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Frustrated:: Need options Base layer
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Matt Fishler
(splizaat) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Frustrated:: Need options Base layer on 08/19/2009 00:48:43 MDT Print View

Hey guys, I've been lurking these forums for a bit now and finally decided to join up due to my frustration. I read all this about everyone's 10lb base pack and am EXTREMELY jealous. My ideal/realistic goal for a base pack weight is about 10-12lbs.

Tonight I made the mistake (ok maybe not!) of weighing everything in my pack and came up with a base weight of about 15.6 lbs. My problem is that I need to lighten the load without breaking the wallet completely.

My next options on lowering weight is the BASELAYER/long underwear and mid layers but I have no idea where to start.

We are going into fall soon in the pac-NW and so it's going to start getting somewhat chilly. I don't expect to do anything in the snow, and weight to heat ratio needs to be correct...what is everyone using for ultralight long underwear? I already know for a mid layer I'll be buying a montbell thermawrap to replace my north face denali fleece.

Any suggestions??

Steven Killion
(blendedfrog) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Frustrated:: Need options Base layer on 08/19/2009 01:09:53 MDT Print View


I am a big fan of Icebreaker products and wear them year round hiking in the Cascades. The 140g in both short and long sleeve work great for summer and 190g to 200g the rest of the time. Great next to skin feel, good thermoregulation and odor resistance.

Gordon Smith
(swearingen) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Smartwool on 08/19/2009 01:41:06 MDT Print View

I love my Smartwool base layers. For colder weather I have a heavier top, "midweight" I think, and then a "microweight" top for warmer conditions. For bottoms I only have a microweight. I got the Smartwools at REI, so if you have one of those close to where you live it's worth checking out. If I'm pretty sure night temps won't drop below about 40 degrees I'll pack my Thermasilk underwear instead. Not too warm but very light and helps keep the sleeping bag clean.


Edited by swearingen on 08/19/2009 01:43:05 MDT.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Frustrated:: Need options Base layer on 08/19/2009 03:11:51 MDT Print View

I'll second Icebreaker. I got a top with a gift card on a whim and absolutely love it! I wish I could afford more :P.

I've also got a Patagonia Capilene top that I like very much. Its slightly bulkier than the Icebreaker and doesn't resist odor quite as well, but it is a bit cheaper. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it as an alternative if budget is your biggest concern.


Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
base layers. on 08/19/2009 04:02:35 MDT Print View

Well, the (un)conventional wisdom is to get the lightest base layer that you can find. There are some pretty light superfine Merino base layers out there (BPL sells one, as does Smartwool). I'm a wool guy, but I'm sure there are equivalent synthetics.

Then, as the weather cools you wear more layers, rather than one thicker layer of comparable weight. This has a few advantages:

1) it is adjustable for varing conditions
2) several thin layers will dry out in the sun faster than one thick layer
3) the air trapped in folds between layers probably adds some small insulating effect

I think this is the traditional wisdom among mountaineers, for exaple. (I could be wrong.)

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Frustrated:: Need options Base layer on 08/19/2009 05:50:57 MDT Print View

I use a Capilene 1 short sleeve and long sleeve tops, and a Capilene 1 bottoms when the weather gets cooler. For winter conditions (here in MN) I use a Pataoniga R1 Hoody. It's like a baselayer on steriods. Similarly, many folks here use the BPL Beartooth Merino Hoody.

This all said, generic non-typical brand base layers generally weigh very little more than the lightest contenders on the block (a la Patagonia DriMove shirts). The difference is in performance, I believe.

So no rush here. Perhaps there are other ways to lighten your load before you purchase/replace base layers?

Good luck.

Angela Zukowski
(AngelaZ) - F

Locale: New England
Re: Frustrated:: Need options Base layer on 08/19/2009 06:52:55 MDT Print View

If you don't want to break the bank I'd suggest:

1. sign up to get Icebreaker emails. They'll notify you when sales are going on.
2. Check every day - they have icebreaker and smartwool clothing often, for at least 40% off.
3. sign up for sierra trading post emails also. they also have discounted icebreaker and smart wool and will email you additional discounts.

I also have a lot of Nike long sleeve layers that are synthetic but do a great job at maintaining core temperature/wicking. There's this one material that is stretchy/almost waffled... really comfy, great fall/winter layer. Nike is pricey... but T.J. Maxx stores always have nike stuff there for much cheaper. (At least, they have a greta selection for women usually). I've also seen patagonia there on rare occasions and smart wool. All at a discount!

Hope that helps. There are some great brands out there... you just have exercise a little patience/digging in order to find the best deals!

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: Re: Frustrated:: Need options Base layer on 08/19/2009 08:04:54 MDT Print View

Angela's post sums it all up, but I'll add a little....

