Base Layers Buying Guide

Base Layers Buying Guide

Posted by Buckman's Ski & Snowboard Shops on Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Remember that time you hiked up the mountain during the peak of winter, and you were almost as frozen as the ground? Or how about the time you were skiing with your family and everyone needed more than a few hand warmers to defrost?

At Buckman’s, we know nothing is worse than feeling numb while you’re trying to enjoy the outdoors in the snow and cold weather. When you need to stay cozy warm in the mountains, remain sweat-free playing a sport, or keep dry while skiing through deep powder, you need to invest in the best base layer for cold weather.

For you, your friends, family and children, Buckmans' experts are here to help you find what layers work for you and your level of movement. Wearing a base layer is your best defense at keeping warm, dry and active no matter what you’re getting into.

What Are Base Layers?

what are base layers 

Choosing the best base layer is what can make or break an awesome snowboard session or family skiing trip. Base layer is a garment worn against your skin to deliver insulating properties by regulating your body temperature and moving perspiration away from your skin to keep you dry. Being dry means you’re warm, which is a necessity during the winter months.

For the most effective moisture control, you'll want to make sure your base layer allows a full range of motion while also contouring as closely to your body as possible. No matter what, the best way to stay warm in frigid conditions is to wear three layers. One base layer (top and bottom), one insulating mid layer (depending on the conditions), and a weather-proof outer layer that all work together to provide the critical elements of wicking away sweat, retaining your body heat, and keeping out the wind and rain.

Different Types of Base Layering for Skiing and Other Sports

Whether you’re in need of one or several layers, Buckman’s has what you need to stay on top of your game without freezing.

  1. Long-sleeve shirts are great for colder weather, especially when you pair it with additional layers. They maximize your warmth too.
  2. Bottoms come in full-leg or three-quarter leg versions. Full-length pants should reach your ankles while cropped bottoms are perfect for when you wear snowboard or ski boots to help get rid of clumping that occurs with your pant legs and socks.
  3. One-pieces give you complete base layer protection to seal any air drafts. By covering almost every part of your body, onesies are incredible for cold weather, and some even come with hoods.

You can wear any of the base layers alone or with additional clothing, but for optimal warmth and wicking, layering is best. When choosing shirts or pants, make sure to pick the same size you would for regular apparel.

Aspects to Consider When Choosing Base Layers

aspects to consider when choosing base layers 

If you’re wondering how to choose a base layer, think about various components such as weight, material and fit. Each depends on different elements including the weather, temperature and amount of physical activity you’re performing. Base layers come in different weights as well as various thicknesses to accommodate you.

1. The Weight of a Warm Base Layer

The heaviness of the layer you choose parallels the amount of warmth provided. For example, there are light, medium and heavyweight categories where the heat retention properties depend on the fabric used and its weight. While brands differ when it comes to what’s considered light, mid and heavy weight, these are some general guidelines:


Base layers made of lightweight material have a thin sheet of fabric which allows you to add more clothes on top. It’s the first piece you put on to stay warm. The apparel fits close to your skin but is also comfortable, giving you the freedom to move. The design permits the addition of clothes to go over for superior moisture management. Or, you can wear the base layer alone if you’re involved in high levels of activity.

Ideal for mild or chilly weather, lightweight versions are the go-to if you’re performing anything from running and skiing to touring and climbing. Thin layers are better at wicking, faster at drying and worn by outdoor athletes. You can add layers as you wish for more endurance-based activities like cross-country skiing.

Medium Weight

Also known as a mid-weight base layer, this type is warmer than a lightweight layer. You can wear mid-weight layers right next to your skin or as a second layer over lighter base apparel. Mid-weight base layers are excellent if you combine them with lightweight materials underneath or heavier layers overtop to meet your exact warmth requirements. However, you can also wear it as a first layer. Worn alone, it’s best for cool to cold conditions while performing a medium level of activity whether you’re moving or standing for extended periods.


The heaviest base layer is ideal for cold conditions and perfect for any level of activity. Also referred to as a thermal weight, it can layer over lighter weight versions. Compared to light or medium weight garments, heavyweight is thicker for extra insulation.

Because the base layer fits loosely, people don’t often wear it as a primary layer. It doesn’t matter how intense you are working — a thermal weight garment serves as a layer over top tighter accessories to provide added warmth. It delivers more insulation as opposed to wicking.

2. Types of Material Used to Create Base Layers

Different kinds of materials work in various ways to regulate your temperature, wick away moisture and protect you from the elements. The most common is Merino wool. Other materials include synthetic polyester and silk.

