Your base layer is your best friend – it stays close to you providing you with the comfort you need and at the same time amplifying the fun you get while you ski. No one can enjoy skiing while shivering, and there can be times when you over-dress yourself and end up getting sweaty while you ski. Your baser layer provides you with moisture-wicking abilities and keeps you comfortable, cozy, and dry, saving you from feeling too chilly or worse – getting hypothermia.
Considerations for Choosing a Comfortable Base Layer
The art of layering your thermal shirts and jackets is crucial in cross country skiing. As you feel a little hot, you can take off a layer to feel comfortable. With your base layer on – which is your next to skin thermal layer – your skin does not get affected by your perspiration and the body stays dry.
While choosing your base layer, you need to understand the purpose and functionality of different layers. Your base layer is often referred to as your underwear layer (the layer of clothing you wear underneath your actual ski clothes) and its job is to keep the sweat off your skin. Your middle layer is the insulating layer that retains your body’s heat in order to protect it from the outside cold. The outer layer is the shell layer that provides a shield against the weather – wind, rain, and snow, etc.
Consider the following factors while choosing a comfortable base layer:
Fabric [wool or synthetic]
Make sure the fabric of your base layer is either synthetic or wool that wicks moisture away. Polyester and merino wool are known for their moisture-wicking powers and make excellent base layers. Avoid cotton as your base layer material as cotton has the tendency to absorb moisture (sweat) and holds onto this moisture, making you feel cold.
If a garment is designed to be a base layer, chances are it uses synthetic, merino, or merino wool that will keep your body warm and dry. If you are given options for the type of fabric to choose from, go for polyester, nylon, and natural fibers (merino wool and even silk). Although these fabrics may have different characteristics when it comes to drying, odor retention, and durability, they all make good materials for your base layer. For this reason, choosing the right fabric is crucial for your cross country skiing experience.
This includes nylon, rayon, polypropylene, or blends of these synthetic fabrics. Here are some of the characteristics of synthetics as base layers:
- Synthetic fabrics are great at wicking sweat and therefore give you a super dry feeling.
- These fabrics are long-lasting. Every fabric may go through wear and tear but synthetic fabrics are very durable.
- Most synthetic fabrics are great in preventing the growth of odor-causing bacteria. This means that even if you go lazy and skip washing for a couple of days, you can still use your base layer without the smell.
Merino wool is not like the traditional itchy wool, it is soft and has very fine fibers that make sure your base layer is as comfortable as possible. Merino wool is often blended with other fabrics, for instance, spandex to add the flexibility factor. It has some of these characteristics that make it a great option to be used as a base layer:
- Merino wool is quite resistant to bacteria that cause odor, leaving you with an almost no stinky feeling.
- Although it may not be as durable as many synthetic-based fabrics, you can put it on under other clothing layers to have a feeling of warmth and comfort. Since merino wool is made of soft fibers, constant rubbing can weaken down the fabric. There are many base layer pieces of clothing that mix wool with synthetics to come up with a perfect base layer.
- Merino wool absorbs a little bit of moisture which is not too much to make you shiver but you may not feel as dry as when you put on a synthetic base layer. This is the reason why it takes a longer time to dry off if it gets wet.
Long or Short Sleeve Cut
Whether you should go for a long-sleeved base layer or a short-sleeved one depends upon the winter temperature, your metabolism, as well as your comfort level. Many skiers want their arms less covered for a better movement, while others prefer a full-sleeved shirt. Similarly, many skiers get sweaty too quickly while skiing and want a sleeve that will be according to their preference.
Long sleeves will give you better coverage against cold winters. If you feel the temperature is not too cold, you can put on a short-sleeved or sleeveless base inner layer and wear a long-sleeved middle layer and jacket.
Your long sleeves can have many options: lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight. You can put on lightweight for moderate to cool temperatures, mid-weight for cold temperatures, and heavyweight long sleeves for when the temperature is touching the minus mark and goes below the freezing temperature.
It is important to remember that the main job of your base layer is to keep you dry and not add too much warmth. If you feel your arms get too sweaty when you ski, it is better to go for a long-sleeved base layer so the entire upper body stays dry and comfortable. If your metabolism and external temperature do not get you much sweaty, you can go for a short cut sleeved base layer.
