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Questions about base layers

Living in Fl we have never had need for base layers. We will be traveling to the Netherlands this December and January and I figure that we need to be prepared in case of cold weather as well as the damp. We have scarves, hats, gloves, socks, but no base layers. I know that temperatures were fairly mild last winter but that doesn't mean they will be this winter and I'd rather be prepared since these items should be rather lightweight and not space consuming in our packs. Our plans include lots of indoor activities but we intend to do as much walking as the weather will allow. Any advice? Please, and thank you.
1) Thermaskin or Merino wool base layers? Any advantage/disadvantage to either one? We already have merino socks and find that we wear those almost exclusively now.
2) If Merino, what weight? Light? Medium?

Any other advice you can think of please include.


Posted by
538 posts

I use the silk long underwear that is packaged for skiers. It is very light weight - washes and dries quickly and is very comfortable. I've used it under business clothes and when traveling.
Have to look up what thermaskin is.

Posted by
13227 posts

My husband and Inare both big fans of Merino--it is very comfortable, forgiving of temperature changes, doesn't get "stinky" like synthetics, and dries quickly when washed. We both prefer the lightweight type, and wear it alone when indoors--- it doesn't look like "underwear.". I add a scarf. Our preferred brand is Icebreaker and I buy it at a discount on or ( If you are a member of a frequent flier program that has a shopping portal, you might check for Backcountry there. Right now they are giving 10x miles per dollar spent, with free two-day shipping and omsales tax if you live outside their state ( I think it is Utah but may be Colorado).

Posted by
2526 posts

Thin layers for me... lightweight Merino wool is great. Much less s"stink factor" versus plastic base layers. Spendy, so shop carefully.

Posted by
6484 posts

Merino lightweight. On sale on SierraTrading Post BackCountry Gear websites now. Good time to invest.

Posted by
5793 posts

Our plans include lots of indoor activities but we intend to do as much walking as the weather will allow.

Given that is sounds like your activities re low intensity moisture control will be less of a concern than thermal insulation. Also consider layering in that you need to adjust to being outside (lower temperatures with possible wind/rain) and being in a heated inside environment.

See REI advice:

Moisture-wicking underwear, which dries much faster than conventional
cotton underwear, helps transport perspiration away from skin. It
reduces the risk of dramatic swings in body temperature.

Synthetics Faster-drying than other fabrics, synthetics (polyester and
polyester blends) are best for rainy conditions and for heat and high
humidity, but work for all activities and all conditions.

Merino Wool Best for cool conditions, but good for most activities in
most conditions, merino wool offers more warmth than synthetic
material of the same thickness, but it is still comfortable on warm
Underwear Fabric Weight Here are our general guidelines for choosing
the weight of your underwear and long underwear:

Ultralightweight: For mild to cool conditions. Also referred to as

Lightweight: Cool to moderately cold conditions.

Midweight: Moderately cold to cold conditions.

Heavyweight: Cold, frigid or blustery conditions.

[I would add that thin technical fabrics dry better than thick and cotton is difficult to dry during winter conditions.]

Layering your clothing is a tried-and-true way to maximize your
comfort in the outdoors. The beauty of this simple concept is that it
allows you to make quick adjustments based on your activity level and
changes in the weather.

Each layer has a function. The base layer (against your skin) manages
moisture; the insulating layer protects you from the cold; the shell
layer (outer layer) shields you from wind and rain. You simply add or
subtract layers as needed.

My base layer choices: Patagonia Capilene , Craft

Posted by
961 posts

Thank you, everyone. I did go to Sierra Trading post and managed to buy two lightweight merino wool long sleeve, two medium weight merino long sleeve in case hubby wants to wear them as shirt, one merino pant base, and two merino scarves. I found a coupon online which took off 25% so the expense was quite reasonable.

Posted by
228 posts

Even when the temperature is not that low you need a really good windbreaker . I've been in Amsterdam in January and it was in the low 40's but the howling wind made it feel in the 20's. You could come around a street corner on a rainy day and be met by horizontal rain that gets you wet from top to toe . Umbrella's are useless with that kind of wind . And wind they have most of the time .

