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A light base layer?
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David Coate
(coateds) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
A light base layer? on 10/12/2009 15:34:29 MDT Print View

Hi All,

I have been backpacking off and on for about 40 years. My style might best be described as SUH. There was a time in my life when it was considered rather macho to be carrying 65 Lbs on your back. The last time I was out, I had trimmed it down to *only* 52 Lbs. On that trip, the 20 yr old, external frame SUV I was carrying on my back broke down (again). I decided that was the last trip for it. It did get one final use as a prop in the Seattle Zombie walk last weekend. My Avatar/Profile picture shows what is left of it in the Halloween graveyard next to my house.

So my creaking old body is telling me it is time to turn over a new, lighter, leaf for future trips. I have been lurking on this site for a month now and I have a lot of ideas for knocking 15 Lbs or more off my back for next year. (thank you all!) I figure I will be working on lightening my load for the next several years. Partly, I like to hold onto functional items for a long time, and partly I want to take this a bit at a time. I also like not paying full price. So I am building my list and watching for fall sales.

BTW, I spotted a 20% off sale on a rather full line of Snow Peak products at I know nothing of this vender, but I thought you might want to know.

My question at this time is about clothing. I have a rather warm metabolism and as I think back on things, I do not remember ever being cold on a trip. In fact, my problem is usually being too warm. I have one hike buddy that has shown me the basics of light weight layers, but given my metabolism, I think my current list is still a bit of overkill, particularly in the summer.

Here is my current clothing list:

Socks - 2 oz
Long underwear/base layer top and bottom REI (Mid wgt?) - 15 oz
Convertable pants/shorts REI Sahara - 12 oz
Poly shorts - 4 oz
I usually sleep in these/hike when *really* hot
Underwear - 2.5 oz for 2
light base layer s/s T-shirt - 4.5 oz
MontBell down jacket - 7 oz
(New acquisition, replaces 19 oz fleece)
REI Rain jacket - 14 oz
Hike hat - 3 oz
Warm ski hat - 2.5 oz
Have located a 1 oz alternative (not purchased yet)
Wool gloves - 5 oz
Have located a 1 oz alternative (not purchased yet)
Camp shoes - 8 oz
Have located a 2.5 oz alternative (not purchased yet)
Sweat Band 0.5

Specifically, I think the 15 oz REI base layer is heavier and warmer than I want for most hikes. This set works quite well at moisture control and they are great for downhill skiing. I just simply find them to be too warm most of the time. I want to do some experimenting with some *very* light weight long underwear/base layers for warmer weather hikes. I have alway appreciated having a long base layer when at altitude in the Cascades, particularly first thing in morning. I also do not want to go too light and take a chance with hyperthermia.

I am finding it difficult to gather data on my options here. A capilene 1 might be good here, but the 3 - 4 oz weight savings hardly seems worth the price. I get the impression that silk might produce some worthwhile weight savings, but I am having difficulty getting actual weights on available products. I also have very little idea on the appropriateness of silk to the task, given my tendancy to overheat. One issue I have run into is heavy exertion in the rain. The base layer I have seems to work well under the Sahara pants and REI rain jacket. I just want them to be *less* warm sometimes.


Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
base layers on 10/12/2009 15:45:59 MDT Print View

I use very light wool base layers year-round. Ibex or Icebreaker, in the 140-150 g/sq.m. range. Like this:

Short sleeve in warm weather, l/s in cold weather. Wool doesn't stink -- ever -- though you might smell a little like a damp sheep when it rains. Wool also works better when damp than synthetics -- it avoids the "thermal shock" when I stop for a break on a cool day. Synthetics dry so quickly that they make me cold; wool does not.

I use wool boxer briefs under my hiking shorts in all but the hottest summer weather. Again, the lack of hiker stink is a huge win.

Steven Thompson
(stevet) - M

Locale: Northeast
Re: A light base layer? on 10/12/2009 16:23:56 MDT Print View

"I figure I will be working on lightening my load for the next several years. Partly, I like to hold onto functional items for a long time, and partly I want to take this a bit at a time. I also like not paying full price."

Your journey to lighter weight sounds like it will follow mine. I got serious around 10 years ago. Regarding baselayers I highly recommend the Patagonia Capilene 1. Bottoms, and long and short sleeve tops. They are very lightweight and robust. Years ago when my old REI MTS midweights started falling apart I upgraded to the Patagonias. It is time to replace again, I am going to try the new Patagonia Wool 1's.

So yes, take your time on rebuilding your gear pile. Just always replace the old with something lighter weight.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: A light base layer? on 10/12/2009 16:47:14 MDT Print View

My favorite base layer shirt is this:

Absoluteley the best shirt I have ever worn for hiking in any weather. I have a white one for backcountry skiing, and a couple in other colors for hiking(the white gets dirty too fast for me in the summer). I've used it in temperatures up over 100, and humidity Hawaiian style, it's still comfortable even with the long sleeves. A the end of the hiking day I dive in the lake, and in a couple of minutes it no longer feels wet against my skin even though it is still very wet. Did I say I love this shirt? I do. Have the long johns, too - shirt and longs about 11 oz or so.

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Patagonia Wool 1 and 2 on 10/12/2009 17:02:34 MDT Print View

I am a HUGE Patagonia fan! They have been working on their wool for a few years now and it's improving slowly.

As of last season, The 1 and 2 products were still very delicate. Probably Wool 2 more so than Wool 1 which has quite a bit of synthetic in it now. They lost their shape on first machine wash. They WILL readily take them back and refund your money. So why not give them a try. The Wool 3 is decent. The Wool 4 is quite fragile as well. I put my thumb (not the nail) through some wool 4 bottoms while putting them. on -- like felt. I have not worn any of this season's offerings yet. The Wool 3 Hoody looks like a real winner.

