What you wear against your skin is referred to as your base layer. This is your underwear and provides you with extra insulation and should be able to wick away moisture especially if you are hiking and sweating.
This is the most critical layer because it is in direct contact with your skin. So you want it to be comfortable and do it's job well. And what is the job of the base layer? To carry moisture ie. sweat away from your skin and evaporate.
When the skin is damp or wet, heat is drawn away from the body causing the core body temperature to drop. What is really important is for your underwear to draw moisture away from the body which will help to keep the body cool in summer and help to avoid hypothermia in winter months.
Your underwear should also be comfortable. Flat seams are a great choice and making sure that they fit snugly but not too tight. I do recommend SAXX mens underwear because my husband now wears only this brand for everyday wear and when we're out camping and hiking. Super comfy, incredibly soft and by far the best men's underwear on the market. I only wish they made them for women.
The best fabric choices are to choose a synthetic material such as polyester and polypropylene although a good wicking cotton blend is also a great choice.
These are both lightweight, dry quickly, good at wicking away moisture, they don't absorb sweat or moisture and they are strong, durable fabrics. They also wash and dry well.
Silk is another choice but it is not as strong as synthetics.
Another choice is a merino wool base layer. Merino wool is an excellent choice for both a base and mid layer. It can be more expensive then synthetic choices but is also very strong, durable, wicks away moisture and doesn't absorb odours.
REI carries a great selection of merino wool and synthetic choice clothing.
When we're camping we don't need to wear more than what we would at home unless it's really cold out. Then we might add a pair of long johns and an undershirt made of silk or a polyester type fabric. This will add extra insulation to our bodies.
When we're backpacking or going on a long hike we also choose not to wear cotton as this absorbs moisture and sweat and holds onto it. Not fun when your underwear is soaked and you've got hours ahead of you before you can change! You also run the risk of hypothermia if your body temperature drops in colder weather because of dampness trapped against your skin.
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