I used some CHEAP poly stuff for many years, still for sale @ Sierra Trading Post. I forget the brand, but if you search their site you'll find it.

I use Smartwool almost exclusively now, but it does cost more, as does Icebreaker.

TJ Maxx, Marshall's, and Ross all load up on Nike and other brands of poly stuff you can pick up cheap: often less than $10 on clearance - don't know about this time of year, though.

Matt Fishler
(splizaat) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Weight? on 08/19/2009 10:46:02 MDT Print View

Does anyone know the approximate WEIGHT of the smartwool products?

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: Weight? on 08/19/2009 10:56:23 MDT Print View

If you mean the actual weight of a Smartwool item, I have the following weights for mine (weighed on a digital kitchen scale):
Microweight zip-t = 6.75 ounces for men's medium
Microweight t-shirt = 5.45 ounces for men's medium

Edited by jdw01776 on 08/19/2009 11:03:20 MDT.

Matt Fishler
(splizaat) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Weight? on 08/19/2009 11:08:34 MDT Print View

wow Maybe I'm not doing that bad afterall...My weights of my poly long underwear is about 8oz (bottom) and 9.5oz (top). I know I can drop 1.25lbs by going with the thermawrap vs my north face denali fleece. Maybe that will be my first move instead....while keeping an eye on the smartwool stuff for a sale.

Edited by splizaat on 08/19/2009 11:09:04 MDT.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Frustrated:: Need options Base layer on 08/19/2009 12:49:05 MDT Print View

Besides looking for the the "right weight" base, it's wise to consider durability, odor resistance, and water absorption/wicking. A few notes on my recommended base page.

From your described use case, I would generally suggest a light weight base or if you run cool a mid-weight. This plus a windshirt should be enough when you are active, and then put on your high loft jacket (or my preference... a vest) when your activity level drops. You should be able to avoid carrying a second base provide your base dries reasonably quickly.

I am not sure changing your base will save you much weight. If you existing base is performing well, I would use your money somewhere else where you get a better weight savings / dollars spent. If performances is an issue then I would recommend checking out sekri's level 1 PDU base. Reasonable quality manufacturer, high quality materials, decent price (~$23). If you make it to a patagonia outlet over labor day weekend you might be able to get Cap1 for an even cheaper price.


Edited by verber on 08/22/2009 14:55:53 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Base layers on 08/21/2009 22:07:41 MDT Print View


First of all, your 15 pound base weight isn't bad. The Thermawrap will help and it is a great garment. You can chip away at the rest as things wear out and you find deals. You wrote that you *need* to get the weight down to 10 pounds. Unless it's a medical issue, be patient!

I don't like wool, so I use a mix of polyester stuff-- Patagonia Capiline, GoLite C-Thru, Mountain Hardwear, etc. Silk weight works for me unless it is really cold.

I like Power Stretch a lot, but it costs like blazes. I think it makes a perfect sleeping bag "extender" and light mid-layer.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Frustrated:: Need options Base layer on 08/21/2009 23:49:29 MDT Print View

There's nothing wrong with a 15 lb. base weight. I got mine down to 13 but then decided that this old lady wants more creature comforts. It's now back up to 14 and will probably stay that way.

It doesn't sound as though your baselayers are too much out of line. You can find lots of good stuff in the athletic departments (not sporting goods) of stores like Target, KMart and wallyworld that may or may not be lighter but at least won't break the bank. Always take your scales with you when gear shopping. (I always take my digital postage scale when I shop, to the horror of store clerks, especially at REI).

I'd concentrate on the items on which you can achieve the biggest weight savings. Obviously your jacket is one of these. If you shop around on the internet you can probably find considerable dollar savings on your Montbell Thermawrap. I was lucky enough to find a closeout color (actually, a quite pleasant brown, especially hard to find in women's wear) and get mine for over 1/3 off at outlet. I did the same for my Montbell windshirt, except that the only color that was available on closeout looks like wine vomit (what we go through to save money!). Do remember that Montbell's sizes run small! You may find that you need a size larger than you normally wear, especially if you're a borderline size.

Your base weight is already sufficiently low that you don't need to be in a hurry. Do more research (compare with others' gear lists; there are lots of them on this site) and identify other items where the weight savings can be significant. The list guidelines for the backpacking course at is an interesting source. Check out Mark Verber's website, which I recommend to everyone. Watch for sales and % off coupons (keep an eye on the "Gear Deals" forum section). Before you spend, divide the price of the new item by ounces saved. You may decide the weight savings are not worth the money!

Remember that skin-out weight is just as important as base weight. My most significant weight savings in the past year have been in switching from boots to trail runners (which lightened both my footwear weight and sock weight) and from heavy aluminum to carbon fiber trekking poles. Neither change affected my pack weight, but both have had a very positive effect on my hiking comfort!

