How do you stay comfortable in the cold? Ask Bushwhacker’s Daniel Livingston. He can help you build an outdoor clothing solution for any outdoor activity in any condition. It’s all about layering, and success starts with the clothes next to your skin, the base layer.
Who benefits from layering?
Everyone. Whether you’re trying to stay warm at 50 degrees or 5, you can benefit from a good layering system in your outdoor clothing.
Wait, let’s back up: What is a layering system?
It has to do with clothing, and it has three components: the outer layer, the mid layer and the base layer.
The outer layer, or shell, keeps you out of the wind. It separates you from the weather. The mid layer is your core insulation. That’s where most of the warmth is held. And the base layer wicks moisture away from the skin. It’s that moisture that gets you cold in the first place.
Depending on conditions, you can have two mid layers up top, maybe a fleece or down or Nano Puff. But you can only have one layer of outdoor clothing next to your skin—only one base layer.
Base layers are available in tops and bottoms.
Guess that makes a base layer pretty important.
A good base layer keeps you fresh and sweat free.
Some people come into the store knowing they need a base layer, and we focus on the different options. Other folks aren’t quite sure what they need.
Fortunately, it’s easy to get up to speed on the topic. I ask people what they’re going to be doing outside and what the temperature range is likely to be. I use those answers to suggest ways to stay comfortable.
Base layers come in different weights. I like a thinner layer when I’m active and a heavier layer when I’m camping overnight.
There’s not necessarily a one weight fits all solution. For example, if you have a heavy base layer but you’re hiking or skiing in relatively mild temperatures, you can overheat pretty quickly.
Tops come in crew neck style or with a zipper. You can wear the crew under anything. It’s the traditional option. But the zip neck has some advantages, too. It gives you a bit more coverage, and it’s nice to have the venting option if you heat up. Both styles come in a variety of colors.
Base layer material varies, too.
SmartWool Base Layer: That’s one of the reasons we carry base layers by different companies. Patagonia uses polyester; Smart Wool uses, well, wool. Which way to go? It comes down to personal preference.
I like Smart Wool. The top is comfortable and long enough to tuck in. I have a long torso. It’s a good fit for my particular build.
Smart Wool offers base layers in two thicknesses: lighter weight for high-energy output when you’re going to sweat a lot, and heavier for a colder day or camping at night.
It’s also antimicrobial, which means it’s not going to get stinky - something that can be important for outdoor clothing. You can wear it several days in a row—perfect for backpacking or multi-day bike rides. You’re not going to be really gnarly at the end of the event.
Smart Wool has base layers, mid layers with wool insulation—that’s new within the past few years—hats and socks. Socks is a huge category for Smart Wool.
Patagonia Base LayerPatagonia offers base layers in three thicknesses. People wear the lightweight one in the summer. Want something breathable on a 90-degree day? Go light.
Why would you have a base layer for summer? Think about how it gets cool in the desert at dusk. All you need to do is throw on another layer over the base and you’re good to go.
Patagonia’s midweight outdoor clothing is super versatile for a range of activities and temperatures.
The thermal weight layer is definitely bomber thickness. I like it more as a sleep shirt for camping, but hiking in it all day, I’d get a little warm.
Patagonia offers everything under the sun: base layers, fleeces, coats, pants, shirts, backpacks—everything. And they’ve been around a long time.