When it comes to battling the cold, windy, snowy storms of winter, or the warm, wet, sticky conditions of spring, the key to survival is the first layer. What you put directly next to your skin determines how dry, warm, and comfortable you'll be throughout the day. But you probably know this, so let's cut to the chase. There are a variety of features and materials used for the first layer, but how do you know what's best? Well, take a look, 'cause here are some of the top thermals we came across this season and a brief description of what to expect from each one. Patagonia Midweight Capilene Underwear
Suggested Retail Price: Pant, $38; Zip Pullover, $43
Made from 100-percent polyester, Patagonia's Capilene Underwear quickly pulls moisture away from the body and provides soft, dry comfort. The garments don't shrink, they won't make you sneeze or break out in a rash, and if you don't wash them for a few weeks, they're guaranteed not to mold or smell (good for all you guys with laundry phobia)! Also available: Silkweight and Expedition Weight.
SmartWool Next-to-Skin Wear
SRP: Pant, $60; Zip Pullover, $74
Wool equals two words, warm and itchy. SmartWool is going to change that way of thinking with Merino wool fibers that wick, absorb, and evaporate moisture, as well as insulate against extreme heat and cold-no itch included. Yep, their 100-percent wool garments are itch-free, silky soft to the touch, and won't reek or shrink. What a concept!
Burton Midweight First Layer
SRP: Pant, $35; Crew, $35
The incredibly soft blend of Burton's Midweight First Layer is made from 100-percent polyester. The pieces are designed with advanced wicking performance for all types of conditions and climates, so you will, without a doubt, remain comfortable while cruisin' all day long. Also available: AK First Layer.
Special Blend Blendtech Thermals
FourSquare Techfour Thermals
SRP: Pant, $40; Crew, $40
Constructed with 100-percent lightweight stretch polyester, these thermals keep you toasty-warm in all conditions. The big, baggy fit of the waffle-weave fabric is held away from the skin so air can be trapped in pockets and warmed by the body, offering an increased degree of insulation. Also features an open fly-yes, these ones are just for guys.
Concept Power Dry
SRP: Pant, $43; Crew, $45
For this unisex thermal, Concept uses Polartec Power Dry, which features two unique surfaces that pull moisture through the fabric and away from your skin to ultimately keep you feelin' good. Power Dry fabrics are 100-percent polyester and are ideal for any high-exertion activity that produces a significant amount of sweat.
Teton Gravity Research
SRP: Expedition Baggy Pant, $66; Microzip, $62Made with Malden Expedition Powder Dry fabric, this pant is constructed with fleece inside and nylon-brushed facing outside. The roomy style delivers function for all climates, including kickin' it inside by the fire, and features a one-inch elastic webbing belt with clasp. The classic TGR undershirt is made from Malden Double Velour fabric, which delivers warmth, breathability, and moisture-wicking control in all conditions. This extraordinary layering shirt is also perfect for chillin' once you're off the slopes.
SRP: Pant, $32.50; Zip Pullover, $45
Roffe uses Polartec Power Stretch, a performance fleece that stretches to nearly twice its length in any direction, for their Midweight thermal. Made with 60-percent polyester, 30-percent nylon, and ten-percent Lycra, the outer layer is wind and abrasion resistant, while the inner layer pulls moisture away from your skin. An added bonuus is the antimicrobial treatment that refuses to let these thermals stink no matter how many times you wear them without washing. Also available: Roffeflex Lightweight.
L.L. Bean Midweight Power Dry
SRP: Bottom, $30; Zip Pullover, $35
Constructed with Polartec Power Dry fabric, these 100-percent polyester thermals rapidly wick perspiration away from your body and spread it over a wider surface area for maximum evaporation. Also featured are a droptail hem to provide better coverage and thumbholes on the cuffs to help retain hand warmth and prevent sleeves from riding up.
Helly Hansen Sport
SRP: Pant, $28.50; Crew, $28.50
Made from 100-percent polypropelene, this basic, lightweight thermal features a longer back on the shirt and an open fly on the pants for men. Also available: Helly Hansen Arctic.
Lowe Alpine Power Stretch
SRP: Pant, $69; Zip Pullover, $89
Lowe Alpine uses Polartec Power Stretch to make yet another ideal garment for base and intermediate layering. The outer surface resists wear and tear, four-way stretch allows body-hugging freedom of movement, and the wicking inner surface removes moisture quickly. Also includes the good ol' antibacterial and odor treatment.
Sessions Diffusion Base Layer
SRP: Stratus Pant, $39; Sonic Crew, $39Made from 100-percent lightweight polyester, Sessions uses Polartec Power Dry to keep you dry by pulling moisture up for quick evaporation and minimal heat loss. Features an open fly for the guys.
Bonfire Base Layer
SRP: Pant, $45; Crew, $55
Bonfire utilizes 100-percent Intera-treated polyester, a moisture-transport system that maximizes body-moisture evaporation, to create an incredibly soft and comfortable base layer.