How to

20 April 2016

Why Thermals Trump Simple Layers

The best part of compiling a wardrobe is finding the bits that people don’t generally see. Undergarments guarantee a fair bit of fun as do sleepwear and lounge clothes. We choose these articles of clothing with the idea that eventually someone will see them, resulting in a firmer grasp on our personal style; but when it comes to a base layer, that of thermals, style falls to the wayside in favour of quality.

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A layer of thermals, or long johns, is tantamount to keeping warm and wicking away sweat. Having a good fit, tight but comfortable, means that the under layer can work to the best of its abilities. It helps to regulate body temperature by preventing the cooling properties of sweat and holding in heat through dead air space. Having an extra layer of clothing creates pockets of air which act as a filter of sorts between the cold outer air and body heat. The trapped air next to the skin acts as an insulator, working with the special fabrics thermals are most commonly made of. Blended fabrics, for example, are quite popular as is wool, synthetics, and natural fibres. Going hand-in-hand with insulation qualities is the natural wicking of moisture from the body. These fabrics are designed to stop damp from settling on the skin which invites cold to suck away body heat.

An outer layer of weather-resistance gives the wearer a bit of wiggle room with the under layers. The layers between oneself and the outside elements are referred to as loft. More loft means more insulation value. Wind-resistant or –proof materials work as a fantastic barrier between the warm, inner loft and the weather without.

Mountaineers, as well as those occupied with snowboarding and skiing, benefit most from wearing a base layer of thermals and are those most at risk when wearing the wrong ones. A simple layering of clothes, like doubling up on shirts, invites the risk of getting and staying wet. This can lead to hypothermia, frost bite, or even death in extreme cases. Regular clothing has none of the qualities that thermals are prized for, nor are they breathable, both of which contribute to clothing staying wet. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).