As someone who appears to have collected far too many thermal items over the past few years (including a pair of ancient, grubby, yellowing granddad long johns which I can hear whimpering in my drawer at night), it has taken me a while to get around to writing this review because the intention was always to test my SubZero thermals while out on my motorbike in the cold.
The flaw to that plan was that I don’t like the cold – and I have a car with heaters and a radio and stuff. So that was a fail before I even started.
The next plan was to put the thermals on and nothing more other than boots and a pom-pom hat then go and stand in two feet of snow in the garden with a video camera and a stopwatch.
The flaw to THAT plan was that I don’t like the cold – and I have a house with a telly and stuff. So that was fail number two.
In the end I kind of combined the two, but without the motorbike and with two more layers of clothes.
I went sledging with Mrs Muz.
But let’s go back to the beginning. Andy has already looked at the SubZero Factor 1 base layer HERE, so that’s that taken care of.
The Factor 2 thermal top (‘zip turtle neck long sleeve’) is interesting in that I could happily wear it out and about as a top layer because, to all intents and purposes, it looks like a pretty snazzy zip-up jumpery thing. The only reason I wouldn’t wear it as such is because it’s reasonably close-fitting, being part Spandex, and these days my washboard stomach appears to have freak male pregnancy action going on over it.
Visually there are two things of note. The first is that the top has a short zipper from the turtle-neck throat down to somewhere around my third nipple. Zipped right up it can get a wee bit restrictive but it only has to be unzipped a centimetre or so to feel much better.
Secondly, and most excellently, are the thumb holes in the cuffs. There are probably already other thermal tops on the market featuring these, and I’m sure someone will tell me if I’m wrong, but I’ve never come across this before and they’re a great addition. If you have no idea what I’m on about, the arms on this top are deliberately too long so you can pull them down past your wrists then stick your thumbs through the holes in the cuffs. This stops them riding back up your arms when you pull another layer over the top or put gloves on. It’s a marvellous idea which stops your wrists getting chilly and prevents drafts shooting up your pits.
The legs (‘long john with fly’), if I’m honest, are just legs. There’s nothing of note to them to my eye – other than being very high-waisted, except for a handy hole for men to do what men do. This hole is hidden behind a little pouch so you don’t get the chills where you least want the chills.
I have a complaint though. My legs came with dodgy stitching and the result was a 15mm hole to the outside of my calf – not something I’d want to see having shelled out fifty quid. Nevertheless I’m happy to think of this as a one-off and a product of my natural unlucky streak.
Now this kit is a mid-layer, so to test how it all worked in practice for the hardcore sledging session I put the Factor 1 stuff on first followed by the Factor 2 then on my legs I put on a cheapo pair of waterproof trousers. On my top I wore my trusty H&M hoodie and a waterproof snowboard jacket which is by no means anywhere near top-of-the-range.
And by Christ was I hot. It was -4C and snowing like hell and I thought I was going to pass out. Even just walking along before the sledging I had to open my jacket to get some cool air in before I woke up flat on my back staring at the sky. This never happens when I’m wearing the jacket without thermals.
Following the sledging, while nursing a suspected broken coccyx, possible torn shoulder muscles and an almost-certainly collapsed lung, I noted that I was dry on the inside because of the wicking properties of the fibres, and I didn’t feel cold anywhere on my body other than my enormous nose which tends to catch the wind a lot anyway. Because I wasn’t wearing much else with any kind of heat rating I can only put this down to the thermals, which did the job wonderfully.
They get a great big thumbs up from me and I can say, without a doubt, that they are the most effective thermals I own. They’re comfortable, snug-but-not-blood-stopping, very warm and make you look much ‘fitter’ than you actually are.
However for £100+ in total I’d be most displeased if I was anything less than totally satisfied, iffy stitching aside.
For those of you who like details rather than waffle (not me – I just want to know if they work or not), here’s a bit of spec action for you:
• Manufactured in UK
• No-chafe, flat stretch seams
• Long body length with back drop (top)
• Thumb cuff holes (top)
• 18cm zip collar with chin guard and wind baffle (top)
• Average weight: 295g – 10.4oz (top)
• Low profile elasticated waist (legs)
• High rise back for kidney protection (legs)
• Double fly pouch opening (legs)
• Average weight: 250g – 8.8oz (legs)
• Hydrophilic fibre impregnation
• Sun Protection Factor: 100+
• TOG: 0.72
• Fabric: 94% Polyester, 6% Spandex
• Colour: Black, Cobalt (blue), Khaki
• Sizes: XSmall, Small, Medium, Large, XLarge, XXLarge
SUMMARY: By far the best thermals I own. Very warm and well-designed – but check the stitching when you buy… just in case.
Tags and search info for this review: This is a thermal base-layer review. GearWeAre.com tests and reviews base layers, thermals, winter gear, outdoor gear and camping equipment.