Smart Layering System: A Buying Guide for Skiers

We’ve teamed up with SportPursuit to talk about layering, focusing on base layers and mid-layers. As we work through the basics of a good layering system, we’ll suggest some of our favourite brands you can find online at SportPursuit.

Get More Out of Your Ski Holiday with SportPursuit

At WeSki, we recognise that skiing can be expensive, and this can be a major deterrent that prevents people from going skiing. We want to make skiing accessible to all, so we’re taking steps to do so, like creating a website that helps our customers find great deals on ski trips. We’ve also partnered with SportPursuit, a fantastic online retailer offering a huge array of products at discounted rates, with both very affordable prices and excellent deals on big brands.

How Does a Layering System Work?

Layering systems are about smart materials working alongside each other. A layering system usually consists of a base layer, mid-layer, and outer layer, but you may skip some layers depending on what you need and the weather conditions you’re facing.

Layered clothing performs several important functions that go beyond just adding thick layers to keep you warm. 

  • Protecting you from the elements. In the mountains you are exposed to wind, snow, sun and much more, so your clothing needs to be ready for the conditions. 
  • Breathing and wicking away sweat. If you’re out and about doing anything active, whether it be snowshoeing or skiing, chances are, you’ll warm-up and break into a sweat! A good layering system will wick away sweat so you stay dry and comfortable.

For example, take this ARCTERYX Womens Atom LT Hooded Jacket (we like the colour ‘Awestruck’): it’s water resistant, wind resistant and has a fleece layer, but is lightweight. 

Womens ARCERTYX Atom LT Jacket in Awetruck
The Womens ARCERTYX Atom LT Jacket in Awetruck

The ARCTERYX Atom LT Jacket has breathable Coreloft™ fleece for insulation, which aids with moisture management while keeping you warm. The end game of a good layering system is warm, dry, comfy clothes that are lightweight and long-lasting.

What’s the Difference Between Smart Layering and Thick Layers?

Both a smart layering system and a thick winter coat start out with the intention of keeping you warm and dry. The difference is that the materials and the purpose of the layers in a smart layering system, work differently to a thick, woollen or feather-down coat.

What’s the Difference Between Smart Layering and Thick Layers?
A winter coat is ideal for any activity where you don’t raise your pulse and break a sweat.

A thick coat traps heat and won’t regulate your body temperature. This means its fine for everyday business or a short or slow wander around a lake. However, if you’ve ever had to run for a bus in a winter coat, you’ll know its not a pleasant affair. A few minutes of light jogging can leave you feeling somewhat nauseous and overheated. Why? Because your coat essentially just cooked you, and, seeing as the materials aren’t usually breathable, the coat sealed in all the juices. Yum.

Skiing with smart layers helps keep you warm and dry.
This skier needs only wear one or two light-weight smart layers under his ski jacket.

A smart layering system helps wick away the sweat caused by your short burst of activity, but also keeps you cooler when you start to overheat. That’s why you can’t really go far in your regular winter coat, in terms of hiking a mountain, or whizzing down a mountain on your skis. After 10 minutes you’re going to find yourself stripping off your layers.

Why You Don’t Get Cold in Smart Layering Systems

Some of these layers can seem a little wafer-thin. Don’t be fooled; they are designed to be this thin and lightweight – it’s all part of their technology. There are a growing number of materials being used across all sorts of clothing.

These materials keep you snug when you’re resting and cool when on the move. They’re breathable and insulated, so temperatures are regulated. SportPursuit stock a huge variety of options for base layers and midlayers, and provide details about the insulation for each item. 

Base Layers vs Thermals

The item of clothing next to your skin, be it a vest, long johns, socks, or underwear, is your base layer or thermal. It’s main goal it to wick away sweat and keep you toasty but not over-cooked. Seeing as moisture conducts heat much faster than air, a bit of sweat could suddenly bring on a chill if it can’t escape through your layers. For a base layer to work properly, it’s got to be a snug fit (most are made of stretchy and flexible materials).

Good Base Layer Tops for Women

These are some of our favourite options from browsing SportPursuit. 

  • Haster Womens Alpaca Long Sleeve Top in red made with alpaca wool;
  • Haster Womens Ultraclima Long Sleeve Top in red made with ultraclima microfiber;
  • Fjern Womens Bresprekk Half Zip Grid Fleece in cobalt/navy made with fleece;
  • Columbia Womens Engineered Half Zip Baselayer Top in bluebell made with Omni-Wick™ wicking fabric; and
  • Rough Radical Womens Furious Short Sleeve Top in khaki made with Archroma Moisture Management technologies.

Good Base Layer Tops for Men

  • Helly Hansen Mens Lifa Stripe Crew Long Sleeve Baselayer in black made with original HH Lifa®;
  • Fjern Mens Bresprekk Half Zip Grid Fleece in navy/rust made with Thermal Stretch Grid Fleece;
  • Haster Mens Alpaca Long Sleeve Top in grey made with alpaca wool fibers;
  • Haster Mens Dry Climate Long Sleeve Top in blue/black made with DRYCLIMAT shirt which uses microfibre nylon and polyester softair technology; and
  • Fjern Mens Terreng Merino Long Sleeve Top in navy made with 200gsm Merino/Polyester/Bamboo Charcoal blend.

What Is the Best Material for a Base Layer?

Merino wool or synthetic polyester are the two materials your base layers should be made from. In no circumstances should your base layer be a material like cotton. Cotton absorbs water and will have you cold and uncomfortable in no time; so save your favourite t-shirt for another event.

Merino wool comes from the Merino sheep (there are several varieties and crossbreeds) that originate from Spain. There are now wool farms in places like New Zealand and Australia where sheep are bred for their fine wool.

Merino wool comes from Merino sheeps
A Merino sheep.

Polyester Base Layers

Polyester is a super popular option for base and mid-layers for all sports. Here are the pros and cons of polyester base layers.


  • Super lightweight
  • Quicker drying time
  • Usually cheaper than merino wool
  • Pretty durable
  • Easy to wash and care for


  • Some may find polyester super itchy
  • Some may find smells ‘cling’ to polyester or that it exacerbates body odour
  • Not the most eco-friendly pick, but some brands are recycling polyester

Our favourite brands for synthetic base layers include Arc’teryx and Haster, and SportPursuit have a fantastic collection of clothing items for skiing, including midlayers for under £10.

Merino Wool Base Layers

Technology now allows merino wool fibres to be mixed with other materials, including polyester. These are the pros and cons for pure merino wool clothing.


  • Super soft, so most people won’t find it itchy
  • Really warm
  • Super comfy
  • Doesn’t retain smell so you can wear it for several days straight
  • Usually machine washable – just be sure to read the care label 


  • Usually more expensive
  • You can damage your item if you wash it on the wrong cycle 

Our favourite brands for merino wool base layers include Helly Hansen and Fjern. Discover more options for Merino Wool Insulated Clothing at SportPursuit.

Get Ready for 2020 with WeSki and SportPursuit

Whether you’re someone who overheats after two minutes of exercise, or you really hate (and fear) the cold, smart layering is the best way to prepare for a ski trip. We always recommend investing in excellent-quality technical clothing, and with SportPursuit, we think anyone can find something to suit their budget and still ski in comfort, safety, and style. Visit SportPursuit to discover a great selection of skiing gear, including ski jackets, and skiing base layers.


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