Skiing and snowboarding are an exciting part of winter and early spring. No matter what your skill level is, you can enjoy a weekend on the slopes. But, you’ll want to make sure you have the right gear to get you started.
There’s a lot of gear that comes to mind right away such as finding the right ski jackets or the perfect ski pants before you hit the slopes. What’s really going to help you stay warm, though, is having the best wool base layer.
The market for ski base layers can be pretty intimidating at first glance. There are a lot of styles, materials, and weights to choose from. That’s why we not only brought you ski base layer reviews of some of our favorites but a comprehensive buying guide as well. With this information and these options, you’ll find the right style for you in no time!
How To Choose A Base Layer For Skiing – Buying Guide
Just like any other piece of clothing, there are different styles of ski underlayers. Each of these come with their own pros and cons, so it’s important to break them down and find what works for you.
There are three main styles of ski base layers: jackets, shirts, and blouses. A jacket is an underlayer that zips up while a shirt is pulled over your head to wear and doesn’t always feature a zipper. Blouse-style base layers are similar to shirt-style base layers but they have a looser fit.
There are a number of materials you can choose from when you’re looking at base layers. With so many options, it can seem a little intimidating until it’s broken down.
Let’s start with the most popular material first – merino wool. Wool is a natural fiber rather than synthetic and it comes with a lot of attractive features. For one, it offers great odor control. So, after a day on the slopes, you aren’t going to come back to the lodge smelling like sweat. It can even go through several uses before it accumulates an unpleasant smell.
A merino wool base layer also wicks away moisture well. Since it draws moisture from your skin, you don’t have to worry about getting too sweaty while you ski. The biggest drawback to these ski underlayers is that they’re among the most expensive options. While the material is durable, synthetic fabrics do surpass it in durability.
The second most common choice is synthetic fabric polyester. These fibers are made to be moisture wicking, so they’re particularly popular in the sportswear market. The manufacturing of the polyester fabric itself has a large impact on how well it wicks moisture away but many companies also use a coating to increase the effect.
Polyester skiing base layers are often mixed with nylon or spandex. These help to increase how well the underlayer stretches to give you a tight, form-fitting underlayer. While less expensive than wool, the synthetic material will collect body odor quickly.
Silk was once a very popular ski baselayer but it’s less common now. Today, silk layers are usually treated to offer better odor control and increased moisture wicking properties. The biggest disadvantage of silk is that it’s very fragile. It has to be hand washed and you can’t put it in the dryer either.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a set system to measure ski base layers the same way you might measure a ski bag in dimensions and weight by the pound. Different manufacturers have different descriptions of how they suggest their product is used. Generally, you can break these sizes down to lightweight, midweight, and heavyweight base layers.
A lightweight base layer is best for two situations. First, if you’re going skiing in the spring when the weather is a little warmer, you aren’t going to want a base-layer that’s too heavy. If you’re an advanced or professional skier, you’re going to want to look for a lightweight option. Even when it’s cold out, high levels of exertions are going to raise your body heat.
Midweight base layers are the happy medium between heavy and light base layers. These base layers are the best choice for most average skiers. They work well to keep you warm during moments of inactivity such as when you’re riding a chairlift. On the other hand, they won’t leave you uncomfortable or overheated when you’re skiing.
Heavyweight layers are very thick, are the warmest base layer, and they typically wick away moisture very well. These are only meant for low temperatures with low levels of activity. Otherwise, you’re likely to overheat quickly.
As we’ve mentioned at this point, weight and warmth go hand in hand. But, to choose the right layer, you have to know the level of warmth you need. There are a few factors to consider.
First, you’ll want to consider the weather. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the presence of snow means you need thick layers at all times. If you go skiing in the dead of winter, you’re going to need to worry more about low temperatures than if you’re skiing in early spring.
The other factor to consider is your level of activity. If you’re taking simple, light-hearted paths, you aren’t going to have to worry about getting overheated. Unless your level of activity is incredibly low, you’re going to want to lean towards midweight layers instead of heavyweight ones.
If you plan on taking more intense, challenging slopes that keep you moving, you’re going to want to look for a lightweight option. These are going to keep you warm enough in the snow but they aren’t going to make you uncomfortably warm or cause you to overheat as you ski. If you’re keeping activity levels low, you’re likely to get pretty chilly in lightweight base layers.
Top-rated base layers for skiing are made with breathability in mind. Synthetic materials and wool, in particular, are great choices when it comes to airflow.
However, a base-layer can only do so much. If your top layers aren’t breathable, airflow is going to be limited. It’s a good idea to be on the lookout for top layers that complement the need for breathability. Inner leg and armpit zips are a couple of key features. This also helps the moisture your base-layer is wicking off of you to evaporate.
When any piece of clothing gets wet, you want it to dry as fast as possible. Some fabrics dry faster than others. For instance, synthetic materials such as polyester and nylon are going to dry the fastest. Wool, on the other hand, is going to take a little longer to dry but it isn’t unmanageable.
Drying speed is the main reason you want to avoid the rare cotton snowboarding base layer. Cotton takes a notoriously long time to dry and that does work very well for something that you’re going to be sweating while you might have snow melting on you.
When you’re looking for an underlayer, you’re going to want to use that garment under other layers. If your underlayer is too thick, you’re going to have trouble using a layer on top of it or what you’re wearing overall might be too bulky to be comfortable.
