We’re coming up to that time of year again when the temps drop and the snow starts blowing. At DigandFlow.com we’ve got one thing on our minds… shredding. Here in the southwest of Montana we ride hard all season long and that means that when we’re looking for new gear we do our homework and put it through the wringer year after year. Another thing about this part of the world is that we see a long winter and it gets cold, really cold. That’s why we’ve come up with the best base layer for snowboarding, so you can stay out longer and ride harder. Dropping!
What to Consider – Material
Snowboarding is different from skiing in, well a lot of reasons but one in particular is how you keep warm. When we started to think about the best base layer for snowboarding we had to take into account several different aspects.
Snowboard base layers are super important to enjoying all of your day on the mountain or even if you’re spending a long day outside or around town. The old adage of “Cotton Kills” stands true here too, you don’t want rely on cotton sweatpants to keep you warm all day under your snow pants.
- Synthetic: Quick drying, super light and often really reasonably priced synthetic is a great option. One downside is that it can smelly, fast. Don’t be surprised if you’re washing your base layers really frequently.
- Wool: Au natural baby! Wool regulates body temperatures much better than synthetic long underwear, it’s naturally anti-microbial, meaning you can ride your heart out without smelling like it. Downside, it’s going to cost you more than synthetic and you’ve got to care for it the right way.
- Cotton: Put it down Jerry, put it down and walk away. Jerry?! NO COTTON!
In case you need to see some excellent Jerry material stop over at Jerryoftheday.net and check out their blog. I promise you will immediately feel better about yourself.
Wool vs Synthetic Base Layers
Merino Wool Base Layers
New Zealand Merino wool has long been the gold standard of long underwear base layers. Icebreaker and Patagonia are known for their high performing Merino layers and are very popular choices among winter sports enthusiasts.
- Super odor resistant (wool is naturally antibacterial)
- Softer, warmer and (in my experience) longer lasting than polyester
- Very fast drying
- More expensive
- Requires separate laundry load to keep it nice and some requires hang drying
- Some find it uncomfortable
Synthetic Base Layers
Like a merino wool base layers, synthetic have their pluses and minuses.
- More moderately priced
- Lightweight and dries even faster then Merino
- Not quite as warm as wool
- Gets smelly really quick
Either synthetic or wool materials can help keep you dry and warm on the slopes. Materials that don’t wick sweat or that hold onto moisture like cotton are a surefire way to get cold in a hurry.
What to Consider – Type
Personal preference and weather conditions will play a huge role is choosing the best base layers for the winter. Even the type of riding you’re doing will effect which base layer you choose. Here are a few different options to consider when looking for the best base layer for snowboarding.
- Long Sleeve Top: Great for colder conditions with total coverage up top.
- Short Sleeve Top: Best for warmer days when the suns out and you’re transitioning to spring riding.
- Full Length Bottom: These are the ones you’re most familiar with and are the go-to option for cold days.
- Half Length Bottom: Think long underwear capris. These will typically stop around the calf are a great option for keeping your base layer out of your boots.
- One Piece: Yes! The onsie of long underwear is the best insulating piece you can get. With no break in the fabric from top to bottom you can seal out any drafts or errant breezes that find their way inside you outer layer.
What to Consider – Weight
Different weights allow for maximum customization of your insulation and let you build a bomb-proof base layer setup.
- Light: These base layers are best for, you guessed it, warmer days. Another thing you can do is add them as a base layer to a base layer for the ultimate insulation.
- Mid: This is what we typically find ourselves in when we head out. Heavy enough for getting started in the morning but not so much that you’re going to be overheating in the afternoon. Think of these as you bread and butter.
- Heavy: If you run cold and need some extra oomph to your snowboarding base layer then these are the way to go. These types of base layers are big, thick, and heavy and should only be used on the coldest days.
Base Layer Fit
It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the best base layer ever made if it doesn’t fit properly then it’s not going manage your body temperature nearly as well as a properly fitting one. These are some things you should consider when buying a great snowboarding base layer.
- The top base layer should be worn fairly tight and cover the important areas of your upper body. Remember, it’s important that these fit snug so the base layers can do their job.
- When purchasing new base layers you should buy the same size that you normally wear. Don’t think you need to size down because these need to be tight, they’re already cut to fit the way they need to this includes one-piece designs.
- When buying leg base layers use the same as your underwear size.
Now that we’ve got a good idea of the different types, materials and weights lets dive in and take a look at our selection of the best base layer for snowboarding!
