Sweaty Underwear

4:32 p.m. on September 16, 2008 (EDT)
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One area of gear I never really pay much attention to is underwear. I just wear my regular shreddies and socks.

Does anyway have a recommendation for a good pair of socks, and some good underwear for backpacking?


5:46 p.m. on September 16, 2008 (EDT)
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The general rule in my country is wool from top to bottom, and better to have two thin than one thick. But there are exceptions to the rules.

You may use synthetic socks, just make sure they are tight fitting. Loose = buckles = blisters. Best is a thin synthetic sock inside a thin/thick wool sock.

For many years I used wool underwear, and I thought that it was OK. (Did not know anything else) I have a problem of sweating quite a lot, and when I found this http://www.brynje.no/public/index.php?cccpage=webshop_l1&set_language=en underwear it was a new world to me. I still take one set of wool underwear with me on trips, but I use it seldom. Only for camp-site use, not for terrain walking except in extreme conditions like hard winds and/or extreme cold.

The Brynje is NOT cheap, but quality of well being always has a price. On our hut-to-hut winter trip that I've posted pictures from on this forum, you see me and my wife using these underwear. We only had a softshell on top of that during this trip, nothing more.

5:54 p.m. on September 16, 2008 (EDT)
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Thanks for the reply. The link that you posted gives me the Brynje website, but a SQL server error. They must be having problems.
If I'm hiking with a load, I'll generally layer socks. Looking at my original post, I realize that I wasn't very specific.
Ideally I'd like recommendations for a thin baselayer sock to wear under a thicker sock. Probably a sock that is wicking would be ideal.
Something similar for the underwear would also be good, so I'm not wearing cotton, but something that is comfortable.

6:07 p.m. on September 16, 2008 (EDT)
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ive been curious about this too. ive been reading about Ibex brand lately but theyre quite expensive. are they worth the price? i, like jay, usually just go out in my usual stuff.

6:08 p.m. on September 16, 2008 (EDT)
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Works well from my pc, but try googling "Brynje Super Thermo Net" as this is the type of underwear we use. You may find it from some source in US, with info and all.

6:21 p.m. on September 16, 2008 (EDT)
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OK, I took a look at those. They might be really great for winter camping, I'll look into those for this winter.

However, they may be a little on the warm side for spring/summer/autumn camping.

7:57 p.m. on September 16, 2008 (EDT)
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Jay l a wrote "they may be a little on the warm side for spring/summer/autumn camping."

No, no! The thing that makes us like them so much is that they are ideal on summer camping as well. If I get some time next week I'll poste some pictures from a trip to the highest mountain in Sweden this summer. We used the Brynje both day and nights. Temp 15c to 20c. But in summer I use mostly the t-shirt, with a thin windstopper over it if it blows cold. Otherwise a shirt, or only the Brynje.

Only disadvantage where I walk, is that in the insect period the Brynje does not protect me from the mosquitos.

10:24 a.m. on September 17, 2008 (EDT)
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OK, I see my mistake now. I navigated to the 'Arctic Extreme double layer thermal underwear', hence my 'too warm' comment.

Which ones were you talking about?

11:30 a.m. on September 17, 2008 (EDT)
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Otto -
Years ago (1960s) I used to use the string T-shirts (cotton in those days). I have tried one of the newer ones. My experience has been that the wicking synthetics (like Patagonia's) and the merino wool (again, Patagonia's) work better. The places where I wear them are cold and windy enough that I don't have to worry about the mosquitoes (usually a windbreaker at least over them). If it is warm enough that I am not wearing a windbreaker, then I use a shirt of Coolmax or one of the other thin wicking materials. If it is really hot, then I wear a cotton T-shirt, since cotton holds the sweat and evaporates it well enough to produce some cooling (no cotton in cold weather, of course, since it will chill you and provides no insulation). The cotton string shirts did work ok for warmth, because of the large pockets of dead air space, which more than made up for the poor wicking quality of the cotton.

12:50 p.m. on September 17, 2008 (EDT)
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I have the Bryjne bottoms and think they are wonderful. I've worn these in cool to cold weather, generally layered underneath merino wool long. Someday I'll order a top as well. In the US you can order Brynje from Reliable Racing Supply.


3:02 p.m. on September 17, 2008 (EDT)
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For what it's worth,

Patagonia's Capilene base layer, or
Terramar's Silk base layer.

Wigwam's Coolmax liner sock with Smartwool's merino wool hiker.

