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Backpacking Gear for Beginners: Baselayers

This post is part of the Backpacking Gear for Beginners course.

Why do you need base layers? 

The base layer, or underwear layer, is the first layer of clothing that sits against your skin. They can be short or long sleeves and ideally be comfortable against your skin. 

This first layer should be made of materials that wick, something that pulls moisture off your skin. This will keep you dry. Wet clothes will suck the heat from your body and make it hard to stay warm. 

Cotton absorbs moisture

It will keep moisture against your skin and pull heat from your body. Unless it’s hot and you are trying to do this, I’d recommend wearing anything but cotton. Polyester, merino, and polypropylene are all good alternatives that wick better, keeping you drier.

Merino vs polyester

Merino wool vs polyester is usually the debate when looking at base layers. Polyester is made from fossil fuels, wicks quickly but holds on to smell. Merino doesn’t smell, wicks well but not as fast as polyester but still retains heat when it’s wet. I wear merino wool whenever I can. 

Thicker base layers are warmer

If it’s going to get cold get something thicker. You can add more layers if it’s cooler but too many layers are hard to move in. 

Take care of your merino

Follow the merino instructions if you want it to last. Merino is more delicate than polyester. Merino is my favourite fabric for outdoor adventures but for it to last it’s usually best to wash on delicate and hang to dry.

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