Any enjoyer of winter activities knows that you don’t need to dress warm – you need to dress smart. Of course, warmth remains a priority, but you can’t simply bury yourself in layers of sweaters and expect to have an enjoyable day outdoors. The key to making the most out of winter activity is proper layering. Each of the three layers has a role to fulfill, and today we’ll take a look at the foundation of all winter outfits: the base layer. More specifically, at Hot Chillys base layer collection, since this brand focuses solely on producing base layers and has a vastest collection to choose from. But, before getting down to concrete examples, let’s cover some theory, shall we? You can skip it, of course, the table of contents is at your service.
Table of Contents
Base layers are the first layer of clothing you put on, hence the name. They are designed to stay close to your skin since their prime function is to manage moisture during physical activity. As you know, our body sweats to cool down, there is no avoiding that. However, when this sweat remains on your skin or gets trapped in your clothing, you are much more likely to feel cold and uncomfortable when the temperature is low.
That’s where base layers enter the scene. They absorb the perspiration from your body and wick it away to the outer layers of your clothing, allowing it to evaporate. This process helps you stay dry and maintains your body’s core temperature.
Since base layers are in direct contact with your body, they need to be thin and lightweight so as not to hamper movement. They should be comfortable enough to wear for extended periods and flexible enough to accommodate the full range of motion that outdoor activities entail. For this reason, base layers mostly include tops and bottoms, sometimes zip-up o r crewneck shirts.
Key Features of Base Layers
Base layers are categorized based on three main features: warmth, fit, and material composition.
- The level of warmth provided by a base layer depends on the material’s weight, measured in grams per square meter (gsm). Generally, the heavier the material, the warmer the base layer, but that rule is not always applicable. It’s also important to note that too heavy a base layer may lead to overheating, especially during high-intensity activities.
- The fit of the base layer can also affect its performance. For example, a snug fit will provide better insulation and moisture-wicking capabilities since the material is in direct contact with your skin. On the other hand, a looser fit might be more comfortable for leisurely activities or for those who prefer a bit more breathing room.
The last feature deserves more attention, for it is arguably the most crucial one.
The material makeup is a pivotal factor that directly influences the comfort, warmth, breathability and moisture-wicking capabilities of a garment. Here are some of the most common materials used in base layers, including those used by Hot Chillys:
Polyester is a synthetic material widely used in base layers due to its excellent moisture-wicking ability. It effectively moves sweat away from your skin to the outer layer of the fabric, thus keeping you dry and comfortable during physical activities.
The overwhelming majority of Hot Chillys base layers are either made from polyester or contain it. Those include the La Montana, Micro-Elite Chamois, Clima-Tek, Originals, Pepper Bi-Ply, Peach Skins and Pepper Skins layers. These lines vary in their polyester composition, offering different weights (gsm), UPF ratings and fit design so everyone can find what they are looking for.
The main drawback of polyester is that it can retain odors if not treated with an antimicrobial finish. However, many Hot Chillys polyester base layers come with an antimicrobial treatment to address this issue, so it won’t be a concern in this case.
Nylon is another synthetic material known for its strength and elasticity. It also dries quickly and has good moisture-wicking properties.
Hot Chillys’ Micro-Elite XT and 3D Knit base layers are examples of nylon blend products. The Micro-Elite XT line, a blend of 90% nylon and 10% spandex, offers a durable outer with a soft, brushed fleece backing. The 3D Knit line, comprising 69% nylon, 25% polyester, and 6% spandex, provides a soft, comfortable, body-conforming fit.
While nylon is a durable material, it can be less breathable compared to natural fibers like wool. It is also known to retain odors if not treated properly, so that’s something you have to account for.
Merino wool is a natural fiber renowned for its exceptional warmth, breathability, and moisture-wicking properties. It’s softer and finer compared to regular wool, making it more comfortable against the skin.
Hot Chillys’ Clima-Wool line is made from a blend of 84% merino wool, 12% nylon and 4% spandex. All the benefits of merino wool are present, including odor-blocking properties and a relaxed fit.