Flexibility and Comfort
A golden rule of thumb is to put on your ski clothing in a way that when you start skiing, you feel a bit cold (not too cold as this cold level still has to be bearable) because as soon as you start skiing, your body will start to heat up and you will feel fine. Over-clothing yourself with a heavy base, inner and outer layers will only make yourself hotter and sweatier than you would want to feel.
Many base layers use a mix of spandex to give you the fit and flexibility you are looking for. Your base layer needs to have a wicking fabric that is directly touching your skin to give you a comfortable fit. If you want your base layer to dry you off, it must be as comfortably close to the skin as possible.
You will find many athletes who prefer a relatively loose base layer than what their actual fit is. They do so to facilitate the air circulation and cooling while they sweat out. This logic may work for warmer weather as the sweat evaporates due to the passing air.
The 5 Top Thermal Shirts for Men
Here are our most recommended top 5 base layers for men:
1. Under Armour Men’s ColdGear Armour Compression Mock
The Under Armour Mock Long Sleeve Base Layer is made of 87% polyester and 13% elastane. The dual-layered fabric is quite warm and has a smooth feel from inside and has a quick-drying and comfortable exterior. Since the base layer is quite stretchy, you will love moving your body in all directions.
The ColdGear Under Armour base layer is made using anti-odor technology that keeps the smell causing microbes at bay. The top can be machine washed and is great for all kinds of exercises and fitness routines.
These long-sleeved base layers are available in a wide range of colors: white, midnight navy, black & steel, navy blue & steel, royal blue & steel, charcoal light & black, midnight navy & steel, white & steel, and black & steel. Available in an array of different sizes from X-small to 4X Large to the Large Tall sizes, they are available from $21.89 to $59.48.
2. DEVOPS Men’s (Pack of 2) Thermal Underwear Shirt Compression Base Layer
The number one bestseller DEVOPS Men’s Thermal Underwear Shirt Compression Base Layer is super soft, warm, stretchy, and durable. The pack of two shirts is great for all kinds of indoors, outdoors, and other recreational sports and activities. They are made with 90% polyester and 10% spandex, where the spandex provides great stretch and maintains the original shape of the base layer in addition to keeping you warm by retaining your body’s natural heat.
These soft and comfortable compression shirts are full-sleeved and you can wash them in your machine – just make sure you do not bleach them. Order your usual size – sizes are available from Small to XX-Large.
You can go for the color you like – black/ charcoal, black/ navy, black/ black, black/ olive, black/ wine, black/ red, and black/ white. For just $21.98 you can get yourself a pair of these great DEVOPS thermal base layers – you would not want to miss this opportunity.
3. MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer – 100% Merino Wool Lightweight Form Fit
Made with 100% merino wool, the MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer is extremely soft, comfortable, and breathable. It is available in different sizes from Small to XXL and since it is true to size, you must order your usual size.
It has odor resistance and sweat-wicking features that keep you dry, odor-free, and comfortable while you enjoy hours of skiing. It is ideal for other outdoor sports as well including camping, mountaineering, ice fishing, snowboarding, hiking, hunting, and all kinds of outdoor sports that require you to protect yourself from the cold weather.
The super stretchy merino wool gives you the flexibility to move your body freely while still retaining the original shape of the garment. It comes with a year’s warranty, and if you are not happy with your purchase (which won’t be the case), you can return it within 3 months. The MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer is available in charcoal gray color for $44.99.
4. MERIWOOL Men’s Base Layer – 100% Merino Wool Midweight
The MERIWOOL Men’s 100% Merino Wool Midweight Base Layer is made of 18.5-micron merino wool super natural fibers that guarantee comfort, breathability, and zero itch! This machine-washable and dryer- safe base layer is easy to maintain and gives you complete protection against the cold weather.
Merino wool’s natural odor resistance and sweat-wicking properties are ideal for hours of your outdoor activities – the base layer keeps you warm in winters and cool in summers. It comes with a great one-year manufacturer’s warranty and if you are not satisfied with it, you can return it within a month – no questions asked!
This breathable mid-weight base layer is available in different sizes and a wide array of colors – forest green, army green, black, charcoal gray, royal blue, blue sea stripe, denim blue, navy, and gray heather. Get yours for only $59.99 – it is worth the practicality and comfort!
5. Carhartt Mens Force Midweight Classic Thermal Base Layer Long Sleeve Shirt
The Carhartt Men’s Force Midweight Classic Thermal Base Layer is a long-sleeved shirt made with 100% polyester. It can be easily machine washed and comes in a huge variety of sizes for you to choose from – from Small to 4X Large. It is available in black, burnt olive, navy, shadow, and Carhartt black shades.
