Base Layer Guide
Wicking Base Layer Buying Guide
If you want to stay comfortable whilst you are out on the hill, it is important to start by looking at what you are wearing next to your skin. The key principle to have in mind is that of keeping your body dry. It is quite common to see somebody spend a great deal of time, effort and money getting the best waterproof jacket they can find, but are then perfectly happy to wear it with a cheap cotton t-shirt. No matter how good your jacket is, if they layers underneath are absorbing moisture, cotton being the main culprit, you are not going to be dry and comfortable. There are a range of base layers on the market, some designed to keep you dry, others designed to keep you warm and dry. See below a brief run through of the different types available on the market.
Synthetic base layers
These are the most common type of base layer found on the market; these are often made from either polyester or polypropylene. The synthetic fibres allow moisture to wick away from your body and on out through your upper layers of clothing. By keeping moisture away from your skin, body heat will be lost less rapidly, meaning you stay warmer in cooler weather.
There is a difference in performance between base layers made from polyester and polypropylene. Polyester base layers are hardwearing, and work efficiently to keep you cool whilst active. Polypropylene base layers absorb less water, keeping you dryer, and transports heat less rapidly, helping to keep you warmer.
Wool base layers
If you are after a base layer to wear when the temperature drops, wool base layers are the popular choice, most commonly in the form of merino wool. This is wool from a specific breed of mountain sheep which produce finer, softer and less absorbent wool that lowland sheep commonly produce. Merino wool works to help regulate your body temperature, helping to keep you cool when it is warm outside and warm when the mercury drops. Merino also has natural antibacterial properties, helping to keep body odour to a minimum when used on extended expeditions.
Hybrid base layers
Offering a combination of both synthetic and merino wool base layers, there are a number of hybrid products available, helping to better regulate your body temperature. These can come in the form of a polypropylene layer for wicking with a merino layer on top for insulation, such as the Helly Hansen Ice Crew topes. Taking this principle to the next level, there are products which employ the body mapping principle, such as the Mammut All Year tops, which has different material panels to optimise wicking and insulation.