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Baselayer Basics: What you need to know about baselayers

When it comes to staying warm during outdoor winter activities, it all starts with the base layer. Whether you’re hunting, fishing, snow shoeing, taking the dog for a walk, running, skiing or hitting up your local tailgate, having a proper base layer will help make your time outdoors more enjoyable.


What is a baselayer?

A baselayer is the layer of clothing closest to your skin. Baselayers are most commonly long sleeved shirts and pants and meant to be worn during cooler weather. Baselayers provide a layer of warmth while absorbing and evaporating your sweat to keep you feeling warm and comfortable.


What are baselayers for?

Baselayers are one component of a layering system meant to maintain a steady body temperature. Typically baselayers are a component during winter months, though, a moisture wicking baselayer can also be an effective temperature regulating clothing item during warmer months as well.


What’s the difference between baselayers and long underwear?

There really is no difference between baselayers and long underwear. A baselayer is the layer of clothing closest to your skin (aka underwear). Technically a baselayer could be a short sleeve shirt and traditional underwear though, it’s generally accepted that a baselayer is a long sleeve shirt and full length pants meant to be worn as the closest layer to the skin just like long underwear.


What is the best baselayer?

The best baselayer is the baselayer that best matches your activity and anticipated temperatures. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, people use baselayers for a variety of outdoor activities. A couple things to keep in mind when you’re selecting a baselayer are the material and thickness.

Baselayers are most commonly made of Merino wool or synthetic materials such as polyester. Both Merino and synthetic materials are made to be soft on the skin and meant to be worn as the closest layer to the skin.

You’ll frequently see multiple thicknesses of baselayer clothing items. Most brands simply have light, medium and heavy weighted baselayers though some brands, such as Smartwool, have their own naming conventions.


Should baselayers be tight or loose?

Baselayers will be most effective as a fitted garment rather than a looser garment that sits away from the skin. A quality baselayer will serve as a naturally temperature maintaining extension of your skin. Any air space between the baselayer and your skin is space for cold air to be close to the body and cool you down.


Are baselayers worth it?

Yes. Baselayers are a great way to help you be more comfortable in cooler temperatures. More comfortable means more enjoyment. More enjoyment = worth it

Some people are naturally less tolerant of colder temperatures. These people are “cold blooded” or “always cold”. For these folks, having a Merino baselayer to help maintain body temperature improves comfort during outdoor winter activities or their standard daily activities.

There are also people who are “always hot”. For someone who’s naturally “warm blooded”, having a baselayer that helps wick moisture from the skin can be a life saver (literally). Cotton based materials naturally pull heat away from the body when wet. If you’re caught wearing cotton close to the skin after sweating all day and temperatures dip, you could be at risk of hypothermia.

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