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Comfort and Moisture Transport in Lightweight Wool and Synthetic Base Layers
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Ken-Admin Knight
(ken-admin) - F
Comfort and Moisture Transport in Lightweight Wool and Synthetic Base Layers on 07/25/2006 22:45:11 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Comfort and Moisture Transport in Lightweight Wool and Synthetic Base Layers

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
wool or synthetic? on 07/26/2006 06:42:43 MDT Print View

not sur what to make of the results. it appears that the increased cost of a wool base layer yields a garment that does not offend the olfactories.

i thought there was going to be a slam dunk result, but it appears that in the end, synthetics have the advantage in high humidity and in warm tempuratures.

with that said, i might get a wool base layer shirt just to avoid smelling like funk. you know it's bad when you can still smell yourself in 10mph winds.


Ken Walsh
(kwbackpack) - F
Color is important!!! on 07/26/2006 13:32:54 MDT Print View

First off, great test. I have one comment, especially about the SmartWool products. They do not make shirts in a light enough color, the albedo of a base layer plays a *huge* role in warm weather comfort. The fact that SmartWool makes a "microweight" crew that only comes in relatively dark colors is really silly. If you are hiking in the sun white, yellow or very light tan should be the only color you wear, but SmartWool refuses to make anything like this. The "clown" shirt at least appears to have realtively similarly toned halves, but it is worth noting that small changes in albedo can have a huge impact it hot weather comfort!

Great job!

Joseph Rothstein
(joe_r) - F
Re: Color is important!!! on 07/26/2006 13:53:28 MDT Print View

The fact that SmartWool makes a "microweight" crew that only comes in relatively dark colors is really silly. If you are hiking in the sun white, yellow or very light tan should be the only color you wear, but SmartWool refuses to make anything like this.

I avoided buying a Smartwoool shirt for a long time for exactly this reason. A few weeks ago I was in a discount store and found a Smartwool Moto Tee in "ash" (very light, off-white color). As soon as I tried it on I realized why Smartwool doesn't make more shirts in very light colors. It was one of the most transparent t-shirts I've ever worn.

I recently ordered the Smartwool Swoop Tee from Campmor ($40 right now) in two reasonably light colors. Both colors are lighter than the Microweight tee colors that I've seen, but there's barely any translucency, especially for the gray one.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Weather? on 07/26/2006 13:59:13 MDT Print View

"In torrentially wet environments like the rain forests of the Pacific Northwest or New Zealand’s South Island, the lightest synthetic base layer like Capilene would be the preferred choice. Low water absorption and quick drying times are the major reasons."

I don't know about New Zealand, but the Pacific Northwest rarely gets "torrential" rains. The significant weather is the cloud cover and that has a real impact on wilderness travel. It does rain-- it can drizzle non-stop for weeks, but large thundershowers where inches of rain fall in a short period of time are rare. So, with the dampness and less sunlight, if you get wet, drying out is a challenge. You won't find me using down west of the Cascades. I do prefer the lighter synthetics for a base layer-- Patagonia Capilene and GoLite C-thru work well for me. Having base layers that will dry while wearing them can be a life-saver.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Wool vs Synthetic on 07/26/2006 15:17:30 MDT Print View

Wow, what a great article! I agree with Ken's comment on color. I wonder if the bias toward dark colors by Smartwool is a reflection of the stereotype that wool is only good in the cold. Despite the fact that they state otherwise on their site. They apparently are not immune to the stereotype. Ibex does a little better job of this, but their base layers are also predominately dark. Retailers are particularly bad at this, to my benefit. Wool always goes on sale before spring. My new favorite garment for hiking, the Shadow's Hoody, comes in a lighter color. I've used it comfortably up to 78° F with the zipper and hood down, and the sleeves up. This article reinforces my experience that wool is great in warm weather. Stretching out the benefits of evaporative cooling can be a good thing.

I suspect the lanolin content of wool has dropped as wool is processed more. Washing wool in the washing machine with detergent doesn't help either. Part of what makes wool work for sheep is lanolin. I wonder what effect adding lanolin back into the wool would have? Would it make it more resistant to moisture, or would that just mess with it's ability to wick? Would it be beneficial to add lanolin in the winter and wash it out in the summer?

One further comment on stink. Not only do synthetics get smelly faster but at some point it is almost impossible to get rid of the smell. After years of wearing Smartwool socks every day, they have not had this problem. My Ibex wool polo shirts, that I wear every day in the summer, don't seem to get pit stains or smell either.

Do you guys have any comments on the durability of wool vs synthetic? Did both sides of the clown shirts wear the same? My wool briefs will definitely outlast my cotton briefs.

Edited by ericnoble on 07/26/2006 15:22:17 MDT.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Wool colour and durability on 07/26/2006 16:23:53 MDT Print View

One of the things I like about many of Ibex's wool garments are the range of unusual colours(sometimes light) they come in. My favorite all around wool shirt is an Ibex Pacifico L/S (disc.) ----deep zip front and thumbholes. It's in yellow---light and bright. But, I'm eyeing a Shadow hoody.

