It all starts with the base.
By Trent Jonas
When you're venturing out into cold and wintery conditions, it's crucial to have a good base layer. As your first layer of protection against cold temperatures, it's important for the material of your base to not only hold in heat but to also wick moisture should you work up a sweat. Warm, flexible, comfortable, and breathable, the right base layer helps make cold weather activities possible. From merino wool to synthetic materials, here are a few of our favorites.
Patagonia’s long-sleeved Capilene Lightweight Crew—which also comes in a midweight version for even colder days—is an excellent choice for a core base layer if you plan on vigorous outdoor activity like cross-country skiing. It will keep you warm while allowing for sufficient ventilation to prevent you from overheating and keeping you dry by wicking moisture away from your skin. The Capilene fabric dries quickly and is made with an odor control component to ensure you don’t smell like a locker room at the end of the day. The Capilene Crew is Fair Trade certified and made from 52 to 100 percent recycled material.
The Intraknit Merino 250 Thermal Crew from Smartwool makes an awesome base layer for those colder days when you want more warmth close to your core. Long-sleeved and 3D-mapped for gender-specific fit, the Intraknit Merino Thermal Crew is designed for maximum insulation with maximum flexibility. At the same time, the Thermal Crew provides odor-resistant moisture wicking and plenty of ventilation for those days when you push yourself a little harder.
New Zealand-based Icebreaker was one of the earlier proponents of merino wool as a technical fabric for the outdoor industry, so it’s no surprise that they also make a fantastic merino base layer. The company’s Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Thermal Top is a performance base layer designed with outdoor activity in mind. The merino fibers help to regulate body temperatures and resist odors, while wicking moisture away from and providing ventilation for your skin. The Crewe is made so that the shirt’s seams avoid potential friction points, allowing for maximum comfort and movement.
The Inversion Heavyweight Base Layer Crew from Ridge Merino is a terrific option for particularly cold days. Made from 100 percent merino wool, the Inversion Crew 270-gram merino ensures warmth, and it’s cut long to stay tucked in and provide extra protection below the waistline, while thumb loops help to ensure that the sleeves stay in place. The merino makes sure that you’re dry, well-ventilated and odor free. According to Ridge, the Inversion Crew can be worn multiple days with no odor build up.
If you’re looking for a performance base layer with a lot of bells and whistles, the Spider Hoodie from NW Alpine is the garment for you. The synthetic hoodie is made with Polartec High-Efficiency Power Dry fabric to keep you warm, dry, and mobile, whether you’re bouldering or shredding. The chest is zippered for a quick cool-down, while thumb loops will ensure that the sleeves don’t ride up under a mid or outer layer. The integrated hood is designed to be worn under a helmet, balaclava, or any other headwear you choose for your winter outings.
The Ultra-Warm Poly Crew from The North Face is specifically designed to keep you warm and dry during even vigorous outdoor activities like skiing and snow sports. Made from lightweight synthetic technical fabric, with FlashDry technology, will ensure that moisture is wicked away from your skin while keeping your base layer comfortable and free from odor.