What is base layer clothing?

Published: 05th October 2009
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The purpose of base layer clothing is simple. It aims to make anyone involved in an outdoor activity - whether it's a gentle hike or an intense game of rugby - as comfortable as possible.

For many years, people thought that the best way to achieve outdoor comfort was to wear a cotton T-shirt under a sports top, fleece or waterproof. The problem with cotton, however, is that it absorbs your sweat and keeps the moisture next to your skin.

The result is that after a while you have a damp, cold and often smelly garment hanging from your shoulders.

The difference
Base layer clothing works differently. The fabrics draw any moisture you produce away from your skin and your clothing. The result is that your T-shirt, shorts or leggings stay dry. This in turn means you remain comfortable and warmer.

If you're active in a cold climate, though, you need to remain warm as well as dry. Base layer clothing certainly helps but you may still need mid and outer layers. However, in a hot atmosphere you can wear base layer clothes by themselves. Some even have high protection ratings to prevent sunburn.

The best type of base layer clothing therefore gives you "wicking" (the movement of sweat from your body to the outside); odour-resistance; comfort; and protection from the sun's rays.

The material manufacturers use to achieve all this varies. Polyester is popular, as is polypropylene. However, a lot of companies use merino wool, although the finished product tends to be expensive. A further option now available is hybrid clothing that blends merino wool with polyester and polypropylene.

With such a range, your choice can prove difficult. A useful guide is to check that the fabric has the four properties of wicking, odour-resistance, sun protection and comfort. To these, you can also add the way the manufacturer has put a garment together.

For instance, look for flat-locked seams. Because base layer clothing fits snugly to your body, you don't want seams that press uncomfortably against you. Flat-locked seams are just what they say they are: flat and therefore unobtrusive.

Also avoid inside labels sewn on the fabric. These can prove scratchy against your skin, especially after you've worn a garment for a while.
Labels are, of course, inevitable so look for those that are heat-transferred. These blend into the fabric.

Bear such points in mind and you'll find base layer clothing a great addition to your outdoor wardrobe.
For ">Base Layer Advice - Visit Lovell Soccer.

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