The downside of merino wool is the price: organic materials tend to be more expensive than synthetic ones. It also requires careful maintenance and washing to prevent shrinkage, so you should be ready to spend some extra time trying to keep it in good condition.
Spandex, also known as elastane, is a synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity. It’s often blended with other materials to provide a snug fit that doesn’t restrict movement in any way. Hot Chillys incorporates spandex in several of their base layers, including the Micro-Elite XT, Micro-Elite Chamois, 3D Knit, Clima-Wool, and Originals.
The main disadvantage of spandex is that it’s not very resistant to heat and can lose its elasticity over time if exposed to high temperatures.
Even with all that information at your disposal, it might still be hard to choose the garment. Here are more practical criteria you can use for guidance.
Activity Intensity: Your choice of base layer should match the level of the planned physical activity. For high-intensity sports or activities, a body-fit lightweight base layer would provide the right amount of warmth without causing overheating. If you plan to engage in more relaxed activities or just chill, warmer base layers will do nicely.
Personal Cold Tolerance: Internet advisors will always be plentiful, but nobody knows you as you do. Accounting for your personal cold tolerance is essential in selecting the appropriate base layer. Hot Chillys offers base layers with different warmth levels, ranging from Warmth 10 for extreme cold to Warmth 6 for milder temperatures. You can go one degree up or down depending on how prone you are to cold.
Insulation Level: The intensity of insolation depends on several things. One of them is the weight of the insulation material, measured in GSMs (Grams per Square Meter). While it is commonly believed that heavier materials provide more warmth, the Hot Chillys Bi-Ply base layer challenges this notion. Despite being lighter in weight, it offers better warmth than a first-level base layer due to its two-layer construction.
Hot Chillys offers nine base layer options, each designed with specific features to cater to different needs. These include La Montana, Micro-Elite XT, Micro-Elite Chamois, 3D Knit, Clima-Tek, Clima-Wool, Originals, Pepper Bi-Ply, and Peach Skins. Depending on your specific needs, one of these options will likely be the perfect fit for you.
Peach Skins is a perfect choice for those seeking lightweight, breathable base layer options for outdoor activities. Crafted from 100% Microfiber Polyester, Peach Skins provide an optimal blend of comfort and functionality. The layer is designed to be light, making it ideal for layering under heavier clothing during colder months or worn alone during milder weather.
One of its standout features is the moisture transfer fibers that work efficiently to move moisture away from the skin, ensuring you stay dry during your outdoor pursuits. An added benefit of Peach Skins is its antimicrobial treatment, which helps to keep the garment fresh over extended periods of wear. It boasts a UPF 30+ rating, providing good protection against UV rays. This base layer is available in both adult and youth sizes.
Pepper Skins is another excellent base layer offering from Hot Chillys that provides a slightly warmer option compared to Peach Skins. Made of 100% Polyester, Pepper Skins offers durability and resistance to shrinking and stretching, making it a practical choice for those who lead active lifestyles.
Like all other Hot Chillys base layers, it also features MTF (Moisture Transfer Fibers) for effective moisture management, keeping you dry and comfortable even during intense physical activities. The fabric is slightly brushed for extra softness, providing a cozy feel against the skin. What sets Pepper Skins apart is its flat seam construction, which enhances seam strength and longevity, ensuring the base layer lasts through numerous wears. At 175 gsm, Pepper Skins offer more warmth than Peach Skins but are still on the lighter side compared to other base layers in the Hot Chillys line.
With a GSM of 220, the Originals series offers more warmth than the two lighter layers while sharing some practical features. It offers a UPF rating of 30+, providing substantial protection against UV rays. Unlike the warm base layers, the Originals model has a body-fit design, offering a snug yet flexible fit. This makes it ideal for high-intensity activities where you need your base layer to move with you seamlessly.
