Le Bént Le Base Layer bamboo and merino blend thermals are designed to keep you snug in Siberia.
But never sweaty. Not even if you find that legendary jukebox in some overheated vodka bar after you come in from the cold..
OK, we didn’t actually test exactly those extremes.
However, we did spend a couple of weeks practically living in Lé Bent Base Layers on a hectic Japow research itinerary in January that went pretty damn close.
From as low as -20° on socked in powder days, and even lower with wind chill, to sunny hard yards hikes, to aprés and dinner with no time to change, to shinkansen travel days, we gave them a very solid workout.
Layers are everything in the snow, and your base layer is as important, or more so, than your outer layer. Breathability, insulation, and the ability to wick moisture away from your skin as you exercise in the cold are critical to ski thermals performance.
Sweat is the enemy out in the cold. Get sweaty and then stay wet against the skin and cold clammy chill soon sets in.
Full merino or some synthetics can have that effect, and you can end up damp then cold. That can be just uncomfortable if you are resort skiing or riding and can easily head inside, and dangerous if you are out in the side country or further afield.
Lé Bent’s founders are core pro skiers from way back, who set out on a mission that started over 10 years ago with their now famous Le Sock to provide gear that was comfortable, durable and did the job.
That is reflected in their “Signature Blend” fabric – a blend of 66.5% rayon from bamboo and 30.5% merino plus 3% elastene. The fibre is naturally smoother and rounder, so they don’t itch.
I have always found 100% merino just gets itchy and scratchy, and makes me overheat too easily when charging hard, never mind doing some hikes or entering hot rooms afterwards.
Lé Bent Le Base Layer were a revelation. The 200gm2 light weight cool targeted ones we tested in Japan are the mid-range of 3 Le Base Layer options – 150 mild and 260 cold being the others – and proved ideal for J-land in January. They would be great for winter downunder too.
With a Le Base Layer, a lightweight microfibre Macpac midlayer, and Drifa padded shell style jacket as my total normal kit I was fine, except one colder day I added a 2nd mid-layer from my pack. If you ski in a padded/insulated jacket rather than shell style you likely won’t need it in J-land.
Even weak January sun can seem warm hiking a ridgeline at somewhere like Tanigawadake Tenjindaira, never mind spring skiing or a lot of days even in mid-winter in our increasingly unpredictable winters.
But Lé Bent’s wicking signature fibre takes the sweat away from your skin to evaporate away, so you stay dry, warm, but not cooked.
They feel soft and very comfortable, with flat lock seams so there’s no stitching to itch and irritate. In fact you could easily wear them as pyjamas too, but we always go for Japanese rooms with yukatas for that purpose.
On our rushed itinerary – one or two nights at each resort – we often end up going straight from slopes to aprés to meetings to dinner, usually with no time to change.
For those sat next to me that would normally have been like scoring the seat next to a bunch of Bintang Bali Beer singlet wearing guys for the flight home. Bare armpits are not a good look ladz, however cool your tatts.
But not in Le Base! Even hauling in after the biggest days I wasn’t stinky – Lé Bent’s fibre blend and those wicking properties do a seriously good job of odour control. Just ask Mrs Snow Action, she has to put up with me at close quarters.
Lé Bent Le Base Layers look pretty styly too, subtly emphasising your toned skier’s physique with their form-fit styling. They looked pretty hot on Mrs SA too I have to say, though you better not say the same if you bump into us in a ski bar somewhere.
And they will look great on most people. The all round fit feel is excellent. Nice firm elastic waist but not too tight, form fitting without pinch points, smooth seems, no baggy/saggy spots. Soft feel. All good!
Normally we travel with our ski thermals and an aprés/travel day 2nd pair. The ski pair usually gets a quick overnight wash in the hotel room every few days.
But this trip the back up pair only came out of the bag for the shinkansen trip back to Tokyo for our flight home.
So we’ll give Lé Bent Le Base a 10/10 for outdoor/on snow performance and 10/10 for indoor/all round as well.
In fact these are our new favourite best thermals we have ever had. They will be handy as all-rounders for anyone living somewhere with a full on winter too – Melbourne etc.
No wonder they are getting exported to big markets like North America, a great achievement for this Aussie company that recently picked up some prestigious awards at the massive Denver American Ski & Outdoor Industry trade show in January.
We saw them at the 2016 Denver show and their stand was already busy with interested buyers. With good reason – this is quality, stylish gear that does an exceptional job. They steadily expand the range with active wear for active people, not just snow lovers.
The Le Base 200 series as road tested are $AUD 99.99 per item.
Lots of good snow stores stock Lé Bent. For stockists and online orders of the full range check more on their website on the link here.