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The Future of Baselayers
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Maia Jordan
(maia) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
The Future of Baselayers on 11/06/2012 18:45:05 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

The Future of Baselayers

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: The Future of Baselayers on 11/06/2012 21:12:20 MST Print View

Good read...I think you are correct, but only in colder weather. For warmer weather, ie above 40F, I still use UL Merino may not dry as quickly, but certainly does NOT cause the rapid cooling I have experienced with various synthetics.

I oftem leav it on for a period, till I feel chilled. Then replace it with a heavy weight, dry, shirt...usually smartwool, sometimes a heavy weight synthetic. A lot has to do with how you use the various fabrics. A thickier heavy weight dries about as quick as a light weight wool. For hiking, the light weight wools are great at distributing sweat, offering better cooling.


Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
The Future of Baselayers on 11/06/2012 23:14:33 MST Print View

Good read! However, I like the Patagucci idea (65 wool, 35 polyester) better. With only 15% wool, IMHO, I might as well have all polyester.

Interesting that the article confirms that polyester absorbs a lot less moisture but that wool feels drier! I've noticed this, too. I did a test with Thorlo (synthetic) and Smartwool socks of approximately the same thickness. I washed both in the washing machine and hung them to dry on a warm summer's day (but indoors). The Smartwool were dry, or at least felt completely dry, several hours sooner.

Kirt Williams
(kirt_williams) - MLife
Rab MeCo fabric: the best of both worlds on 11/07/2012 10:59:06 MST Print View

As always, I appreciate you taking meaningful real-world measurements!

I have loved merino wool over the past decade for its low-odor properties. It definitely doesn't wick as fast as polyester, but I feel comfortable even when there are some damp spots on my shirt. It would make sense that adding some polyester, maybe a third by volume, could improve the wicking ability over pure merino. I don't see the point in weaving a fabric with just a small percentage of merino wool.

After reading a review about the Rab MeCo in another backpacking magazine, I purchased their 120-weight short-sleeve shirt. The MeCo is a blend of 65% merino wool (the "Me" part) and 35% polyester that contains tiny particles of charcoal made from coconut husks (the "Co" part). One would hope that the charcoal would absorb odorant molecules, and I can say that it really works. After a long day hike, I'll smell some odor when removing the shirt. After letting it sit in my tent overnight, the odor is gone. It's really impressive. It does wick better than pure merino, but not as fast as pure polyester. I have just worn this shirt a few times, so I can't comment on long-term durability.

My 120 g/m2 Rab MeCo shirt in size L weighs 4.7 oz, while my 140 g/m2 Icebreaker Superfine merino shirts in size XL weigh 6.0 oz (the XL is a little looser fit). For another data point, my Icebreaker 180 weighs 7.5 oz. I prefer the lighter-weight shirts for hikes on warm days.

I also purchased the Rab MeCo 120-weight long underwear, which were difficult to find in the US. In size L, the waist band before stretching is only 24 inches. It does stretch out to the 34 inches that I need, but they are way too tight.

(tordnado) - MLife

Locale: Europe
Smelly!! on 11/07/2012 11:44:40 MST Print View

How good idea is it to put syntethics in the armpit!? I guess I dont have to explain why it is a bad idea!

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: The Future of Baselayers on 11/07/2012 13:06:40 MST Print View

Interesting read. $70 for an undershirt puts me off a bit. It might be worthwhile for expedition-level use. I like polyester base layers and ones with a more open weave like the Cap2. They cost less, weigh less and are easier to maintain.

What I expect from a base layer is to move moisture out away from my skin and trap a layer of warm air. It is the first link in transporting moisture to and through any mid layer insulation and on out through a shell. To me, that means hydrophobic fabrics are superior. If it dries 25% faster, it is transferring faster too. I don't want the moisture trapped in a cellular structure.

