It's All About the Base(Layers) // Helpful Ski Hints
Baselayers are an essential part of a winter layering system. These next-to-skin layers set the foundation for your entire system by providing core warmth, body temperature regulation and moisture wicking properties. Years ago, they were pretty simple. They were "long johns", typically cotton, and you really didn’t give them much thought. But things are different now. There are way more options available, and it can all get pretty confusing.
Choosing the Right Weight:
Baselayers typically come in different weights that determine how warm they are. For example, Icebreaker, Helly Hansen and Under Armour all produce different weights of their baselayers for a variety of options. Choosing a weight is going to depend a lot on you personally, as well as what your end use is. If you are engaging in high-output winter activities like Nordic skiing go with for a lighter weight baselayer. Or, if you are alpine skiing at a resort, or just walking around town, a heavier baselayer will keep you warmer.
Additionally everyone’s core temperatures run differently- we all have the friend who’s always cold, as well as the friend who’s always sweating. Always consider how warm or cold you usually run when you are outside in the winter. Some people who are always cold may need a heavier baselayer, even when moving. On the other hand, "warm-blooded" folks could wear a mid-weight or lightweight baselayer and be comfortable.
Materials- Merino Wool vs. Synthetics
Merino wool is the latest and greatest when it comes to baselayers. It’s an excellent baselayer material as it’s naturally anti-microbal (doesn’t stink), moisture wicking, highly breathable, and has a higher warmth per weight ratio than synthetics and other wools. Plus, it’s a renewable performance fabric that is highly breathable. Compared to synthetics, wool products also smell better, feel better on the skin, and are generally warmer.
Despite all of the benefits of Merino wool, baselayers made from synthetic fabrics still have some excellent performance properties that make them worth considering. One of the major advantages of synthetics over wool is durability. Wool fibers are delicate and will wear out more quickly than synthetics. If you are tough on your gear or if you are doing something active that could potentially damage your baselayers over time (like skiing), you might consider opting for synthetics. Additionally, if you are participating in a high-output activity where you know you will be sweating; synthetics are a good choice as they dry faster than wool. Synthetics are also generally cheaper, making them the better long term deal.
The Bottom Line:
The baselayers you choose are really a matter of personal preference. Pick the one that keeps you warm, dry, comfortable, fits within your budget, and works with your activity. Once you find the right baselayer, you’ll never know how you lasted so long wearing cotton!