The Basics

What the outdoor retailer offers is personal expertise which is something the web cannot deliver. In a world awash with product and competing claims, the informed sales person comes into his or her own. On these pages and in concert with individual sponsors we offer a series of bullet point guides to the basics of the key outdoor product categories. Our aim is to provide inexperienced sales staff a guide to what to remember and for more experienced ones a reminder of things they might have forgotten. The Basics has been produced so as to make it simple to download – in most cases each takes up no more than single sheet of paper.

The Basics of Base Layer

Sponsored by SmartWool

What base layer does
By fitting close to the skin, a base layer will trap the body’s own heat and hold it close whilst at the same time transporting away any moisture. There are two types of base layer construction; those made from synthetic materials such as polypropylene and those made from natural fibres such as merino wool.

Synthesise the benefits...
The advantages of synthetic base layer are its durability and for some, at least, its feel. Because it is constructed from what is essentially a plastic yarn, a synthetic base layer will take a lot of rough treatment. Maintenance tends to be easy and synthetics on the whole are cheaper too. 

The disadvantages of synthetics are that whilst their moisture management characteristics are good, they are not always equal to the task of dealing with the action of bacteria and for that reason garments made from them can smell after sustained use. 

...or let it come naturally
The advantages of using natural materials and especially wool in the construction of base layers, is that being a natural product it wicks away moisture brilliantly well and being inherently anti-microbial there is no problem with odour. The insulation benefits, especially of Merino wool, are considerably better than those of synthetics.

Natural fibres have two disadvantages. They will tend to be more expensive than synthetics and they require more care when it comes to maintaining them.

Right one for the job

Give it the thumbs up
Some pieces of long sleeved base layer include thumb loops. These are more than mere affectation. For those following pursuits which involve a lot of upper body movement – skiing or skateboarding for example, the thumb loops are an efficient way of keeping the sleeves from riding up.

Keep it zipped
For those who work up a real sweat zip neck base layers can be best because they allow an instant blast of cooling air which is easy to regulate. They are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, because some people do not like having the neck covered in this way. 

Join the crew
Crew necks allow the wearer for freedom of movement and for some at least they sit more comfortably under other layers. 

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