Always a divisive topic, I will try to clear up the issue of the "base layer." A base layer by definition is the layer closest to your skin. Usually, base layers are long underwear. This article will cover the best ways to choose and use ultralight long underwear.
Layering, understanding the functions of a base layer, how a body loses heat, what to do when you want to stay warm, base layer fibers and fabrics, and whether longer fibers are better in colder weather are all key concepts to understanding the base layer as a whole and we will explore these concepts in this article.
But first we begin with a story...
Summer days in the tundra mountains of northern Scandinavia are seldom unbearably hot. So I was pushing things a bit, hiking the trail from Kebnekaise towards Nikkaluokta, wearing only shorts. In fact, I had to keep up a goodly pace in order not to get chilled. Luckily I was able to hike pretty fast. I was only half a day from trailhead after a three-week hike through the mountains of Lapland with a light pack containing almost no food.
This is a well-traveled trail and I met quite a few hikers going uphill while I was breezing downhill. The trail was not that steep, but it was certainly a slope. Most hikers I met were huffing and puffing and sweating. It slowly dawned on me that the latter was perhaps not so surprising.
Most hikers were dressed in what is more or less classical Swedish mountain dress code: green, sturdy pants, t-shirt, checkered shirt and shell jacket, topped with a baseball cap for the men. Footwear was rubber boots or sturdy hiking boots. They probably thought me crazily naked and for my part, I could not figure out why they insisted on three layers of clothing while going uphill on a warm summer day, especially with a not-so-breathable shell jacket on top. They were obviously sweating and I could only hope that they had a good wicking base layer. Unfortunately, most seemed to be wearing cotton t-shirts.
If you are looking to better understand base layers or have an opinion on what a base layer is (or should be) then this article is for you!
- Understanding the functions of a base layer
- How a body loses heat
- What to do when you want to stay warm
- Base layer fibers and fabrics
- Whether longer fibers are better in colder weather
- Can there only be one?
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