If you’re taking the family skiing then performance thermals are required. However, skiing is not the only outdoor winter activity that base layers help with. Just getting out hiking or geocaching (or even winter shopping!) and base layers could mean the difference between your children being cold and unhappy to not really noticing the weather. Read this guide to buying base layers for your kids.
Why get your kids base layers
The concept of layering clothing is now a well recognised method for keeping warm when it’s cold outside. Each layer of clothing traps warm air and insulates the body more efficiently than just a single layer. If you get too hot you can remove outer layers.
Thermal underwear and base layers are that first layer, and whilst a T-Shirt could be considered a base layer, purpose designed base layers fit tighter to the body and avoid “thermal leakage” – in other words they insulate more efficiently, with the added benefit of fitting under clothes better.
Also unlike T-Shirts they are not made from cotton, which looses any insulation when it gets wet – and under-clothes can get wet as bodies sweat (even if only a small, normally unnoticed amount).
Polar explorer Eric Larsen even recommends removing a layer or two before you do activity so that you don’t get too warm, and then put the layers back on when you stop. If the kids are about to do some activity, it may be a good idea to take the same approach.
What is Wicking?
Some base layers advertise built in wicking of sweat. This prevents build up of wet and sweaty areas, which is really useful for activities like mounting hiking, mounting biking, or snowboarding. This may be of less benefit to younger children compared to teenagers or adults (who sweat more than kids!), however, the wicking design helps regulate body temperature by preventing the build up of damp clothes next to the skin, which can make you even colder.
Some base layers advertise ‘compression’. Compression base layers are ideal for sports. Their tighter fit supports the muscles, which aids recovery and reduces risk of injury. Many also claim to increase performance (from personal experience, this appears to be true). The tighter fit also helps improve wicking and temperature regulation.
Unless your kids are doing any sporting type of activity (and yes, skiing counts), then compression is not high on the list of things to look for.
Merino Wool in Base Layers
Merino is a type of sheep, which has really fine and soft wool, and is often used in clothes for outdoor activities as it is regarded a lot better than man-made equivalents.
- It helps the body regulate temperature. It is even better when worn next to the skin, such as in base layers.
- It absorbs water to help with wicking, but unlike many other fabrics, it retains warmth even when wet.
- Despite its ability to absorb water, Merino wool is also slightly water resistant.
- It is lightweight.
- It naturally has some antibacterial properties.
- It is soft and comfortable to wear – base layers from Merino wool will not feel like a scratchy old jumper 😉
What to look for when buying base layers for your kids
You can pick up a set of base layers for kids at some very reasonable prices on the high street. However, we have seen a few base layers that weren’t much better than a t-shirt and leggings.
There are a few things to look out for:
- Don’t buy too big and think you could get a few years out of them. If they are too big they won’t fit as tight to their skin, and will not keep them as warm.
- Merino wool base layers are often considered the best, so try and find some made from merino wool.
- Watch out for base layers where you have to buy the top and bottoms separately. This can be good if you think your kid will need a change of top more than a change of bottoms for example, but just watch the overall price. Base layers packaged separately can look cheaper than the sets at first but are not always in the end.
- Base layers that have a neck can keep your kids warmer since they seal in more body heat. Open necked base layers let out more heat.
- But if you do get one with a neck (which is advisable), make sure it has a zip. If your kids get too hot you can unzip the base layer and let out a lot of heat – as well as removing some layers of course.
Recommended Base Layers for Kids
Kozi Kidz Merino Base Layersmerino base layer set from Kozi Kidz.
It ticks all the boxes: merino, covered by unzippable neck, and even the cool thumb holes in the sleeves. When we got our hands a pair, the merino wall was very soft.
We recommend that you try and find a set of base layers like these.
Engel Thermal Base Layers for Kids
Out little boy had no complaints in wearing them, and in fact forgot that he was even wearing an extra layer – these fit under clothes really well. Despite it being really cold out, these thermals kept him warm.
You can get these in either plain (which is a bit cheaper), or printed. We went for plain leggings but a printed top.
The plain ones look a bit boring, but we thought were fine for legs, but for the top we wanted something that looked like a t-shirt or similar under his clothes.
When choosing the sizes with these, we felt they were just a fraction shorter than expected, but still fit, and being slightly shorter in the arms for the base layer is not a problem.
Engel Children's 100% Organic Merino Wool Long Johns (2. 104CM (3-4 Years))
Base Layer Search
Here’s a quick search for merino kids base layers available on Amazon.
As you can see the starting price isn’t too bad, but note the cost of Top plus Bottoms vs. buying a set with both in.
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