Do Base Layers Keep You Cool?


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When you see professional sportsmen and women wearing base layers in warm weather, it is only natural to wonder how they feel wearing an extra layer of clothing in the heat. It goes against the natural feeling that any additional clothing means increased warmness.

Base layers can keep you cool, but only if you wear the right set of underclothing. You’ll want a thin base layer, as this wicks moisture from your body to the outside, keeping you comfortable as a result of evaporative cooling. You may also get better results if you don’t wear any extra clothing on top of it.

The rest of the article covers other major benefits of wearing base layers in warm weather, the best types of warm weather base layers to consider, and tips on buying one.

How base layers help in warm weather.

Base layers in direct contact with your skin are designed to help your body fight off overheating. The best of them have moisture management features that encourage homeostasis (heat regulation). While just about any base layer can achieve this function in cold weather, the structure and design have to change for warm weather usage.

Regardless of whether you are wearing a base layer for cold weather or one for warm weather, the basic principle will remain the same. The sweat accumulating on your skin has to be removed to ensure you are comfortable during your exercise, and also keep your body temperature adequately regulated.

We’ve established the fact that some types of base layers can keep you cool. However, there are a few other ways warm weather base layers can help to leave you feeling refreshed while you are out and about in warmer temperatures. They include the following:

Increased Comfort

When you are walking, hiking, cycling, or running in warm weather, the sweat can leave you feeling clammy and wet, making you feel uncomfortable throughout the exercise. The right base layer, however, can provide you with the perfect buffer between your skin and your jersey. So, as it is wicking sweat away from your body, it ensures you don’t get to feel the dripping on your skin.

Blocking the Sun

Feeling the heat of the sun directly on your skin can make you feel hotter than what your weather app actually says. Wearing a long-sleeved base layer, therefore, can help you block the sun out.

Scent Control

Bacteria love a moist, warm environment. By using an appropriate base layer, you can wick moisture away and keep bacterial growth down while you are outdoors. This way, you don’t have to “ruin” the air when you run/walk past a group! 

Some manufacturers now create base layer options that have built-in anti-microbial technology. The Carhartt Force Lightweight is a good example.

Pest Protection

In warm weather, the risk of coming in contact with pests while outdoors increases. Some of them, such as ticks, are vectors for debilitating conditions like Lyme disease. So as your tight-fitting base layer is ensuring evaporative cooling and suppressing bacteria growth, it will also prevent pests from attaching to your skin, especially if the material covers your extremities.

The best types of base layers to buy for warm weather use.

If you want a base layer that can keep you cool in warm weather, you need to pay attention to the type you buy. Some manufacturers have these options clearly highlighted in their stores. If you can’t find them, get a recommendation from the staff.

Watch out for base layers with waffle weaves or mesh. They are some of the more popular options for warm weather. However, you may not feel comfortable wearing them alone. They are designed to be worn underneath a jersey, providing room for air movement and encouraging evaporation. The Castelli Pro Issue and the 2019/20 Core Mesh 3 are good options you should consider.

Arguments against warm weather base layers.

If you look around online, you will find dissenting opinions on why base layers can’t keep you cool or why they shouldn’t be worn in warm weather. Here are two of the main statements you’ll find:

Special Sports Jerseys achieve the Same Thing

This is one of the main arguments against warm-weather base layers. The proponents argue that there are sports jerseys designed to provide the same solutions. 

However, these special wears are designed for various purposes. In the midst of the plethora of features they all tend to come with, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture: staying cool in warm weather.

A warm-weather base layer is a dedicated next-to-skin fabric designed to provide one solution: wick sweat. So, while a jersey may have some temperature control features, it could have other design elements that will affect the overall functionality.

Base Layers Slow Down Evaporation

A second argument against warm-weather base layers is that they slow down the evaporative cooling process by blocking outside air from reaching the sweat. It is true that sweat needs to be as close to the outside as possible for evaporation to take place. 

However, this argument assumes that you’ll wear non-conducive clothing on top of the base layer. If you wear a super-light sports jersey, or even better, wear the base layer without any additional clothing, the argument falls flat.

Tips for buying a base layer.

When buying a base layer, you need to avoid making a decision based on just the list of features. Ideally, you should try it on first. You will only enjoy the benefits that come with using one if it fits you properly. 

The best base layer options will hug your contours without restricting movement. If you are shopping online and thus can’t try on your preferred option, ensure there is a refund or product policy in place in case your chosen option doesn’t work for you.

Additionally, you need to ensure that the sweaty parts of the body are covered properly by the material; otherwise, the transfer of sweat from your body to the outside will be inefficient. This is why you should avoid baggy materials. Apart from the general feeling of discomfort they can bring, you can’t wear a second layer of clothing over such options.

If your reason for buying a baggy base layer is to wear it as a standalone, it is not a good decision. You will be better served getting a skin-tight base layer and comfortable external sportswear that will not have a negative impact on the heat evaporation process.

The decision between long-sleeve or short-sleeve base layers and ankle-length pants or thigh-length options will come down to your specific needs. Short-sleeve options will work great if you are out on a walk around the block, while long-sleeve options will work best if you are regularly on a hiking trail. The same applies to the pants.

With your upper body base layer, you need to watch out chaffing around the armpit. Be sure to check for the fitting around this area.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this article has cleared up your confusion on the matter. A base layer can keep you cool if you choose the right option for warm weather, and pair it with the right outer-layer clothing. You may also get better results if you wear it as a standalone. When buying the base-layer, keep in mind all the activities you will use it for.

If your outdoor functions involve hiking, running, or jogging in countryside locations, an option that can keep you cool and comfortable while preventing insect bites should be at the top of your list.

Alanna Greene

Alanna is an avid traveler who lives in Michigan. In addition to writing for Temperature Master, she also sells crafts on Etsy and takes long walks through the forests near her home.

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