Brenna Ellis - Oct 2022
The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Baselayer This Winter
Y You’re on a ski trip with your family, and though it’s absolutely freezing out, you can’t miss a day on the mountain. You throw on your warmest clothes to layer under your ski pants and jacket and head to the resort. The first chairlift ride is fine—a little chilly but totally doable. Carving turns down the mountain warms you up, and you even work up a little sweat. That second lift ride … miserable! The sweat you built up on the way down is now frozen to your skin. You call it a day after the second run, suffering, and cold is not how you want to spend your vacation! Choosing the right baselayers could have prevented this whole frigid situation. The right layer for your outdoor activity and the weather will make all the difference in the world. But how do you choose a baselayer out of a million options? When it comes to baselayers, there are a few big questions we will help you answer. What are the differences between the two most used materials? When should you wear one material over the other? And, how should you most effectively layer for your activity? Sound overwhelming? Don’t sweat it. With our years of expertise, we’ll narrow things down and give you a list of this season’s crème de la crème of baselayers.
Merino Wool vs. Synthetic
The two main types of baselayer materials are merino wool and synthetics. (There are also a growing number of merino wool/synthetic blends that use the benefits of each to create a super garment). Each of these has its strong suits for moisture wicking and warmth. Knowing the basics of each material will help you pick the right baselayer for you.
Merino Wool Merino comes from Merino sheep and is typically considered the premier baselayer material. Unlike regular wool, merino is thinner and soft, making it great as a baselayer worn close to your skin.
- Fire resistant (you never know when you’ll end up near a campfire)
- Natural fiber
- Odor-resistant (bye-bye stinky socks and pits!)
- Warm (thermoregulation)
- Takes longer to dry
- Not as stretchy
- Not as durable as some synthetics ( Read the care instructions)
- More expensive
When to Wear a Merino Wool Baselayer:
Merino should be your go-to for activities where you will be sweating and cooling down throughout the day (think backpacking, hiking, skiing, and chasing toddlers). They are excellent in all seasons because of their ability to regulate temperature. Merino will always keep you smelling your best and giving you warmth without the bulk
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High quality wool garments can last you a lifetime, just make sure to follow the care instructions for optimal longevity
You may find that having a few options in your drawer to select from all winter will keep you best equipped for whatever cool-weather activity is at hand
Synthetic baselayers are made up of polyester and elastic fibers. The elastic sewn into these baselayers gives them a lot of stretch, which is great for all types of activities. Though not as odor-resistant, synthetic layers do a good job of moving moisture away from your skin and keeping you dry.
- Generally less expensive
- Quick drying
- Moisture wicking
- Can be stinky
- Can melt by a fire
- Less environmentally friendly
When to Wear a Synthetic Baselayer:
Synthetics will shine when you are on a tighter budget, want something that will last longer, and have regular access to a washing machine! They are great for when you’re consistently active, like on a run, or bike ride.
As you know, we only carry brands that we believe make the best product for you and our environment. That being said, there are a couple in the base layer category that stand out and deserve their own spotlight. Read on to learn more about the brands we believe in when it comes to base layers.
If you don’t already know who Kari Traa is, you should! Kari is a Norwegian Olympic moguls champion and all-around, boundary-pushing boss woman. Kari dominated international women’s moguls in the late ’90s and early 2000s. During this time, women were just breaking onto the scene, and their uniforms were big, boxy menswear.
Kari Traa began knitting hats between rounds of competition, wanting something that fit her well and reflected her bold and fun personality. Her hats became so popular on the moguls' circuit that she quickly grew her business.
With Norwegian heritage patterns, bold colors, and women’s-specific fit, these pieces are like nothing else on the market.
Kari Traa expanded to the US in 2015, so you may not be familiar with her baselayers yet, but it’s only a matter of time. The company now also offers shoes, boots, ski pants, and jackets.
Click here to learn more about Kari Traa
Our Favorite Kari Traa Pieces
The Rose collection from Kari Traa is the company’s most popular line. With the unique, beautiful print and 100% merino wool, these pieces are designed to keep you cozy and warm. From your outdoor pursuits to après, you will look and feel good in these layers.
If you’ve decided synthetics will work better for you and want a more approachable price point, check out the Kari Traa Lune collection. Like all Kari Traa pieces, these don’t skimp on function and fashion.
One of the more recognized baselayer companies in the US, Smartwool was founded in 1994 by two ski instructors in Steamboat Springs, CO. The company started with ski socks and has since grown, carrying everything from jackets and dresses to dog beds.
Smartwool led the outdoor industry in the (re)introduction of wool. Discovering merino wool in New Zealand was a game changer, realizing wool no longer equals itchy, and that its natural properties make it the perfect year-round activewear material.
Today, Smartwool remains one of the top sock and baselayer companies in the US. It is constantly pushing to be more sustainable and make a positive impact on people and the environment.
Click here to learn more about Smartwool
Our Favorite Smartwool Pieces
We carry Smartwool pieces ranging from tried-and-true staple pieces to innovative new technology for intense pursuits
Smartwool Thermal Merino Baselayer Top and Bottom. These two pieces have been in the Smartwool lineup for years and for good reason. Their simple yet technical design makes them great for your cold-weather activities. If you want a solid baselayer without being too flashy, these should be your top choices.
Women's Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer 1/2 Zip Hoodie
From running errands around town to grabbing drinks with friends and on the mountain, this hoodie does it all. Its classic design, cozy fit, and fun colors make it a great all-around, cool-weather piece.View Details
Women's Intraknit Thermal Merino Base Layer Crew
Always pushing the boundaries, Smartwool recently came out with its Intraknit™ line. This minimalist-style, performance-fit piece is ideal for high-intensity, cold-weather activities. This piece blends 53% merino Wool, 45% polyester, and 2% elastane to give you the best of all worlds in a single baselayer. The technology used in Intraknit pieces gives an almost custom fit. Paired with the placement of extra ventilated material right where you need it, this piece is comfortable and efficient.
Get Out There!
Now that you’ve got the lowdown on everything related to baselayers, we hope you feel confident in making the right choices for you. Keep in mind, each piece serves a different purpose and has specific areas where it will shine. You may find that having a few options in your drawer to select from all winter will keep you best equipped for whatever cool-weather activity is at hand.
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