My only real complaint about Merino Wool is it's durability. When wet, wool is very fragile. I once had a wool baselayer drying on the rocks on a mtneering trip. A gust of wind took it, stripping off the weigh-down rocks and dragged along a rocky bench. It's now an ex-baselayer----totally shreaded. A capilene shirt that went on a similar trip was totally unscathed.

Edited by kdesign on 07/26/2006 16:25:18 MDT.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
Permethrin on 07/26/2006 18:30:44 MDT Print View

What effect is there on the two fabrics when permethrin is applied?

Antonio Abad
(tonyabad) - F
RE: I Want a Shadow Hoody on 07/26/2006 22:39:55 MDT Print View

Ooooooo....the shadow hoody! I've been wanting to get my grubby hands on one for some time. It seems like the perfect base layer for the cooler months in my neck of the woods but the price is pretty steep. I'm hoping to find it on sale at some point so that I can team it up with my micropuff vest.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
re. Permethrin on 07/26/2006 23:09:54 MDT Print View

I've used Permethrin multiple times on both my Merino Wool and Capilene baselayers, outer shirts, and socks w/ no apparent deteriation of the fabrics.

two thumbs way up.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Shadow Hoody on 07/26/2006 23:22:12 MDT Print View

Two of my partners on a recent trek to the Arctic took a Shadow hoody and loved it. I took took the lighter (microweight) Spectrum Hoody, which is for girls.

As expected, my XL Spectrum Hoody (I'm usually an "M" in men's!) was, how shall we say, fashionable enough to show my hairy navel, so I hacked the bottom off of another merino shirt and sewed it to the hoody to extend its length. I resewed the hood so it had a more balaclava like feel, and I added (to the existing thumbcuffs) fold-over merino pajama mitts. The result was a hacked together garment that you'll have to pull off my dead body! I love it. I didn't take hat or gloves to the Arctic, neither did one of the other guys who wore a Shadow.

Just a great place to start for an all-purpose base layer.

Here's a picture of Roman and Jason, my partners, sporting their Shadows.

Roman Dial and Jason Geck in Arctic Alaska - Smartwool Shadow Hoody (photo: Ryan Jordan)

Edited by ryan on 07/26/2006 23:23:09 MDT.

Summit CO
(Summit) - F

Locale: 9300ft
Dark Colors on 07/27/2006 00:19:31 MDT Print View

speaking of permithren...

doesn't darkly colored clothing attract the mosquitos moreso than light colors?

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Shadow Hoody on 07/27/2006 08:11:42 MDT Print View

The one modification I made to my Shadow was to remove the stripes on the sleeves. They serve no purpose other than fashion. They only weighed 0.2 oz, but they would just be something extra to dry if they got wet. I plan on writing a review as soon as I have been out in it more.

Alan Amaya
(archeopteryx) - F
Smell after washing? on 07/27/2006 17:10:03 MDT Print View

How does the new Capilene fare in the odor department after being washed? I usually wash my base layers after a few uses and I've noticed that some (especially an older Capilene shirt and a very old polypropylene shirt) still smell after coming out of the wash, or will begin smelling during use much sooner than when they were new. Have the newer fabrics improved in this regard?

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Shadow hoody on 07/27/2006 17:35:07 MDT Print View

Who manufactures the Shadow hoody? I checked Patagonia and came up empty handed.

Eric Noble
(ericnoble) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Shadow hoody on 07/27/2006 17:37:06 MDT Print View


Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
smartwool hoody on 07/27/2006 17:55:28 MDT Print View

Thanks Eric!

Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
Paramo Mens Cambia Short Sleeve Tshirt on 07/30/2006 02:36:57 MDT Print View

A really good article and one that also took time and effort to put together, thanks!

I was looking at the Cambia Short Sleeve Tshirt by Paramo, link below. They are touting this as a 'Two in One' shirt. Wear it one way and it appranetly holds water against the skin to aid rapid cooling in hot weather with the smooth face of the fabric reducing the pooling of perspiration to eliminate cold spots after exercise.- yet still wicks. Turn it inside out and the honeycombed face of the fabric provides ‘dry’ comfort in cooler conditions.

Is this a practical shirt which 'Works' when worn either way or is it just manufacturers hype? After all, I could turn my underwear inside out and halve the underwear I take on the trail and claim they were a two in one garment! :-) (For the record - I don't do that!!!)

I was wondering if anyone had any experience of this using this top. I searched the site but could'nt come up with anything.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
Permethrin on 07/31/2006 17:30:51 MDT Print View

Kevin, I was wondering whether the Permethrin changed the performance of the fabrics in any discernable way. For example, does the merino wool dry quicker, breath less, etc.?

James Loy
(jimbluz) - M

Locale: Pacific NW
Smartwool Liner Socks on 08/01/2006 16:34:55 MDT Print View

I have had poor results from this product having had the first pair develop a hole in the toe after 27 miles of hiking, and the second pair experienced the same thing after only 10 miles. I am using them with Salomon Tech Amphibians and my toenails are properly trimmed. I emailed Smartwool about this but have as yet received no reply. Has anyone else tried these socks?