The right base and mid layers will prepare you for adventures throughout the cold-weather season. Each layer serves a different purpose and together, they work to keep you safe outdoors for longer.
Base layers are often skin-hugging to prevent cold air from getting inside and keep you dry by wicking sweat and moisture away from your body. A good base layer is breathable and warm.
Mid layers are tasked with the responsibility of insulating your body and are often crafted with materials like lightweight fleece, down and thicker knitted polyesters. They’re worn over the base for added warmth and should feel snug without restricting your movements on the mountain. Your top layer should be a wind- or water-resistant shell.
What you choose depends heavily on weather conditions and how hard you’re working on the mountain. Depending on conditions, you could wear multiple layers. Here are some options for different budgets:
MEC Peak Comfort AirGrid Warm Long Sleeve Baselayer ($69.95)
Polyester layers are well suited for high-intensity activities in cold conditions, like skinning uphill and alpine climbing. The quick-drying fabric absorbs less moisture than merino wool and wicks sweat super-fast to keep both the garment and your body dry.
The Peak Comfort AirGrid Warm Long Sleeve Baselayer by MEC is crafted with 94 per cent recycled polyester and six per cent spandex for a garment that stretches and allows you to move freely on the mountain. The gridded texture of this base layer helps trap heat in your body without it feeling bulky, especially when worn beneath other layers.
Polyester fabrics are generally more durable and inexpensive compared to merino wool but perform best on shorter adventures as odour builds up quickly, even with specially treated polyester. For multi-day journeys, pack multiples.
Courtesy of MEC
Columbia Steens Mountain Full Zip 2.0 ($59.99)
For a no-frills, budget mid layer option, go for the Columbia Steens Mountain Full Zip 2.0. It’s soft and fleecy, and its synthetic insulation is perfect for resort runs on days that aren’t super cold.
Its simple design and casual look help keep the cost of this mid layer low, and it’s also suitable for casual errands around town or a light hike on a cool day. Made from 100 per cent polyester MTR filament fleece, the Steens Mountain Full Zip can handle light drizzles when you’re out and about, and its elastic cuffs and hem cinch help to trap heat in your body while keeping cool drafts out. The different sizes (standard, big, tall) make this an excellent option for adventurers.
Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Thermal Top ($115)
Soft and ultra-fine, merino wool is a favourite among outdoor adventurers for its comfort and breathability. Most merino wool layers come in weights between 150-300 grams per square meter (GSM). This refers to the weight of the fabric. The larger the number, the heavier the fabric, and the more warmth the base layer provides.
The Merino 200 Oasis Long Sleeve Crewe Thermal Top is one of Icebreaker’s most popular products. Crafted with 100 per cent Merino wool, this base layer provides sublime next-to-skin comfort and has excellent temperature regulation. This versatile midweight baselayer contours the body and, at 200 GSM, is ideal for skiing and cool-weather hiking.
Capilene® Air Crew ($159)
Patagonia's Capilene® Air Crew is woven with a breathable blend of merino wool and recycled polyester, which marries the softness of the wool with the added durability of synthetics. With its naturally occurring antimicrobial properties and odour-trapping capabilities, this piece is well suited for longer adventures, meaning you can take less with you and save space in your pack. This base layer is a luxury buy, but its stylishness allows it to work well as a standalone piece, so you can feel put together both on and off the mountain.
Courtesy of Patagonia
R1® Air Full-Zip Hoody ($199)
For added warmth, pair the Capilene® Air Crew with Patagonia’s R1® Air Full-Zip Hoody. Its zig-zag structure balances warmth and breathability without compromising on weight. Plus, the technical fleece is quick drying, which means you’ll be staying warm and dry on the mountain, and wicking off any sweat quickly. This fitted, lightweight, hooded mid layer is highly versatile and provides excellent comfort.
Courtesy of Patagonia
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