The 411 on Base Layers

No matter the activity, no matter your skill set, layering for outdoor exploration is important. Whether you’re a newbie to the outdoors or are a seasoned veteran, the following will give you the 411 on base layer basics. 

What exactly is a base layer? 

Simply stated, base layers are the first layer closest to your skin (aka next-to-skin). Typical base layers include short and long-sleeved tops and leggings. 

What do base layers do? 

The primary function is to wick moisture away from your body. Meaning, let’s say you go for a hike. Gradually your body temperature will increase as you exert more energy and in response, you will begin to sweat to help keep cool. Base layers help absorb and evaporate body moisture (aka sweat) helping to keep your body dry and regulate your body temperature so you can continue to explore. 

What’s the best material for base layers? 

Most traditional base layers are made with either Merino Wool or synthetic fabrics. Here’s a short breakdown of each.

Merino Wool:

Higher in price and can deliver the warmest benefits. Merino wool is named after it’s source, Merino sheep and has the natural ability to help regulate body temperatures in both cold and warm conditions. Naturally antibacterial, Merino Wool has the magical ability to eliminate odor from fabric. 


Usually lower in price and are best suited for more mild climates. While most synthetic fabrics aren’t antibacterial, they yet still deliver quick-drying and high-wicking benefits. Most are lightweight and flexible making them used broadly across activities where your body is constantly moving - ex: cycling. 

Which fabric weight should I wear?

Base layers come in various weights to provide different levels of warmth. When evaluating which weight is best for you and the season, an easy rule of thumb to use is - the higher the weight number, the warmer you’ll be. Therefore if you’re looking at a 200-300g base layer, this would most likely be suited for an activity in cold temperatures. On the other hand, a 100-150g weight would most likely be better for activities in warmer temperatures.

For what activities are base layers used? 

Due to their adaptive benefits and variety of materials and weight, base layers can be used for a variety of activities. Whether you’re hiking in the back country or even running errands in town, base layers are a versatile must-have. 

Who makes the best base layers? 

You’re in luck...Fortunately there are a number of Brands that offer great base layers. A few of the most well known Brands include: Smartwool, Icebreaker, Patagonia, REI, Arc’Teryx, Black Diamond and Mountain Hardware. 

Check out the latest base layers on Out&Back today. 

View Men's Base Layers

View Women's Base Layers