How to Choose the Best Base Layers for Cold Weather

To create the perfect layering system to keep warm, we need to get started with the basics – aka your base layer. If you’re looking for tips on how to layer effectively, read more about How to Dress For Winter.

Before we get started on our base layers, there is just one simple misconception that we need to clarify:

BASE LAYERS ARE NOT MEANT TO KEEP YOU WARM

Sure – you’ll feel warmer wearing a base layer rather than a t-shirt, but the real purpose of a base layer is not to keep you warm. They are actually meant to keep you dry as you sweat (yes you still sweat in the cold!), and help regulate your body temperature.

A good base layer keeps you dry, comfortable & warm. To be effective, it should also be made of wicking materials – which are special fabrics that help draw sweat away from your body,  pushing the moisture out to your middle & outer layers. These special fabrics (e.g. synthetic fabrics) can be made to provide better absorption of sweat using a 3D structure as compared to other nature fabrics like cotton – which makes it easier for your sweat to evaporate. The quicker it wicks away your sweat, the warmer you will feel.

If you’re looking for a base layer that keeps you both dry and warm, then look out for thermal base layers. Thermal base layers are made up of two-ply fabric, allowing it to trap more body heat than normal base layers

Here are 3 essentials things for look out for when choosing a good base layer:

1. Skin Tight
For effective sweat wicking, your base layer needs to have as much contact with the skin as possible – which means you need to have a base layer that is tight fitting. This is why base layers are also known as your ‘second skin’! This allows the cold to transfer to your base layers, instead of your own skin due the evaporation process 🙂

2. Sweat Wicking
A good base layer also needs to be absorbent on the inside to draw the sweat away from the skin as quickly as possible!

3. Quick Drying
Once the fabric draws away the sweat from your skin, it also needs to dry quickly so it doesn’t become damp. Once your base layer becomes damp, it’ll start cooling your skin and make you even colder!

There are 2 main materials that base layers are often made of:

Merino Wool

Merino wool is one of the most popular choices of base layers in the recent years – it is warm, lightweight and breathable! It wicks away moisture pretty well, but they are not as effective as polyester. They also take longer to dry when it gets wet.

One major upside to merino wool is its odour-free properties! The wool is naturally antibacterial, so you doesn’t smell even if you don’t wash it 🙂 However, it’s important to note that merino wool are usually much more expensive. So prioritise your needs accordingly!

Synthetic Fabrics

The most common synthetic fabric that you’ll find out there in base layers is polyester. There are also base layers that include elastane to offer you greater freedom of movement and comfort, while still being skin-tight. Synthetics are also much more affordable than other materials 🙂

Synthetics are great for wicking away your sweat, and they are the most effective in this area amongst the different materials. However, while some synthetic fabrics offer some sort of odour-control – it is not as effective as merino wool.

Tip: Always try to avoid using cotton as your base layer in cold countries. It absorbs sweat but has zero sweat wicking properties! This will cause your base layer to become damp and draws away heat from your body, making you feel even colder!

Yes it will!! Besides the type of material, a major consideration is your own activity level. Your needs will definitely differ depending on whether you are having a relaxing holiday in the city, or if you are being adventurous & going skiing.

For when you’re just chilling in a cold country

Since you won’t be doing much strenuous activities, ventilation would not be of a top priority for you. Look for thermal base layers that will offer you extra warmth to keep you comfortable and toasty throughout your trip 🙂 Our 500 Series Base Layers would be great for this!

For when you’re having an adventurous winter holiday

If you’re going on a skiing or snowboarding trip, then consider base layers that allow for greater ventilation allow for greater breathability. You’re probably going to generate a lot more heat, and you want that heat to escape as quickly as possibly to avoid sweating and getting your base layers damp.

You can also look out for base layers that are mixed with elastane – this ensures that your base layer will not constrict your movements while still being skin-tight! Check out our FreshWarm Series if you’re planning to go for a winter sport holiday 🙂

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start exploring!

If you’re getting ready for your winter holiday, and check out Decathlon’s collection of winter wear in Singapore 🙂 From affordable winter jackets to long johns, you can Click & Collect your orders in just 2 hours, or even enjoy free same day delivery on orders above $60! 🙂

Written by Andrew Ng, Trekking Sports Advisor at Decathlon Singapore