Everything you need to know about baselayers

You’ve definitely heard of them. You know how good they are. But do you know why base layers are so effective and why no hiker, climber or camper should leave home without some? Check out our Q&A and find out everything you need to know about base layers.

Shop base layers for men and base layers for women.

What are base layers?

As the name suggests, base layers are the first layer of clothing you put on. This can include underwear, t-shirts, long sleeve tops, and leggings. The fit is usually tight to snug, as it should be to ensure the perfect amount of heat is retained.

What’s the best way to wear them?

Always wear base layers next to your skin as this is where they work best. Think of a base layer as an extra layer of skin. Light to wear and snug to fit, base layers help to keep you warm without overheating, and cool in hot weather when you’re exerting yourself with activities like when climbing or hiking. You can wear several layers in very cold weather as this traps in body heat.

What are base layers made of?

Most base layers are polyester or a polyester mix, or a wool such as Merino; wool mixes are also available. All of these are very effective at moderating your body temperature.

Modern base layers are designed to wick away moisture, or allow sweat to evaporate through the fabric. Cotton, on the other hand, is not suitable because once you start to sweat, it will absorb moisture and begin to feel heavy and clammy. When you stop for a break, damp cotton will make you feel chilled.

They keep you dry, but don’t base layers get smelly?

Polyester base layers can start to get whiffy after a while, whereas wool base layers, which are more expensive to buy, can be worn for days at a time without any serious odour issues.

The man-made materials such as polyester are very effective and most sweat is wicked away, however, some will be absorbed and start to smell when dry. Simply wash on a 40 degree cycle when you get home and you’ll be good to go again.

Does it have to be a tight fit?

Base layers work best when worn snugly, but if you’re at all self-conscious about the figure-hugging fit you can always wear a looser fitting base layer on top. In any case, once you’ve been wearing a lightweight base layer for a while you’ll soon forget you’ve even got one on!

You’ve convinced me, so what do I need?

In winter, layer up, starting with a t-shirt or long sleeve base layer and, if it’s very cold, leggings under your trousers. Next, comes a fleece and then a windproof/waterproof jacket on top. If it’s cold and blustery, wear two layers of base layer to trap in your body heat. In summer, a simple base layer matched with a light fleece or jacket may be all you need, depending on where you go.

On hot days, a base layer on its own is ideal for walking, hiking and climbing as it’s so light and helps to keep you cool. Another benefit of lightweight base layers is that they take up hardly any space so are perfect for keeping a spare in your bag.

Take a look at our full range of base layers for men and base layers for women.

Looking for more hiking blog posts? Take a look at these...

How to Stay Warm on your Winter Walks | The Hiking Gear You Need to Survive the UK Weather | How to Prepare For a Winter Walk in the Snow

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