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Merino or Synthetic base layers?
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Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
other considerations on 10/09/2010 14:20:06 MDT Print View

I think alot of your choice has to do with your activity level also. I am not into exterme sports or climbing or going up to the top of a mountain. Even baggy wool works great for me then because I am not exerting myself to the Nth degree and if your arms are more down than up that armpit area is going to get covered. I may sweat a little but it is from the usual areas and it dries pretty quick.

I think some other variables are the techniques you want to use. I am sure those people going up the trails in Japan are probably getting very wet with that much rain but then again, I wouldn't do that. I would probably hike for two hours and then rest for about one under some trees and dry off a bit before repeating. I have been in all day big and heavy rainstorms around here outside with my rain jacket, trash bag rain skirt and watersocks and have gotten damp but not wet from the air but I am sure they are really pushing themselves.

As for getting wet, I bring more that one shirt that can be used as a baselayer. If it is hot I have my T and a longsleeve hiking shirt to be used separately for different conditions or as a layering system. If it is cool/cold I have my hoody and a T because conditions change and it also makes a good layering system and a good backup one. When you are done for the day you just pop the other out and nod off and the wet one dries while you are sleeping.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
wicking on 10/09/2010 14:26:08 MDT Print View

im not going to get into an internet argument ;)

here are the best resource i know of online ...

every resource on base layers shows the same thing ... a base layer should be light, tight and wicking in order to work properly ...

you MAY end up being warm and damp by circumstance ... but dampness by choice is a great way to get hypothermic in deep winter

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
:) on 10/09/2010 14:31:55 MDT Print View

No problen Eric. :)

I usually end up warm and damp in winter. If i've got it right.:)

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Re: Merino on 10/09/2010 14:46:07 MDT Print View

""3. the purpose of a base layer is to wick away moisture from to the outer layers, thus thinner is better ... if you want warmth ,,, wear a thicker insulating layer ... i see a lot of people buy thick merino and use it like a light sweater"

Sorry Eric, but i disagree with you.
The purpose of a baselayer is to feel comfortable next to skin.

I'm with Eric regarding the purpose of a baselayer. The whole point of it is to wick moisture away from your body and keep you dry. This is the generally accepted purpose of an inner layer by pretty much everyone. Look up any article on clothing layering and it'll say this. Example:

Some folk might prefer to feel cold and dry, i like to feel warm, and maybe damp.
No one has said anything about wanting to feel cold. You're misrepresenting others by framing this as a choice between cold & dry versus warm & maybe damp. Dry is warm. We all want to be as dry as possible and at a comfortable temperature. Synthetics allow me to be drier than I have been able to achieve with merino. I stay at a comfortable temperature using my other layers if need be.

"When you are done for the day you just pop the other [wool shirt] out and nod off and the wet one dries while you are sleeping."

I've never got a wet wool baselayer hanging in my shelter to dry overnight.

"Wool is exothermic, so it should keep you at whatever temp you are at"
BPL on this: "The discernible effect, if any, is mostly the comfort of the fabric against the skin. The actual heat generated is too small to have a significant warming effect for your body."

Edited by dandydan on 10/09/2010 14:51:59 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
stockings on 10/09/2010 14:49:46 MDT Print View

here's a bit of levity ...

you know what's an awesome base layer for the legs? .... women's nylon stockings !!!!

super light, super wicking, dries super fast, non chaffing

feels super nice (oh my!!!)

and super cheap ...

crossdressing in the backountry does pay off =P

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Merino on 10/09/2010 15:19:32 MDT Print View

Sorry Dan. Dry doesn't always = warm.
I've been dry and cold many times.
I'm not talking about theory, but my experience.
I hike in a different climate from you, so maybe different rules apply.

Eric Fredricksen
(efredricksen) - MLife

Locale: Silicon Valley
Merino for me too on 10/09/2010 16:05:53 MDT Print View

I don't like the stink of synthetic, and it also feels uncomfortable to me. Kind of hot and cold at the same time.

All those sheep can't be wrong.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Merino on 10/09/2010 16:43:17 MDT Print View

Hi Mike

> Wool is exothermic, so it should keep you at whatever temp you are at.

A much vaunted advantage, but when tested in the Lab the effect is found to be very close to zero. Yes, we did test it (at CSIRO Textile Physics).

I find the synthetics to be more comfortable, and faster drying.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Merino for me too on 10/09/2010 16:44:51 MDT Print View

> All those sheep can't be wrong.
They also get turned into lamb chops. So much for logic.


Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Merino or Synthetic base layers? on 10/09/2010 16:47:02 MDT Print View

Over the past 30 years I have tried both. In recent times I have gone to wool. I started out with a light tight fitting simple crew neck design. Then I decided that I wanted something even lighter with a higher neck and a zip for better heat regulation (hot and cool). I didn't get this design in such a tight fit (they just didn't seem to be styled as tight) and agree with Eric that this was mistake. However it is good for warmer conditions, but is compromised in terms of performing a true base layer.

I prefer the feel of wool next to the skin, but I haven't found it very durable and holes have appeared after washing in a top loading machine. For cool weather I am probably going to go back to the tighter wool fit, maybe with a buff to keep my neck warm. I am also going to try one of the newer synthetics, as i want something quicker drying for when it is wet.

I have to come clean and admit to trying the whole stockings thing back in the day. It could explain a lot :).

Edited by jephoto on 10/09/2010 16:56:36 MDT.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
why not both? on 10/09/2010 17:04:28 MDT Print View

Why not just bring a short sleeved poly or poly blend for the warm stuff and a longsleeved wool for when it is cooler?

The Patagonia Merino 1/2 stuff is also a blend if you want a little good out of each.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Re: Merino on 10/09/2010 17:07:40 MDT Print View

"Sorry Dan. Dry doesn't always = warm.
I've been dry and cold many times."

I think my post was pretty clear that when it's a choice between being dry or wet, dry will be warmer. I wasn't saying that when you're dry then you're guaranteed to be warm.

I can certainly understand the arguments that wool is more comfortable and less smelly. I don't have a problem with the comfort or smelly-ness of synthetics but I can see how people would prefer merino for these reasons. If I was guaranteed nice dry hiking conditions then I would consider merino. I just don't like having to deal with it in really sloppy conditions and I like to be prepared for the worst.

Last month I was out hiking for 8 days and we had several days straight of rain & snow. Doing laundry in these conditions wasn't feasible because there was really no way to hang dry stuff with the humidity and frequent precipitation. My 1.9oz synthetic tee shirt was great because it dried quickly if I got it wet, and if I wanted to wash it I could wring it out, put it back on and have it dry again very quickly. That kept me a lot more warm and comfortable than a damp merino shirt would have.

Edited by dandydan on 10/09/2010 17:15:26 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
quick test on 10/09/2010 17:22:29 MDT Print View

here's a quick test some old geezer showed me to determine if a base layer dries quick enough

before you sleep wring soak yr layer totally in water for a few minutes ... wring it out ... and go to sleep with it next to your skin

if you can
- fall asleep comfortably
- the layer is dry when you wake up

it passes ...

if it doesnt it fails

in cold humid, or just darn cold environments ... body heat is the only thing that can dry out your clothes (or the stove but you dont want to waste fuel thats needed for melting)

try it for yourselves and decide

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Merino on 10/09/2010 17:31:35 MDT Print View

"I find the synthetics to be more comfortable, and faster drying."

+1 And more durable in the bargain.

Brett Peugh
(bpeugh) - F - M

Locale: Midwest
drying wool on 10/09/2010 22:25:16 MDT Print View

Well, I took a Patagonia Wool 3 in XL and soaked in cold water for about 3 minutes. It seemed to dry in a little over 6 hours by itself so it is possible to dry the wool when you are sleeping. Granted it was in a small closet like a tent and it is not too humid out but I think I could still put it on in the morning and dry it with body heat pretty fast.

Edited by bpeugh on 10/09/2010 22:31:42 MDT.

John Davis
(Bukidnon) - F
Merino or Synthetic base layers? on 10/10/2010 00:04:44 MDT Print View

Brett, you can't beat experimentation.

Also, if your walk concludes with a long descent, you should be pretty dry by the time you find a pitch. On a recent trip where I was able to enjoy 11 straight days of showery weather, I kept my eVent jacket on while pitching the tarp, collecting water and finding a few handfuls of air-dried birch. By the time I got under the tarp, I was completely dry.

I find if I climb a hill shirtless, I get sweaty. If it is humid, I get sweatier. Any clothing aggravates the problem. The more I have to wear, the wetter I get. The only time I have ever walked vigorously without feeling damp on my skin was in the American desert, where the rate of evaporation was impressive. My solution on most of my recent trips (Scotland and the Pyrenees) has been a combination of wool and synthetics.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Re: drying wool on 10/10/2010 03:58:23 MDT Print View

"I took a Patagonia Wool 3 in XL and soaked in cold water for about 3 minutes. It seemed to dry in a little over 6 hours by itself so it is possible to dry the wool when you are sleeping."

