Base Layers are often a forgotten essential by novice hikers and walkers but once you're introduced to the benefits of...
Base Layers are often a forgotten essential by novice hikers and walkers but once you're introduced to the benefits of a good base layer you'll wonder how you ever managed without them. Many hikers make the mistake of using a cotton t shirt under their fleece and jacket as we're all told that cotton is natural and breathable. Cotton is great worn alone on hot days, but if you wear it under garments it will quickly become damp from perspiration and the fabric will hold onto the moisture making you cold very quickly. Customers wearing cotton under their Gore-Tex (or other membrane lined) jacket will often complain that the jacket is leaking as they are wet inside which is just not the case. This is where base layers come to the rescue! Upgrading to a base layer not only adds that warm and comfortable layer you crave but also moves any moisture away from the skins surface and will keep you dry no matter how energetic the hike or run may be.
We offer Base Layer tops and bottoms from Icebreaker and Helly Hansen which both offer different baselayers. Helly Hansen provides excellent synthetic tees and pants which dry quickly, suck moisture from the skin and keep you warm. Icebreaker is all about top quality merino wool which does everything you'd want from a great mens baselayer but also includes naturally occurring anti bacterial properties meaning smell causing bacteria won't occur and you'll smell fresh as a daisy after a day on the hill or at the track. Merino wool has a luxurious feel and this is where the price difference comes in so consider your budget whilst looking at our range.
For extreme hikers who are out on the mountain for days at a time the use of a base layer could be the difference between life and death. If wind picks up, your cotton tee is damp and the temperature starts to plummet then a temperature regulating base layer is a crucial piece of kit.
So, what's the difference between a synthetic base layer and a merino wool base layer? Synthetic thermal underwear is usually polyester with a small amount of elastane for stretch and a good fit. They're great because they're soft, light, will remove moisture and are abrasion resistant. They're easy to care for and you can just pop in the washing machine as usual. They can build odour especially when worn repeatedly and can easily stain which isn't a great look. Merino is still light and soft on the skin but a little harder to care for and vulnerable to shrinking as it's wool. Most are machine washable but always check the label guys. They're stain resistant and odour resistant which means they can be worn for days at a time without the need for washing. Merino isn't as fast drying as a synthetic so this need to be considered if you're going to be doing an activity that is very energetic.
Brands will sometimes add a fabric weight in the title of their product or name it as a specific weight and this can be confusing. At Simply Hike our base layers are split into Lightweight, Midweight and Heavyweight and each of these are designed for specific conditions. Lightweight refers to cool to moderate cold conditions. Heavyweight to Very cold and blustery conditions and Midweight is between the two.
So what does wicking mean? Wicking is used regularly in our descriptions and essentially means to 'move away from' or 'draw away' moisture. Any product that wicks moisture is a good thing and perfect for high intensity activities. Do base layers stop you sweating? No, base layers just help you manage your perspiration but drawing it away from your body to keep your skin and the top dry. This evaporates away from your own body heat so that you don't feel cold and can sometimes be seen on very cold days coming off hikers as steam.