These have worked well for me in the Southeast US with a temp range between 10 deg. F - 50 deg. F (average winter temps).
We do have hot days here where a plain cotton tee works well as Bill S. mentioned.
When it gets cold here it is usually the wind chill we have to deal with, and then I add a layer of micro fleece and/or my MH shell just depending on how much moisture is present in the air. Some areas here hold so much moisture that we've had it bead up on our clothing even though it was not raining, mostly early in the morning.

6:19 p.m. on September 17, 2008 (EDT)
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To Jay l a: We use the Brynje Super Thermo Net. If I put on a thin woolshirt in addition to that, it is basically the Artic Extreme. But by having two seperate garments, we have more flexibility.

To Bill S: Yes I remember in the 50's when we were made to use the netshirts made from cotton. Frankly I was sceptic to the Brynje but I still bought one set just because one NPL'er (people that walk or ski Norway south to north, some 2600 km) in his report was wery enthusiastic about it. He used only Brynje super thermo underwear about 85% of the time on his skitrip.

By "wicking" i guess you mean the misture transporting ability, but I feel that Brynje has that. Anyway, it is working for me, and it could be it was OK for others. The only way to find out is really to try it like I did. I was convinced, but that is because I sweat a lot and walk in a cold and moist climate.

10:47 a.m. on September 18, 2008 (EDT)
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Are we all forgetting Helly Hansen these guys have successfully been transporting moisture away from the body via heat transfer for the past 30 years. The biggest advantage with HH is that is does not wick but just moves the sweat away to the next layer, plus it's low bulk and extremely light weight. I have a few of the seamless boxers which are super comfy and have also invested in a pair of sock liners which I have yet to try out. I mean what is the point in wearing technical kit if at the base of it all were wearing cotton. There are plenty of price competition on there so get searching.

12:22 p.m. on September 18, 2008 (EDT)
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Any material that absorbs/moves moisture away from the body is by definition a wicking material, some are just more effective than others due to their ability to keep you warm at the same time, and because some wick and release at a faster rate than others.
I have been to the Helly Hanson site, they seem to have quality products although I don't own any.

You are correct there is no point in wearing cotton as a base layer in an effort to stay warm and dry, cotton will wick moisture, but does not offer any insulation from the cold when damp, which leads to hypothermia.

12:39 p.m. on September 18, 2008 (EDT)
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Silversurfer said Helly Hansen -


does not wick but just moves the sweat away to the next layer

Ummm, that's called "wicking". Helly Hansen is just one of a number of top quality brands (and a rather expensive one at that), in the same category as Patagonia, Brynje, and some others. Actually, HH based their approach on Pata (Yvon Chouinard's designs) and Malden Mills, who were selling such products commercially in the 1960s. I still have a "training suit" (barely usable) from about 1963 that I picked up in Germany that uses these principles. The reason you don't see HH mentioned too often here is that they cater to a different crowd (resort skiers, mostly), where Pata, for example, aims more at the backpacker, climber, and backcountry skier world. Plus, HH, being a European company, does not have the wide distribution in North America. Same with Brynje - it is harder to find in the US and Canada.

As a reminder, the basic idea is layering - a base layer (next to the skin) that is wicking (to transport body moisture outward), insulation (for warmth), and waterproof/windproof layers (the acronym is WWW = Wicking/Warmth/Wind/Waterproof). By being in layers, you can adjust to the conditions. If it is a dry climate, you don't need the "waterproof". If there is no cold wind, you don't need the "windproof" as much. The insulation is as thick or thin (and multi-layered in itself) as needed for hot desert or Arctic cold). And you adjust the layers as needed during the day or successive days, when moving, standing still, or sitting around camp. Some clothing and some fabrics allow a wider range of comfort than others, with the newest "nanofabrics" doing an amazingly good job of self-adjusting to a wider range of conditions. But still, the basic idea of layering works best. (yes, you can have front zips, pit zips, ventral zips, etc, to adjust air flow - it all helps)

3:30 p.m. on September 18, 2008 (EDT)
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Is Brynje even available in the US/Canada? Just curious. I've never seen it in any of the gear shops I've frequented in California or British Columbia.

One thing I learned from years of playing soccer (up through college) is that everyone sweats a little (or a lot!) different from the next guy or gal. Even amongst the same sex, guys or guys can have very different and subtle chaffing issues around their private areas.

