For those looking for the ultimate long underwear bottoms, the BodyfitZone Merino 260 Zone Thermal Leggings are worth the investment. This pair provides a balance between warmth and ventilation that is unmatched while also being comfortable and well-fitting. The technical feature of the BodyfitZone ventilation enhances breathability in areas where you heat up and sweat the most. This legging is for the athlete focused on high-performance activity during the cold weather, from winter camping to skiing to snowshoeing all season long. Versatility also allows this warm pair of long underwear to be used through most of spring and fall.Editor's Note: This review was updated on November 22, 2022, to include new buying considerations after retesting the most current iteration of these leggings.
Cons: Expensive, some durability red flags
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|Price||$140 List||$80 List||$80.00 at Backcountry|
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$54.95 at REI
|Pros||Excellent fit, ventilation in the right places, comfortable next to skin, no odor retention||Excellent warmth, soft elastic waistband, odor-free, high waisted design for additional coverage||Super soft, top-notch thermoregulation, great fit, durable construction, stylish thick waistband, odor-free, ski and snowboard boot compatible||Amazing breathability, comfortable on the skin, great fit, good warmth, cute colors and designs||Smooth and silky fabric, easy to wear alone or when layered, cute and fitted style, affordable|
|Cons||Expensive, some durability red flags||Thicker fabric doesn't breathe as well in warm climates, fabric shows signs of wear after minimal use||Expensive, fabric stretches between washes||Less durable than previous version, holds smell after time||Absorbs and holds moisture, fabric retains odor immediately|
|Bottom Line||This technical yet exceptionally comfortable pair provides ample warmth while simultaneously dumping heat in the right areas as you pick up the pace||These heavyweight 100% Merino wool long johns offer superior warmth and comfort at a fraction of the cost||Incredible wicking capabilities and Merino wool performance in a lightweight and stylish design||A synthetic long underwear bottom with an all around impressive performance at a fair price||This synthetic base layer option features a soft and stretchy polyester fabric that offers moderate levels of warmth and breathability for an affordable price|
|Rating Categories||Icebreaker BodyfitZ...||Ridge Merino Invers...||Ortovox 185 Rock'N'...||Patagonia Capilene...||REI Co-op Midweight...|
|Comfort and Fit (30%)|
|Specs||Icebreaker BodyfitZ...||Ridge Merino Invers...||Ortovox 185 Rock'N'...||Patagonia Capilene...||REI Co-op Midweight...|
|Material||Body: 97% Merino wool, 3% elastane; Panels: 100% Merino wool; Eyelet: 98% Merino wool, 1% elastane, 1% nylon||100% Merino wool||100% Tasmanian Merino wool||100% recycled polyester||92% polyester, 8% spandex|
|Fabric Weight (g/m²)||260 g/m²||270 g/m²||185 g/m²||250 g/m²||Not disclosed|
|Weight Class||Mid to heavyweight||Heavyweight||Light to midweight||Midweight||Midweight|
|Measured Weight (size medium)||10.3 oz||7.9 oz||3.5 oz||5.6 oz||6.4 oz|
|Cuts Avaliable||Full length, 3/4 length||Full length||3/4 length, full length, hot pants||Full length||Full length|
|Smelly Over Time?||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Odor Control Fabric||Naturally odor resistant||Naturally odor resistant||Naturally odor resistant||HeiQ Fresh||N/A|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Naturally anti-odor, the BodyfitZone Merino 260 Zone Leggings feature mostly durable construction with BodyfitZone technology to increase ventilation and flatlock seams to prevent chafing. These are an excellent choice for a midweight Merino wool base layer to keep you warm during cold weather activity.
To test for warmth, we consider the weight of each garment, from lightweight to heavy or thermal weight. That said, while some garments advertise a heavyweight thermal fabric, they can perform more like a mid or lightweight fabric or vice versa. No matter the advertised level of warmth, we put each layer to the test, assessing the level of warmth from sedentary to vigorous activity.
