Planning on spending lots of time on the trails this winter? Looking for some extra warmth and comfort during your outdoor adventures? What you need is a good pair of long johns (aka thermal underwear). But do you know what are the best long johns for hiking?

One of our big goals here at The Adventure Junkies is to help you gear up for the outdoors. In this article, we’ll walk you through how to choose the best long thermal underwear and show you our selection of the best models available.

 

 

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST LONG JOHNS

PICTURE
LONG JOHNS
BEST FOR
WARMTH
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
LONG JOHNS
BEST FOR
WARMTH
PRICE
RATING
Patagonia Capilene Mid-Weight
Overall
Medium
$$
5.0
Arc'teryx Phase AR
Overall
Medium
$$
5.0
Craft Active Extreme
Overall
Medium
$$
4.5
SmartWool NTS Micro 150
Merino Wool
High
$$
5.0
Icebreaker Winter Zone
Merino Wool
High
$$$
5.0
SmartWool NTS Mid 250
Merino Wool
High
$$$
4.8
Minus33 Merino Wool Kancamagus Mid-Weight
Merino Wool
High
$$
4.7
Duofold Mid-Weight
Budget
High
$
4.5
Carhartt Base Force
Budget
High
$
4.5
Under Armour ColdGear
Budget
High
$
4.4

 

 

LONG JOHNS 101

 

3 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST LONG JOHNS

 

1. FABRIC

Just like base layer tops, long johns come in four different types of fabric—synthetics, cotton, wool and silk. All of them have their own characteristics and specifications. Choosing between materials is arguably the most important decision you’ll have to make. We’ll explain the pros and cons if each material below.

 

SYNTHETICS

Long johns made with synthetic materials are often cheaper. Synthetics include polyester and polyester blends, which can consist of spandex, nylon or polypropylene. These types of fabric are lightweight and soft, comfortable and wrinkle-resistant. They are tough and durable, which is an important factor to consider.

The biggest downside of synthetic long johns is that they’re prone to absorb odors. If worn repeatedly and not cleaned regularly, they often begin to smell.

 

COTTON

Cotton is a material that’s both revered and criticized by outdoor enthusiasts. It has great characteristics, but also some that make it less ideal for outdoor activities.

Cotton is a great insulator. It provides necessary warmth in cold weather and is a durable material. On the downside, however, cotton does not insulate when it gets wet. It dries very slowly, which poses dangers on the trail in winter. This is why it’s recommended to opt for long johns that are a mix of cotton and synthetics, rather than 100% cotton.

 

MERINO WOOL

Merino wool is essentially a fancy type of wool made with fine fibers of wool from a specific breed of sheep. This makes merino wool clothing a lot softer than clothes made with regular wool. Merino wool long johns are more expensive, but they’re also warmer, breathe better and dry more quickly.

The only real downside of merino wool is that it’s a delicate material, so it is less durable than the synthetic and cotton options. It also requires special washing care.

 

SILK

Silk long johns are good for outings in moderately cold weather, but they won’t suffice when it gets extremely cold. They’re excellent for skiing and snowshoeing. Silk is lightweight and feels soft and luxurious. Cons are that it’s prone to abrasion and may absorb odors.

 

2. WEIGHT

Base layers are divided into different weight categories, which indicate their thickness. You will need to consider how you will layer your clothing and the lowest temperatures you will expect on your trip.

 

LIGHT-WEIGHT

Light-weight long johns are the thinnest and often the most affordable. They’re suitable for intensive activities in cold weather and regular use in warmer conditions.

 

MID-WEIGHT

Mid-weight long johns are considered to be the most multifunctional type. They’re good for moderately cold to cold weather and best used in fall and spring or with additional layers in winter.

 

HEAVY-WEIGHT

Heavy-weight long johns, also known as expedition-weight long johns, are the thickest type of underwear available. These types are usable in frigid and blustery conditions.

 

3. FIT

The best long johns are those that fit snugly but don’t restrict any movement. In cold weather, you want your base layers to be tight in order to better trap body heat. In warmer conditions, it’s better to opt for loose-fitting clothing, which allows for more air circulation.