Age can even play a factor. I never remember thinking much about what kind of underwear I was wearing playing soccer competitively even 12 years ago. Cotton, Nylon, Poly -- we just played. I never ever remember it being an issue. But flash forward 12 years to the present -- I definitely notice it now if I don't have my synthetics on, even when I run as little as 1/2 mile or hike 2 miles!

The difficulty I find is there's really no way to 'test' the various underwear ahead of time in the store. For starters, men don't like trying on underwear in a store. But even if we could, it's not immediately easy to see how well the stuff fits and wicks during aerobic activity.

Another issue is boxers vs. briefs. I'm definitely a boxers man. It's because my inner-thigh area (going into the groin) tends to sweat a lot....so I need that extra protection. For others, it may not make much difference either way.

I've used three brands thus far -- Patagonia, Ex Officio, and Mountain Hardwear. Normally, I love capilene...but I didn't really care for the comfort it provided as underwear. Ex Officio's tend to be a little cheaper than some of the other big brands, and I bought my first pair a few weeks ago at a 30% off sale at REI, just to give them a try. I think the boxers were around $16, and they wicked just as good as the Patas...and felt better doing so. But my personal favs right now still are my Mountain Hardwear pair, a throw-in purchase for 22-bucks so I could get free shipping on an order. Ironically, the underwear gets a ton more usage now than the more expensive item I was ordering!

My two cents....

8:02 p.m. on September 18, 2008 (EDT)
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With extensive year round experience in the Adirondacks for over the last 40 years, I have worn poly-pro sock liners and wool socks [varying weights depending on boots and weather]for most of it 'year around' in the woods or 'on the farm' as one might call it.
The addition of Gore-tex or such in the boots really helps the foot sweat problem.
I wear boots all year.
For bottom underwear I still wear cotton/nylon when it is warm and either wool or polypro [or similar] in the late fall/winter/early spring.
Tee-shirt? cotton or poly pro or wool depending on weather and activity.
I don't mind a sweat wet cotton shirt in the warmth of summer because it does keep me cool but it can become uncomfortable or dangerous right quick in foul weather.
Always carry a change.

9:51 p.m. on September 18, 2008 (EDT)
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Interesting that you think so highly of Gtx in boots. My brief experience (after which I gave them away to Goodwill without even bothering with the donation receipt) was that my feet (normally warm anyway) got soaking wet within 5 miles on a moderate day, despite using my standard layering of socks (wicking liner and Smartwool "Hikers") for that weight of boot. Even though they were a fairly lightweight boot, my feet were as soaked as when wearing my full-on plastic mountaineering double boots in even warmer conditions (I sometimes train in the plastics for a couple weeks before heading off for a major expedition). In short, I found the Goretex did NOT breathe worth anything, almost like having plastic bags over my feet. Others on this site have commented on the same thing. Full leather boots breathe much better and are much more comfortable.

Sorry I can't compare to 40 years stuck in the 'Dacks - I only hiked there over a period of 4 years. Been to busy hiking in much more interesting places around the world. Too much civilization there.

7:54 p.m. on September 19, 2008 (EDT)
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Bill; I guess I've heard that before but I've never had a problem in any season and I really like the idea in the 3 seasons, well atually winter too if I find water unfrozen, of being able to tromp through anything.
One thing I don't like about Gore-Tex in my boots is they will never form fit your foot like a lightly lined or unlined leather boot will.
I started wearing Gore-Tex in boots back in the early 80's. The first pair I felt like some of you guys so asked for a new pair [I even thought they leaked but didn't]...which I was given and told to keep the older ones-this was through a company now defunct I believe 'American Outdoor Plus' [or similar]which sent me both pair free as I was writing outdoor articles and they wanted reviews, good or bad on their product.
I wore both pair completely out and just got used to the feeling and never had wet feet since.
I even use to sno-wax the heck out of my boots, which must cause some breathing problems, but now only silicone spray them.
And oh yea, I am definitely one who sweats.

7:59 p.m. on September 19, 2008 (EDT)
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I should have added above-the Adirondacks are busy but I often enough avoid any crowds, at least in one direction while hiking, by bushwhacking [usually headed home].
Its home so thats where I go and I can also go 'midweek'...which helps some spring, fall, winter.