Posted by
961 posts

Thank you grrttgr - I am working on the coat situation now. We both have marmot precip jackets that are water and windproof that could be worn over other jackets we have - hubby has a medium weight down jacket and I have a fleece lined water resistant jacket but I have no idea if those will be heavy enough jackets. Those jackets would be worn over our thermal wear plus pullover sweaters. I guess it would sort of be like us wearing 3-1-1 jackets. I have been advised that Columbia makes a nice jacket with reflective warming fabric inside. I guess at worst we could go shopping when we get there if what we have is not enough. Most places I am looking for winter wear have slim pickings so it might be fall before I can find different jackets for us.

Posted by
337 posts

A little late to the party, but I love silk for my base layer. It's soft, ultra-thin, comfortable, and warm. It dries quickly, and it takes up no space in my suitcase. Wintersilks has a good selection. I always buy their lightest weight stuff. I'll be bringing it on my summer travels to the UK and Amsterdam, just in case!

Posted by
961 posts

Thanks you Mrs. EB and Stacy. I'm looking for that merino sweater to wear as a topper and although I did get some merino from Sierra Trading post only one base layer top is for me. I may get the silk as well as heat crew top and bottom base layers and test them out.

Posted by
6734 posts

I always travel with a set of silk underwear. They take up no space or weight but are magic when it is colder than expected in spring or fall and they are the perfect first base layer in winter. Then on top of that there are really great smart wool shirts or you can just use a cotton turtle with a polartek or cashmere on top of that. Pair all that with a coat or jacket and you are set. I have been in Amsterdam in December. CRitical is waterproof shoes/boots. Then layers and rain gear. I just used silks, turtleneck and jean, sweater and trench coat and that was plenty (with hat and gloves)

Posted by
337 posts

I've been in Connecticut for the past 15 years. I LIVE in a silk camisole base layer, literally every day from October til April.
Moved to Florida last fall, and actually broke out the silk camisole a few times on cold days. I imagine the Netherlands in the winter will be quite chilly, especially compared to what you're used to.

A lightweight silk base layer doesnt' show under your t-shirt. It folds up to almost nothing in your suitcase. When you wash it, it dries overnight. In a pinch, you can sleep in it. Try and get one long enough to tuck into your pants, so your midsection doesn't catch a draft. ;)

I am going to the UK and Amsterdam in June and will probably bring a silk camisole with me. If I were going in the winter, I'd be wearing it 24/7!

Posted by
2487 posts

You are visiting Amsterdam not the Antarctic
That's right. People differ in their perception of cold and hot, but normal trousers and sweaters are good enough for most mortals to survive the Netherlands. Protection against wind and rain is more important.

Posted by
961 posts

Knowing that I freeze even traveling to TN in winter I would rather be prepared for wind, rain, and possible cold when I get to Amsterdam. It is not unknown for us to wear heavy wool socks, fleece and flannels, and sometimes even gloves inside of the house during winter in Fl. Of course it would be lovely if the day temps stayed in the fifties like last December but in case it isn't I'd rather take a base layer just in case. Thanks to each of you who took the time to respond with your opinion or advice.

Posted by
513 posts

Hi Nance,
I don't think you will need to pack like you are going on an arctic expedition. I have been in Amsterdam at that time of year, and while it is colder than home (North Florida) it is not really frigid. I recommend that you bring a hat, gloves, wool scarf and a fleece jacket. Those, along with a good wool sweater should protect you from the weather. You might also consider bringing a couple of pairs of heavier trousers - cords should be fine.
BTW: I lived in Orange Park in the mid-1960's, and then again in 1970-71.

Posted by
2526 posts

You are visiting Amsterdam not the Antarctic
Well, my relatives in California always freeze when traveling to the Northwest and require jackets on days that are very pleasant without that outer layer. While I scoff at their attire, they just smile.