So, further to my blog on foul weather gear, I mentioned that I would follow up with a base layer gear review.
First we need to establish our wish list:
Let’s look at the main fabrics used. The following information was retrieved from rei.com:
One of the most common synthetic fabrics used for base layers is polyester. However, you may also find a combination of nylon, rayon or polypropelene. Synthetics have a bit of a spandex feel which give you a nice snug fit.
5/5 wicking 4/5 durability 3/5 odor- resistant
Merino wool is soft and has ultrafine fibers and is nothing like older wool clothing and blankets. Wool can also be blended with other fabrics, like spandex to enhance fit and flexibility. Merino wool has the following characteristics:
4/5 wicking 3/5 durability 5/5 odor-resistant
Silk is an ideal fabric for low-key activities like an easygoing fall hike or an evening concert outdoors. Silk has the following characteristics:
2/5 wicking 2/5 durability 2/5 odor-resistant
Based on the above information, for my purposes I will be looking at Merino Wool or a Synthetic blend base layer. Base layers are generally classified as follows:
It is also a great idea to wear several layers and adjust as needed. Most sailors wear a heavyweight or midweight base followed by a fleece. Then your foul weather gear. One of the principal goals is to remain dry. If you get wet from rain, spray or sweat, it will not take long for you to get cold.
Here are some options that I will be looking into:
Smartwool – seems to be a crowd pleaser and there are many options for the weight (heavy to light). This newer wool fabric is soft, wicks well and is odor-resistant. A typical warm base layer shirt will be about $110 while a pair of warm pants will be about $100. I tend to prefer a crew neck shirt as opposed to a zip up, but you can definitely get a full zip up to your chin. Smartwool seems to age well and should last you for several seasons.
Under Armour – The Under Armour HeatGear line is a midweight line and there are several different styles of tops and pants. Their HeatGear line is synthetic (92% polyester & 8% elastane for fit) so it will last and maintain it’s shape. However, even with their anti-odor technology, you will be ripe after a few wears. Their UA Base line is for aggressive cold and is their heavyweight line. It is also a synthetic blend of 95% polyester & 5% elastane. Prices vary depending on styles.
Helly Hansen – HH has a few options for base layers. The HH Lifa Merino line is their heavyweight base layer option. Their lightweight option is their HH Lifa Active line. HH has been creating base layers for athletes for quite some time now so their Lifa technology is on point. For my trip, I envision having a good lightweight and heavyweight option for layering and different weather conditions I may encounter.
Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) – I enjoy MEC products so I decided to include them in this review. MEC offers a Merino wool base layer line which would be your heavyweight option for warmth. They also offer a few different synthetic options ranging from lightweight to medium weight. Again, it will depend on style, fit, comfort and what you need the gear to do for you.
I hope this review has helped you navigate the various base layer fabrics and options available to you. The best way to determine what is right for you is to try on several different options to look for best fit and determine what you need for your specific activity (sailing, skiing, hiking, etc.).
Evenson, Laura. How to Choose Base Layers. Retrieved from: https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/underwear.html.
Page photo credit: Photo retrieved from http://www.surfingthewaveoffashion.com/2013/07/sailing-with-musto.html.