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The Best Moisture Wicking Layers

The Best Moisture Wicking Layers

No matter if you're hiking, skiing or simply braving the cold, having the right base layers can make all the difference in your outdoor experience. Moisture-wicking base layers and thermals are designed to efficiently manage perspiration and maintain a comfortable body temperature. Let's take a closer look at how base layers and thermals wicking moisture away from your skin keeps you comfortable and performing at your best along with some helpful pointers to choose your next base layer.

What Is Moisture Wicking and Why Does It Matter?

Moisture wicking refers to the ability of a fabric to draw moisture, such as sweat, away from the skin and transport it to the outer layer of the fabric where it can evaporate quickly. This process keeps the skin dry and helps regulate body temperature, offering significant comfort benefits during physical activities.

Moisture wicking matters because it enhances performance and comfort in outdoor activities. By efficiently removing sweat from the skin, moisture-wicking fabrics prevent the accumulation of moisture, which can lead to discomfort, chafing and even skin irritation. In hot weather, moisture wicking allows for faster evaporation, promoting effective cooling. In colder temperatures, it helps to keep the body dry, preventing the cooling effect of damp clothing and minimizing the risk of hypothermia.

Additionally, moisture wicking is essential for managing moisture during intense physical exertion. When engaging in activities like hiking, running or cycling, the body naturally produces sweat to cool itself down. Moisture-wicking base layers help transport this sweat away from the skin, allowing you to stay dry and comfortable, even during prolonged periods of activity.

Importance of Base Layers and Thermals in Moisture Wicking

Base layers and thermals play a crucial role in moisture-wicking as they are the first line of defense against moisture accumulation on the skin. These garments are designed to be in direct contact with the body, providing optimal moisture management and enhancing overall comfort.

The primary function of base layers and thermals is to efficiently wick moisture away from the skin and transport it to the outer layers of clothing where it can evaporate. By doing so, they help maintain a dry and comfortable microclimate close to the body, regardless of external conditions. This is particularly important during physical activities, as it prevents the accumulation of sweat, reduces friction and minimizes the risk of skin-related issues such as chafing and irritation.

Benefits of Moisture Wicking in Outdoor Activities and Sports

The benefits of moisture wicking in outdoor activities and sports are numerous and impactful. Here are some key advantages:

  1. Comfort: Moisture-wicking base layers keep the skin dry and reduce discomfort caused by wet or damp clothing. They prevent the accumulation of sweat, minimizing chafing, irritation and blisters, allowing you to stay comfortable throughout your activity.
  2. Temperature Regulation: Moisture-wicking fabrics assist in regulating body temperature by effectively managing sweat evaporation. In hot weather, they promote cooling by allowing moisture to evaporate quickly. In cold weather, they help prevent heat loss caused by dampness, maintaining warmth and reducing the risk of hypothermia.
  3. Performance Enhancement: By keeping the body dry and comfortable, moisture-wicking base layers enhance performance. They allow you to focus on the activity at hand without the distraction of wet clothing or discomfort, enabling you to perform at your best.
  4. Odor Control: Moisture-wicking fabrics, especially those with added anti-microbial treatments, help minimize the buildup of odor-causing bacteria, reducing unpleasant smells and allowing you to feel fresh even during extended activities or multi-day trips.

Factors Influencing Moisture Wicking Performance

Several factors can influence the moisture-wicking performance of base layers and thermals. These factors include:

  1. Fabric Type: Different fabrics have varying moisture-wicking properties. Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are known for their excellent moisture-wicking capabilities, while merino wool also offers effective moisture management with additional benefits such as natural odor resistance.
  2. Fabric Weight: The weight or thickness of the fabric can affect moisture-wicking performance. Lightweight fabrics generally wick moisture more quickly, while heavier fabrics may provide additional insulation in cooler conditions.
  3. Fit: A snug fit is essential for optimal moisture wicking. Base layers should be in direct contact with the skin to effectively transport moisture away. Loose-fitting or baggy base layers may hinder proper moisture management.
  4. Layering System: The overall layering system, including the combination of base layers, mid-layers and outer layers, can impact moisture-wicking performance. Layering should allow for effective moisture transfer from the base layer to outer layers for evaporation, ensuring a dry and comfortable experience.

By considering these factors and selecting high-quality base layers and thermals with moisture-wicking properties, you can enhance your outdoor experience by staying dry, comfortable and focused on your activity.

