Base Layers for the Whole Family

One of my favorite scenes in TV movie history is that poor, frazzled Indiana housewife getting her boys bundled up to walk to school. The younger boy, Randy, mumbles in distress beneath his scarf. Mom unwraps his face to hear him whine, “I can’t put my arms down!” She then attempts to push his arm to his sides several times only to have them stubbornly pop up again supported by his many layers and ample snowsuit.

The layering allows you to moderate your body temperature so that you don’t get too cold or too hot. More is not always better, as Randy’s mother found out. If you pile on too many layers, you may find that you end up colder than if you had fewer. The goal is to keep warm enough to be comfortable without causing sweating. Your sweat will evaporate and cool your body quickly and possibly dangerously.

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Keeping a few essential layers on hand for each family member gives you the option to outfit everyone according to their needs. Everyone should have at least one base layer, middle layers like T-shirts and sweaters, and outer layers such as a ski jacket or parka. 

What Is A Base Layer

Likely, most of you are familiar with base layers like UnderArmor. That brand name succeeded in becoming synonymous with the garments we are talking about. Some good news is that it’s not the only brand out there, and you don’t have to spend a fortune on cold weather gear.

A good base layer should be snug against your skin, but not tight enough to restrict your movement. Kids may be especially sensitive to any restriction and balk at the requirement to wear a base layer. It’s ok to get it a slightly larger size for comfort if this is a big problem. However, if it’s too baggy, it won’t serve its purpose. Look for seams sewn flat also. Sometimes a ridge on the inside can irritate your skin.

The two main purposes of your base layer are warmth and moisture wicking. If you happen to sweat a little because the winter sunshine is particularly strong or you’re totally whomping the kids in a snowball fight, a moisture wicking layer draws the sweat to the surface of the garment to evaporate. Because the sweat doesn’t dry against your skin, it doesn’t cause a chill. 

For Dad

Men’s base layers from good brands like Under Armour, Dickies, and Carhartt run between $30 and $50 for shirts or pants separately. You’ll also find several unknown brands on Amazon that have good ratings for cheaper prices. I tend to apply the middle-of-the-road strategy for all gear. Don’t get the cheapest or most expensive. It’s also better to try on base layers since they fit snug to your body. A sporting goods store or outdoor outfitter might cost more than online, but you’ll know exactly what you’re getting.

For Mom

Ladies, we luck out in the price department here. Base layers for women tend to run $17-$32 per garment with a few exceptions from big brand names. Although the same shopping savvy applies for us. The opportunity to try it on is usually worth any cost increase you incur. 

For Kids

For the kids you can often get a base layer set that has the shirt and pants for one price. I’ve seen between $20 and $40 depending on the size and brand. You can also get unisex base layers for young kids. For teens you probably want to differentiate or get men’s and women’s small sizes. 

Base layers may seem like an unnecessary expense, but if you want to spend extended time outside (i.e. more than 30 minutes), the investment is well worth it for everyone’s comfort and enjoyment.

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