Merino Wool

As a natural fiber from Merino sheep, the wool has a soft hand, fine fibers and incredible thermal retention. It’s a lightweight material that resists odors and is pliable, bending up to 20,000 times before splitting for superior durability. The material also able to reshape well after running through the washer. Merino wool doesn't itch and bends more easily compared to traditional wool or synthetic fibers. Delivering more warmth than most other threads, it also has antibacterial properties with superior moisture management and temperature regulation. It is wrinkle and stain-resistant too.

Merino wool relies on moisture absorbing rather than wicking. For example, a wool base layer can hold up to 35 percent of its weight in water without becoming wet to the touch. Disadvantages of Merino wool include drying slower than synthetics, possible shrinking and being more expensive.


Made of polyester, nylon or polyester blends, synthetic material is an ideal base layer because of its superior wicking abilities. Its fibers are transparent and better at wicking moisture away from your skin as opposed to absorbing it like wool. Synthetics disperse sweat or water onto the outer surface where it can evaporate. Synthetics also dry faster than cotton which reduces the risk of swings in body temperature.

Synthetics are lightweight with a soft hand and excellent stretch. The material is also abrasion- and wrinkle-resistant and more affordable because it’s a man-made product. A disadvantage includes little odor protection. It’s also vulnerable to stains and has slower temp regulation compared to wool because it’s thinner.


Silk is the least common fabric used in the making of base layers. Made of natural fibers, it has a soft hand with great wicking capabilities because it’s thin and lightweight. Silk is ideal for cold weather conditions. On the downside, you must hand wash silk and shrinking is possible. It’s also vulnerable to abrasions and UV rays, making it not as durable.

3. The Fit of the Garment

Some people may believe a base layer should be overly tight. However, that’s not the case if you want proper circulation, insulation and wicking. You will want to find a piece of apparel that contours to your body but still allows unrestricted movement. In other words, it should be a tight but also a loose enough fit that allows you to maneuver and perform different activities — a happy medium between a shaped and moveable fit.

Selecting a layer that’s not fitted to your body type will result in an ineffective and uncomfortable layer. When the fabric is close to your skin, like with a lightweight option, it conserves your body heat and evaporates your sweat. It also enables you to fit more layers over the top. A looser fitting layer, such as a heavyweight version, allows air to flow between your skin and the fabric to trap any body heat. The fit of your base layer shouldn’t be so tight that it’s painful or restrictive.

How you determine the best fit for you and your kids is by knowing your body mass index (BMI).

Benefits of Wearing Base Layers

Being able to add or take away layers is the ultimate way to regulate your body temp and moisture level while you’re participating in winter activities with your friends and family. Base layers are efficient and versatile by offering better warmth than a garment of thick cotton. Other advantages include:

  • -Superior compression capabilities
  • -Improved rate of oxygenated blood flow
  • -Wicking abilities
  • -Incredible insulation properties
  • -Adapting to the needs of your muscles

Base layers are often a type of compression gear. The layers have seams and panels that put pressure on your extremities such as ankles and wrists. The seams lessen on your body as the material forms closer to your heart, delivering controlled pressure in the right areas.

The proper amount of compression also improves the rate of oxygenated blood that’s distributed to your muscles while deoxygenated blood transfers to your heart. With increased blood rates, you can see benefits such as:

  • -Increased recovery
  • -Reduced muscle fatigue
  • -Boosted circulation
  • -Less cramping
  • -Fewer risks of injury

With mornings on the mountain reaching freezing temps and getting a bit warmer as the day moves along, being able to add or take away layers is the best way to keep up with different weather conditions and levels of activity. Wearing a few layers will help keep you warm by trapping your body heat and retaining it close to your body. Several layers are more effective than one, but all comes down to personal preference, weather and activity. Some instances may call for you to remove a layer or two for comfort.

Wicking is a unique characteristic of particular fabrics where the material draws sweat and other liquids from your body and pushes them to the outer layers of the garment. The surface area of a base layer fabric is higher than materials like cotton, making it easier for perspiration to evaporate.

Have you ever gone for a run in a cotton tee-shirt, sweated through and became cold once you started to cool or stopped moving? Wicking helps prevent that to keep your temp controlled.

Snowboarding, skiing and moving around in the cold for extended periods makes you vulnerable to weak muscles, and therefore, more injuries. Putting on base layers, though, keeps your muscles warm or in some cases, cool — contingent on how much you’re moving.