Types of Base Layers and Thermals for Effective Moisture Wicking

Base layers and thermals are crucial components of an outdoor clothing system, providing effective moisture wicking to keep you dry and comfortable during physical activities. There are different types of base layers and thermals available, each offering unique characteristics and performance. Here are the main types:

Synthetic Materials Polyester, Nylon and Blends

Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are widely used in outdoor gear for their excellent moisture-wicking properties. These fabrics excel at quickly moving sweat away from the skin and dispersing it across the fabric's surface for rapid evaporation. Polyester, in particular, is known for its super dry feel and durability, making it a popular choice for active individuals.

Nylon is another synthetic material used in base layers, offering excellent moisture-wicking capabilities and durability. It is often blended with other fabrics to enhance their performance.

Blended fabrics that combine synthetic materials with natural fibers like Merino wool or bamboo offer a balance between moisture wicking, odor control and durability. These blends provide the benefits of both worlds, ensuring effective moisture management while minimizing odors that may arise from bacteria trapped in the fabric.

Natural Materials Merino Wool and Silk

Merino wool is a natural material that has gained popularity in base layers and thermals for its exceptional moisture-wicking properties. It can absorb a significant amount of moisture without feeling wet, and it retains some moisture within its fibers, providing a cooling effect in warm weather. Merino wool also offers natural odor resistance, keeping you fresh during extended activities or multi-day trips.

Silk, although not as commonly used as synthetic or Merino wool, is a viable base layer option for low-key activities. It has moderate wicking capabilities and offers a lightweight and soft feel. However, silk is not naturally odor resistant and needs to be laundered after each use.

Comparison Between Synthetic and Natural Materials in Wicking

When comparing synthetic and natural materials in terms of moisture-wicking, there are some key differences to consider. Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon tend to excel in wicking and dissipating sweat, providing a super dry feel. They are also highly durable and can withstand rigorous activities.

On the other hand, natural materials like Merino wool have excellent wicking capabilities but may not feel as dry as synthetic fabrics. Merino wool retains some moisture within its fibers, which can provide a cooling effect in warm weather. It also offers natural odor resistance and can be blended with synthetic fibers for increased durability.

The choice between synthetic and natural materials ultimately depends on personal preferences, the specific activity and the prevailing weather conditions. Synthetic fabrics are often preferred for high-intensity activities and durability, while Merino wool is favored for its natural properties and versatility across various temperatures. Blended fabrics provide a combination of both synthetic and natural benefits, offering a balanced solution for moisture-wicking and odor control.

Features to Consider When Choosing Moisture Wicking Base Layers and Thermals

When selecting moisture-wicking base layers and thermals, several key features should be considered. These features ensure optimal performance, comfort and durability during outdoor activities.

Fit, Breathability and Comfort

A proper fit is essential for base layers and thermals to function effectively. The fabric should be in direct contact with the skin to facilitate moisture transfer. Base layers should have a snug fit without being too tight or restrictive, allowing for freedom of movement. Additionally, consider the specific cut and sizing options offered to find the best fit for your body type. You might want to go with a performance wool warm long sleeve or classic thermal long sleeve shirt as a base layer for the chilliest days, while a synthetic short sleeve crew neck shirt might be your choice for more mild weather.

Breathability is another crucial aspect to consider. Look for base layers made from materials that promote airflow and allow moisture to escape, keeping you dry and comfortable. Fabrics with moisture-wicking properties like synthetic blends and Merino wool excel in breathability, efficiently moving sweat away from the skin and promoting evaporation.

Comfort is paramount during outdoor activities. Consider factors like fabric softness, seam construction and additional features like tagless designs or flatlock seams, which minimize irritation and chafing. The comfort of base layers greatly contributes to overall enjoyment and performance during outdoor adventures.

Durability, Odor Resistance and Maintenance

Durability is an important consideration, especially for activities that involve contact with rough surfaces or repetitive movements. Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon are known for their durability and resistance to abrasion, making them suitable for rugged outdoor adventures. However, it's worth noting that pure Merino wool base layers may be more delicate and prone to damage when subjected to excessive wear and tear.

Odor resistance is a desirable feature, particularly for multi-day trips or activities that involve strenuous exertion. Merino wool baselayers naturally inhibit the growth of odor-causing bacteria, keeping unpleasant smells at bay even after extended wear. Some synthetic materials also incorporate anti-odor treatments or finishes to combat bacterial growth and minimize odors.

