What you should pay attention when buying functional underwear!

Functional underwear is designed to support us on the way to peak athletic performance. It ensures that we do not sweat so quickly and do not cool down so quickly. Moisture is transported away from the body to the outside and converted into water vapor.

Functional underwear is also called the first layer or base layer because it is worn directly on the skin. This article provides comprehensive advice on what matters when choosing functional underwear.

When Functionality Is Paramount

The designation as functional underwear does not come by chance. The function is the most important maxim of high-tech sports underwear, which thoroughly deserves this designation because a lot of attention is paid to fine fibers, not least because the clothes should be beneficial to the health and training performance of the athlete.

Probably the most essential function is moisture absorption. During sports, we sweat. Sweat flows out of all pores. This is important because the body ensures that a constant body temperature of 36.5 degrees can be maintained.

During short breaks, the body cools down quickly, and a film of moisture remains on the skin. Therefore, functional clothing must be as quick-drying as possible to prevent tension or even colds caused by cold and drafts.

Functional underwear is often very thin but padded in the right places so that it has the function of protecting against pressure and cushioning during vibrations. In particular, the joints are supported and, in the case of long sports underwear, kept warm – a real benefit for runners, for example, for whom smooth movements are essential.

Good sports underwear should inhibit the formation of odors and have an antibacterial effect. Which properties the underwear has in detail depend strongly on the material that has been processed.

functional hiking underwear

Icebreaker

Icebreaker

Icebreaker

Wear first layer functional underwear correctly

It is important that you can move properly in your functional underwear. The bottom layer of your sports wardrobe should fit like a second skin. Wrinkles, creases and friction points will make you feel uncomfortable during your sports program. Body-hugging is the keyword here so that the clothing can develop its full effect.

But it must not be too tight either! Please pay attention to good quality and quality. After all, the clothes should not lose their shape even after repeated washing.

Nevertheless, the range of motion must be as extensive as possible. Play through the entire range of typical movements to see if you notice any restrictions anywhere. Don’t worry; there is the perfect functional underwear for every sport and every body type.

According to the onion principle, further layers can follow the base layer, especially through seamless processing. Onion principle means that several thin layers can be worn on top of each other, depending on the personal feeling of warmth and the temperatures outside.

Modern sports underwear is often colorful and appealing in design. Thus, a sports bra becomes the top for the yoga class, and with the long ski underwear, it also goes to the après-ski.

Backpacking Clothes – Underwear, Base Layers, Hiking Shirts, Mid Layers, Rainwear

 * Disclosure: Links marked with Asterix or some picture links on world’s-finest-wool are affiliate links.  All our work is reader-supported – when you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. The decision is yours – whether you decide to buy something is entirely up to you.

One Underwear - All Sports?

functional hiking cloth

Functional underwear is suitable for everything from multi-day tours in alpine terrain to running on the treadmill at home. However, it is crucial to optimally adapt the sportswear to the respective season and consider the intensity with which the training is completed.

In winter, we often need an additional insulating layer that provides extra warmth on chilly days. Always try on new thermal underwear because the fit plays an important role; after all, the underwear must fit perfectly under the ski pants.

Also, body heat is stored when the bottom layer is very close to the body.

In warmer temperatures, a cooling function is just as important as good moisture wicking. For summer, choose short sleeves or legs and a modern and beautiful design that you can wear without any layer over it.

Sports underwear is made from the following materials

One of the most important decisions when buying new functional underwear is the question of the material. High-tech models are often made of synthetic fibers, which score points primarily because they dry very fast.

Popular classics are also garments made from natural fibers, especially merino wool. Our overview shows which materials you should rely on in different weather conditions and for which type of sport.

Polyester (PES)

The synthetic fiber can absorb about one percent of its weight in liquid. That’s not all that much. Why polyester is nevertheless so popular as a material for sportswear is nevertheless quickly explained:

The thin fibers make the individual garments extremely lightweight. It also dries very quickly, as the fibers hardly absorb any water. Functional underwear made of polyester offers effective protection against UV radiation. Even after many washes, the material does not lose its shape.

Polyamide - Nylon (PA)

Fabrics like nylon are known for their elasticity and are often used because they are considered uncomplicated to maintain and very robust.

