Your go-to baselayer: Thick or thin?

12:19 a.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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So, I used to believe that two sets of baselayers was ideal: One winter "expedition weight" set, and one mid-weight set for the rest of the time.

I have since discovered that all I want my baselayer to do is effectively wick moisture, even at the expense of insulation. My logic is that, for a baselayer to work at its best, it should be dry; the faster it dries after getting wet, the better it will be able to continue doing its thing; thinner baselayers dry faster than thicker ones; hence, the thinnest baselayer should wick the "best."

Insulation is best left to one's insulating layers, methinks. A thick baselayer, like a Patagonia R1 suit (a heavy version of Polartec's "PowerDry" fabric), while warmer than a mid-weight set like Patagonia's Capilene 2s, will not dry nearly as fast. This could leave one, after a long day of backpacking, with a semi-wet set of baselayers no matter how conscious one is of their own thermo-regulation. So then, you're getting into your bag in damp baselayers, which is really never a good thing.

I'm already sold on the concept, as the uber-light baselayer thing has worked extremely well for me ever since I started implementing it. My Smartwool NTS set weighs all of 8 ounces total. They dry in a flash, which keeps them doing their job: wicking sweat away from my skin. Their feather-light weight means that I can often bring along a more substantial midlayer, which means me being actually warmer, for the same weight.

Anyone else subscribe to this line of thought? What do you do for baselayers? I live in a fairly temperate area, so I imagine what works for me might not work for someone in Alaska or Scotland.

2:32 a.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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Hiking in base layers? Naw.

I generally get too warm in base layers while under way.  In any case I like to keep my camp long johns free of sweat, period.  My in-camp base layers are synthetic, heavy weight – I prefer expedition weight base layer over more bulky mid layer items for warmth. 

If I must buddle up while exercising, I find the tights cyclists use as very effective for both warmth and sweat management.  On top I’ll go with a Hawaiian shirt as the day time base layer, as it too does a fine job at sweat management.

Ed

11:31 a.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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Base layer bottoms I nearly always use mid weight as the lightweight gets too sticky and feels like it does not dry out. I never go with Heavyweight as it is just too bulky.  If I need more warmth I use fleece pants and/or boxer briefs.

Top I vary as any combination seems to work here.  Definitely better is the base layer is form fitting.

11:45 a.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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My base layer is a thin wool. My insulating layers are currently synthetics of varying weights, and either down or primaloft over that.  My plan is to replace the synthetics with two sets of wool: a midweight and a heavy/expedition weight. 

Unless it is really quite cold I do not hike in base layer bottoms, just my pants. I do wear my base layer top, as I can strip everything else off and just wear it as a shirt if I get too warm. Once I stop, or if it is bitterly cold, the layers go on as needed.

12:15 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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One base layer, thin.  I have capilene, merino and silk.  I prefer the capilene as its cheaper to replace and all around effective.  

The silk is, well, silky.  Which has never been uncomfortable, but it leaves me feeling vulnerable.  Purely psychological.  LOL    Its strange.  I wear it occasionally though.  

The merino I use for longer trips unless the temperatures could be moderate, then I stick with capilene.

12:27 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

Hiking in base layers? Naw.

I generally get too warm in base layers while under way.

Ed

 Hey Ed, Just curious, in winter hiking without a base layer, what is your first layer against your skin?  I always like something snug, and/but am interested in your view. 

Thanks 

Mozee

1:06 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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I use middle weight for both top and bottoms. I only wear polypro and only in extreme cold weather. I carry it but often never wear it. I like just layering instead.

1:36 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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I prefer lightweight.  I liked how a very thin wicking sock worked under a basic wool sock (feel it still works better than any new-fangled sock blend or attempt to get it down to a single sock rather than layered), so I applied that same technique to the rest of me.  If it can successfully regulate the most demanding part of my body, the rest of me will surely be good to go.

2:16 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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my baselayer are thin marmot polypro. I am warm blooded and only need a light baselayer with my other layers. I like to regulate the warmth by adding and subtracting clothing while hikimg.

