When you go hiking, skiing, hunting or snowboarding, the type of base layers you have underneath can determine if you have a great or an awful day. Base layering may not seem exciting but it’s very important. These are the pieces that are closest to your skin, and they should feel right. No irritation, no itching, no sweating or feeling of dampness. By choosing the right pieces, you can have a wonderful time no matter where you go.
What are Base Layers?
The term “base layer” refers to the clothing pieces that are close to your skin. They’re the ones that will keep you warm and absorb and remove sweat. Their purpose is to keep you comfortable during your adventures. They’re very versatile and made of different materials, so you can find something that suits you no matter the weather conditions and activities.
Having this in mind, the warm and comfortable women’s base layers are crucial pieces of the whole layering system, as important as the mid- and outer layers you can get for your outdoor adventures. Depending on individual needs in terms of insulation, your choice of combinations of fabrics, clothing items, and additional layers is a personal matter.
Wool, in general, is one of the best materials in the world. In this case, Merino wool women’s base layers will do a great job. The fabric is very soft, ultrafine, lightweight, warm and dries quickly. It’s also good at temperature regulation and resisting odours. You won’t get a sticky, clammy feeling when you’re wearing this as your base layer. On the other hand, Merino wool isn’t as durable as synthetic materials are. It can get baggy after a while and even get holes quicker. To prevent this, there are wool blends you can buy.
Cotton is not a material that’s used on its own in base layers. It’s not doing good with temperature regulation. It’s also hard to dry and its moisture-wicking properties won’t store the sweat away from the skin. However, some manufacturers blend it with polyester. Here, cotton is added for its nice texture and breathability. It’ll also provide good odour resistance, which complements polyester very well.
Synthetic fabrics, which are usually blends of polyester and elastane or spandex for shape and rebound, are a good substitute for wool. Some of them are brand-made and are always upgraded. Manufacturers work on new technologies to make them better. Especially on their moisture-wicking properties and odour resistance.
They don’t have superior warming abilities or a way to regulate temperature as wool does, but they’re getting better. This makes them a good choice for high-intensity activities that will make you very sweaty. They have very good breathability and are reasonably priced.
Silk is not a very common material, but you can still find base layers made of it. Despite the fact that it’s lightweight, silk is still very good at warming you up. It can soak up about 30% of its weight and the moisture won’t feel clammy against the skin. It’s also very fast drying and is naturally antimicrobial which is perfect for a material that touches your skin. The only disadvantage is its price. It can be costly for some people.
Selecting between an all-merino or all-synthetic base layer isn’t easy. Certain brands have blends designed to provide the performance and comfort of merino wool with the strength and ability to drain away moisture from polyester or nylon. At the end of the day, you get the best of both worlds.
What to Consider When Buying
Your next-to-skin layer must be close to your skin for it to effectively wick away moisture. This means you’ll need everything to fit snugly but comfortably. Oftentimes, people prefer loose-fitting base layers, but this is not the right way to go. They think they’ll get more air circulation and cooling but, in the end, this is not efficient. Your merino wool base layer for women shouldn’t be too tight to be uncomfortable, or too loose to become ineffective.
Moisture Wicking Properties
If you don’t want your body to change its temperature very quickly after you sweat, you should get some base layers with good moisture-wicking properties. This means that every drop of moisture they collect should end up on the outside of the material and evaporate, and not against your skin.
Breathability depends on the material and its quality, the thickness and how open the weave is. Lightweight materials like Merino wool and synthetic options are better at breathability. Synthetic is even better than Merino because it doesn’t hold on to the moisture when it captures it.
There are three categories of insulation weight in women’s base layers out of which the first is lightweight insulation. This one would be a good choice if you’re doing uphill workouts, skate skiing or snowshoeing in temperatures around 0 and no chill wind. Next, there’s the mid-weight insulation. It’s good for snowboarding and when the wind is a bit colder than usual. And third, you have heavyweight insulation. This one is for extreme temperatures and when the weather conditions aren’t very pleasant.
You’ll probably sweat a lot during some high-intensity activity or when the weather is warmer than you anticipated. This can leave you soaked in sweat if your base layers aren’t quick-drying. This usually depends on the material’s thickness and water absorbency.
Merino wool’s inner part of the fibre is the one that stores the water. While the outside part that comes in contact with the skin is dry. This means it won’t dry as quickly as synthetic, but it retains warmth.