Keep track of things you don't use, with an eye to possible elimination. Of course some things you shouldn't eliminate--don't leave behind the rain jacket just because it was sunny and warm during your last trip.

Good luck in your weight reduction quest, but don't go overboard. You will undoubtedly find, as I have, that some things work for you and some don't. Don't try to accomplish too much at once. There's no big hurry.

Consider publishing your gear list. The folks here will go over it with a fine-tooth comb and may really surprise you with suggestions for eliminations. (Mike C will of course insist you leave the TP behind.) Click on "Change my profile" and upload your list (be sure weights for each item are included), then make a post in the gear list category asking for comments. You'll get them!

Edited by hikinggranny on 08/22/2009 00:02:34 MDT.

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
synthetic on 08/22/2009 12:27:14 MDT Print View

synthetic will be lighter, cheaper, and dry faster than wool

i use nike base layer stuff similar to under armour. picked it up on the cheap at marshalls/tj max. i have some icebreaker wool, that is nice for dayhikes, but i think it's overrated and overpriced and takes very long to dry. i prefer a light merino wool sweater from goodwill and prefer my base to be synthetic

2 light layers beat out 1 expedition weight layer imo

Elena Lee
(lenchik101) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest (USA)
adding warmth to your "base" scenario on 08/22/2009 12:53:27 MDT Print View


I live in Pac NW. I usually use Icebreaker bodyfit zip t combined with my Montbell UL Down parka for all hiking/climbing situations. When I need to add extra warmth (Mt. Rainier), i add Mountain Hardware Power Stretch Zip T made of the Polartec material. I believe this is the warmest base layer you can find. It only weights abt 8 oz but makes a huge difference for colder conditions. A couple of points:

-i buy my icebreaker products on ebay (always use auctionstealer dot com to get best results)
-i always buy base layer with color/hood for extra warmth
-i buy base layer white or light color because for climbing situations dark colors will bake you if you are exposed to sun all day
-never leave your merino wool stuff to dry outside since animals love it and will eat it
-i replaced my merino wool bottom layer for patagonia capeline because it dries much quicker, it stretches better, and it's more durable (bushwacked, climbed in it- no holes!)

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
When the budget is broken out comes the sale sweaters. on 08/22/2009 14:55:31 MDT Print View

There is a climbing magazine published in Great Britain that dissects some poor sods pack every month - climber, guide, mountain bum. While reading some pretty famous guy's contents I saw he carried a lightweight Shetland wool sweater. This is a guy who is sponsered and all his equipment is provided for.
It also dawned on me that I always have this wool sweater from Old Navy that I gave 6 bucks for off a sale table that is always in my pack. It is usually the first thing I put in when I reach camp and when I crawl out in the morning.
I'm not trying to start a debate between the merits of wool versus synthetic but point out there is some pretty light cheap stuff out there.
Target sells a synthetic mock t-neck that is real cheap.
There are a lot of long sleeve cycling jerseys that would work for a base layer sitting on sale racks that can be pretty cheap, synthetic and wool. Bike shops dump therebase layers every spring too.
I just bought a new medium weight long sleeve T-Mobile jersey off Ekk-Bay for 1 cent + a few bucks shipping, medium weight full poly with brushed interior. [It's bright pink.]
I occasionally will stick my head in a surplus store for a couple of pairs of lightweight wool/nylon glove liners that usually sell for a few dollars. Locally they run $3.29 but I've never seen them over $5.00 USD. These are uni-hand so if you get a hole in one keep the twin to put together another set, black, od green, natural white, navy blue, and grey. Surplus outlets also carry GI poly underwear, wool watch caps, and poly balaclavas. Some commercial paint stores/industrial supply houses carry synthetic face masks[balaclave style]and Tyvek shirts that usually sell for 2 bucks each.
Even a pair of wool dress socks will layer up nicely on a limited budget. If no one has pointed out the Steep and Cheap website it can be a real find for downsized pocketbooks, I just clicked over there and they are featuring a Smartwool Mid-Weight long sleeved zip t for $34.99 [+ shipping]. [Their parent site - can have great prices at times along with Sierra Trading Post[[which can very good for footwear]] and Campmor.
It would be an interesting challenge for another part of the forum to come up with an entire kit of budget stuff for the price of an Ibex or Icebreaker jacket.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
capilene lasts (and lasts) on 08/23/2009 11:25:44 MDT Print View

not sure on longevity on other base layers, but can say w/ confidence that Capilene garments are long lived, they also (in my experience perform very admirably)- spendy- yes, but I always get mine on sale- most often in the 30-50% range which makes it much tolerably from a $ standpoint

Capilene also does a good job of not absorbing odor, is machine wash/dry safe and doesn't shrink

Cap 1 will get you by in most 3 season conditions (I find myself using the other weights less and less)

I'd agree w/ several others- your base weight isn't too shabby :)