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Buying Guide: Baselayers


Insulation starts with your baselayer, and it’s a must-have for combatting the cold. Choosing the right one can be a bit of a minefield, so read through our guide and get all the info you need before you layer up.


What is a baselayer?

The layer closest to your skin is pivotal to staying warm and comfortable. A baselayer is a great place to start, particularly if you’re getting active. They may seem expensive at first, but active baselayers are far more effective than traditional cotton layers.

Unlike cotton counterparts, modern day baselayers won’t absorb moisture. Instead, they wick it away from your skin and allow it to evaporate through the fabric to keep you comfortable as well as warm.

The levels of insulation and durability are also far higher than cotton equivalents.


What fabrics are baselayers made from?


Man-made fabrics are commonly used in baselayer construction to keep costs to a minimum. Polyester is popular as it is lightweight, durable and suitable for various activities such as running and cycling.

Synthetic materials don’t perform quite as well as merino wool, but they’re not far off. In some cases, synthetics are blended with wool to improve performance and achieve a softer feel.

Merino wool:

Merino wool provides natural warmth and breathability. Unlike most sheep’s wool, the Merino variety is stretchy, lightweight and breathable, the perfect combination for a high-performance baselayer. Of course, Merino wool baselayers will be more expensive than synthetic alternatives, however, they’re incredibly soft and better equipped to keep you warm if you find yourself out in the cold. This particular fabric is antibacterial by nature too, so you’ll be able to feel fresh and avoid nasty odours when you’re out exercising.


Bamboo-based fabrics have shot to prominence in recent years due their eco-friendly status. In terms of baselayers, bamboo extracts are typically blended with other fabrics like cotton, Lycra or wool to produce a high-performance garment that’s suitable for all activities.

Bamboo baselayers are just as effective as other types when it comes at moisture wicking and odour control. They’ll also hold their shape really well too, while remaining soft on sensitive skin.


How thick should a baselayer be?

It depends how warm you want to be! Baselayer thickness (or weight) is usually split into three tiers to give you an idea of how well insulated a garment will be.

The general rule is that the heavier the baselayer is, the warmer it'll be.


Worn skin-tight, a lightweight layer will give you optimum breathability and moisture management, without restricting movement. Designed for dynamic activities in cool conditions.


A midweight baselayer gives you a bit more versatility. It can be used as a slightly thicker first layer or over a lightweight baselayer if you want to lock in more warmth.

Worn alone, a midweight baselayer is ideal for moderate activity in cold conditions.


Heavyweight baselayers aren’t always worn as the first layer. If you’re heading to the snowy slopes, combine with thinner layers underneath to trap as much heat as possible. Although they’re great at keeping you warm, heavyweight baselayers are less breathable and won’t have the same level of moisture control as lightweight and midweight layers.


When should I wear a baselayer?

Baselayers lend themselves to most outdoor activities, but you may want to change your layering slightly depending on what you get up to.

Recommended use:

Mountain sports (skiing, snowboarding etc.) – body temperature control in cold mountain climates

Cycling – lightweight and aerodynamic

Walking and running – non-invasive insulation worn under shorts and t-shirts.


How should a baselayer fit?

The main thing is to ensure that your baselayers are skin-tight. If they're loose or baggy, they'll be far less effective, and pretty uncomfortable too.

By keeping layers tight, you’ll help them block out cold air and wick away sweat. As a result, you’ll be feeling fresh, warm and comfortable throughout your activity.

It’s worth noting that heavyweight baselayers may be a bit looser; this is to allow space for extra layers underneath.



For a tight-fitting top, simply select the same size you would if you were buying a t-shirt. There is no need to adjust your size to achieve a slim fit. Choose between long sleeve, short sleeve and sleeveless to match your insulation requirements.


Just like tops, baselayer bottoms need to be skin-tight. This doesn’t mean you’ll lose any mobility though. The fabrics used are designed to stretch in line with body movement, making them perfect for a number of activities including running, cycling, hiking and skiing. You can even wear them underneath your everyday outfits for extra warmth on chilly days.


Cleaning your baselayers

Baselayers are constantly draining sweat away from the body, so they'll become smelly if they’re not cleaned appropriately. Luckily, there are some great cleaners and conditioners out there to make life easier for you.

Often designed with a specific fabric in mind (synthetic or wool), these products will disperse odours and keep bacteria at bay.


While they don’t look like much, baselayers are one of the most effective ways to stay warm outdoors. Get yours today and start layering up!