How to choose the right thermal wear for your outdoor adventure


Staying warm in cold weather is critical, but heavy, bulky clothing can inhibit movement and cause perspiration. The right thermal wear will trap body heat while still allowing flexibility and a full range of motion.

This comprehensive guide is a deep dive into the world of thermal wear. Explore the key features to consider, along with trusted recommendations from The North Face range. Whether you’re setting off for a winter hike or planning a skiing trip, we’ve got everything you need to make an informed decision.  

What is Thermal Wear?

Thermal wear is a type of clothing worn next to the skin to keep you warm. Also known as a base layer, it provides insulation that traps body heat and helps to regulate temperature. The best thermal clothing is also breathable and made from moisture-wicking fabrics. When you’re active, these fabrics draw sweat away from the skin, preventing you from feeling damp.

How to Choose the Best Thermal Wear

To choose the best thermal wear for your specific needs, consider the weather conditions, the planned activity and the type of fabric.


High-intensity activities, like climbing or skiing, require a lightweight base layer. Thermals should be comfortable, flexible and breathable as you’ll be moving a lot and sweating. For lower-intensity activities such as winter walks, a midweight thermal base layer may be more suitable.

Weather conditions

Check the weather forecast to plan ahead. For cold temperatures, choose multiple layers that work together. A layering system also helps you adapt to changing temperatures, removing or adding items as appropriate. Check out The North Face layering guide to help you select the best combination.


Popular fabrics for thermal wear include merino wool and synthetic alternatives. Synthetic fabrics are generally more affordable and moisture-wicking. Merino wool is naturally odour-resistant and soft against the skin.


Thermal wear should fit snugly against the skin. Avoid loose or baggy fits which will cause chaffing. Choose garments that allow for a full range of motion and don’t ride up.

Thermal Wear for Women

Effective thermal wear for women combines insulating fabric with a flexible fit. Thermal leggings are a versatile option, worn under other layers in cold weather, or on their own in the summer. The North Face base layer leggings for women are lightweight and flexible. Breathable fabrics with seamless construction enhance comfort.

On top, a long-sleeved, close-fitting t-shirt works well as a base layer. Again, look for fabrics that are soft on the skin and styles that combine with your other layers. Try your base layer over your sports bra to check the fit. Look out for additional features such as thumb holes and turtlenecks to suit your activity.

Thermal Wear for Men

Thermal wear for men involves two simple categories - legs and upper body. To keep your legs warm in cold weather without compromising movement, look for men’s thermal leggings or tights. The close fit improves insulation and remains comfortable even during strenuous activities. 

Depending on the temperature, wear leggings by themselves or under a pair of shorts. In colder conditions, the fit ensures that adding extra layers like skiing trousers is easy.

To keep your core warm in low temperatures, choose a long-sleeved base layer. Sweat-wicking layers help keep you dry and reduce your exposure to the cold. The North Face pushes the boundaries of innovation with technologies like FlashDry™. The fabric acts like a second skin, wicking moisture away quickly to keep you dry and comfortable.

Meanwhile, Dotknit™ is a double-knit performance fabric that delivers lightweight, breathable protection on alpine pursuits.  Both of these technologies make for great choices when it comes to thermal wear and will ensure you stay just right no matter the situation.

Thermal Wear for Kids

Thermal wear for kids is essential to keep them warm in cold weather without causing overheating as they start to move around. This balance can be difficult to achieve which is where high-quality base layers are valuable. 

Look for lightweight clothing that can be easily added or removed in layers, responding to the situation at hand. With selections for older and younger children, we want to equip and inspire the next generation of explorers.

Thermal ski wear

Thermal ski wear needs to be able to handle high-intensity activity in cold weather. The combination of insulation and breathability is essential for skiing and snowboarding. You will sweat during strenuous activity and moisture-wicking fabric is crucial. Think through the following features to choose thermal wear for skiing:

  • Insulation. In sub-zero temperatures, a good base layer is the foundation of effective insulation. 

  • Breathability. Choose fabrics that allow airflow to prevent overheating on the slopes.

  • Moisture-wicking. Thermal ski wear should move sweat away from the skin to keep you dry and comfortable.

  • Durability. Look for clothing that is durable to handle the wear and tear of skiing and snowboarding.

  • Flexibility. Stretchy fabrics will allow you to move freely.

The North Face's dedicated snowsports range has everything you need for your next ski trip.

Stay warm

Achieve maximum enjoyment and performance in cold weather by planning your clothing carefully. Think about the conditions and the activities you have planned, and you’ll be ready for anything the elements have in store. Whether you're in need of a new hiking backpack or looking for running gear, The North Face has everything you need for your next adventure.