Gear Guy


What base layer will keep me dry as I work up a sweat?

My back always gets wet then cold when I skiing, snowshoeing, or doing other activities that get my heart pumping. Is there any clothing that will take away the moisture? Bari Edmonton, Alberta

A: Well, to some extent, sweat is inevitable when working out, and activities such as snowshoeing are certainly highly aerobic. That's especially true if you're wearing a pack—basically, a pack super-insulates your back, ensuring that it heats up (and overheats) out of proportion to the rest of your body.

So, what to do? Pack or no pack, you want to get moisture away from your body. I'd recommend you start with a very light, good-wicking layer, such as Patagonia's excellent Silkweight Capilene ($32 for the tee; That should start getting moisture away from your skin and to the next layer, which should be something made with Polartec Power Dry. For example, L.L. Bean's Polartec Power Dry Crew ($29; is an excellent all-purpose long-sleeve layering piece. It has a brushed interior that picks up moisture from your skin and base layer that wicks to the outer layer, where it can start to dissipate. Pearl Izumi, a biking and running gear guru, has a number of similar products with good wicking capabilities, among them the comfy Stratum Long Sleeve Crew ($50;

I will say that with synthetics such as these, if they do get wet, then you'll feel it. I've long been a cheerleader on the wool bandwagon. It doesn't really wick all that well, but wool soaks up water like a hose to keep you feeling dry. And when it's wet it doesn't get all clammy. Icebreaker's Bodyfit Long Sleeve Crew ($70; is a fabulous piece—soft, warm, comfortable across a wider temperature range than synthetics. In short, great stuff. Ibex, another of the all-wool revolutionaries, offers the Woolie Zip T-Neck ($62;, a silky-smooth base layer that's great for the slopes and other hard-charging outdoor pursuits.

Want to learn more about wool? Read "The New Wool Order" from the February '03 issue of Outside.

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