People who travel often or exercise in extreme conditions often talk about a base layer. It’s not the lowest camp on Everest and it’s not the weight you put on whilst on holiday. It’s an important piece of gear, but many people have no idea what it is or why they should be wearing it.
A base layer is the first layer of clothing you put on and it’s usually light to wear and snug fitting. It’s a common misperception that base layers are only used in cold weather. They can also be used to keep you cool in hot weather, especially when you are doing any type of physical exertion – hiking, running, skiing, climbing or cycling.
The main job of a base layer is to keep you dry and a good quality base layer is able to create a microclimate next to your skin. Just the right amount of body warmth is trapped to create a comfortable, consistent temperature. Your base layer helps to regulate your body temperature as you heat up during activity and then cool down after the activity is ended.
Merino wool is the material of choice when it comes to base layers – it offers great breathability and moisture wicking performance in comparison to competitive materials such as polyester and nylon. Merino wool is also naturally antimicrobial, super soft to the touch and provides great UV protection. It is superior to any other material when it comes to odour-resistance because wool fibres absorb large quantities of water vapour, helping to keep the skin drier and prevent the build-up of sweat, bacteria and unpleasant smells. The unique chemical structure of wool also enables it to absorb and lock away odours which may develop, and are then only released when the item is washed.
Local South African Merino wool brand Core Merino is leading innovation in active wear, specifically as a base layer in sports apparel. The range combines Merino Wool and Nuyarn to create a range of lightweight summer tops, underwear and yoga pants that are stronger, stretchier, quicker drying, warmer and more comfortable.