Testing fabric drying times with the fabric exposed to air might represent a base layer worn alone as you would during exertion in fair weather, but I don't think it fully represents the conditions in a multi-layered system. If working well, it should be like a bucket brigade, with each layer moving the moisture to the outside while minimizing air flow and heat loss.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: The Future of Baselayers on 11/07/2012 16:29:14 MST Print View

Good article. My favorite baselayer is a Mountain Hardwear Cliffer LS T (15% merino wool/ 85% poly). Medium weighs 4.97 oz. I have a couple of these.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: baselayer dry times on 11/07/2012 17:43:57 MST Print View

"If working well, it should be like a bucket brigade, with each layer moving the moisture to the outside while minimizing air flow and heat loss."

Agreed. I've got another article on the midlayer component which just went in for editing.

For testing purposes, I needed to minimize variables.

For backcountry stuff I don't care about stink. What I do take issue with is the funky, crusty feel I get from an all-poly baselayer worn for days on end with little chance to air it out (i.e. winter). The comfort of wool becomes more relevant then.

Edited by DaveC on 11/07/2012 17:45:47 MST.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: The Future of Baselayers on 11/08/2012 08:37:23 MST Print View


Thanks for the good work. I've done similar reviews of my own garment options but my sloppy work pales compared to your systematic review of things. If I recall correctly I concluded that polypro retained the least water by weight and dried faster than the other base layer options I tested (mostly polyesters).

One of the puzzling results of my testing was that an old fuzzed up orlon sweater "felt" the warmest-when-wet of the garments I tested. It felt more like a wool shirt. I suspect that it might have something to do with the thousands of small hairs that made up the fuzz. But I'm not sure.

Another surprising observation (to me) was how warm I felt with a cotton t-shirt pulled over a polypro top (with a windbreaker over everything). I'm guessing that the cotton t-shirt wicked away sweat from the polypro so it felt warmer against my skin. Again, just guessing here.


Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
baselayer blends on 11/08/2012 10:03:42 MST Print View

I've been using a couple of the newer blended Patagonia Merino 1 shirts for the last year or so. I initially bought them thinking they were an ultra thin and light pure merino shirt. It was only after wearing them a couple of times that I realized they couldn't be pure merino and checked the label to confirm. Sure enough; they were about 2/3 merino and 1/3 poly.

Compared to a pure merino baselayer say like a Ibex 150, the merino poly blend shirts are significantly lighter, thinner and dry faster. I can't wear most pure merino shirts outside of the winter; they're just too hot. But these Merino 1 blends are so thin and airy I can comfortably wear them for hot weather or high energy output pursuits. As for cons, the poly will still allow the shirt to hold a little more stink than a pure merino shirt.

I also haven't found the poly blend to have any major improvement in minimizing or avoiding pilling on the back or shoulders, nor does the poly seem to really help the shirt hold its shape better. But these are minor gripes for a workout/hiking shirt.

Compared to a pure poly shirt, the blended shirts seem to dry almost as fast and are much more comfortable to wear when damp with sweat. I doubt the merino blends would be as durable as something like a Cap2 for bushwhacking (and I have yet to try it). I seem to be able to get an extra day or two out of the merino blends before they start to stink as bad the pure poly baselayers.

So far I'm reasonably happy with these shirts. I'd still like to try an ultrathin pure merino shirt to compare against them.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: The Future of Baselayers on 11/09/2012 21:27:36 MST Print View

I enjoyed the article, Dave. Many thanks for the considerable effort involved. FWIW, I bought a Helly Hansen wool/ synthetic blend LS base layer about 5 years ago but gave up on it as the wool was not Merino and irritated my skin. Recently I checked their website and they now have a hybrid base layer that combines a LIFA inner layer with a Merino outer layer. I believe LIFA is their proprietary polyester fabric. I have used it by itself in years past and it behaves like polypro, including the stink. The combo of a wicking inner layer with an insulating outer layer sort of intrigues me. What do you think of the concept?