Consider the maintenance requirements of base layers. Some materials, like Merino wool, may require specific care instructions to maintain their performance and prolong their lifespan. Pay attention to washing and drying recommendations to avoid shrinkage or damage to the fabric. Synthetic materials often offer easy care and quick-drying properties, making them more convenient for on-the-go adventures.

Considering Quality and Performance of Moisture Wicking Base Layers and Thermals

Quality and performance are crucial factors when selecting base layers and thermals. Consider the reputation of brands and products, along with user reviews and expert recommendations, to ensure you're investing in high-quality garments that deliver on their promises.

Look for base layers and thermals that have been tested for warmth, breathability, comfort, durability and drying speed. Assess their performance in different weather conditions and activity levels to ensure they meet your specific needs.

Consider the materials used and their specific properties. Synthetic blends like polyester and nylon offer excellent moisture-wicking capabilities, durability and fast drying times, while Merino wool provides natural odor resistance, temperature regulation and softness against the skin. Assess your priorities and choose the material that best suits your preferences and activity requirements.

And be sure to consider the weight and layering ability of base layers. Lightweight options are ideal for high-intensity activities or warmer weather, while midweight or heavyweight base layers provide extra insulation in colder conditions. Ensure that the base layers you choose can be easily layered with other clothing items to accommodate changing weather and activity levels

Moisture Wicking Base Layers from Stio

Stio offers a range of moisture-wicking base layers that are designed to keep you dry and comfortable during high-output, cold-weather activities. Their base layer collection combines the benefits of natural and synthetic fibers to provide optimal performance.

Basis Power Wool™ Tight

The Stio Basis Power Wool™ Tight is a versatile baselayer bottom designed for ski touring and other high-output pursuits in cold conditions. Made in the USA, it features Polartec® Power Wool™ fabric that combines the advantages of merino wool and polyester. The soft, ultra-fine merino wool next to the skin wicks moisture away, while the quick-drying polyester outer layer adds durability. The high-efficiency grid backer traps warm air, aids in moisture transfer and enhances drying. With flatlock seams for chafe-free comfort and low-profile cuffs, these tights provide excellent performance and comfort during your outdoor adventures.

Basis Power Wool™ Crew

The Stio Basis Power Wool™ Crew is an indispensable baselayer for high-output activities in cold weather. It features the same Polartec® Power Wool™ fabric as the Basis Power Wool™ Tight, combining merino wool and polyester. The ultra-fine merino wool next to the skin wicks moisture, while the quick-drying polyester outer layer adds strength and durability. The grid backer enhances warmth, moisture transfer and drying. The crew neck design provides coverage and ventilation, and the flatlock seams ensure chafe-free comfort during movement.

Basis Power Wool™ Zip Neck

The Stio Basis Power Wool™ Zip Neck is a year-round baselayer that effectively manages moisture during high-output activities in cold conditions. Made with Polartec® Power Wool™ fabric, it combines the benefits of merino wool and polyester. The ultra-fine Merino wool next to the skin wicks moisture, while the quick-drying polyester outer layer adds durability. The high-efficiency grid backer traps warm air, aids in moisture transfer and accelerates drying. The zip neck design offers added coverage and quick ventilation, and the flatlock seams ensure comfort during active pursuits.

Stio's Basis Power Wool™ collection showcases the performance and versatility of their moisture-wicking base layers. These garments effectively manage moisture, provide warmth even when wet, and offer durability for a wide range of outdoor activities. With their thoughtful construction and use of high-quality materials, Stio base layers are designed to keep you comfortable and dry during your cold-weather adventures.

Proper Care and Maintenance of Moisture Wicking Base Layers and Thermals

Proper care and maintenance of moisture-wicking base layers and thermals are essential to ensure their longevity and optimal performance. By following the appropriate washing, drying, storing and recognizing signs of wear, you can extend the life of your base layers. Here are some guidelines to help you take care of your base layers effectively.

Washing and Drying Techniques to Maintain Wicking Properties

Washing and drying your base layers correctly is crucial for maintaining their wicking properties and overall performance.