Your house is likely far warmer and much less humid than the inside of your tent on an average night. This will have a huge effect on drying time.

To do this test accurately, you'd need to simulate the average nightly temperature and humidity in your tent (40F & 95% maybe?) which is really hard to simulate, so it would be best to just try it. I've tried it on a couple occasions but I've never been able to get a merino shirt go from wrung out to pretty much dry just by hanging it inside my tent for 1 night. Next time you go out, bring a spare shirt just to try this and see for yourself. Often it will be drier, but still quite a ways from dry.

Ideally you'd also use a scale so you know how close to it's dry weight the shirt is really at. Merino can hold a lot of moisture while 'seeming' fairly dry, so there can be a long damp period before you actually arrive at a dry shirt.

My wild guess is that your shirt would take 3-5x as long to dry in average night-time conditions in a tent.

On a recent hike I had 2 pairs of socks. Both of similar thickness but one pair was synthetic and the other was 100% wool. Normally when my socks are wet I wring them out and wear them to bed where my foot heat can dry them. I have done this in the past often with my synthetic socks. Usually the socks are mostly dry in about 2 hours (which is how long it usually takes me to fall asleep anyways). After 2 hours they start to provide noticeable insulation to my feet and I would estimate they are 100% dry around the 3-4 hour mark.

On this trip, one night I dried my synthetic socks using this technique and then the next night I went to do the same thing with my wool socks expecting a similar result. After a couple hours they didn't feel any drier. I fell asleep and woke up a few times and finally around the 5-6 hour point I just took them off because they still weren't even close to dry. They were still stealing heat instead of insulating and thus keeping my feet cold. I'm not bringing 100% wool socks again because I can't reliably dry them once they are wet and it's really easy to get socks wet.

Edited by dandydan on 10/10/2010 04:36:54 MDT.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re:"Merino or Synthetic base layers?" on 10/10/2010 04:04:17 MDT Print View

What are the circumstances that you guys are getting your shirt soaked, and need to dry it?
My merino base never comes off, wether it's a weekend or week or more. I might wash it at the end of a trip to meet the 'public'. :)

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Re: Re:"Merino or Synthetic base layers?" on 10/10/2010 04:29:38 MDT Print View

"What are the circumstances that you guys are getting your shirt soaked, and need to dry it?"

My goal is to be prepared for the worst conditions that I might reasonably encounter. Aside from washing, my shirts do not get soaked on a regular basis, but it does happen occasionally and I like to be able to recover my comfort quickly if it does.

Some possible ways to get your shirt soaked:

1) Washing it when the weather appears well suited for hang drying the shirt, but then the weather takes a turn for the worse and you can't hang dry it.

2) Falling while crossing a stream.

3) Not putting your rain gear on quick enough because you had more important things to do. This summer my wife and I were on an alpine ridge and a rain system blew in quickly. She was already really cold so I helped her get her rain gear on to ensure she stayed dry rather than donning mine immediately. By this point I was half wet and she was still really cold, so I opted to set up the tent next to get her inside to warm up. By this point I was soaked but it didn't really matter because I got in the tent also, wrung out my shirt and it was dry relatively shortly. It rained all night and was 100% humidity so I don't think any hanging clothes would have dried at all.

4) Going fishing away from camp while your mostly dry shirt is hanging on a clothes line back at camp to air out those last traces of hiking sweat. I asked my wife to take it down if it started to rain. It started to rain and she forgot all about the shirt :)

5) Losing your rain jacket

6) Having your rain jacket fail you by not being waterproof in extended rain.

That's just a few examples. None of them are very common, but the collective risk is high enough that a soaked shirt does happen least to me.

With a very lightweight synthetic shirt, my soaked shirt strategy is to get somewhere protected, wring out the shirt and wear it until it's dry which doesn't take long. With merino, my strategy would be different because it's not feasible to sit in your tent wearing a wet merino shirt waiting for it to dry. With merino I would wring it out and take it off if it was truly soaked. I would do without it that night and then hopefully the weather the next day would be warm and dry enough that I could hike in it to dry it. If the next day was still cold and rainy then I probably wouldn't wear it because it would make me colder and it wouldn't dry very fast.

Edited by dandydan on 10/10/2010 04:40:11 MDT.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re:"Merino or Synthetic base layers?" on 10/10/2010 04:39:54 MDT Print View

Fair enough if you need that mental protection. Personally i've never had any of those things happen to me in the past, so i don't worry about it. As i said, i never take it off. My base has only become damp, and still remains comfortable, and that's sometimes been in a week of rain.