Q:

Can you recommend a base layer for backcountry skiing?

I often ski and snowshoe in the Adirondacks backcountry, but my back always gets soaked under my pack whenever I'm going uphill. I have tried different layers to avoid the wetness, all to no avail. What do you recommend to keep my back comfortable? Ian Lake Placid, New York

Sep 18, 2003
Outside
Outside Magazine
A: To some extent that's a problem that can't be solved. You're working hard and essentially have strapped a big wad of insulation to your back. So sweat, and lots of it, is inevitable. Many years ago I had a Gerry rucksack that had a backpad made of wool felt. I might as well have strapped a sheep to my back.

Still, there are ways to mitigate the problem. For one thing, you should ensure that your layers can dissipate moisture as rapidly as possible. I'm a big fan of Polartec Power Dry, which I've been wearing a lot this winter. It's great at wicking away moisture, thanks to a two-layer design that has a textured inner layer to vacuum up sweat and carry it to the smoother outer layer. There, it simply spreads and evaporates. REI makes a good long-sleeve piece with the stuff, called the REI Power Dry Zip T-Neck ($36). It's a great basic base layer for winter sports. I also like Patagonia's Silkweight Capilene, such as their long-sleeve crew ($40).

In olden days, when I had that Gerry rucksack, I also occasionally wore a mesh T-shirt, something like Wiggy's Fishnet Long Underwear Top ($33). It's made of nylon—not ideal because nylon can also soak up quite a bit of money—but the idea is absolutely sound: create little air pockets next to your skin, so sweat has a chance to evaporate before seeping into your clothing.

At the other extreme, you could always shop for a backpack or daypack held as far from the skin as possible, so the air can circulate. The North Face Patrol ($199), for instance, is a ski-centered pack with a breathable foam back pad. The Marmot Moose's Tooth ($179) is another winter-oriented pack that has a very fast-drying, well-ventilated back pad.

Check out the REI website for the Power Dry Zip T-Neck recommended by the Gear Guy.

Filed To: Snow Sports

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