Starting in late winter and early spring, I’ve been testing Watson’s Merino 150 Wool Long Underwear. Watson’s, a company I wasn’t familiar with, is part of Chateau Lingerie, a company based out of Quebec, Canada. While I used the long underwear mainly for walking around and on photography outings instead of paddling trips, I feel like I’ve used it enough to provide an honest review. For canoeing, it will function basically the same as it does for wearing around. For kayaking for me, it’s all about whether or not it’s comfortable under a drysuit (see below). The two pieces I was provided with for review were the Merino 150 Long Sleeve Top and the Merino 150 Long John Bottoms.
Watson’s Merino 150 Wool Long Underwear Fit
Both the pieces that I tried were heather grey in color and made from 100% Merino wool. If you aren’t familiar with Merino wool, you probably haven’t paid much attention to high-tech socks in the last 20 years or so. Merino is the wool that doesn’t itch when you wear it, and it feels soft against your skin. I’ve used lots of Merino products and love Merino for its ability to breath, wick sweat away from my body, its ability to smell okay after 5- to 10-day trips and it’s weirdly wonderful ability to regulate body heat better than synthetics. I’d rate the Watson’s long underwear as lightweight on a three step scale of lightweight, mid-weight to heavyweight. The cut is a relaxed athletic fit. While form fitting, it does fit loosely enough to make it comfortable. I like this style of fit better than a skin tight fit. All the seams are flat and you don’t notice them against the skin. The only issue I’ve had is when raising my arms over my head, it pulls tight against my sides. There’s enough stretch in the fabric to allow the full range of movement, but I do notice the pull. With a gusseted armpit, you wouldn’t have this issue, but there’s a trade off between complexity and simplicity. Watson’s went for simplicity instead of a gusset and it works fine for me.
Weight and Size
Both pieces are relatively lightweight. The bottoms are 7 ounces and the top is 7.4 ounces. They roll up compactly and take up little room inside a dry bag.
Over the test period, the underwear has held up to repeated washing and use fine. I haven’t noticed any wear and tear outside of what I’d expect from heavily used clothing. The fabric seems well made and hasn’t piled up and the stitching has remained intact. I suspect I’ll get years of use out of this long underwear.
Under a Drysuit
I’m always torn between wearing a 1/4 zip long sleeve long underwear or a regular shirt under my drysuit. I like wearing 1/4 zips. They’re my favorite shirts, but I’m always afraid that the zipper will rip my latex neck gasket. The Watson’s Merino 150 shirt offers mock turtle neck, which works well under the drysuit. It is big enough to help keep the latex off the neck and it doesn’t have a zipper to worry about. I paddle on 40 to 50°F water most of the year and while in the water there just isn’t enough insulation to stay warm with just this layer. Luckily, it’s thin enough to wear something over it and the fabric allows other clothing items to slide easily, so it doesn’t feel like it’s binding up or bunching up.
While I didn’t find much not to like about these long underwear, I do have one complaint and feel like it deserves it’s own subheading in the review. Right in the front of the neck, there’s a raised rubber logo. I know companies like to put their logos on clothing for marketing and usually I don’t mind. This one really stands out and is somewhat annoying. I found myself messing around with it and absentmindedly playing around with it. Luckily, it peels off easily. If it had been on my chest like wear other clothing manufacturers such as The North Face or Marmot put their logos, I would have left it on. But it was just too annoying on the neck.
Overall, I found Watson’s Merino 150 long underwear a nice addition to my wardrobe. It’s a good weight for a base layer during active times and it doesn’t stink after a few days of use like synthetics. The fabric is durable and the cut is comfortable. The price is also right at $55 per piece.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Watson’s Merino 150 long underwear for free from Watson’s as coordinated by Outdoor PR in consideration for review publication.