The Secret of Base Layers for Kids – Stay Warm when Out

December 8, 2017

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.

base layers could mean the difference between your children being cold and unhappy to not really noticing the weather

Secret of Base Layers in keeping kids warm

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.

purpose designed base layers fit tighter to the body and avoid “thermal leakage”

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 loses 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?

damp clothes next to the skin… can make you even colder

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.

Compression base layers are ideal for sports

Some base layers advertise ‘compression’. Compression base layers are ideal for sports. Their tighter fit supports the muscles, which aids recovery and reduces the 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

Base layers keep a warm layer near the skinYou’ll see many base layers advertise they are made from Merino Wool, and you can even get some base layers for kids that use merino wool.

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 Layers

Base layers keep a warm layer near the skin
We really liked this merino 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

Engel Kids Base LayersIf you can’t get hold of any Kozi Kidz base layers, then you could try these from Engel.

We bought a top and bottoms from Amazon (you can find the top here and the bottoms here).

Engel Base Layer ReviewThe Engel base layers are not as thick as those from Kozi Kidz, but they are also made with natural merino wall.

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.


Base Layer Search

Here’s a quick price search for  kids base layers.

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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Gav Grayston
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Gav Grayston Contributor

Father to 3 kids, who loves getting out and about (hiking, running, camping, cycling, canoeing...) Co-founded Get Out With The Kids to help other parents enjoy the outdoors with their family.

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  1. Hi, just came across your interesting site as my children are constantly getting one cold after another between October – March. I noticed that doing PE/ other activities outside is triggering chest infections with chronic coughs. Can you please advise as I am probably getting it all wrong? I normally cover their ears and neck but they can’t zip their coats right up which drives me insane. I have just purchased a couple of Berghaus light fleece jackets but the outer jacket wasn’t so good as Jack and Wolfskin. I have always invested in outer layers but never tried base layers as too worried about them being too hot inside the classroom and also they are very allergic and can’t stand non cotton fabric or tags so didn’t want to waist more money … everything is so expensive. Would really appreciate your views …

  2. Hi – do you do base layers to keep cool. My son is track cycling and cannot go on without a base layer but we’re finding it hard to find something that won’t make him overheat!

    • Hi Helen,

      Something like the Under Armour Coolswitch might be what you need. They are designed to keep you cool rather than warm.
      Here’s one on Amazon:

      If you need to get him a sleave-less top, then the Under Armour Heat Gear is supposed to do the same job.

      I have the Under Armour Heat Gear running shorts and have been very pleased with them.

      There are some cycling specific base layers for the heat, such as the ‘string vest’ style often seen under jerseys in the Tour De France. dhb Aeron is a make I have seen recommended. You can get them here on Wiggle:
      Or for a couple of pounds more, is the Craft Mesh Superlight Base Layer, which has even better reviews for cycling in the heat.

      I hope that helps.


  3. “LOSES” insulation, not “looses”. Only one “O” in the middle of the word.
    Get your English right!

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