Your base-layer for snowboarding should fit tight. This makes synthetic fabrics pretty attractive because they’re designed to stretch over your body for a skintight fit without being uncomfortable. If a base-layer is skintight with no stretch, it’s likely to restrict your movement which doesn’t work when you’re taking on a high-energy sport.
Durability is one of the biggest considerations when you want to get the most for your money. If you choose a less-than-durable product, you’re likely to have to replace sooner than investing in a more durable option.
Among the materials we’ve discussed here, synthetic fibers win out on the durability. Specifically, nylon underlayers are the strongest choice with polyester trailing not too far behind. Merino wool does have less durability than synthetics but it’s a much stronger choice than silk.
We’ve talked a lot about comfort at this point. You don’t want something that’s too loose because a baggy underlayer isn’t going to offer the same warmth. It also will fit awkwardly underneath a top layer. However, as we’ve mentioned, you don’t want something suffocatingly tight either.
Again, synthetic fabrics are the best choice for this stretchy and breathable but tight fit. Something to look out for is mention of lycra and spandex which help add stretch to the material and without them, you’re likely to have a looser fit.
Keep an eye out for flat seams too. This minimizes problems like chafing. Since it’s standard on almost all garments, you can pretty much rely on this style seam being used. It can also be helpful to look for garments with other convenient features like high necks for warmth or thumb loops to keep your sleeves in place. Long sleeves, long cuffs, and a long back so you are warm and tuck your underlayer into your long underwear or pants.
It’s important to consider the fit of you ski base layer as well. You’re going to want something tight but not so tight that it’s constricting. The best ski base layer won’t be too loose either. Baggy clothes won’t keep you warm and they’re likely to be uncomfortable under layers of other clothes.
It’s also crucial to look for the size that fits you. You can order a high-quality base layer for snowboarding but it won’t work for you if it’s too big or too small.
Q: What thickness base layer do I need?
We’ve talked a little about base layers at this point but it can be hard to pinpoint the exact category you fall in. First, let’s consider the weather. Lightweight layers are made for moderate temperatures which makes them a great choice in the spring. Midweight base layers are made for cooler temperature, so they work well through most of the winter. Heavyweight base layers are meant to be used in temperatures below freezing. If you wear it in warmer weather, you risk overheating.
There are also a few other terms that you might see. Ultra-lightweight or featherweight are incredibly light and usually only work well for serious skiers who are highly exerting themselves on intense slopes. If you aren’t, you are likely to get less warmth and insulation you need.
Particularly heavy materials are also sometimes referred to as expedition weight. You aren’t going to need this weight often because it’s only going to be needed in less than freezing temperatures.
Aside from the weather, you need to think about your skill level and plans. For instance, if you’re going to hit difficult paths that are going to be a real workout, you’re going to want something lighter so you aren’t overheating. If you’re taking more casual paths, you’re going to want something that offers a little more warmth like a midweight under layer.
Q: Should my base layer be skin tight?
We’ve mentioned that a lot of layers are made to be tight but “tight” can be a rather relative word. The truth is that you want something tight enough to sit right against your skin but not so tight that it’s restrictive or uncomfortable. This is why the best thermal base layers for skiing use materials that have a little stretch and plenty of breathabilities.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the concept of baggy base layers. This is the other extreme you want to avoid. Looser clothes aren’t going to keep you as warm and they aren’t going to wick away moisture well. The excess material may also rub uncomfortably and cause sores.
Generally, you’re going to want to look at the type of fit that a base layer is made for and make sure you order the right size for you.
Q: How to clean and store my base layer when not in use?
When you’re cleaning a base layer during the season, washing it with standard soap is fine. However, it isn’t going to completely get rid of collected odors. At the end of the season, it’s a good idea to invest in some base cleaner that will help to deodorize your base layer.
You’re going to want to wash your base layers at least one time during the season. Not only are they going to get gross if you never wash your base layers but it’ll also reduce how effectively the baselayer can wick away moisture. As mentioned, you can use standard soap but, at the end of the season, it’s not a bad idea to pick up some soap specifically for clothes that are made for wet weather that are treated with a water repellent.
After you’re done, you should use a waterproof sealant made for clothes to maintain the moisture-wicking properties the baselayer had when you purchased it.
You’ll want to make sure after you clean any of the ski gear that you set it out for a long time to dry – longer than you think it needs.
This is a general guideline. Many manufacturers will give you recommended care instructions or at least any practices you should avoid. You can usually look at the tag on the baselayer for any instructions or warnings.
None of your ski gear should be shoved into the back of a closet or drawer when you’re done with the season. It’s a good idea to hang them up carefully and give them a little space.
Q: What other activities can I use my base layer for?
Base layers for cold weather can be used for any wintertime activity. It doesn’t have to be a sport either. If you’re chopping wood or shoveling snow, it can help to keep you nice and warm when you do so. A thermal base layer can also work well if you’re going on a wintertime jog.
Globo Surf Overview
Without a good, high-quality base layer, you’re going to feel the chilly air of the slopes quickly. Not only that, you’re going to miss out on the moisture-wicking effect and there won’t be anything to handle body odor.
When you are purchasing a ski base layer, it’s important to find what’s best for you. This means considering fit, style, and a number of other features. All of the options we’ve looked at on this list are top-rated base layers for skiing and you’re sure to find one that works for you among them.