a b
Re: Re: Re: The Future of Baselayers on 11/10/2012 21:27:35 MST Print View

It is interesting to see the comments on open weave of base layers.
Back during the second world war, people in my dad's village in Cornwall England were paid to weave "fishing net" long underwear out of wool for the commandos.
Actually at the time he said they weren't sure what the clothing was for but years later they surmised it's use.
I guess you could make the joke that it was fishnet underwear.. cause it literally was.
You see, Pendeen Penzance was home to tin mines and fishing.
They chose these folks to weave the clothing because they had experience weaving nets.
The loose weave of the net underwear would not hold water but still trapped air pockets so the commandos could go from the cold waters of the English channel onto land and still have some insulation without retaining a lot of heavy water in their clothes.
Maybe those oldtimers knew some things about insulation and moisture control we are re-discovering today.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
The Future of Baselayers on 11/10/2012 22:10:05 MST Print View

Re 2-layer underwear: Duofold used this idea way back when, in the late 1940's if not before. Of course back then, the inner layer was cotton and the outer was the itchy type wool. I grew up wearing the stuff!

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Re: fishnet underwear on 11/10/2012 22:46:08 MST Print View

I had some fishnet underwear in the 1970s-1980s. I might even have some slides with me wearing fishnet underwear.

Fishnet was not very good at keeping me warm. The slightest air circulation chilled me quickly, like a wet suit that's too big. I wore a fishnet T-shirt in hot weather without over layers because it kept me cooler!

Fleece and polypro were major improvements!

You can still find fishnet long underwear and t-shirts designed for insulation rather than entertainment.

Youngsters: a "slide" was analog film technology for taking excellent photographs before digital cameras, which were before smart phones, which were before Google glasses ... Oh bother, just check Wikipedia using your neural implant:

a b
Re: Re: fishnet underwear on 11/10/2012 22:55:29 MST Print View

Awesome visual Rex!
We need Richard Niseley's input on at what point the pockets of trapped air become small enough to be capable of reducing convection.
I really wish i could find a picture of what my Dad was talking about.
The way he makes it sound it was quite a wide mesh but that was a long time agon and he was a young child.
Of course, there is the possibility that even a loose mesh was warmer than solid wet wool clothing in the days before neoprene.

Hey Rex, I love that you chided me about slides cause i chide my younger co-worker about big spinning vinyl discs, the size of dinner plates, with grooves cut in them that make sounds when a piezo electric needle is placed on them.
Ditto, rotary dialed phones that cost an actual dime.

i love gettin' old.


Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: The Future of Baselayers on 11/11/2012 00:14:40 MST Print View

We just need to build some robotic sheep.

Edited by justin_baker on 11/11/2012 00:15:23 MST.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Fishnet on 11/11/2012 08:44:41 MST Print View

I experimented with both cotton and wool fishnet tops in the early 70s. Gave up on them when I got my hands on some polypro.

A wet cotton fishnet top is one soggy mess when it geats soaked with rain or sweat. Don't plan on it drying until you are home unless you have some warm dry weather.

joe newton

Locale: Bergen, Norway
Mesh on 11/11/2012 09:00:01 MST Print View

String/mesh base-layers still going strong and working well here in Norway.


(Ryan can be seen wearing one here - )

and Aclima:

Just don't walk into a restaurant or bar on the way home from a hike/ski/ride wearing just the mesh shirt...

Lars Laird Iversen
(larslaird) - M
String-mesh! on 11/12/2012 00:10:19 MST Print View

I love my Brynje Antartic! Though not lightweight in itself, it is base + mid but increadibly versatile! Even if I work up a sweat and then take a break, I stay warm and comfortable.

To me, it´s the paramo of baselayers. Heavy, not very sexy and a bit weird - but with magic properties.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: String-mesh! on 11/13/2012 09:27:57 MST Print View

The polypro fish net is something I'd like to give another try.

Chart near the bottom of this link shows a drying time that is about half of the drying time for solid polypro.


Doesn't look like it is easily available in the USA, however.

Edited by lyrad1 on 11/13/2012 09:40:48 MST.