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Do you use base layers?

Interested in the collective experience of TS on this...I have been using poly or merino base layers for quite a while but the last couple of winter trips have felt more comfortable adding top layers and saving base layers for camp. Note that I am talking about temps down to 0F not extreme or alpine conditions. I find I heat up too much with any base layer so prefer a pair of good pants that I can throw my rain pants over for additional warmth. Same with the top...a long sleeved shirt or even a t shirt with a fleece, windshirt, and rain jacket mixing in for the top depending on wind and precip. It just feels better and allows more flexibility than base layers that are difficult to change out of if the sun comes out while I'm working my way up a hill. I tend to hike all day with few stops in colder times so generate a lot of heat. Haven't found a baselayer that doesn't make me sweat. Goes against the standard advice but to each their own right? Thoughts? 

I usually wear a synthetic T-shirt, perhaps long sleeved, and leave my legs bare.  I like lots of adjustability, in the clothing, especially pit zips and open all the way in the front items.

i do usually wear a dry base layer when in the sleeping bag (warmer and keeps the bag cleaner).

I'll wear base layers under a shell, sometimes not anything else, as I find they dry quicker than other clothing items.  If still too warm, I'll open the shell garments.


My standard against-the-skin torso baselayer for the last 15 years has been a midweight long sleeve SILK top---overwhich I wear my standard hiking t-shirt---a North Face Reaxion poly thing.  Silk is the way to go for comfort.

In the summer I only wear the silk top when sleeping as a "pajama" top to keep my sleeping bag cleaner.

In the winter my silk top/t-shirt combo is worn under my gtx rain jacket and these inner layers ARE ALLOWED to get wet with sweat because they are minimal baselayers and not my midweight layers I'll wear in camp.

If it's really cold I'll start out in my silk/t-shirt combo under a merino top which is under a Patagonia thermal hoody---and hike in this with or w/o the rain jacket for warmth.  Sweat management of course means I de-layer when warm while backpacking.

The good thing about backpacking at 10F or 0F is you can wear all your layers (not including your down parka) and not sweat just by adjusting your stride. 

Of course.  "Zero but not extreme of alpine consitions."  Are you in the Arctic or winter mountaineering Phil?  I rarely spend the night in the bush in below zero conditions if I can avoid it. 

I like natural fibers. I used to wear a Stanfield wool union suit made in Camada.  I like silk, and wool best.  Most manmade fibers really start to smell after about 5 days.  I use polyester on short trips. 

Tipi reminded me that my top skin layer is not traditional - I use those cheap rayon Hawaiian shirts you can get in the drug store.


I always wear base layers when the mercury is consistently below 40f; low 40s is where i think about leaving them home or wearing them over a wool or wicking t shirt when i start out, then usually shed the base layer after i warm up.  often, if i'm going hard uphill or carrying a lot, i'm wearing only the base layer top and either a pair of running shorts or a light base layer bottom. or, if i really expect to overheat, i'll wear a short sleeved merino or synthetic t shirt underneath so i can remove the base layer if needed - i'm often ok in a decent wool t shirt down to 40 if i'm working hard, might throw a light shell or baselayer over that.  

if i expect to be sweating a lot, i prefer synthetic because it dries faster than wool and tends to be a little cooler, or i'll go with a very light wool top.  my favorites are Patagonia's zip neck mid-weight capilene (mine is about 10 years old) or zip neck thermal weight capilene (relatively new, i reviewed it recently).  they both do extremely well handling sweat, but the new one is particularly good - fabric is woven differently than the older one, but i'll bet the newer mid-weights are doing something similar. 

the only wool layer i own that doesn't overheat is a close-fitting and very thin/stretchy Ibex merino crew neck, very thin fabric.  it still doesn't dry out as quickly as the synthetics.  

For me it varies I tend to overdress in the cold and shed down. But I only wear very thin hiking pants ( really summer casual) the kind that zip off at the knees over a pair of synthetic long johns I bought specific for hiking. If it is really cold and or windy. Mostly it’s the thin pants and rain pants over them if windy. i get really hot fast and I’ve even hiked in 20 deg weather with just sandals an socks just to keep down the sweat. 

Mostly use the base when it’s windy and or damp. just to insulate my core. But mostly in camp. As I age we’ll see if I’m gonna have to adjust that setup.

i just regently bought 2 pairs of Eddie Bauer stretch pants. Been tryIng them out to see if they will do the job of cutting the cold and wind and give me the flexibility that I loose with the rain pants.

so no . No baselayer till it gets bone chilling and that varies with me. More apt to on a damp below freezing than any other day.

In the simplest of terms, it comes down to activity and weather for me. Hunting, unless unseasonably warm, I always wear base layers, typically merino wool. For hiking, I am more apt to wear a lighter-weight baselayer on the top, but none on the bottom, unless the weather is really cold.

As an opposite approach, my wife and I did a dayhike just yesterday with the weather around 30F that included a steady, but not steep, up and down, and she wore a pair of Marmot Piper Flannel Lined Pants and Patagonia Capilene Midweight Bottoms underneath. Not once was she too warm. I had lightweight baselayers on, and even then, I got a little toasty. 

As for sleeping, unless it's summer, I always try to bring an extra set (top and bottom). There are few things better than putting on a clean set of baselayers before crawling into the sleeping bag. 

I wear base layers all the time when the temperature hovers around freezing, and they are the only layer that I don't change until I am done with whatever activity I'm up to. Mid and top layers are for changing to manage warmth. My base layers are strictly for moisture control, and don't consider them to contribute significantly to my overall warmth, IMO. I am naturally a pretty warm person, and prefer to dress cool for any given conditions, but I always, almost without exception, wear a base layer in cool conditions. 

YMMV, obviously. :)

ALWAYS in winter unless it will be warm enough (above 20 F.) to wear my fleece lined Duluth Trading nylon cargo pants.  But over a polyester base layer they are SO cozy and the heavy woven nylon shell keeps out wind very well.

My various weights of base layers are all polyester. I prefer it to Merino wool for the warmth.

Eric B.

ALWAYS in winter unless it will be warm enough (above 20 F.) to wear my fleece lined Duluth Trading nylon cargo pants.  But over a polyester base layer they are SO cozy and the heavy woven nylon shell keeps out wind very well.

My various weights of base layers are all polyester. I prefer it to Merino wool for the warmth.

Eric B.

Anything under 20 yes.But on extended trips I have an extra set for camp.

Thanks for all the usual an interesting blend of approaches from a very experienced bunch.

I may be in the minority but I have never liked silk...both the feeling of it against my skin and the relatively quick wear and tear making it more expensive due to frequent replacement. A base layer at night is a standard for me except the summer months. 

I always try to slow down and prevent sweat, but I am one of those who sweats so easily with a high metabolism that I would almost have to stand still to prevent it!

Merino is my favorite especially for longer trips as polyester begins to drive off wildlife and make birds drop from the sky after a few days of contact with me. 

It’s-38 here this morning 

i think I am going with 5 layers today All synthetic or wool  

i will also wear a cotton base layer in the summer to keep me cool/warm in the alpine. 

September 29, 2020
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