2:49 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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which layer i wear depends on a couple of factors - how cold it is outside and how hard i plan to be working that day, primarily. 

on really cold days, i wear expedition-weight synthetic or wool as a baselayer - more likely to be synthetic if i expect hard climbing or carrying a lot of weight b/c i expect to sweat more.  expedition-weight capilene 'wears dry' very well.  warmer conditions, i'll wear a thin baselayer (again, wool or synthetic) underneath so i can strip off the outer layers if needed. 

while it is true that the lighter synthetic layers won't cause you to overheat as quickly and dry a little faster, which is good, i think you also have to be careful with evaporative cooling in cold weather and regulate your core temperature by adding layers carefully when your output slows - otherwise, you can lower your core temperature in a way that can put you at risk.  i agree it's not good to drench your layers with sweat by overdressing, but those mid-layers always get a little damp (for me anyway) when i'm working hard and adding/subtracting layers as i go.  the trick, for me, is to choose midlayers that will ultimately dry without too much thought while wearing them at the end of the day.   

ps - the layer i'll wear on my legs is almost always lighter than what i wear on top. 

5:01 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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I go lightweight as well. Merino wool wins, always seems to for me. Woolpower has a line called "Woolpower lite' which is 100g/m. It is really soft against the skin, wicks, dries and never stinks. Can't ask for much more from a base layer!

5:06 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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I wear Melino wool  socks year round. In winter I wear cotton tube socks underneath the wool ones. In summer just the wool socks with my hiking shoes. I rarely wear boots anymore, just in snowy winter climes.

I wear layers with a tshirt, longsleeve shirt, a windbreaker/rain coat or fleece. My legs have nylon zipoff pants and ruuning shorts beneath.

7:31 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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MoZee said:

whomeworry said:

Hiking in base layers? Naw.

I generally get too warm in base layers while under way.

Ed

 Hey Ed, Just curious, in winter hiking without a base layer, what is your first layer against your skin?  I always like something snug, and/but am interested in your view. 

Thanks 

Mozee

Sometimes just the Hawaiian shirt and shorts, sometimes cycling tights under the shorts and a fleece top over the Hawaiian shirt.  I prefer looser fitting clothes while exercising, it helps manage the sweat.  I'd rather be a little chilly than too warm and sweating.  If its really cold (below 10 degrees) I'll go with a base layer of cycling tights on bottom, and long sleeve thermal cycling top.  The key is I also use a wind shell and vent it to modulate temperature variations.

My system isn't for everybody, however.  I'll be good in a still breeze just wearing a balaclava, a base layer top under a fleece top, and cycling tights under shorts while standing around camp in the mid 40s; meanwhile my companions are wearing multiple mid layers under a shell.

Ed

7:53 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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I used to go thick but have switched in recent years to a much thinner baselayer.  I also just received a Brynje mesh top so I will start with that and layer over a merino top.  My latest favorite merino piece is by I/O Bio and is a half zip with a hood.  So far I really like the piece and the range of temperatures I am comfotable in is very large.

http://www.io-bio.com/product/glory-zip

10:11 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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During warmer weather I use a EMS Techwik s/s shirt and a l/s columbia hiking shirt. Colder weather I use capaline 2 bottoms, and a capaline 3 l/s top.

Here is an article from BPL that has alot of useful information and is worth a read.

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/comfort_moisture_transport_wool_synthetic_clothing.html

11:27 p.m. on December 12, 2011 (EST)
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thin

12:21 a.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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I hike, ski, and climb in a much wider range of temperatures than most people. So as a base "layer" (which can be as many as 3 layers), I mix and match everything from light, to medium, to expedition, to a Marmot "Stretch" suit (a one-piece like a Ninja suit minus the sleeves). Summer calls for only briefs/boxers and maybe a T-shirt next to the skin. Winter calls for separate top and bottom most of the time (sometimes different weights), while expeditions in the Alaska Range or Antarctica as well as backcountry ski tours in Utah/Idaho/Wyoming/BC may call for light plus medium plus expedition plus the ninja suit (-40C and lower calls for a lot, especially when standing around).

The insulation layers are also often multilayered and can be fleece, merino, and/or down or Primaloft fill.These have to be breathable to let the moisture out.

The outer W can be just a wind shirt or it can be a wp/b eVent (usually) or Goretex shell and/or bibs.

