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Popular brands in this section... Base Layers - Footnotes
What is the purpose of Baselayer clothing?
The body is constantly generating its own warmth to maintain your core body temperature. The body produces sweat as part of the natural process to keep the core temperature constant. As you become more active, the body produces more sweat. This is intended to evaporate and cool the body. When wearing multiple layers of clothing, this process is hindered and moisture builds up next to the skin. The job of the baselayer is to move this moisture away from the skin and, in lower temperatures, help to retain the body's warmth.
How do Baselayers work?
The movement of moisture away from the skin is called wicking. As essential feature of any baselayer is its ability to wick moisture effectively. This is then transferred to the next layer in the layering system and eventually out to the surface to evaporate. The most effective wicking fabrics are always man-made, for example polyester and polyethylene. These fabrics are effective because they don't absorb much moisture.
What's wrong with using my old cotton t-shirt as a 'base layer'?
Natural fabrics are generally poor at wicking. Cotton absorbs a lot of moisture and doesn't wick any away from the skin resulting in clingly, damp material. This is most often noticed after a period of exertion on the mountain - when you stop for a rest the damp cotton cools your skin very quickly. The only natural fibre with baselayer qualities is Merino Wool.
5 points to consider when buying Baselayer clothing
Baselayers should be close fitting to give maximum contact between skin and clothing but don't have to be super skin-tight. Loose clothing will not give the same opportunity for the fabric to draw moisture away and by allowing air to circulate, will eliminate warm air. Most baselayer tops look fairly casual and can be worn on their own. For colder environments, close fitting baselayers become a must to ensure maximum insulation.
2. Freedom of Movement
As the baselayer is worn next to the skin, restriction can be a problem when it comes to active use. While walking, climbing, running or skiing, the body needs to reach and stretch without hinderance. Make sure the garment isn't too tight or to short - the latter will be especially annoying as it can lead to untucking when at maximum reach. To try and counter this, baselayers are cut with dynamic movement in mind and allow for reaching and twisting common to active outdoor activities.
Construction isn't really much of a concern any more - most modern base layers have flatlocked seams to prevent chaffing. This means there is very little raised material and adjacent pieces of fabric are joined together with fairly smooth seams.
For general use, a crew neck design should be ideal but for colder conditions a zipped, rollover neck may be required to provide extra insulation. The zip allows the level of ventilation to be controlled and is ideal for activties involving high levels of exertion.
Comfort has recently become less of an issue as all new baselayers now utilise yarns with a soft feel. Despite feeling soft, the fabrics used are very durable and effectively prevent rubbing from pressure points created by wearing a pack.
How do I look after my Baselayer?
Generally speaking, Baselayer garments are easy to care for. Items are machine washable (up to 40 degrees centigrade) and won't need much drying. As with most outdoor equipment, it is important not to use fabric conditioner as this will affect the performance of the fabric. Also, do not iron.