Best Base Layer for Snowboarding – Wool
Our gear room, closet and dresser drawers are all shoved full of Icebreaker stuff. From hats to t-shirts to jackets to long underwear we’ve been wearing this stuff for a while now and believe when I say, it works. We’ve had it out on the coldest days all the way into after season hikes for turns and it just flat out performs.Icebreaker are no slouches when comes to putting out clothes. With pretty much every layer available for anyone in family they can pretty much be your one-stop-shop for wool.
Best Base Layer for Snowboarding – Men’s Bottoms
Icebreaker Men’s Winter Zone Leggings
The Men’s Winter Zone Leggings are an awesome midweight base layer bottoms that have optimized venting areas for active performance. This is a newer release and they’re made just for winter sports. The Men’s Winter Zone Leggings are the most technical cold-weather leggings that Icebreaker offers.
The Zone Leggings are the perfect blend for warmth, venting, and support and have a little bit of Lycra blended into the fabric to give them some stretch.
- Zoned panels for warmth and protection
- Flatlock seams prevent chafing
- Soft elastic waistband for all-day comfort
- Body: 97% Wool/ 3% Elastane Panels: 78% Wool/ 22% Polyester Eyelet: 99% Wool/ 1% Elastane
A lightweight180gm is used in the gusset and that helps to control temperature during high levels of activity while you’re earning your turns or schralping gnar gnar (just had to get some vernacular in there).
In the higher-wear areas around the knees Icebreaker has 230gm merino and polyester waffle jersey for added abrasion resistance. One awesome thing that Icebreaker incorporates is Flatlock seams, these are used throughout the leggings to eliminate chafing and keeps you super comfortable all day..
Best Base Layer for Snowboarding – Men’s Top
Icebreaker Men’s BodyfitZONE Winter Zone Long Sleeve Half Zip
Working in tandem with the Zone pants is the Winter Zone Long Sleeve from Icebreaker. This technical top has all the same tech as the pants rolled up in a base layer top that will keep you comfortable all day.
- Strategically placed merino mesh for ventilation
- Zip neck collar for temperature regulation
- Gusseted side panels for ease of movement
- Flatlock seams prevent chafing
- 96% Wool and 4% Elastane
The fabric is a 260gm merino wool with an addition of Lycra for added stretch and comfort. The front zip makes for easy regulation so you’re not going to get to hot when you decide to tackle that boot pack you’ve been eyeing.
The underarm panels 180gm merino mesh that helps release some body heat and keeps you comfortable when you’re charging hard. One thing we really liked was that in the high wear areas in the elbows and forearms the Icebreaker used thicker wool and different construction for added abrasion resistance. Like the pants above, Flatlock seams are used throughout.
Best Base Layer for Snowboarding – Women’s Bottoms
We would never forget the ladies in our quest for the best base layer for snowboarding and next up are some great leggings just for her.
The Vertex leggings from Icebreaker will a girl’s best friend on the slopes. Made from 260gm Merino wool these long underwear pants are built for keeping you warm and dry all day on the hill.
The Icebreaker Vertex are warm, stretchy and super soft. Awesome for cold winter adventures, the women’s Vertex leggings feature a gusseted design for unrestricted movement where it counts. When you’re snowboarding having that range of motion is super important and makes a huge difference.
- 100% Merino Wool
- Icebreaker branded brushed elastic waistband
- Gusset for comfort and mobility
- Flat lock seams prevents chafing
The midweight Merino wool is constructed in what’s called a jersey knit. It feels great while you’re wearing it, breathes super well on even warm outings, and can easily layer under your snow pants. Like all of Icebreaker’s line of base layers the flat lock seams prevent chafing while you’re out adventuring in the cold.
Best Base Layer for Snowboarding – Women’s Top
We’ll just keep the Icebreaker trail rolling! The Vertex top take 1st place in our search for the best base layer for snowboarding in the Women’s Top division.
Just like the bottoms the Icebreaker Women’s Vertex Long Sleeve is built to keep you toasty and dry while you’re out shredding. It’s looks good enough to wear as a stand alone piece too.
Icebreaker Vertex Highlights
- 260Gm Jacquard, 100% Merino
- Secure zippered sleeve pocket
- Zip neck collar for temperature regulation
- Set-in sleeves
- Offset shoulder seams prevent pack rub
The Vertex Top can be a warm mid layer while out enjoying the fall air or wear it as a base layer on those really cold winter days. the 260gm weight is super versatile and will keep you happy in a ton a different conditions
One thing we really liked was the secure zippered arm pocket. This comes in hand when you’re looking to stow your ski pass or lip balm when hitting the slopes or car keys when you’re out for a run.
