Effective layering ensures high-performance comfort by keeping you dry, warm, and protected from the elements.
How To Buy Snowboard Base Layers
Effective layering ensures high-performance snowboard comfort by keeping you dry, warm, and protected from the elements. With pieces that can be added or removed as needed, you can weather fast-changing winter conditions or tailor your apparel to your activity level. Remember to dress for the coldest or most extreme weather you anticipate.
The importance of layering
- With three uniquely functioning layers, you create a “personal climate” that keeps you comfortable and protected on the slopes.
- Layer one: long underwear/base layer
- Layer two: insulating tops & pants
- Layer three: outerwear
Layer one: long underwear/base layer
Tops and pants in the base layer function mainly to keep you dry and maintain body temperature. By helping perspiration evaporate quickly, this layer prevents heat escape and chafing, allowing you to ride longer in comfort. Long underwear also contributes to overall warmth.
- A crew neck, long-sleeved pullover and long pants, both with ribbed cuffs to keep out the cold, is most popular. Other styles, including short-sleeve tops and short-length bottoms, are available for different activity and anatomical demands.
- Base layer garments should graze the skin without restricting movement
- Look to achieve a fit that is loose enough to allow freedom of motion, but not so loose that there is little contact with the skin for moisture control
Comfort is key for the base layer. These garments should be soft, moisture wicking, and gently warming.
- Advances in fabric and fiber technology mean that softness is no longer a luxury, but a functional requirement of good long underwear
- Moisture wicking
- Your long underwear should wick perspiration away from the body to the surface of the garment to evaporate. The high-energy, high-perspiration nature of snowbaording make this property particularly important for this sport.
- When you wear long underwear with moisture-wicking properties, you create a soft, dry layer between the skin and the insulating layer
- Thermal properties and fabric weight
- The weight or bulk of the garment’s fabric is related to the amount of warmth it provides
- Most snowboarders prefer long underwear that is light- to mid-weight
- Though not a requirement in base layer garments, anti-bacterial/anti-microbial treatments are a good idea if you plan to wear the garment several times between washes
- These treatments make garments resistant to odor-causing bacteria, microbes, mildews, and molds. They are designed to extend the life of the fabric, not to maintain hygienic cleanliness
- Polyester and other synthetics
- Man-made fabrics are often the best choice for long underwear, since they offer a combination of moisture management, softness, and thermal properties
- Polyester is the most common base layer material, because of its excellent wicking ability. It is used in several branded fabrics designed to manage moisture.
- A similarly constructed, completely non-allergenic fabric, Polypropylene, is also available for those with sensitive skin. Polypro
- Used especially in lightweight pieces, silk is a soft, strong, and naturally wicking fiber
- Sometimes treated to enhance moisture wicking
- Like wilk, wool is naturally moisture wicking
- Though it can be too heavy for some activity levels, it is also very soft and durable
- Warm, soft and comfortable as cotton feels, cotton is not the best fabric for base laye garments. It tends to absorb and hold moisture creating an uncomfortable, chaffing layer next to the skin.
- Some long underwear is made using fabric blends. Make sure the garments you choose are made of blends that wicks moisture.
Layer two: insulating tops & pants
The insulating layer is designed to provide long-wearing, reliable warmth.
- Most often offered in pull-over styles, this layer includes a variety of tops, sweaters, sweatshirts, and vests
- Sweatpant-style bottoms offer freedom of motion, but all styles should be constructed to provide warmth without binding
- Jeans and basic cotton sweats restrict movement and retain moisture. They seem like a convenient solution, but in the long run they compromise comfort
- Because clothing in this layer is deigned for style as well as function, many snowboarders also use these garments as casual streetwear
- These garments should have a loose fit for a full-range of motion, but should not be so baggy that they require a cumbersome jacket or shell to fit comfortably over them
- Again, the weight of the fabric affects the degree of warmth the garment offers
- Moisture Wicking
- In order to maintain the outward travel of persiration, the insulating layer should also work to wick moisture, picking up where the base layer leaves off
- Warmth without bulk is important for overall comfort, but particularly for ease of movement in snowboarding
- Many new fleece and spun fabrics are designed to optimize warmth without increasing bulk
- Materials that offer natural stretch or garments that incorporate spandex/Lycra® offer snowboarders the freedom of motion the sport demands
- Synthetic fleeces, including PolarFleece®, the popular polyester fleece fabrics from Malden Mills, are the most widely used materials for insulating garments
- In addition to providing lightweight warmth, they also function to move moisture to the surface
- Fleece offers shape retention and easy, machine wash-and-dry care
- This synthetic fabric has many of the same properties as fleece, including wicking, breathability, and warmth without bulk, but is made with a more dense construction
- This fiber naturally offers warmth and moisture wicking
- Added warmth means added bulk, which may make this fiber less desirable to some snowboarders
- Just as with the base layer, cotton’s absorbency makes it an unpopular choice for the insulating layer
Layer three: outerwear
- Snowboard outerwear, the outer layer composed of jackets, parkas, pants, and sometimes bibs, serves to protect you from wet, windy, and extreme elements. This layer seals out weather and protects your personal climate.