UnderArmour alternatives? Yes, no, maybe so?
September 8, 2009 2:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm hunting for a less expensive alternative to Under Armour ColdGear for a base layer, but have no idea even where to start. College marching band + good football team = night games in November (go team!) + Upper Midwest = cold band members. The band staff recommends Under Armour ColdGear through the bookstore. But that's $100 for shirt+tights (female), which is a lot of money out of a college kid's budget. While I've got no (real) problem shelling out the $$ for her if the brand is worth it, I don't know. Is it? Is there something equivalant w/o the brand name price? Wool is not an option, for a number of reasons.

And what about socks? Must be black, must be non-wool, must fit into current marching shoes, so not thick. (layers are acceptable, if lightweight.)

I'm not looking for cheap knockoffs that won't keep her warm. Heavy fleece-y stuff won't work under the uniform.

If UnderArmour is the way to go, where's the best place to get it, or is it essentially the same price everywhere?
posted by jlkr to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
What about regular thermal underwear? Campmor has a large selection.
posted by exogenous at 2:40 PM on September 8, 2009

I can't speak for their cold weather wear... but UnderArmor's hot weather wear is absolutely worth the premium price - I haven't found anything else that is as comfortable and as good at wicking heat. In my humble opinion, UnderArmor is expensive, yes, but decidedly NOT overpriced.
posted by frwagon at 2:42 PM on September 8, 2009

You can get silk or polypro long underwear at REI or other similar places. women's long underwear at REI. I think the UnderArmor stuff is great is you're going to sweat a lot, but considering it's cool and assuming you're just marching and not actually running regular long underwear is probably fine. REI also has some UnderArmour-like stuff though I don't expect you'll get it a lot cheaper than $100 for a top+bottom set.
posted by GuyZero at 2:43 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you have Patagonia, REI or EMS stores near you, but you can find base layers (e.g. Capilene or Techwick, etc.) there for about half the price — probably a little less, depending on sizes and sales, etc.

I use top and bottom liners of different thicknesses in the fall, winter and spring for cycle commuting. I think you should be able to find something of the same thickness as the UnderArmour that provides the same insulating capabilities.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:44 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maybe see if thermals at a camping store are cheaper?
posted by Chrysalis at 2:47 PM on September 8, 2009

I've never worn Under Armour so I can't really compare, but I swear by my Duofold expedition weight thermals -- they got me through many, many freezing cold football games.
posted by alynnk at 2:48 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Craft ProZero or ProWarm is what you want. An informal survey of my cycling team indicates it's more liked than UnderArmor. Similarly priced, though.
posted by The Michael The at 2:48 PM on September 8, 2009

Sierra Trading Post has a lot of similar items at discount prices.
posted by desjardins at 2:54 PM on September 8, 2009

FYI, I have Patagonia base layer items that I've worn for ten years so sometimes the extra cost is worth it. Also, I've found that the Duofold that alynnk mentions is really, really warm. I wouldn't want to do anything in it other than sit and watch the game, or I'd sweat to death.
posted by desjardins at 2:57 PM on September 8, 2009

Patagonia is pretty great (though UnderArmour are really the best at what they do), and while it would typically cost you about $100 for a full women's set, they are having a sale right now.
posted by halogen at 3:23 PM on September 8, 2009

Former upper mid-west marching band geek here. And oh do I know the pain of the bitter cold in marching band season.

Nthing the regular thermal underwear idea. I mean, it's cheap, you can layer it up, and inevitably on marching band trips something will get lost. You tend to get pretty warm on the field anyway. Never buy anything of this sort from a campus bookstore you'll pay three times the price.

Nthing checking alternative websites like Sierra Trading Post.

Now socks is where you don't want to fuck around with. Why non-wool? That seems crazy to me. Just because of the look? Might they be ok with Smart Wool? It's super warm, doesn't have the 'wooly' look, and is thin enough to easily fit into a band shoe.

I've also had band friends who would but those thermal packs in their shirts and stuff, for the really horrible days. A little awkward, but hey, you're already in marching band.