Best Base Layer for Snowboarding – Synthetic
Patagonia is a name synonymous with outdoor clothing. Having been around since the early days of outdoor action sports they’ve had the time to really get things figured out. They’re about putting out great gear, clothes and doing right by the earth. I’m a proud owner of Patagonia items and have been for most of my life.
Patagonia’s Mission Statement
Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Their synthetic base layers are some of the best in the game and right along side of our Icebreaker base layers we’ve got Patagonia in our closet. Their Capilene is made exclusively from recycled materials, is super warm and really comfortable next to your skin. I’ve owned my heavyweight Capilene bottoms for 4 years now and bust them out on the really cold days, they still look brand new.
Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Bottoms
I have to feature them because I have them and love them! These thermal long underwear are the perfect weight for cold days on the hill. The Capilene is super comfortable and can last for a few days without getting super stinky.
The brushed fleece interior is super comfortable, like all day in the snow, lift line, bar, and couch comfortable. I don’t really take them off in the winter…
Patagonia Thermal Bottom Highlights
- Polartec Power Grid fabric has a smooth face so layering is super easy
- The fabric’s open grid pattern next to skin provides awesome warmth, ventilation and is adept and moisture wicking
- Spandex is blended in for stretch and ease of movement
- Materials: 92% recycled polyester / 8% spandex
- Weight: 4.7 oz / 133 g
Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Zip Neck
Just more of the same here. Awesome top, made out of great materials that will last you all day on the hill. You’ve probably noticed that all of the tops we’ve featured have zip necks to them. This is a huge advantage if you need to cool down on a boot pack or just sitting in the sun having a beverage. If you can regulate your heat you’re going to be a lot happier.
The grid fleece interior of their Capilene Thermal Weight base layers give you the greatest warmth with the greatest breathability of any base layer in their lineup.
- Polartec Power Grid fabric has a smooth face for easy on under your coat
- Same awesome construction as the Capilene bottoms
- Long center-front zipper vents body heat and is backed by kissing welts for low-bulk comfort next to skin
- Flatlock seams to minimize chafing; drop tail for increased coverage
- Materials: 92% Recycled polyester / 8% spandex
- Weight: 6.2 oz / 175 g
One of the biggest differences between the Patagonia Capilene top and Men’s Icebreaker tops is the cut. The Patagonia will be much casual fitting than the Icebreaker which tends to be very fitted. So if you’re looking for a base layer that you could lounge around in after skiing then the Patagonia top might just be the way to go.
Helly Hansen Women’s HH Active Flow Base Layer Pant
Okay, so this whole section isn’t Patagonia. There is more than just one game in town when comes to great layering options for snowboarding. Helly Hansen has been around for a looong time, 1877 to be exact. And while the products may have changed in that time they’re still putting out awesome stuff and their base layers are no exception.
HH Active is Helly Hansen’s advanced method of construction that combines technology that keeps you dry and fibers that wick sweat super fast, making it ideal as an all year activity base layer. When it comes to staying warm while you’re on the mountain keeping dry is paramount.
- 65% Polyester,35% Polypropylene
- Advanced moisture wicking Lifa technology in a versatile women’s base layer pant ideal for any activity
- HH Active is an advanced construction combining Lifa Stay Dry Technology and fast wicking fibers
- Staying dry is important in order to stay comfortable
- Polyester exterior, Lifa Stay Dry technology inner
- Flatlock stitching
Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight One-Piece Suit
When it comes to the best for retaining as much heat as possible you want to limit the ways that heat can get out. The biggest way to do is by limiting the amount of breaks in the fabric. Less seams, less heat loss.
Patagonia’s One-Piece Suit is perfect for those cold days on the hill when you need to conserve as much body heat as possible. Another reason the one-piece is a great option is for those deeper days. If you’re riding powder snow inevitably finds it’s way into your gear, if you wipe out the chances are even great that you’re going to get a snowy surprise down your back.
The hood and high neck are also super nice for those cold days where layering and limiting exposure are important. Couple the high neck with a Buff or gaiter and you’re going to be super dialed for anything Mother Nature throws your way.
Phew! That’s a lot of different choices in our list of the best base layer for snowboarding! Hopefully you learned a little something about base layers and how important they can be. In own experiences it’s ideal to have a few different options for when you head out to ride. Being able to customize your insulation can be super beneficial and help to keep you dry and warm all day.
See you out there!