Your Carhartt Men’s Force Midweight Classic Base Layer keeps you dry and comfortable by wicking the sweat and preventing odor. The fabric is durable and flexible that facilitates your moves no matter which outdoor sport or activity you are going for. It is especially great for your cross country skiing and keeps your arms as well as the entire upper body cozy, comfortable, and dry. You can get your long-sleeved base layer for $26.41 to $39.99.
The 5 Top Thermal Shirts for Women
Here are our top 5 recommendations for thermal base layers for women:
1. Under Armour Women’s Coldgear Authentics Compression Mock
Made with 100% polyester, the Under Armour Women’s Cold Gear Authentic Compression Mock is super stretchy, comfortable, warm, and breathable. Its fabric keeps sweat away by drying it fast and keeping the odor off. Since this base layer is very flexible, you can enjoy a long list of outdoor activities including cross country skiing, without worrying about the base layer losing its shape.
The Under Armour Women’s Base Layer is available in multiple sizes ranging from X-Small to XX-Large. You can choose from a variety of colors including black & metal, carbon heather & metal, midnight navy & metal, red & metal, white & metal, and royal blue & metal. It is available for $29.85 to $49.99.
2. MERIWOOL Women’s Base Layer – 100% Merino Wool Midweight
This long-sleeved crewneck top midweight base layer is made with 100% natural merino wool fibers which are breathable and comfortable, to say the least. It has a loop for quick drying that you can use for hanging in when you are on your outdoor adventures. The MERIWOOL Women’s Base Layer is ideal for cross-country skiing, as well as for all the winter sports and activities like snowboarding, hunting, hiking, and camping, etc.
Since the fabric is breathable, you can use this base layer to keep you warm in winters and cool in warmer months. Merino wool’s natural sweat-resistance properties keep your base layer nice and dry without a hint of smell. That is exactly what you need while you spend hours in your base layer enjoying the outdoors.
It is available in sizes ranging from X-small to Large, that come in attractive colors and patterns – camel stripe, charcoal gray, black, khaki, pink heather, sky blue heather, gray heather, wine, and teal. You can get your MERIWOOL Women’s Base Layer for $59.99.
3. MERIWOOL Women’s Base Layer – 100% Merino Wool Lightweight Form Fit
With a crew-neck collar to seal in the body warmth and raglan sleeves for unrestricted flexibility, the MERIWOOL Women’s Base Layer is ideal for cross country skiing as well as for all your outdoor activities.
It is made with 100% merino wool that gives you the qualities of odor resistance, comfort, and warmth that the fabric promises. Your base layer is breathable and keeps your sweat away from your skin. The lightweight form fit shirt comes with MERIWOOL’s unmatched customer service that offers a year warranty and you can return it in 3 months if you do not like the base layer.
This black MERIWOOL Base Layer is available in multiple sizes ranging from X-Small to Large and is fairly priced at $44.99.
4. DEVOPS Women’s 2 Pack Thermal Heat-Chain Compression Base Layer Tops Mock Turtleneck
Beautifully constructed with 90% polyester and 10% spandex, the DEVOPS Women’s Turtleneck Thermal Base Layer comes in a pack of 2. It provides you with the softness, warmth, and breathability factors that you look for in a base layer. Not only that, its super stretchy fabric is ideal for all kinds of indoors and outdoors sports and activities.
It can be conveniently washed in the washing machine – make sure you do not bleach it though. Your turtleneck base layer is available in a range of sizes from X-Small to X-Large. You can pick the colors from black, charcoal, navy, red, white, light gray, and heather flower, and get your pair of base layers for only $21.98.
5. Icebreaker Merino Women’s 175 Everyday Merino Wool Base Layer Long Sleeve Half Zip
When quality meets style, you get the Icebreaker Merino Women’s 175 Everyday Base Layer. Made with 100% merino wool, your long-sleeved base layer boasts a half-zip neck collar style that is elegant and practical at the same time.
This base layer is comfortable, soft, and warm, and keeps you dry while you enjoy your skiing or other outdoor activities. The unmatched quality of this base layer does not let the fabric lose its shape no matter how much stretching you do.
It is machine washable and comes in black and lotus colors. You can choose from a variety of sizes from X-Small to X-Large and get your Icebreaker Merino Women’s Everyday Base Layer for $79.58 – $95.00.