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Baselayers in the desert
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Locale: Greater Gila
Baselayers in the desert on 12/30/2007 10:33:38 MST Print View

Although I had been leaning toward a RailRiders Adventure long-sleeved shirt for a long time to use in the desert portion of the PCT, I'm starting to reconsider. If I wear this, I figured I'd also need to carry a silkweight base layer that is tighter fitting to stay warm during the chilly nights. Now I'm wondering if hiking in a white Capilene 1 shirt would be entirely too hot in 90* days. The Railriders shirts seem perfect because of their loose fit and vented sides. Is wearing a sealed off, tighter shirt much more miserable? I should also say that I'm going to be carrying a chrome umbrella, which should help keep me quite a bit cooler.

Although I'm a huge fan of carrying 2 shirts to have a clean one to change into at camp, I'd like to go even more lightweight on the PCT. Having a shirt that is cool enough in the day, yet warm enough at night would be perfect. Then again, maybe the RailRiders shirts would be perfect during the day, yet warm enough at night when coupled with a windshirt.

Edited by vaporjourney on 12/30/2007 10:37:54 MST.

Margaret Snyder
(jetcash) - F

Locale: Southern Arizona
Desert Shirts on 12/30/2007 16:51:04 MST Print View

I have a Columbia safari-like sun shirt since i am too cheap for a Rail Riders. I sweat like a pig in this knockoff, though and refuse to sleep in it. It also collects stink like a sponge. You could wash/rinse out the shirt every couple of night and run around shirtless until it dried if it was your only baselayer. The more body-hugging Capilene would keep you warmer in your sleeping bag. Either way you're gonna need to do periodic washes of sweaty shirts.

Edited by jetcash on 12/30/2007 16:52:07 MST.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Shirt on 12/30/2007 17:03:02 MST Print View

I just use a Columbia knock-off fishing shirt. They're $14 at my local academy. Nylon is nylon. If you also used one of those base layers with the silver in it, it might not smell as bad.

John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
silkweight capilene fine for desert on 01/08/2008 18:36:58 MST Print View

A silkweight capilene is my main desert shirt. When it's hot, it's hot, and the evaporative cooling from the capilene helps a little. It's also worked as sun block for me, although I'm not particularly sun sensitive... Main disadvantage is no collar for the back of your neck.

On occasion I've worn a very light cotton dress shirt, cooler, but obvious disadvantages.

Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Desert shirts on 01/08/2008 18:55:52 MST Print View

I'm a desert rat and have hiked the PCT in thru hiker season.

I prefer the looser Rail Riders type shirts. I've used Rail Riders and also the Mountain Hardwear Canyon top. As someone said - when it's hot, it's hot. I prefer loose fitting tops to let in some breeze, and long sleeves for sun protection.

I recommend you consider some sun gloves for your hands, especially if you are using trekking poles. Look at

If you've got a wind shirt and/or a WPB top, along with some insulation, you won't need 2 tops.

The PCT is fabulous - I'll be going back soon.



Locale: Greater Gila
Capilene it is on 01/08/2008 19:03:15 MST Print View

Well, I found Capilene 1 shirts for $25 at REI, so I got one, oversized to Large, in White. I'm a huge fan of Merino Wool, wore it on my AT thru-hike, and now completely fear the funky smell of synthetics after using wool for 5 months. It's a bummer that Smartwool doesn't make their microweight shirts in white. Water under the bridge now...

I definitely plan on wearing sun gloves for my hands. I'm very sun sensitive, so I plan on having every inch of me covered. I've even decided to go for sungloves from Coolibar that cover all the way to the fingertips. In addition to all of this, I'm going to using a Birdiepal Swing Liteflex umbrella, which I'm hoping will give me enough shade to go shirtless for long stretches. This would help save my shirt from getting drenched, and allow me to wear it to sleep at night. So, one shirt it is!

Frank Ramos
(frprovis) - F
baselayers in the desert on 01/08/2008 20:15:02 MST Print View

I noticed some comments about the smell of synthetics. Nylon is a synthetic but very resistant to smelling. Yes, you can make it smell if you jam it right against your underarms, but then cotten will also stink in these conditions and wool too for that matter.

I am not exactly sure of why polypropylene and polyester stink so quickly, but I do understand why they keep on stinking even after washing. Namely, because they don't absorb water. Body oils can get pressed into the fibers, but then it is very difficult to get these oils out, because of how the fibers don't absorb water.

By contrast, nylon absorbs just enough water to make it very easy to clean, but not nearly so much as cotton and wool (for comparable strength garments) and thus it dries quickly.

I have several times worn my supplex nylon shirts for a week at a time without washing them, while hiking in desert-like conditions (100°F heat and sunny). The shirts start out light grey and by the end of the week are coated with white streaks of salt, but they don't have any smell, provided I keep them away from my underarms (which is possible if I use the Jardine one shoulder carrying method). Beyond a week, the shirts will start to smell due to body oils going rancid. These salt-stained shirts can then be washed very easily in cold water in a sink, and they come out perfectly clean.

The real secret to comfort in desert conditions, regardless of the fiber, is to allow ventilation. So buy a shirt of either supplex/taslan or cotton or polyester/rayon--it really doesn't matter which--but make sure it fits very large so you get plenty of airflow. Long sleeves will help protect the hands. The Jardine one-shoulder carrying method allows maximum ventilation. Carrying the pack with both shoulders and a hip belt results in minimum ventilation.

Edited by frprovis on 01/08/2008 20:16:08 MST.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: silkweight capilene fine for desert on 01/08/2008 21:14:08 MST Print View

I would imagine capilene (probably merino wool too) has a pretty low UPF sun protection and when it's wet even worse sun protection. Post any info to the contrary.

