A baselayer is just what it says on the box – the foundation of any layering system and the basic modus operandi for keeping warm in the cold.
The secret of baselayer clothing involves much more than throwing on any old T-shirt under your jacket.
It controls your core temperature, acting like a thermostat to regulate your body heat in changing conditions.
The golden rule is NEVER wear cotton next to your skin – it is the worst enemy of sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts, holding in perspiration to leave you feeling clammy and uncomfortable – and increasingly cold as the sweat dries on your skin.
Breathability is the watchword – allowing internal moisture to evaporate before it has a chance to take hold.
Dizzying Array of Options
For beginners, baselayers present a dizzying array of options from body-hugging compression tops – think rugby especially – to loose-fitting, less restrictive versions designed for high-aerobic activities and guaranteed to keep you feeling fresh and dry.
It’s all about moisture management, with built-in technology known as ‘wicking,’ which sweeps away sweat before it builds up on your body.
Baselayer tops are designed to trap air next to the skin, banishing perspiration and controlling your temperature as conditions dictate.
They will keep you warm in the cold and cool in the heat – especially if made from Merino wool. Using wool to keep cool sounds like a complete contradiction in terms – but Merino is the perfect temperature regulator, and is guaranteed odour-free into the bargain.
Icebreaker are one of the most well-known manufacturers of Merino baselayers, using the highest-quality wool from their native New Zealand.
Their BodyFit series incorporates ultralight, lightweight and midweight layers – Ultralight 150 is a super-fine fabric which will keep your body warm at night and lower its temperature during the heat of the day; BodyFit 200 is designed for cooler climates; and BodyFit 260 is a midweight specially engineered for the cold.
Helly Hansen are another world-renowned brand, offering three specific variations on a theme to meet different requirements. HH Cool Technology acts as a built-in air conditioning system, HH Dry is like a moisture super-highway, and HH Warm mixes extreme insulation with superior moisture evaporation in a two-in-one combination.
Compression baselayers follow the same principle – but are engineered to enhance performance by accelerating blood flow, controlling compression over the spine and scapula in particular…delivering more oxygen to core muscles which in turn helps to avoid muscle damage and aids post-exercise soreness.
Skins, Under Armour, Accapi and Canterbury are amongst the best examples of compression wear on the market, featuring built-in moisture management and anti-bacterial odour control.
- License: Image author owned
Nicki Williams is a sports writer for Gear-Zone, specialists in baselayer clothing and outdoor equipment from all the leading brands including Icebreaker, Smartwool, Helly Hansen, Rab and The North Face
Picture source: Icebreaker/Canterbury/Berghaus/Gear-Zone