Best Brands for Base Layers for Winter

best brands for base layers 

Choosing a base layer is the first and one of the most vital steps in staying warm. But what brand is best for you? Various brands you should consider include the following:

  1. Smartwool offers incredible dryness and warmth whether you want long-sleeves or pants. Made for men and women, the base layers are 100 percent Merino Wool, giving you a warm and dry fit that’s great for layering.
  2. Under Armour solutions provide unbelievable warmth for men and women with designs like bottoms and crew-necks. They are lightweight and able to ward off moisture to give you a damp-free feeling. These base layers deflect the cold without being an extra weight on your body and repel odors.
  3. Kari Traa designs made for women have a flair while also providing essential properties. Made of 100 percent wool, these layers give amazing warmth and insulation whether you want pants or a body suit.
  4. Patagonia manufactures pieces for men and women. With top-tier protection against the cold, the base layers have a comfortable and functional design in crew-neck tees, leggings and bottoms.

The best base layer material will parallel your precise needs.

Best Base Layer Products for Women

smartwool merino 250 baselayer top



If you’re searching for a comfortable long-sleeve base layer, the Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer Crew is super soft and made of 100 percent Merino Wool. It is great for stop-and-go movements or cold activities where warmth and breathability are critical. The crew resists odors and comes in cute patterns for any style.



smartwool merino 250 baselayer bottoms


Searching for pants to add to your layers? Check out Buckman’s Smartwool Merino 250 Baselayer Bottom. Available in full or three-quarter lengths, the base layer pants give you remarkable comfort, breathability and warmth. With a flatlock seam construction, there’s no chafing. Try pairing them with a skirt and boots for skiing.


nils robin 1/4 zip t-neck


The Nil-8206 Nils Robin top is a must for chilly days and cold activities. Soft brushed fleece on the inside provides comfort to keep you warm and dry. Smooth nylon exterior slides under outer layers with ease for layering. The long-sleeve top has natural wicking properties.


nils lindsay leggings


Finally, the Nil-8216 Nils Lindsay legging is one of the best layering products for women. It’s a heavyweight, body-hugging legging that’s fleece-backed, designed to be worn on or off the slopes. The bottoms keep you warm and cozy during any activity.


Best Base Layer Products for Men

patagonia capilene midweight crewThe Patagonia Capilene Midweight crew is a versatile base layer that’s warm, sweat-repellent and breathable. Treated with Polygiene, the fabric has permanent odor control for longer wearing and less washing. It is fair trade certified, meaning that the people who made the product earned a premium for their labor.



mens patagonia capilene midweight bottoms


If you’re in need of thermal bottoms, the Patagonia Capilene Midweight bottoms also have odor controlling properties while keeping you insulated and damp-free.


mens terramar thermolator crew

 Another top option of base layers for men is the Terramar Thermolator Crew Ter-W7543 that features ClimaSense thermoregulation technology to keep you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. The base layer wicks moisture away from your skin for faster drying and effective odor control. With a 260-degree stretch, the top has ultra-soft fabric for a great price.


mens terramar thermolator pants


As your second bottom base layer option, the Terramar Themolator pant Ter-W7541 has a gusset crotch for ease of movement and optimal properties to keep you protected.


 Best Base Layer Options for Kids

youth teramar thermolator crewFinding comfy and cozy clothes for your children is a breeze with Buckman’s extensive selection of base layers like the Terramar Thermolator 2.0 Top Ter-W7537. It’s a mid-weight fabric that warms the kids when it’s cold and cools them in the heat. The top wicks moisture away from their skin to keep them dry. The Terramar base layer has a 360-degree stretch with soft fabric at a smart price.


youth terramar thermolator pant


To complete the look, a base layer bottom for youth includes the Ter-W7539 Terramar Thermolator 2.0 pant. It’s flexible to withstand any level of movement while keeping the kids warm and ready for the slopes.


 Best Base Layer for Cold Weather From Buckman’s

Buckman’s Ski and Snowboard Shop carries elite brands to help you persevere through the winter months. We are the cold weather experts and are here to assist you in staying warm and dry in any condition whether you’re playing a winter sport, hiking through the mountains or having fun with your friends and family. We are passionate about winter sports and having fun with loved ones.

Reach out to us online if you have questions about out base layer solutions. We offer in-store pick-up if you’re local or you can order online. We even provide free shipping on orders of more than $50.

buckmans base layers

Categories: Ski and snowboard

Tagged: layering, Kids Base Layer, Womens Base Layer, Mens Base Layer

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