Winter Base Layer Basics

Snow angel at -4°F. Don’t try this without good base layers!

Snow angel at -4°F. Don’t try this without good base layers!

Biking, like walking and running, is year-round activity. But your enjoyment of outdoor life in winter will only be as good as your outdoor clothing. And the foundation of a great cold-season outdoor wardrobe starts with the base layer.

You will be hard pressed to beat Merino wool base layers for comfort and performance. The best suppliers source their superfine fibers from humane-certified farmers in Australia and New Zealand. Merino wool wicks moisture and is antimicrobial, so it helps regulate temperature, breathes well and —unlike many synthetics— resists odors. It will help keep you comfortable from the moment you head out into the cold, and throughout your activity, as your body gradually warms up.

Of course, you may already have a supply of cozy underlayers you like. But if you’re looking to build up a new winter wardrobe, you may want to check out Ridge Merino. I recently went on a hunt for a new brand of Merino garments since I felt that the quality of my previous go-to brand has gone down. I stumbled upon Ridge in my research, and their prices seemed quite affordable compared to similar garments. I’m happy to say that this is because of their commitment to a consumer-direct sales* and not skimping on quality.

Ridge Merino base layers are constructed using an exclusive process they call (m)Force™ Nylon Core Technology. Whatever. In plain English this means they’ve taken the extra-soft Merino fibers and wrapped them around long, resilient nylon strands. In practical terms it means the fabric holds it shape, dries faster and lasts longer than pure Merino garments of similar heft. For you and me, it means durability usually associated with synthetics in a completely natural, renewable and biodegradable product.

Ridge makes two versions of base layers: a heavier Inversion line, and a mid-weight Aspect line. For vigorous pursuits, such as urban or adventure cycling, or demanding hikes in cold weather, I like the Aspect mid-weight layers, since the heavyweight ones might make you too warm as you get into your activity of choice.

Women’s High Neck

Women’s High Neck

Men’s Crew Neck

Men’s Crew Neck

Women’s Crew Neck

Women’s Crew Neck

Men’s Zip Neck

Men’s Zip Neck

What I especially like about this line is the longer length that keeps the top nicely tucked in, preventing any unpleasant drafts. Personally, I prefer the crew-neck style for maximum versatility and cooling in less extreme conditions. However there’s a high-neck option for women, and a zip-neck for men if you prefer a cozier fit. All Aspect tops feature thumb-loops that can be neatly tucked away when not needed.

You may be concerned about the feel of wool against your skin. I had the same questions before I started using wool, since regular wool can be uncomfortably itchy, particularly when you transition from the cold into a heated, bone-dry air inside. But the fibers in Merino wool are smoother, and most people don’t find them irritating at all. Merino also has a very refined, elegant look, and a solid-colored base layer top can easily hold its own as a nice piece of clothing worn alone or under a jacket even if you’re just going out to dinner.

The Aspect collection also includes men’s and women’s bottoms for layering under your biking pants or tights. And if you run cold, or plan to venture out in really extreme conditions, be sure to take a look at their heavy-weight Inversion Collection too.

* Since this company does not sell through retailers, we’ve partnered with them to use affiliate links on our website. We earn a small referral commission for any purchases made through these links. Read our affiliate disclosure statement here.