For better lightweight durability try Icebreaker 150/190 for ultralight/light merino. Smartwool is good but I find the sleeves to tight to push up to my elbows -- a requirement for me. The Icebreaker 150 T is very fine wool but very durable and holds it shape nice.

Note re: Capilene 1 -- this stuff is almost impossible to wreck. Hard to even snag. Great summer sun protection, dries instantly under sun. The ladies come in prints -- I have some real classics from seasons gone by. Gets stinky fast though. For winter, I prefer wool. I don't like the feeling of cold damp Cap 1. Cap 2 is OK for winter layer, IMO.

Edited by backpackerchick on 10/12/2009 17:18:17 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: A light base layer? on 10/12/2009 17:14:04 MDT Print View

"Regarding baselayers I highly recommend the Patagonia Capilene 1"


Jeff Patrick
(callmeammo) - F

Locale: Sacramento
profile pic on 10/12/2009 20:28:53 MDT Print View

Is the pack in your profile pick made by outdoor? If so thats what I used to carry too.

David Coate
(coateds) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Re: Re: A light base layer? on 10/12/2009 22:48:24 MDT Print View

Thanks for your thoughts everyone. The more I research, the more I think I want the lightest synthetic I can get. Drying time is important to me and it looks like that eliminates silk.

Capilene 1 is just barely lighter than my current set. At 11+ oz for a set it is not enough weight savings over 15 oz to buy until my current set wears out.

The Terramar Silkweight looks interesting to me...
@Paul: can you confirm what you mean by "shirt and longs about 11 oz or so"? If by that you mean that all three items together weigh 11 oz then that would be a nice weight savings.

When I compare fabric weight on the terramar product to capilene 1 they are both listed at a fabric weight of 130g. I may be missing something here, (wouldn't be the first time) but wouldn't that imply that similar garmets should weigh about the same? Or is that too simplistic?

Gee it would be nice if more garmet mfrs listed the actual weight of an item on web sites...

@Jeff Patrick: The pack in my pic is a 20 year old REI external frame pack. Four wheel drive and room for a family of eight!

(Hmr3D) - F
x on 10/13/2009 02:46:22 MDT Print View

Hi David,

Just curious, why go with synthetic over wool?

(Hmr3D) - F
x on 10/13/2009 02:49:40 MDT Print View

Lots of excellent suggestions from my fellow merino-lovers so far. I would like to add this one:

Love mine (wearing it right now).

Hart -
(backpackerchick) - MLife

Locale: Planet Earth
Patagonia Garment Weights on 10/13/2009 03:45:15 MDT Print View

These are clearly listed at They are listed in Patagonia catalogs and I believe on the paper tags of each item. Go to the page of the product in which you are interested. On the right hand side is specifications-details. Here you will find the weight of the item.

Patagonia has excellent customer service if you need more info than is contained in the specs.

David Coate
(coateds) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Re: x on 10/13/2009 18:12:45 MDT Print View

Whoa all you wild and woolies. I did not mean to dis your fiber!

A lot of this comes down to money for me. If I am going to get even within spitting distance of some of the pack weights you folks are reporting, I am pretty much going to have to replace all of my gear.

Now I do not know how far I am going to go with this, but I do know I have not the moolah to make this happen all at once.

For this year, I have a formula that must be true for any item replaced:

Price of item / ounces saved < $10

Or: I will not pay more than $10 per ounce that I am able to save in pack weight. Furthermore, I will only go that high if the item is dual use or there is another compelling reason. Most of my purchases this year are well under $5 per ounce saved.

Mind you, this is for this year only. Next year the number will probably go up. Particularly as I replce worn out items. Fact is, my current base layer, although heavy, does not *require* replacement this year.

Merino wool appears to be rather expensive. I will need to find a very light garment indeed at the prices I am seeing, or find a really good sale! (or I am just looking in the wrong places!)

This is why I am looking at synthetics this year. They are cheap! I am really interested in Paul's Terramar suggestion for this reason. The problem I was lamenting, Backpacker Chick, is that the Terrmar site, as well as many others, do not list garmet weights on their products. Patagonia is one of the few sites that does.

Most of the garmets I find out there come in around 5.5 oz a piece for the l/s top AND bottom. This means the set, at 11 oz, is only a 4 oz savings over my current gear. Therefore I need to get both garmets for around $20 to satisfy my equation. Or, I would be willing to pay $40 for a 7 oz set (3.5 oz per). That would be even better! If there is a wool product that will satisfy this equation, I will be ecstatic to try it!

Now, I fully understand that this may not be possible. If not, I will simply wait until next year when the equation will change. By then, I expect to be "nickel and diming" the wieght savings.

In the meantime, I am learning a lot by trying and from everyone's input. I appreciate it!

First Last
(snusmumriken) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Usage on 10/19/2009 21:49:28 MDT Print View

Let me ask you this - what exactly are you using the baselayers for? Might seem like a dumb question as most all of us have baselayers on our equipment lists. But either you are hiking in the baselayer shirt, or its just a dry layer you're changing into after your hiking day is over to be warm around camp and keep your sleeping bag clean(er).

If the baselayers are just used for camp clothes / pyjamas your favorite tshirt and a any pair of long underwear will do the job admirably.

If on the other hand you ar hiking in the baselayer it's a different story. A synthetic tshirt is your cheapest option. You probably have one already. Try it out - if you find the stink factor bothers you too much you can think about switching to wool or a fancier brand. If not, you're already set.