In my avatar, I have midweight long john bottom and top, ninja suit, and goretex bibs. Sometimes on approaches over the glacier in a glacial valley, where the geometry makes it a reflector oven, I will wear long john top and bottom plus a pair of shorts, no other layers. The long johns are the white ones in that case to protect against UV plus reflect the heat somewhat. It may seem silly or dorky, but this is common attire in the PNW and in the Alaska Range, where it can be really hot in the glacier reflector oven, then really cold when you get in the shade.

Materials - mostly polyester, such as Capilene (Capilene doesn't come in white, so there I use Campmor store brand - Capilene does not pick up odors, but the Campmor sometimes does). I do have Merino - a hoodie that the American Alpine Club got a special deal on with the club logos on it, and a couple of shirts that are nominally long-john tops, but I wear as midlayer insulation. By the way, contrary to legend, I have found over the years that wool does pick up odors, and it does not always wash out in a single washing. This is especially true of wool socks, notably the old-style Ragg socks, with the worst being when they are worn in plastic double boots. I will never forget a climb in the Cascades when the crew got back in the van to return to Seattle after a week of climbing on the glaciers. We all removed our boots to be comfortable, but the stench was so bad that we opened all the windows, despite the fact that it was snowing and really cold. Didn't stink when we were on the mountain, but really started when we crowded into the van and took off the boots.

Oh, the reason for the shorts over the long johns is that after a few days of doing #2 in subzero weather, people tend to get fast and careless when using the TP. So white long-john bottoms get a brown stripe. The shorts cover it up.

6:46 a.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Wool will definitely pick up odors, it just usually isn't nearly as fast or as pungent as its cotton and synthetic bretheren. If your sweating profusely(as such with plastic mountaineering boots some times) you build up that wonderful foot smell. I would challenge you to wear one wool sock and one synthetic sock and then compare your foot stench at the end of a trip haha.

12:52 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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A good way to look at this solution is what works with your body and layer on top of that.

1:12 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Yeah, wool can get funky, but in my experience, it takes much more time and neglect to get it there. My polypro would start to stink before the first day of wearing it, while I've worn the same wool for three days without any notable stink. I am sure this is primarily due to the fact that wool is antimicrobial, so bacteria can't proliferate and cause odor nearly as easily.

Being that wool is a natural fiber, I can imagine the smell would be hard to remove once set it. I used to own a wool shirt that must have been let get heavily mildewed at some point, because I was never able to get the smell to wash out. I didn't keep it :) 

1:34 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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My baselayer is almost always thin, such as capilene. On summer trips in the Yukon or Barren Lands, temperatures can vary, snowing in the morning and 90 degrees by mid afternoon. Additionally, bug shirts and sometimes bug pants go on. When I don't use the latter, a fleece sweater can go on over the light capilene. If it is cold, I'll supplement with a merino wool top over the base.

As with many of us, my activities often involve a variety of conditions and activities. When on paddle trips, I might be in my dry suit, waist high in icy water, lining a canoe down a drop. Twenty minutes later, I could be sitting on a sunny rock eating lunch. Skiing is much the same. Slogging up a hill on skins, or sitting in a shady gully trying to stay warm. The key for me is to vary my layers and keeping the sweat factor low. Adjusting with a hat is an easy way to regulate body temperature quickly. Starting with a light baselayer, in temperate conditions, is a good way to be able to regulate easily.

3:50 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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I only wear light baselayers of merino wool, now and have never liked heavy base layers or thick "pile" garments, especially in the variable weather typical of western and northern Canada. I prefer to wear the 140 wt. Icebreaker Ts, then a heavier merino longsleeve top and bottoms and then, sometimes a wool sweater in damp, just above freezing weather.

As it gets colder, I like to add a Primloft vest and/or light jacket and then down for real cold. I avoid all heavy, bulky garments and will only wear shells in heavy rain or high winds. Thin, light layers work best for me in about any conditions I have experienced.

I use snowwhoes to travel and I prefer pac boots with liners and merino socks for this, the big issue is to keep as "dry" as possible, not always easy in wet BC, even in cold weather.

4:20 p.m. on December 13, 2011 (EST)
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Hiking here in Vegas, I have basically put on a tshirt and hit the trail. But my bro suggested wool....in 100 degree heat. Yeah. Smokin something, huh? Well, I threw on my light marino wool and a tech shirt over. I was more confortable as the water wicked away from me...er sweatty sweat mcsweatster was pulled away and sent out into the universe. Thin. That's the way I roll.

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