Compared to other major brands their prices are significantly more reasonable. The Performance top and bottom retails for about $25 each, compared to $50-100 for competitors. Kid’s sizes run about $15.
Pros: The sleek fit and softness against the skin made for a very comfortable base layer and looks good enough to wear on its own.
Cons: The mid-weight Performance layer can’t be pressed into duty for very cold temperatures, having a narrow range of warmth.
Watson’s base layers are comfortable, well-constructed and won’t break the bank. They have a variety of styles to meet different temperature requirements.
Disclosure of material connection: I received a test sample from Watson’s but the opinions expressed are solely my own.