Why Baselayers are the Most Important Outdoor Clothing?

Apr 15, 2024 BY Luke Rees

My dad got me into the outdoors as a kid. I’ve been into everything rom biking to hiking, snowboarding to paddle boarding, climbing to kayaking and running to rowing ever since. This has taught me that the right gear makes all the difference and that despite being less glamorous, baselayers are the most important outdoor clothing you will wear.

But I didn’t always feel that way. For many years I got active in whatever clothing was available. Often a cotton t-shirt and tracky bottoms. I even snowboarded with a normal T-shirt under a cotton hoodie, all beneath an expensive ski jacket.

So when I got sweaty my cotton clothing would get damp. So when I stopped I would quickly feel cold, sometimes very cold. What I didn’t realise is that baselayers act like a second skin to regulate the climate between them and you. These days you’ll find me wearing baselayers during outdoor activities, often made from merino by brands such as EDZ.

What is a Baselayer?

The baselayer is worn next to your skin. It’s the first layer of clothing you put on – so unless you are reading this in the nude you are wearing ‘baselayers’ right now. These include:

  • Tops: T-shirts (long and short sleeved), shirts, vests, bras etc.
  • Bottoms: Underwear, leggings, etc
  • Gloves
  • Socks
  • Headwear: Hats, beanies, snoods, balaclavas etc.

Why baselayers are the most important outdoor clothing image courtesy of EDZ

For many people, ‘baselayers’ are synonymous with ‘thermals’, which are designed to keep you warm in cold conditions. But thermals are just a type of baselayer. There are specialist baselayers for all sports and activities, often designed with different conditions or performance enhancing attributes in mind.

So ‘baselayers’ are any technical clothing that is worn next to your skin. And by ‘technical’ I mean something that is designed to improve comfort and/or performance.

Why Baselayers are the Most Important Outdoor Clothing?

These are the main reasons why your baselayers are so important.

  • Climate control: Being next to your skin baselayers control the temperature and moisture.
  • Keep you warm: Good baselayers, such as EDZ merino wool tops and bottoms, trap warm air next to your skin.
  • Help you cool: Baselayers allow excess heatto escape  through breathability, and by wicking sweat away to drying quickly. 
  • Keep you dry: While your jacket will keep rain out, it is a baselayers job to move sweat away from your skin.
  • Enhance performance: Many baselayers offer compression in key areas to help muscles perform better.

  • Supportive: Both men’s sport underpants and women’s bras provide support to improve comfort and reduce injury.
  • Comfortable: Baselayes are designed to be worn whilst active, so they do not have seams that rub or material that will create friction and discomfort.
  • Protect your skin: Sometimes your baselayer will be your only layer, protecting you from the sun, pesky brambles and other hazards.
  • Keep you fresh: Materials like merino wool are naturally anti-odour, and by quickly drying (stink free!) you can pop in a cafe, shop or pub without being a smelly sweaty mess.
  • Safety: Your baselayer will move sweat away from your body which would very quickly reduce your temperature in cold conditions when you stop exercising. This could save you from hypothermia.

Natural Merino vs Manmade Baselayers

While baselayers are the most important outdoor clothing, they are not all made equal. There are many options and different price points. The main division in the market is between natural fibres, such as merino wool, versus manmade materials, like polyester and polyamide (nylon).

When to Wear Merino Baselayers

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but personally I am a big fan of merino wool. I wear it for snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking and in everyday life. My wardrove as shirts, t-shirts, underpants, socks and of course baselayers, all made from merino wool.

I only wear manmade baselayers for high intensity activities such as the gym and running, or when doing watersports. This is because polyester does not absorb moisture, while wool can become saturated, which is not ideal.

Review of Freeride the Fjords in Norway snowshoeing in Vatnahalsen wearing merino baselayers

However, I have comfortable worn merino baselayers while doing intense exercise, such as splitboarding and snowshoeing, in 20°C. I often wear merino in hot conditions as the material naturally controls your climate. In fact, Merino will keep you warm in the cold and cool in the heat.

Other Benefits of Merino Baselayers

Compared to manmade materials, Merino is generally more expensive, however it’s better for the environment and is sustainably sourced by companies such as EDZ. Merino only takes around 15 weeks to naturally biodegrade at the end of its life, while polyester is a type of plastic, so it takes decades to hundreds of years to decompose.

Finally, I typically invest in merino as no matter how sweaty you get it does not smell. These anti-odour properties mean you can wear the same layers for a week and not stink! Which is a bonus for your travel companions and your bag weight. So Merino is great for travel, backpacking and getting within pesky baggage limits.

Do you agree? Let us know in the comments why baselayers are the most important outdoor clothing for you, or why they are not if you disagree. To stock up check out the range of merino baselayers at EDZ: www.edz.co.uk


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