Base Layering

There has always been a huge debate in the base layering when going to mountains whether for skiing, snowboarding, or any other purpose. But, you don’t need to worry because, In this article, I will be telling you about the need for underpants in the snow, what works the best and why and at the end will share some of my personal experiences too.

You should wear a base layer or long underwear under snow or ski pants, you build up a sweat while skiing, and a base layer will wick that sweat off your skin and absorb it on the layers which will make you feel warmer. While you should avoid wearing normal pants under ski pants as they are not built for such extreme conditions.

Further in the article, I am going to debunk a lot of myths and misunderstandings on wearing base layers under ski pants, and why you should not wear other things than the base layer, choosing the right base layer, and so on.

So, Stay Tuned!


What to Wear Under Ski Pants?

As mentioned above, one should wear base layers under ski pants but why do base layers only, why not other pants, how are they designed, types and fabrics used, where to get them, let’s learn more about base layers.

What Are Base Layers?

Base layers basically wick the moisture out of your body. The base layer’s main work is to keep you dry and wick the sweat away which will keep you warmer. Base layers don’t provide much insolation nor they are designed to do that.

Base layers are also known as Long Underwear, Long Johns, and Thermals.

Why Are Base Layers Important?

Base layers are important for snow sports or any kind of other outdoor activity because it maximizes the warmth. When you do any kind of physical activity, your body builds up a sweat which can get stored under your main ski/snow pants which will make you feel colder which can result in sickness or any other ailment in such extreme weather.

And base layers actually wicks off this sweat off your skin to the layer which avoids this.

A good example of this is, if you go and swim in a lake on a very hot day, you feel cold and the reason why you feel cold is that your body is completely covered by moisture and this moisture is actually turning into gas, it is evaporating and that process causes energy loss which makes you cold. In Winters, this moisture is your sweat which you build up after skiing.

So, what base layer actually do to the sweat? – The base layer actually takes (absorbs) that sweat and puts it in another layer so that it can evaporate off the clothing, not off your skin. This is also known as the Wicking Effect. This makes you feel warmer when you do any outdoor activity that requires more muscular work or activities that can build up a sweat.

And sweating is just a natural way for your body to keep you cool which is not a good thing in Winters although and there is no button to switch sweating on or off.

That’s why wearing a base layer is highly recommend while going to ski because you cannot ski without building a sweat. This is also the main reason why I don’t recommend wearing normal pants under your ski pants because they don’t have this function which is very important in base layers.

But, not all the base layers are the same, many factors come into play which I will talk about further in this article. Here is one very helpful video on choosing the right base layer:

How Should Base Layers Fit?

Fit is very important in base layers, it is as important as the quality of the base layer you are buying. A good fitting base layer needs to be form-fitting and tight (athletic) because the base layer needs to touch every nook and part of your body to give the best results, the more skin it can touch, the more moisture it can wick away to the other layers.

So, make sure you check the fitting size before buying one base layer for yourself.

Weights Of Base Layers

Base layers or long underwear generally come in three different types of weights. Here’s a table showing you the properties of each of them.

ThinnerSlightly ThickerVery Thick
Wick Moisture & Dry FasterTake a little longer to Wick / DryVery less to No Wicking / Drying
Very Little to No InsulationSome InsulationBest Insulation

So, which one should you choose?

The heavyweight base layers have the best insulation but insulation is not something we want from our base layers as we have our ski pants and even mid-layers for that purpose. And it provides very little wicking and taking a lot longer to dry which is not a good sign for long underwear.

So, In my opinion, you should stick to the lightweight and mid-weight base layers.

Materials Of Base Layers

Most of the base layers are made of Polyester, Polyester mix, Merino wool, and Silk. Now, let’s compare each of them and see what will work the best for you.

Stay Away From Cotton – The Worst Material for Base Layers (Poor Wicking and Drying)

PropertyPolyesterMerino WoolSynthetic (Combination of a lot of different fibers)Silk
Wicking / DryingAverageLittle SlowFastest WickingPoor Wicking
OdorOdorlessOdorlessStinkiestA little Stinky
ComfortabilitySoftLight & Extremely SoftLightSoftest (Most Comfortable)
WarmA little WarmWarmDepends on the mixesWarmest

So, which one’s the best?

You should completely avoid Silk base layers because of their very poor wicking/drying power. Apart from that, you can buy either Polyester, Merino Wool, and Synthetic depending upon your choices. If you can endure the poor odor, then Synthetic fibers will work the best for you and if you are a type of person who cannot even handle stink for a while, then Merino Wool and Polyester are both great options to consider.

Many companies are using very clever techniques in base layering and I want you to not fall into their trap so I would highly suggest you buy any one base layer from my recommendations because I have tested them personally or saw other people using them and seeing great results.

When we talk about layering especially layering your ski pants, there are many things you should consider.

Firstly talking about your personal experience and preference, if you are a person who generally stays quite warm in the cold (below 0 degree Celsius) or if you like to be light on your legs or you’re a type of person who prefers to be heated up all day with plenty of cozy insulation clothes.

The way you ski comes into play as well while choosing a perfect base layer

Wearing Nothing Vs Wearing Base Layers Under Ski Pants

In general, unless you are skiing in Spring, wearing nothing under your ski pants is not enough. It will decrease the overall warmth of your body as ski or snow pants have very little insulation as your legs don’t need much in comparison to your chest. Also, sitting on a cold chairlift can be a little gut-wrenching.

If you are skiing in December, January, and February, then it is always better to wear a base layer under your ski pants to make sure you feel warm which is very important while skiing. You can avoid that in March if Both High/Low (C) is above zero degree Celsius in the place you are planning to go skiing.

Never Go Skiing Without Wearing a Base Layer Under Ski Pants

Solo sports world

Is It OK to Wear Regular Pants Under Ski Pants?

Wearing regular pants is not recommended because your normal pants are not built for the extreme cold mountain condition, and also because of the insulation and very less sweat absorption, it provides which can make you feel even colder rather than warming you.

Now, you might feel why is this so as our ski or snow pants are going cover the regular pants entirely? I felt too when I came to know about this as I was planning to wear my regular pants only under my ski pants. So, here’s a detailed answer to this.

First of all, by regular pants, I mean sweat pants, jeans, cotton leggings, etc. You are going to ski in a sub-zero temperature which is a very extreme environment and basically, your regular pants are not meant to be worn in such an extreme environment.

Skiing is a rigorous activity and in every rigorous activity our body builds up the sweat and if you wear non-technical clothing (regular pants) under your ski pants, that sweat is going to get trapped there only making you feel wet and uncomfortable, and ultimately make you feel colder which is something you would never want in such extreme cold environment.

Should You Wear a Mid Layer Under Ski Pants?

You should wear a mid-layer under ski pants only if the place where you are skiing is extremely cold in comparison to other skiing places. For most people, a base layer alone would work fine but for some people, it might not work so consider getting a mid-layer.

Here’s a great video on choosing a mid-layer:

If you are going to snowboard then the case is different than skiing because in snowboarding you generally build up more sweat than skiing.


You should always wear a base layer or long underwear under your ski pants because it absorbs and wicks out the sweat. You Should not wear any other regular pants like jeans, cotton leggings, and other sweat pants because they will store the sweat you build up while skiing or snowboarding which can make you feel a lot colder.

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