Buck Melanoma

Which Fabrics are Best?

As a rule, light-colored, lightweight and loosely-woven fabrics do not offer much protection from the sun. That white T-shirt you slip on at the beach when you feel your skin burning provides only moderate protection from sunburn, with an average ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 7. At the other end of the spectrum, a long-sleeved dark denim shirt offers an estimated UPF of 1,700 – which amounts to a complete sun block. In general, clothing made of tightly-woven fabric best protects skin from the sun. The easiest way to test if a fabric can protect your skin is to hold it up to the light. If you can see through it, then UV radiation can penetrate it – and your skin.

The color of the fabric also plays a role. Darker-colored fabrics are more effective than lighter at blocking out the sun. For instance, the UPF of a green cotton T-shirt is 10 versus 7 for white cotton, and a thicker fabric such as velvet in black, blue or dark green has an approximate UPF of 50.

Edited by jshann on 01/08/2008 21:53:01 MST.

gdinero senior
(gmoney) - F
Simms Superlight L/S Shirt on 01/14/2008 21:49:55 MST Print View

Simms fishing gear has some shirts coming out in March 2008 that boast of high SPF, lots of venting, and light weight. Anyone have any experience? I saw a random review in Popular Mechanics, and thought to myself, huh, who are these guys?!


Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Baselayers in the desert on 01/15/2008 00:03:50 MST Print View

My Terramar VisaEndurance SS Shirt keeps me cooler than the RR Adventure shirt... but I mostly wear the Adveture Shirt so I don't have to mess with applying sun screen several times a day.

I have been very happy with my RR Adventure shirt. I wish it was a bit more air permeable, but the loose fit and side vents help a lot. I am very sun sensitive... I have burned wearing SPF 15 shirts (that's what I think capilene 1 is), but never burned wearing the RR shirt. BTW: if you don't mind the dirt showing... I recommend getting a white shirt... it seems cooler than any any of the colored shirts.

I would use the Adventure shirt until I hit the cold/rain of northern OR/WA not just for the sun protection but also protection from bugs. The supplex is tight enough to keep them from biting, but more air permeable than my wind shirt. For whatever reason they tended not to try to bite through the side mesh panels most of the time, and when the bugs were really bad just keeping my arms to by side seemed to work.

I know others have said that nylon doesn't stink the way polypro does... but both my supplex shirts do seem to get ripe pretty quickly. I try to wash mine each night.

I carry a featherweight powerdry shirt to sleep in while the supplex shirt is drying. The powerdry shirt is sometime worn during the day for a bit of extra insulation on very cold days (often layered under the supplex shirt).

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Baselayers in the desert on 01/15/2008 00:25:52 MST Print View

"It's a bummer that Smartwool doesn't make their microweight shirts in white."

Icebreaker do... see the 150gsm range

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Light SPF summer shirts on 01/15/2008 02:32:53 MST Print View

I have both a Cabela's Guidewear polyester fishing shirt and a similar REI Sahara poly shirt. Both work great here in the Mojave Desert & I never get any sun tanning with them. The Cabela's has a nice high "sun collar" and both front and back ventilation, among many other features and I prefer it to the REI shirt.


Edited by Danepacker on 01/15/2008 02:34:20 MST.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Baselayers in the desert on 01/15/2008 08:09:44 MST Print View

Dickies long sleeve chambray work shirt.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 01/15/2008 09:49:48 MST Print View


Edited by DaveT on 11/19/2014 22:17:23 MST.


Locale: Greater Gila
high spf, breathable, AND warm? on 01/18/2008 22:22:19 MST Print View

I think I may be trying too hard here. The Capilene seemed like a winner because it was thin and cool, yet would provide a bit of warmth at night. I'm assuming that Supplex can't boast the warmth, but at least won't get me sun-burned? Are there other options that have a tightly woven fabric for high-SPF ratings, yet still able to retain warmth well like Capilene 1? Also, do the side vents really make a huge difference like I imagine they would? I'm tempted to just find a $20 nylon shirt if the difference isn't that great. Oh, and is this SPF protection really necessary if using an umbrella? I'm thinking that the shadow should cover me below the shoulders, but I've yet to test it out in the expansive desert.

Edited by vaporjourney on 01/18/2008 22:28:49 MST.

David T
(DaveT) - F
. on 01/18/2008 23:46:41 MST Print View


Edited by DaveT on 11/19/2014 22:17:56 MST.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: high spf, breathable, AND warm? on 01/19/2008 08:08:23 MST Print View

> I think I may be trying too hard here.

Maybe? If it was me, I would happily carry an extra 8oz for a shirt to use for sleeping or for a bit of warmth. This would help keep my sleeping bag clear and make it easy for me to wash my hiking shirt.

Supplex won't provide that "warm" feel that capilene does, but it does provide some "warmth" especially if there is a modest wind.

The side vents really do help a lot. Supplex has less air permeability than capilene. The vests help air circulation a lot.

Do you need high SPF if you are using an umbrella? Someone else needs to answer this... I don't have sufficent experiences.


Locale: Greater Gila
RailRiders fit on 01/20/2008 11:25:52 MST Print View

Can anyone comment on the fit of the RailRiders shirts? Do they need to be bought a size up like most other shirts? I was hoping that since they are made to be used in really high temps, they may already have a pretty baggy fit compared to Patagonia and other shirts.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: RailRiders fit on 01/20/2008 12:06:12 MST Print View

I found RR shirts true to size.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: RailRiders fit on 01/20/2008 14:15:12 MST Print View

True to size, but far more drafty than I had expected.