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Are all base layers the same?

by Nick Baines July 12, 2019

Not all base layers are created equal. Know what to look out for when buying one of the most important pieces of mountain kit you’ll ever own.

It was the great explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes that said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” A statement that has never been truer when venturing into the mountains.

You see, Ranulph knows a thing or two about extreme conditions. Having crossed both Poles, ascended Everest and lost the tips of his fingers to frostbite in the process, it’s safe to assume that Sir Ran's no slacker when it comes to choosing a decent base layer. But there are a lot of things to consider…


Materials make a BIG difference

A lot of base layers are made solely from synthetic materials like polyester. This is a cheap material and wicks moisture away from your body well, but lacks some inherent warmth compared to other options. Merino wool is a fantastic natural product and has very soft, fine fibres making it incredibly comfortable against your skin. It also offers outstanding thermal values – this wool keeps herds of merino sheep in New Zealand toasty through the winter, as well as skiers and snowboarders.

At FLŌA we have created a merino-poly blend. It delivers the unprecedented warmth of the merino as well as the flexibility and breathability of man-made fibres.

And so does the cut

For a base layer to do its job effectively it needs to fit snug against your body, like a second skin. A loose fitting base layer allows too much airflow between your skin and the garment, which results in heat loss.  

But a second-skin fit can be restrictive if the right materials haven't been used. This is where our merino-poly blend comes in giving you freedom of movement while retaining maximum warmth. We also appreciate that our bodies come in different shapes and sizes, so as well as a full size range, our backcountry baselayer features 4-way stretch.


Modern features for serious athletes

The thing is, traditionally, a base layer was only designed to keep you warm. But athletes want to perform to their fullest with no compromise on movement, and no distraction from chafing or soreness. That’s why we integrated features that are actually needed.

Thumbholes in the sleeves mean they won't ride up, while our seamless technology means you won't get soreness from chafing. We included ventilation panels in the key areas, like across the chest and under the arms, and added a funnel neck collar for extra warmth. Compression is built into our backcountry baselayer too, a development that supports your muscles, aids circulation and alleviates fatigue.


So to answer the question

No, not all baselayers are the same. As a rule of thumb, you should put the same research and attention to detail into buying your baselayer as you do your skis. This is one of the most vital pieces of kit for mountain pursuits and one you will rely on daily. Sir Ranulph Fiennes is hardly crossing the globe in a second rate base layer, and neither should you.


Nick Baines
Nick Baines


With an insatiable thirst for travel, Nick Baines is a journalist based on the UK’s south coast. With more than 20 years experience in snow sports, he’s contributed features to publications all over the world.


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