Stuff I Like (That was sent to me, but then I ordered more)
There is a sea of outdoor products bombarding our line of sight daily. From web ads to specially targeted emails, resellers like REI, Backcountry.com, EMS and the like are promoting the usual brands. If you have seen my closets you know that I am a performance sportswear hoarder. There is a family of black fleecy octopuses living in anonymity, pulled at and untangled for my various events and expeditions.
Among the tentacles is a 15-year-old pair of super-stretchy Polartec fuzzy tights I was given while riding cyclocross for Independent Fabrication. They were hand made with love by one of the owner/employees named Jane Hayes. She called them, simply, “Janeware”. Over the years they have moved with me, both on my legs and in boxes, and have kept me warm in a tight hug while Nordic and Alpine skiing, running, ski touring, camping; you get the idea. When I quit cycling I swore off riding in “that kind of weather”, but the tights went on.
Recently, Jane contacted me and subsequently sent some new versions of those fleecy togs for me to try. Now dubbed “C2 by Janeware”, and including clothes for men as well, these simple, mostly black, flat-locked fleeces haven’t changed much. Among the other players made from wool and polypro, they stack up weight-wise; feather light.
They are thicker than most underlayers because they are fleece, but most of C2’s products are designed to be worn as stand-alone garments. For cold weather cycling, trail running and Nordic skiing that’s all you’d want, but for some of the colder or wetter activities you might cover them up. That’s where I live; most of what I do is really cold, and I tend to run cold also.
There were four key players in the box for me as well as a pair of tights for my husband to try out. He is my partner in crime, a former bike racer as well, and runs equally cold outdoors.
The box showed up on a Friday and we immediately kitted up and rolled out Saturday morning in single digit temperatures for an early season session of suffering our downhills to get some ups.
Jonathan wore his performance tight, and I wore the performance crop. Right at the trailhead, Jonathan made a comment that would prove out; “Some tights keep you ‘not cold’. These actually make your legs warm.” And that was true. As sunny as it was, it was frigid. And we were not.
Right away I knew the Crop was my new ski tight for anything alpine. Among the octopuses, amazingly, there are so few ¾ length tights that I end up scrunching up long underwear. It bothers my knees and stretches out the ankles.
Problem solved! These are warm enough for me to wear lift-skiing under just a shell and they fit neatly over my calves and above the top of my alpine boots. I also sweat quite a bit while skinning uphill, and these wick incredibly so they don’t freeze on the downhill. I can’t believe more companies don’t make a solution to the problem that every alpine skier encounters each time they suit up. I came home and ordered Jonathan a pair of Crops immediately.
While I knew the crop would play well from the time I got dressed, the biggest surprise piece was the Undertop. I tend to buy cheap sports bras from Target most of the time. Not to give TMI, but I am very small except when I’m pregnant, and right now most of the sports tops I have are tight in the sides. I went ahead and wore this next-to-skin. C2 makes sports bras too, so I was using it a bit off-label, but I got away with it. My core was warm, no chafing under my arms, and most noticeable was that I wasn’t sweating and paying for it with a freezing downhill. I now refer to this top as “the piece of clothing I never knew I needed so much.” When one more shirt is too many, this is the answer. Much like the crop, it’s a piece of clothing not made by many manufacturers and I’m not sure why; it also comes in a men’s design. Cyclists wear sleeveless base layers all summer, but winter sport athletes may not. This takes care of that. It’s also great for Nordic skiing; in racing the bib provides an extra layer, but in training the Undertop gives that same core warmth while your arms move freely.
The Performance Tight got its real test in the first 15k Nordic race of the year. At over five months pregnant, they are stretchy enough to fit me. I wore them under my suit, which is pretty thin and mostly for show. More than once I have frozen in races because the biggest muscles (those old cycling quads) can’t take being so cold. Nordic skiers are special; they are practically naked half the time. I can’t hack it, so I just dress for my own climate. The tight is a one-sided fleece, which makes it easy to slide a tight ski suit over it; trust me, that’s a thing. Ski suits are skin tight.
I had a great time skiing and not thinking about the wind picking up or sideways snow that intermittently graced us during three laps of a golf course in Park City.
Last, but not least, the Extreme Tight, which I am wearing right now as I type. That’s not to say it isn’t good for other things, it’s just that…it’s cold in my house and I live in these tights. I wear them instead of leggings under skirts because they feel a little more “finished”. They work really well under light ski pants for training on my Nordic skis because the ankle zips allow for boot adjustments on the fly. The upper is the 4-way stretch Polartec 2-sided fleece, and the ankles are fleece-lined and smooth on the outside with unobtrusive 8-inch zippers on the outer ankle. In the likely situation that my Crops are finally too dirty to wear, I could easily make use of the ankle zip to turn them up and alpine ski in them without the bunching that drives me crazy in other products.
Four-way stretch paired with form-fitted ankles is extremely utilitarian for cycling; the area around the lower leg is not going to catch on any bike parts, the zippers allow for easy dressing, and the super-stretchy knees move freely so there is absolutely no binding like some cycling tights.
All C2 products are made of Polartec brand fleece. If you think that doesn’t matter, go to a fabric shop and touch some other fleece. There is no comparison, and many other outdoor companies skimp as well. Malden Mills Polartec is the Kleenex and Xerox of fleece for a reason; it’s simply the very best.
Just like the fleece of which they are made, all C2 products are sewn in Boston. Every garment is flat-lock stitched so the seams are iron-strong with minimal bulk. While some products used for rain and wind are glued now, fleece can really only be sewn, and this is the best way to sew it.
The sizing is as you would expect industry-wide. At 5’2” and a semi-muscular build, I hover between a XS and S, but am super happy to have the smalls right now. Jonathan is a lean-muscled 5’7” and comfortably wears a Medium.
Remember that C2 is designed to be worn as a stand-alone garment in most cases. For that reason, and because they are fleece, they are slightly thicker than an underlayer. They are, however, just as light weight-wise. Fleece has loft and loft = warmth (think down). I have been using them in a climate and for activities that dictate wearing them under something else, and they have performed spectacularly in that realm. They go through the wash and sometimes the dryer; I like to air dry most of my sports apparel because it takes no time and humidifies the house. These dry very quickly on and off your body.
Probably the best way to judge their longevity is to consider my 15-year-old pair. They pretty much look like the new ones to this day. Many other tights have come and gone, worn and ripped, or become permanently smelly. These have not. Attention to detail in things like gussets and the shaping of the patterns is obvious; these are made for athletes, by athletes.
Bottom line: for about the same cash layout as a made-somewhere-else pair of something else you can have a warm, stretchy hug that will last forever (or at least fifteen years) that are made in America. That should reduce the size of the black octopus in your closet – unless maybe you fold your clothes between adventures!