Sunday, 29 November 2015

Keeping Warm: A quick guide to Base Layers

The temperature is starting to drop, but it’s not really cold… yet.  We are Itching to hit the slopes, to toboggan, to drink mulled cider in the snow.  In short – we are #ReadyForWinter, and we want you to be too.  The key to enjoying the outdoors when the temperatures drop? Base layers, of course.
In a proper layering system, your first layer – the one closest to your skin - is the first heat trap. This base layer captures as much warmth as close to your body as possible. But a good base layer is more than just another piece of fabric between you and frigid air - It also has the much more important job of moisture control.
When you work hard, you sweat.  The whole point of sweat is to keep you cool. When that sweat evaporates it’s an endothermic reaction – it steals heat from your skin. That’s great when you’re sweating it out at the gym or running in 30C weather.  But when it’s -20, and you’re shredding mountain snow you want that heat stealing moisture as far from your skin as you can get it.
So what are the best options, especially for being active outdoors in the winter?
Not Cotton.
Cotton traps moisture, holding it next to your skin.  If you’re wearing a cotton base layer, you’ll feel gross and damp. And, as the moisture evaporates: cold.
Synthetic Fibers
Basically, Polyester and various polyester blends – nylons, polypropylene, spandex and others. They are light-weight, stretchy and low-bulk, ideal for when you’re active.  Synthetics do an excellent job of managing moisture, and still retain heat when damp. Synthetics tend to be easy to care for but they can retain odors over the long haul - especially the untreated fabrics – but they are also relatively inexpensive. They are probably your best all-round base layer, and what we carry the most of.
More specifically, Merino wool.  Most people think ‘Wool? Ugh! Itchy!’  But almost every wooly next-to-skin layer – socks, thermals, gloves, are now made from Merino wool.  Merino is built from ultra-fine fibers. It’s soft and most importantly, it’s not itchy.
Wool tends to be warmer than a synthetic base layer of the same thickness, but it won’t dry as quickly when it gets damp (though it does a good job of moisture management, and stays warm when it does get damp).  Wool has the added benefit of being naturally antibacterial; it won’t hold on to nasty odors.  Check out these general purpose wool blend thermals.
Most base layers can be categorized into three weights – Light, Medium and Heavy.  The heavier the ‘weight’ the bulkier it will be, but the more next-to-skin warmth it will provide.  The colder your environment, and/or the less active you are in that environment, the heavier weight you’re going to want to wear.
Not so active?
We get it. Sometimes you just want to walk the dog, stand in the schoolyard or sit in the rink.  You’re looking for comfy and cozy.  Here is where you can cheat a little with cotton – The Stanfield’sWindsor Wear, or even a union suit should do the trick.

The whole point? Winter is coming whether you like it or not.  You might as well figure out how to enjoy it – and that starts with a proper base layer.  Dressed properly even the most staunch snow-grinch might find they like to go walking in a winter wonderland.