Rating: 5 / 5
What are the factors that lead to high rating for a base layer clothing item? In my opinion the item must stand up to a number of factors. These include, in no particular order, comfort, durability, wicking/drying, weight, odor resistance and warming/cooling. Put a base layer piece to these tests and see what comes out in the wash.
The Arc'Teryx Ether series, made from a fabric called Vivital are extremely lightweight pieces available in both short and long sleeves. I wear both both shirts individually as well as together depending on the situation.
Comfort: The Vivital fabric is a very smooth weave and feels good on the skin in all conditions. Even after a hand scrubbing in cold river water the SS went on comfortably. Arc'teryx uses painted-on technology for size information at the back of the neck so that an annoying tag isn't in the way. They also infuse a small logo at the breast so no stitching will irritate the skin.
Durabilty: I wore these shirts day in and day out for the duration of a 61 day thru-hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail and although by the end the short sleeve shirt which was a light blue in color was showing serious signs of sweat and dirt the construction showed little to no signs of wear. Both shirts were poked and prodded by miles of bushwhacks (many times quite harshly), rubbed countless times by backpack straps and twisted and pulled by my hands when I'd hand wash them in lakes and streams.
Drying: The notion of a clothing item being quick-dry is quite commonplace in the outdoor gear industry but aside from pure nylon nothing has come close to drying as quickly and effortlessly as these shirts. Taking them out of the lake, giving them a quick wring between the hands and putting them on is all it takes. If the sun is out you will be wearing dry clothes within minutes. This
Weight: Arc'Teryx (who in my opinion have accurate factory gear weights) rates their short sleeve shirt at 104g and the long at 132g. The fabric is very thin and when held to the light can nearly be seen through. They are some of the lightest shirts on the market.
Odor resistance: I have no real quantifiable way of measuring this as I smell quite rank myself when I'm hiking. I've laundered the shirts after heavy sweat and they seem clean to me but I've been informed before that my tolerance of cleanliness is much lower than others.
Warming/cooling: These shirts are not warm and one should not consider them as such. When worn under a wind shirt or lofted insulating jacket they provide just what they are described as - a base layer. One should instead consider their abilities as a cooling piece. The lightweight, highly wicking fabric is superb at moving perspiration away from your body and sending it off into the air, cooling you as it goes. Arc'Teryx makes them in a number of colors both light and dark. Although staining easier, the lighter colors will help to reflect sunlight keeping you cooler.