Q. Hello Gear Guy, My friends wear Under Armour with shorts and a T-shirt and say they are warm when it is 30 degrees out. Meanwhile I’m freezing with long johns and my uniform and a jacket on! I was considering buying Under Armour. They give me a choice of silk or polyester, which one keeps me warmer? Do you have suggestions of any other products besides Under Armour?
— Arctic Alex, Port Monmouth, N.J.
A. Yo Alex! I’d bet your “warm-blooded” friends might be talking up their warmth a little bit — makes them feel cooler, I guess. That said, a good base layer is indeed the key to keeping warm outdoors. If I were you, I would stick with polyester base layers rather than silk. Sure, silk will keep you warm, but it’s more expensive and usually harder to care for (some require hand-washing!). Most importantly, it’s not quite as quick to dry as polyester and slower to wick sweat away from your body. That makes polyester a better choice for a guy like you who is likely really active when you’re outdoors. While Under Armour does make nice base layers, there are plenty of other very good options out there. One of the most affordable yet high-performance base layers I know of is L.L. Bean’s Polartec Power Dry Base Layer, Midweight Crew top and pants ($35 each; llbean.com). Brands like Columbia, Mountain Hardwear, REI and Cabela’s also carry similar products.