Base Layers 101

What is a base layer?

Put simply, your base layer is the layer of clothing that sits closest to your skin.  They are designed to assist in moving any moisture away from your body, and evaporate from the  fabric, also known as “wicking.” Clothes that wick efficiently are important to wear in both hot and cold weather. During winter, moisture wicking material will move all water away from the skin, trapping in your body heat and decreasing the chance of hypothermia. In summer, moisture wicking material will keep your body cool when temperatures are high.  It pushes sweat away from your body and allows it to evaporate, and take your excess body heat along with it.  Base layers are essential in all seasons, hot or cold, wet or dry. Here are 3 different fabrics to consider trying out while hiking.

Synthetic

Pros: Synthetic clothing such as polyester, spandex, and nylon, are extremely common to wear when being active. They tend to be somewhat cheaper than other fabrics. They dry easily and are extremely durable. They work great in wet, warm weather conditions, AKA those summer rain storms.

Cons: If you don’t wash the garment on a regular basis, the fabric will quickly retain body odors. Even after multiple washes, the bad odor might still linger. You’ve been warned. Hiker stank. Those synthetic fibers also tend stain extremely easily.

Silk

Pros: Silk is the softest of the base layer fabrics, but silk wicks water away more slowly than synthetic fibers. It is better at retaining heat than other fabrics, and is extremely light and easily-layered. Silk adds very little bulk to your clothing while still holding in a ton of heat.

Cons: Silks are prone to preserving their odor, and must be washed regularly. Some silk also must be hand washed or they will shrink. Silk is also much less durable than synthetics, and too much rough wear can weaken the overall strength of the fabric.

Merino Wool

Pros: Although merino wool is often used in cold temps, it’s an all-season fabric. It holds in warm air when the air is cold, but is also extremely breathe for warmer weather. Wool retains its heat even when it is wet, which is an added bonus. Merino wool fabric can be worn for extended periods of time without retaining your body odor quickly.

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