  1. Synthetic Base Layers: For synthetic base layers, consult the care labels on your garments for specific instructions. Generally, it's recommended to wash them in a separate load using a technical cleaner designed for synthetic fabrics. Avoid using regular detergents and never combine them with regular household laundry. Follow the garment care label for water temperature instructions. After washing, it's best to air dry them or use a low-temperature setting in the dryer if allowed by the care labels.
  2. Merino Wool Base Layers: Merino wool base layers are naturally antibacterial and odor-resistant. Follow the care labels on your garments for specific instructions. Typically, you can wash them in a separate load using a gentle technical cleaner designed for wool fabrics. Avoid using standard detergents and avoid combining them with regular laundry. Follow the garment care label for water temperature instructions. Air drying is recommended for Merino wool base layers, but if the care labels allow, you can use a low-temperature setting in the dryer.

Storing and Folding Methods for Base Layers and Thermals

Proper storage and folding methods help maintain the shape and condition of your base layers.

  1. Garment Bags: After washing and drying your base layers, store them in plastic zippered garment bags. This helps protect them from dust, insects and moisture, keeping them clean and ready for use.
  2. Acid-Free Tissue Paper: To further protect your base layers, wrap them in acid-free tissue paper before placing them in a bag or box in your travel suitcase. Acid-free tissue paper helps prevent discoloration and damage to the fabric.
  3. Avoid Squeezing and Stretching: When washing and handling your base layers, avoid squeezing or wringing them, as this can stretch the fabric and affect the fit and performance. Gently reshape them while they are still damp to maintain their original shape.

Signs That Your Base Layer or Thermal Needs Replacement

Even with proper care, base layers and thermals will eventually wear out. Here are some signs that indicate it may be time to replace them:

  1. Pilling: Excessive pilling, where small balls of fabric form on the surface of the garment, can reduce the effectiveness of the wicking properties and indicate that the fabric is deteriorating.
  2. Thinning or Holes: If you notice thinning areas or holes in your base layers, it is a clear sign of wear and tear. These areas may compromise the insulation and moisture-wicking capabilities.
  3. Loss of Elasticity: Over time, the elastic fibers in base layers can lose their stretch and recovery, resulting in a loose fit. This can reduce the garment's effectiveness in providing a snug and comfortable layer.
  4. Persistent Odor: If your base layer retains persistent odors despite proper washing, it may indicate that the fabric's antibacterial properties have diminished and it is time for a replacement.
  5. Decreased Performance: If your base layer no longer effectively wicks moisture, regulates temperature, or provides the desired level of comfort, it may be a sign that it has reached the end of its lifespan.

By regularly inspecting your base layers for these signs and replacing them when necessary, you can ensure that you continue to enjoy the benefits of high-performance base layers and thermals.

About Stio

Stio connects you with the outdoors through quality products infused with a mountain soul. Proudly operating from Jackson Hole, WY, we take inspiration from our natural surroundings and put it into every piece of apparel we make. From technical performance to aesthetics, Stio outfits you with exceptional products for unforgettable outdoor experiences.

You can find a wide selection of apparel for all your outdoor pursuits at Stio. From socks and gloves to jackets and base layers, Stio has all the gear you need to make the most of your winter biking. Hit the road with confidence knowing that your clothing is made to withstand tough winter conditions while providing the comfort and style you crave.


Do you wear base layers under thermals?

Yes, it's recommended to wear base layers under thermals. Base layers excel at pulling moisture away from the skin, keeping you dry and comfortable. They also help to insulate and regulate body temperature. By wearing a base layer underneath your thermals, you create a moisture-wicking and insulating system that effectively keeps you warm and dry in cold weather conditions.

What is a wicking base layer?

A wicking base layer is a type of garment designed to help keep your body dry during physical activity. It's typically made of synthetic materials, such as polyester or nylon, that have moisture-wicking properties. These materials are designed to draw sweat away from your skin and transfer it to the outer surface of the fabric, where it can evaporate more quickly. By keeping you dry, a wicking base layer helps regulate your body temperature, prevent overheating and keep you comfortable during activities like hiking, running or skiing.

Can you wear two layers of thermals?

Yes, you can wear two layers of thermals for added warmth. Layering thermals is a common practice in cold weather conditions, especially during outdoor activities like hiking, skiing or snowboarding. The first layer, known as the base layer, is designed to wick away moisture from the body and provide insulation. The second layer, commonly known as the mid-layer, adds another level of insulation and helps trap heat. By wearing two layers of thermals, you can enhance thermal efficiency and keep yourself comfortably warm in colder temperatures.

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