8:50 p.m. on September 19, 2008 (EDT)
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Brynje mesh synthetic baselayer has been around for at least since the early 90's in the USA. The only source I've used has been Reliable Racing in NewYork state. Used it as a baselayer for -4F to +32F during my Nordic racing days. Excellent moisture transfer and thermo regulation. You feel dry even when your next layer may be damp from sweat. Excess heat escapes yet the mesh can also trap heat. All depends on the next layer. Also very light weight and packs compact. For cool to cold weather hiking a shell to cut wind works well. For warm to cool just the baselayer or base with light top. With repeated washing the polypro like mesh gets stiff and less effective. Odor problem like poly and CoolMax. Solution to the odor is washing using Holy Cow (available at your ACE hardware). Old Brynje smells fresh and new Brynje stays smelling fresh.

1:22 a.m. on September 30, 2008 (EDT)
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one phrase. under armour...i went backpacking this summer at philmont and chaffed till i hurt so bad i couldnt walk...cotton underwear...when i use ua, i never chaffe no matter how many miles i put on them, two weekends ago put 15 miles on them in a weekend...perfect comfort...get boxerjocks, they fit tight and will be perfect.

5:57 a.m. on September 30, 2008 (EDT)
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I started wearing synthetic undies when they first came out here in BC, circa the late '70s/early '80s. I have come to hate this stuff and have given all of mine away. I never wear cotton in the bush, except for "bugshirts" soaked in DEET and an cotton T under it.

At all other times of the year, I have found that pure merino wool is the best and I have now worn various brands for over 40 years. I find that of my current large stock of merino tops/bottoms, the best by far is Icebreaker, then MEC and I will not buy Smartwool again as it is pricy crap that develops tiny holes after only a little wear and one careful hand washing.

Icrebreaker 140 merino for hot weather works perfectly for me, but, at nearly $70.00 per T-shirt, one does not want to douse it in repellent, so, I carry one cotton T for this purpose. You will be surprised how comfy merino is in hot weather.

9:34 a.m. on September 30, 2008 (EDT)
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I have been looking at both Icebreaker and Patagonia's light merino wool base layers.
I have been using Capilene and Silk, but have shy-ed away from wool as a base layer because I thought it might be too hot for the climate I backpack in, west coast marine.
I have actually been looking at the same 140 merino tee that you mentioned. I have not looked at anything from MEC yet.

I much prefer to get my advise from people with years of experience, rather than advertising, or some review in a magazine. So I think I will take your word for it and try the merino base layer this time around.
Would you consider the 140 weight to be adequate in temps as low as 10 deg. F. or would I need a heavier layer for colder temps ?


10:39 a.m. on September 30, 2008 (EDT)
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I also live and train-hike in a west coast marine climate, but, I am a person who is comfortable in cold weather like very few others, so, my recommendations should be taken with that in mind. I used to snowshoe in 20*F at home in the West Kootenays in a fishnet T-shirt and was quite comfy...must be the Viking blood I have.

I used my IB 140 a year ago last August for a hike/camp near my hometown and the WKs are ALMOST as wet as the BC coast. It was a balmy 85*F and I had my Mystery Ranch Kodiak pack, well loaded and one of my 9lb. Grizzly guns, as well. I was MORE comfortable wearing that than with anything else I have ever worn in such ambient conditions, fairly high humidity, heat and serious exertion....wears the "beer muscle" off we geezers!

For your stated uses, I also have and would recommend the IB 150 wt. and then another longsleeve IB over that at the colder extremes. This, with a Primaloft vest such as an ID or Montbell and maybe a Montbell Thermawrap UL jacket and ID Pullover eVENT rain/wind jacket takes me to 0*F in comfort and weighs verfy little.

Merino wool thin layers under top synthetic LIGHT vests/jackets and eVENT shells are just the BEST system I have yet found and with care, although costly, they will last for a long time, not burden your pack and keep you warm and dry. Man, we are SO lucky to have this gear, especially we older guys who really do benefit from a much lighter pack than in the '60s, '70s and so on.

So, go with IB 150 for general use or 200 if you are easily chilled, the comfort overlap of this stuff is amazing.

11:51 a.m. on October 14, 2008 (EDT)
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Wow- I am new at this and after hours of study I went with Smartwool socks and exofficio ( boxer briefs).Prior to this I wore cotton and have been absolutely thrilled since I switched. The exofficio was around 17 dollars on sale and the smartwool socks varied as I bought many different pairs.I guess I will have to look at http://www.reliableracing.com/searchresults.cfm?search=Brynje and get an order in to see what I am missing. I can guarntee you folks have a bunch more expierinace than I do !! Great thread on this and wished I had seen something on this long ago !!Thanks !!

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