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Latest Articles - Luxury

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Thermal Underwear: Your Shield Against the Winter Chills

Thursday, 21 October 2010

thermal underwearThermal underwear will give you a protection against the winter chills: owing to the high-tech fabric it retains the heat of the human body, and absorbs moisture at the same time. As an effective substitute for regular underwear, thermal underwear is popular with people who engage in strenuous physical activities and travel a lot, including explorers, and geologists. However, it would be a mistake to think that thermal underwear is designed exclusively for men working in harsh climates, or extreme sports enthusiasts. There is thermal underwear for women that has many undisputable advantages over the regular underwear. Various thermal underwear styles are designed for various weather conditions, from cool to very cold, as well as for sports or everyday wear.

How Thermal Underwear is Different From Traditional Underwear?

In cold temperatures, the body may battle against wind, snow, sleet or rain and sometimes altitude. The next-to-skin layer or thermal underwear layer should include a top and bottom component. The main purpose of this layer is to wick away moisture from skin and allow warm air from your insulating-mid layers to reach your body. Thermal underwear can mean the difference between hypothermia and a satisfying trip.

The key difference between thermal underwear and regular underwear is the fabric: owing to the high-tech synthetic fabrics, the former is much warmer and more comfortable, while the latter is often superior in quality and delicacy, though even flimsy thermal underwear is often warmer than knitwear. Besides, it is seamless or has minimum seams.

There are natural and synthetic thermal underwear fabrics. Wool, cotton and silk are natural layers and polypropylene, polyester, and nylon are synthetics. There are different blends and thicknesses of thermal underwear depending on the brand and what season it is made for. For example, a thick layer or wicking polypro dries quicker in the sun after use and absorbs more heat whereas a lighter colored and thinner weave of fabric can be worn as breathable sun and insect protection on a hot day. They are made from lightweight to expedition weight. Lightweight nylon with some percentage of spandex is often worn by climbers for a bit of added warmth while maintaining full range of motion during a climb.

Thermal underwear works based on the predetermined number of «cells» that function as a sort of air layer between the body and the environment. By absorbing the warmth of the human body, the air layer is keeps this warmth for a longer time, thus reliably protecting human body from the cold temperatures. In addition to retaining the heat, thermal underwear has another important function -  it effectively absorbs moisture from the skin surface which is also due to the cellular structure of the fabric. Perspiration molecules are pushed through the fabric «pores» with warm air, which has more pressure than cold air outside. As a result, the fabric itself virtually repels moisture, and sweat either evaporates or is absorbed by outer clothing.

Staying dry is a number one concern for mountaineers or winter back country travelers. If using thermal underwear, consider getting some that also wicks moisture away from the body as you will still get cold if wet. Never wear cotton base layers if taking part in any outdoor activity. Cotton thermal underwear is not good for much other than an extra layer while cozying next to the fireplace at home.

Choosing Thermal Underwear

Choosing the best thermal underwear can be daunting, particularly if you're unfamiliar with the varieties and options available.  What you put against your skin has a lot to do with your comfort and safety in the wilderness. As with almost any clothing, prior to choosing underwear it is necessary to determine what thickness or weight to buy, depending on conditions and activity: the colder the temperature and the less activity you'll be engaged in, the thicker the underwear. Look for wicking underwear - material that spreads out moisture and dries quickly. Ask about odor retention. Older materials such as polypropylene tend to get stinky; several newer materials hardly retain any odor. Find materials that are easy to care for - that is, those that are machine-washable and, preferably, machine-dryable.

Thermals of any fabric come in different weights across the spectrum, and each weight offers different advantages. Lightweight is more conducive to moderate temperatures, and is also preferred for a high level of aerobic activity. Midweight is the most versatile, and can be used for the biggest variety of sports and recreational activities. Expedition weight is preferred for frigid temperatures, when more warmth is needed.

Caring for Thermal Underwear

The rule of thumb when caring for thermal underwear is frequent washing: if rarely washed, the «pores» in the underwear fabric are clogged, which results in the obstruction to moisture removal. It is recommended to wash thermal underwear at 40-60 °C without any conditioner, as its particles may accumulate on the surface and clog the micropores of the fabric and thus prevent the removal of moisture.

Thermal underwear dries much faster than regular natural fabric clothes, so wear it again after washing can be done much sooner. However, remember that thermal underwear should never be ironed asunder the high temperature of the iron fibers of synthetic material can melt, and the effectiveness of thermal underwear will be deteriorate significantly.

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