Good luck. Glide step away.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:35 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

A cheap pair of pantyhose, in addition to thermal underwear, can make a surprising amount of difference.
posted by OmieWise at 3:47 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I always wore generic thermal underwear to the cold Wisconsin football games. Like Lutoslawski I was usually too warm on the field, but I'd sometimes stash one of those handwarmer things under my stupid feathered hat to use while I was sitting and freezing in the bleachers.
posted by Kicky at 4:03 PM on September 8, 2009

Target's store brand is lots cheaper than UnderArmour and worked well for my kids for soccer games in sleet and snow.
posted by leslies at 4:12 PM on September 8, 2009

Silk long underwear. Any good outdoors store should have it, or be able to order it.
When I was in marching band in college, and we started hitting October and November evenings, and long Saturdays, I was happy in my Cuddle Duds. They're pretty light and easy to find, reasonably inexpensive. They're not warm enough for COLD weather, but they're warm enough for fall evenings. Good luck - enjoy your season... I'm a little jealous!
posted by honeybee413 at 4:17 PM on September 8, 2009

Seconding the SmartWool socks, unless someone is actually going to check the labels. I have a black pair that looks just like a pair of regular athletic socks. Actually, they look nicer, and are fairly thin. They don't itch at all, and they're super-warm.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 4:24 PM on September 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wool is not an option because she can't wear it next to her skin. Makes her itchy. Yes, even if she doesn't know it's wool when she puts it on. Yes, we've tried SmartWool socks -- she made me bring her another pair before halftime.

Band staff doesn't care what the baselayer is as long as it's black and doesn't bind or catch the uniform. They do some highstepping, so they will sweat, both pregame and halftime; then they go sit in the stands.

We've already done four years of HS marching band, and I was in the band at Michigan Tech, so I'm not unfamiliar with the concept of band in cold weather.
posted by jlkr at 4:51 PM on September 8, 2009

Response by poster: Oh - honeybee413 -- if it was just fall evenings, it wouldn't be a problem. We could do that with the stuff she wore last year in HS. We're talking games going past midnight in late November, based on prior seasons.
posted by jlkr at 5:15 PM on September 8, 2009

just wanted to weigh in on another store option. REI was mentioned, but not their fantastic outlet website at rei-outlet.com. i've found delightfully warm, black base layers there for under $20 a pop. good luck!
posted by binocularfight at 6:22 PM on September 8, 2009

Seconding layering pantyhose with plain old thermal underwear if it's not too bulky. Pantyhose + silk base layer may be enough, but I don't think silk is going to be enough if she's prone to cold. It's not enough for me, anyway, when I'm sitting still in the cold.

For feet, when I did a bit of speedskating (feet inches from ice in the coldest arena I'd every been in), pantyhose made a big difference. A layer of thin trouser socks (not wool) on top worked ok, too, but was chilly if I got too sweaty and then stopped moving for a while. If I had too many layers on so that the layers were squished too much in the skates, it didn't matter what I wore. Nothing would be warm because the warm air that was supposed to be trapped between the layers got squished out. You'll need something trapping air around the toes to keep them warm, so maybe try fewer layers there instead of more and have her wiggle her toes a lot when sitting in the stands.

If that doesn't work and she can't wear the wool next to her skin, perhaps having wool socks on top of pantyhose (not touching her skin) would work? If that does work, you can also do wool cycling tights over the pantyhose. I have these and have used them for biking year-round in the upper midwest.
posted by BlooPen at 8:08 PM on September 8, 2009

llbean, despite becoming a yuppie haven over the past years, still makes affordable long-underwear/thermals.

i have (2) sets of the black silk-weight long underwear that i wear every day (rotating of course) first in montreal winter, now in chicago winter.

for socks, if she is not ok with wool, perhaps try cashmere socks? a little pricey, but insanely warm. polar fleece socks are pretty warm too, especially if she can layer a lightweight silk/rayon sock underneath.

layering is my medium.
posted by chickadee at 9:11 PM on September 8, 2009

From my husband's late-night football games in the Upper Midwest, he highly recommends Adidas soccer socks. They're relatively thin, but very warm, and the stripes are so high above the knee it shouldn't matter (if you can't find ones without stripes).

I have a pair of thin, stretchy thermal pants by Sugoi that are absolutely amazing in terms of heat retention. I got them at REI 6-8 years ago, so I'm not sure what current style name it matches up to.

Under Armor is definitely worth it - they make amazing stuff. My husband used to go running in 20 degree weather in their thin HeatGuard clothing and felt great.

Skip the bookstore markup and check out sporting goods stores, discount retailers like TJ Maxx, and online places. Recently Under Armor themselves ran a big sale on clothing - not sure how often they do that though. Gander Mountain and Cabela's has them pretty cheap (and should be local to you in the midwest).
posted by bookdragoness at 8:26 AM on September 9, 2009

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