The fabric hardly wears out and is very tear-resistant. Similar to polyester, it dries very quickly but absorbs little moisture. Polyamide is often mixed with other materials such as cotton or merino wool, thus ensuring the functional underwear’s durability.

Polypropylen (PP)

Incredibly soft and cuddly textiles can be made from polypropylene. Besides, they are often very skin-friendly and only rarely cause allergies.

Polypropylene is inexpensive to produce. The material is also antistatic and dries extremely quickly. However, synthetic fiber has a serious disadvantage: unpleasant odors form very quickly

Merino Wool

Functional underwear made of merino? Manufacturers have long been relying on merino wool as a component of functional underwear. Merino underwear is a sustainable and competitive alternative to synthetic fibers for sports underwear.

The wool of merino sheep can absorb up to 33 percent of its weight in moisture and quickly release it back to the outside.

Merino underwear is antibacterial and, compared to cotton and synthetic fibers, does not absorb unpleasant odors of perspiration even after sweaty sports.

Due to its structure, merino wool insulates the body very well against the cold, as a lot of air is stored between its fine fibers. Besides, it is very dirt-resistant and hardly wrinkles.

The warming properties of merino wool are not lost even if you are surprised by a rain shower during sports. Due to the microscopically thin fibers, Merino wool does not scratch the skin.

Advantages of merino underwear:

  • insulates extremely well against cold
  • can absorb up to 33% of its weight in water without feeling damp
  • fast drying
  • natural odorless – can be worn longer than synthetic garments
  • the fine fibers make Merino wool very comfortable and soft on the skin
  • natural product

Kari Traa

Kari Traa

Kari Traa

What material suits me best

So which material should you choose? Whether natural fiber or synthetic fiber is to a certain extent a matter of the conscience. Animal lovers should definitely look for certificates of quality and brands committed to animal welfare and have declared war on mulesing.

If you’re vegan or have other reasons for not wanting to wear animal products on your body, you’ll find good alternatives in synthetic fibers.

Merino wool is the ideal solution for ski underwear in winter and the perfect choice for multi-day tours or longer trips in summer and winter.

However, it has the disadvantage that it quickly becomes too warm on very hot summer days with wool on the skin. A successful compromise is a mixture of synthetic fibers and merino wool.

With the cooling surface structure of the synthetic fibers and the sweat-absorbing wool, the best of both worlds is made possible.

Modern, high-quality functional underwear contains a mix of synthetic fibers and merino wool.

best hiking underwear

The right care for functional underwear

washing functional underwear

High-quality sports underwear is often not necessarily inexpensive. All the more important is the proper care so that the underwear still fulfills its function after many washes. Merino underwear, for example, rarely needs to be washed. Even on long tours, the body-hugging layer remains odor-neutral. Simply airing it out is often enough to ensure a fresh feeling on the skin.

Synthetic fibers smell faster and must be washed accordingly more often. Even if you have the urgent need to put your clothes in the washing machine immediately after sports: sensitive fibers in particular, which are only washed at low temperatures, should be dried well before washing so that bacteria have no chance.

Before washing, always look at the label so that textiles don’t accidentally end up in the washing machine or dryer. It is also recommended to use special sports detergents. Gentle detergents with zinc compounds bind odors and neutralize them instead of just covering them up with fragrances. Fabric softeners are not suitable for either synthetic or natural fibers.

Unless otherwise specified, wash functional underwear at 30 degrees on a gentle cycle, ensuring that detergent residues are carefully removed. The washing machine should not be filled too full – unlike regular washing cycles.

Even the dryer does not necessarily harm most modern textiles. But here, too, it is better to be safe than sorry. Pay attention to what is stated on the label. 

Summary: From ski underwear to functional underwear for hiking

Modern functional underwear is adapted to your everyday sports life. In winter, you should make sure to choose a base layer from head to toe that retains body heat while still transporting moisture to the outside.

In summer, the right functional underwear can keep your skin feeling fresh, so you don’t get too hot even when it’s 30 degrees in the shade in alpine terrain or when you’re jogging through the park in the evening.

The right clothing choice can take your training performance to a whole new level. After all, functional underwear not only supports and warms your joints, it can actually support your muscles as well.

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