Clima-Tek is a warm base layer that comes with a UPF rating of 30+ and is made from a blend of polyester and spandex. With a GSM of 180, it is lightweight yet capable of keeping you warm in mild to moderately cold temperatures. This model offers a relaxed fit, making it perfect for those who prefer a bit more room in their clothing. Its moisture transfer fibers work efficiently to move moisture away from the skin, keeping you dry during your outdoor activities.
Another warm base layer model, Clima-Wool also offers a UPF rating of 30+. It has a slightly lower GSM of 150, making it even lighter than Clima-Tek, but instead of polyester, it is made from merino wool and nylon. Like Clima-Tek, Clima-Wool offers a relaxed fit for comfort and flexibility. It also features moisture transfer fibers for efficient moisture management, ensuring you stay dry and comfortable.
Micro-Elite Chamois stands on the border of the warmest base layer series with a GSM of 265, providing superior warmth. It also has a UPF rating of 30+ and is made from a blend of enhanced polyester and spandex fibers. The Micro-Elite Chamois features a body-fit design, hugging your body closely to trap heat more effectively.
La Montana is one of the two warmest base layers offered by Hot Chillys. Made from 100% polyester fleece, it offers a lightweight, breathable and strong foundation for your winter outfit without the added bulk. It also boasts a UPF rating of 40+, offering superior protection against UV rays. With a GSM of 200, it provides excellent warmth while still maintaining breathability. The La Montana utilizes Micro-Elite Chamois panels with Bio-Silver to maintain freshness regardless of how strenuous your activity is.
Micro-Elite XT is another warmest base layer with a GSM of 260, providing superior warmth even in extremely cold conditions. Made from a blend of nylon and spandex, it offers a durable outer with a soft, brushed fleece backing. It also boasts a UPF rating of 40+. Like La Montana, Micro-Elite XT features an active fit design, ensuring a perfect blend of comfort and flexibility during your outdoor pursuits.
Even though they feature different compositions, all of Hot Chillys base layers are designed for efficient moisture management, thanks to their Moisture Transfer Fibers. Some models also feature antimicrobial treatments for odor control. The material pool includes polyester, nylon, spandex, and merino wool, each offering its own set of benefits. Regardless of which model you choose, you can expect superior moisture-wicking base layers that excellently perform their functions.
Check out our other guides to choosing winter gear and equipment:
- How to Choose the Perfect Ski Goggles for Your Next Mountain Adventure
- Best Snowboard Helmets of 2023-2024: A Detailed Review
- Top 5 Snowboard Boots of 2024: A Detailed Review
- The Rise of All-Mountain Snowboards: Top Picks for 2023-2024
What is the primary function of a base layer?
Base layers serve to regulate body temperature and wick away moisture from the skin during winter activities, keeping you dry and comfortable.
Which materials are commonly used in base layers?
Common materials used in base layers include synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon, natural fibers like wool, or a blend of both. Some base layers may also contain a small percentage of spandex for stretch.
How do base layers like Peach Skins and Pepper Skins manage moisture during physical activities?
Peach Skins and Pepper Skins from Hot Chillys utilize Moisture Transfer Fibers (MTF) technology that effectively moves sweat away from the skin, maintaining dryness throughout your physical activities.
How does a nylon base layer compare to natural fibers like wool?
Nylon is durable and has good moisture-wicking properties, but it may not offer the same breathability or odor resistance as wool. Wool, on the other hand, provides excellent warmth and naturally resists odors, but it may require more care to maintain.
How should I choose the right Hot Chillys base layer based on my activity?
For high-intensity activities where you’ll be sweating a lot, opt for Hot Chillys base layers with excellent moisture-wicking capabilities, like Peach Skins or Pepper Skins. For low-intensity activities or colder conditions, you may want a warmer option from their collection.
What are some of the warmest base layer options offered by Hot Chillys?
The La Montana and Micro-Elite XT are two warmest base layer series that Hot Chillys offers. They will be a great fit for low-intensity activities.