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/Halfpoint

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/Halfpoint

 

 

LONG JOHNS REVIEWS

 

1. BEST OVERALL LONG JOHNS

PATAGONIA CAPILENE MID-WEIGHT

 

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: Patagonia Capilene Mid-weight

MATERIAL: 97% polyester/3% spandex

WARMTH: Medium

FEATURES: Polartec Power Grid fabric, grid backing, bluesign approved fabric with 66% recycled polyester, permanent odor control, functional fly, brushed elastic waistband, chafe-free flatlock seams

PROS: Made with recycled materials, odor control

CONS: Size runs a bit large

 

 

 

ARC’TERYX PHASE AR

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: Arc’teryx Phase AR 

MATERIAL: 100% polyester

WARMTH: Medium

FEATURES: Anatomical shaping for fit and comfort, gusseted crotch

PROS: Durable, quick-drying, breathable, moisture-wicking, stretchy

CONS: None that we could find

 

 

 

CRAFT ACTIVE EXTREME

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: Craft Active Extreme

MATERIAL: 100% polyester

WARMTH: Medium

FEATURES: Ergonomic fit, hexa-channel hollow core fibers for moisture transport, flatlock seams, 300% stretch

PROS: Temperature control, very stretchable, moisture wicking, comfortable, great value for money

CONS: None that we could find

 

 

 

 

2. BEST MERINO WOOL LONG JOHNS

SMARTWOOL NTS MICRO 150

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: Smartwool NTS Micro 150

MATERIAL: 100% Merino wool

WARMTH: High

FEATURES: Chafe-free flatlock seams, merino wool, UPF 30 sun protection, functional fly, wide waistband

PROS: Very warm, sun protection machine washable, doesn’t shrink when drying, lightweight

CONS: Less durable than synthetic options

 

 

 

ICEBREAKER WINTER ZONE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: Icebreaker Winter Zone

MATERIAL: 97% Merino wool/3% lycra spandex

WARMTH: High

FEATURES: Zone panels for warmth and protection, soft elastic waistband, anti-chafing flatlock seams, lightweight merino mesh in gusset

PROS: Very warm, flexible, controls temperature well

CONS: Expensive

 

 

 

SMARTWOOL NTS MID 250

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

WOMEN’S VERSION: Smartwool NTS Mid 250

MATERIAL: 100% Merino wool

WARMTH: High

FEATURES: UPF 50+ sun protection, covered elastic waistband, chafe-free flatlock seams, soft non-irritating merino wool

PROS: Machine washable, sun protection, very warm, usable as a single layer in moderate weather and as a base layer in icy cold weather

CONS: Pricey

 

 

 

MINUS33 MERINO WOOL KANCAMAGUS MID-WEIGHT

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

WOMEN’S VERSION: Minus33 Merino Wool Franconia Mid-Weight

MATERIAL: 100% Merino wool

WARMTH: High

FEATURES: 18.5 micron merino wool with interlock grid construction, anti-chafing flatlock seams, UPF 50+ sun protection, stretching cuffs, tagless label

PROS: Sun protection, machine washable and dryable, odor resistant, very warm

CONS: Merino wool wears down more easily than other fabrics

 

 

 

 

3. BEST BUDGET LONG JOHNS

DUOFOLD MEN’S MID-WEIGHT

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

WOMEN’S VERSION: Duofold Women’s Mid-Weight

MATERIAL: 60% cotton/40% polyester

WARMTH: High

FEATURES: Pull-on closure, two-ply cotton blend, no-chafe flatlock seams, moisture-wicking waistband, tag-free

PROS: Affordable, very warm, comfortable, durable

CONS: Less breathable, less flexible

 

 

 

CARHARTT BASE FORCE

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

WOMEN’S VERSION: Carhartt Base Force 

MATERIAL: 100% cotton

WARMTH: High

FEATURES: Moisture wicking fabric, stain breaker technology, reinforced stitching, rib-knit cuffs

PROS: Thickness, warmth, durable, great value for money

CONS: Less flexible

 

 

 

UNDER ARMOUR COLDGEAR

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

WOMEN’S VERSION: Under Armour Women’s ColdGear Authentics

MATERIAL: 87% polyester/13% elastane

WARMTH: High

FEATURES: Dual-layer fabric, ultra-warm brushed interior, fast-drying exterior, stretch-mesh gusset, inseam panels, 4-way stretch fabric, moisture transport system

PROS: Super warm, great stretch, durable, comfortable

CONS: None that we could find

Top 10 Best Long Johns For Hiking – Hiking Clothes for Summer, Winter, Fall and Spring – Hiking Outfits for Women, Men and Kids – Backpacking Gear For Beginners
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