The Merino 260 Zone leggings do not disappoint in this category, providing plenty of warmth as the temperatures drop. They perform more like a midweight layer geared towards high-output activities. These leggings are constructed from 97% Merino wool and 3% elastane and feature BodyFitZone technology that utilizes breathable panels in areas where we tend to sweat the most. This allows for sweat to be wicked and released away from the body so that you can remain warm and dry during long ski tours in the backcountry or winter training runs. While these do not offer the highest level of warmth out of all the layers we tested, we're convinced this is the layer of choice for cold-weather activity because it balances warmth with ventilation when moving. As long as you aren't seeking base layer bottoms strictly for sedentary activity, this pair is warm enough for all but the coldest winters.
For our breathability metric, we first note the fabric, whether synthetic or Merino wool, as well as the level of thickness, from light to heavyweight. Next, we take these layers out for all kinds of activities to determine how well they wick moisture away from the body and keep the skin dry out in the cold.
Thanks to the BodyfitZone technology, we are impressed with the breathability and temperature regulation featured by the Icebreaker 260 Zone Leggings. The ventilated features on the back of the knee and below the waist, where a backpack might rest, allow moisture to leave the fabric and keep you warmer when exposed to the elements. We noticed we stayed warm even when this layer retained moisture, and the fabric dries quickly even when tucked under other layers. We believe the innovation behind the BodyfitZone technology brings us closer to finding the perfect base layer for cold-weather activities.
Comfort and Fit
Warmth and breathability are certainly key components when selecting a base layer for the winter months. However, another key consideration is how comfortable that layer is next to your skin, as well as the overall fit of the garment. Often, ill-fitting layers can allow for more airflow, thereby preventing the layer from keeping you warm. They can also distract you from focusing on your ski turns if the material is itchy or a seam is out of place. We note our experience with each of these base layers to determine which ones provide the greatest level of comfort and the best form-fit to allow for maximum warmth and layering.
The Icebreaker 260 Zone Leggings really impressed us with their ability to hug our curves. They also offer enough stretch when we put our bodies in motion, and the brushed waistband keeps these leggings in place during activity. They fit true to size, though the updated version offers more of a slim fit than previous iterations. At 5'6" and 130 pounds, our lead tester, felt confident selecting a size Small. These leggings were noticeably comfortable when we first tried them on and even more so as we washed the fabric and hung them to dry in front of the fire. Icebreaker really nailed the fit and overall comfort of these leggings, whether hanging around the cabin between activities or getting the heart rate up on the Nordic trails.
To assess the durability of each long underwear bottom, we note the daily wear and tear we observed while testing these layers during cold weather activities. After taking these layers on adventures from trail runs to multi-pitch rock climbs, we evaluate the impact of those activities and then take a close look at the construction of the seams. We give higher scores to the layers that offer the highest quality and craftsmanship.
The Merino 260 Zone features a gusseted construction that significantly reduces stress on the seams in high-mobility areas, a common failure point for base layer bottoms. The flatlock seams are robust and act to prevent chafing. Icebreaker also added extra material to increase resistance to abrasions in high-traffic areas, like the knees, where base layers tend to wear out the fastest. Lastly, due to the inherent properties of Merino wool, these leggings resist odor build-up. We confidently wore them for multiple days before finding them in need of a wash. After a couple of years of testing these leggings, we noticed only minor flaws in the construction, such as runs in the perforated ventilation sections and a little fabric pilling on the waistband. Otherwise, these leggings are in great shape, especially after all the high-intensity cold weather adventures we've subjected them to. That said, these leggings are better suited for wearing underneath another layer than as a standalone piece.
Should You Buy the Icebreaker BodyfitZone Merino 260?
One clear drawback to this legging is the price tag. However, you get what you pay for. The 260 Zone offers mid- to heavyweight Merino fabric that includes technology like the BodyfitZone, which allows for maximum breathability despite consisting of relatively thick and warm fabric. Your dollars also support practices such as the Responsible Wool Standard-certified wool, which focuses on responsible land management as well as caring for the sheep with proper animal welfare standards. We're convinced you won't be disappointed with this layer, offering intelligent construction that is worthy of the higher initial investment.
What Other Long Underwear Should You Consider?
We are confident that the Icebreaker BodyfitZone Merino 260 Zone Leggings will exceed your expectations; however, if you're looking for a 100% Merino wool design available at a fraction of the cost, check out the Ridge Merino Inversion Heavyweight Merino Leggings. Or, for a high-performing and lightweight design that also reduces bulk inside your ski and snowboard boots, the Ortovox 185 Rock'N'Wool Short Pants are a great choice.
— Trish Matheny
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