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How a base layer can upgrade your adventures

Words by Taunton Leisure

on 29/10/2021 12:44:38

How a base layer can upgrade your adventures

We break down the many uses behind this perhaps underrated outdoor garment essential.

So often overlooked, we believe a decent base layer is essential for decent outdoor recreation, be it hillwalking, mountaineering or many other activities. A part of the classic layering system, what exactly is it which makes a base layer so important? Today on the Taunton Leisure blog we’re looking to answer this question as thoroughly as possible, but first let’s take a look at some of the different material varieties available within our range.

Merino Wool

A wondrous, natural material and staple of of one of our favourite base layer makers, Icebreaker. When it comes to intrepid adventure in the mountains and far reaches of the world, it simply cannot be beaten. Coming as you would guess from the Merino sheep, this wool is far finer than standard wool, each fibre is approximately 1/10th the width of a human hair. Because of this, it is very unlikely to itch (though some with the most sensitive skin can feel it), is wonderfully soft and is of course an excellent regulator of temperature. Though some consider wool to only be an insulator, they would in fact be mistaken. When used properly, Merino wool is also able to keep you cooler on warmer days by wicking away sweat. As it comes to the surface of the garment and evaporates, heat is released. Whatever the temperatures, the right Merino base layer has got you sorted!
Another great feature of wool, including Merino is its Anti-bacterial properties. Icebreaker especially prides itself on its garment’s abilities to be able to deal with odour over long term use without needing to be washed. With some airing out, you can have a base layer worn for days over rough terrain during hard activity and have it NOT absolutely reek! Certainly impressive.
Also as a bonus sometimes usefully, Merino is naturally fire retardant.

Synthetic options
A more popular everyday option, you’ll find the majority of synthetic base layers are made using some form of polyester; in the case of the majority of our range, the polyester has been recycled from used plastic bottles. Amongst many good features of synthetic base layers, the foremost and most obvious is how quick drying they can be. The plastic fibre itself being water resistant, means that it won’t hold moisture for long especially when heated by your body. This means that any wicked sweat will evaporate very quickly. Considerably durable, polyester can perform very well after many adventures, you’ll find a synthetic base layer to be a product you’ll only discard when you’ve eventually covered it in stains.  Polyester at its fibre weight is considerably lighter than merino wool, so if you’re looking for an ultimately lightweight option on a day hike or overnight, then synthetic is a good call. Many synthetic options are highly breathable allowing vapour from your body to easily pass through.

How can using a base layer upgrade your adventures?

As well as performing well as a technical top in its own right, it is a base layers place within the classic layering system from which it gains it’s name. The base layer is of course the layer at the base of the system, against your skin, your first layer whether taking the form of a tight fitting top or leggings. Its primary role is act as a second skin, regulating body temperature over a range of different activities. Whatever the conditions, it is a base layer’s job to either keep you cool when in hot conditions or through hard activity or warm in cold climates (in this case you should look for base layers with thermal properties).
One of the most important features of a base layer is its ability to wick moisture away from the body. This is how it keeps you cool but also dry. Even when wearing the most breathable waterproof jacket, you can still end up feeling hot, clammy and damp. Using a good base layer in conjunction with a waterproof in wet conditions is the only way to feel absolutely dry with the waterproof handling external moisture while your base layer handles the internal moisture from the surface of your skin. That’s right, the use of a base layer improves the performance of a waterproof jacket.
Every good base layer should be quick drying, this is why you will never find a base layer amongst our range which features cotton. While many may think that their cotton t-shirt, though comfortable against the skin will act as a good base layer, after walking a while you will find that your sweat is simply collecting in your tee and staying there. Once a cotton tee gets wet, it stays wet and starts stiffen and chafe, not ideal over long distances. If the conditions change and get much colder, that wet cotton tee is going to make you very cold. In many cases, wet cotton t-shirts have been a cause of hypothermia. Both merino and synthetic options are great at drying quickly thanks to there non porous fibres meaning you stay dry and warm.

If you’d like to know more about base layers and their integration into the layering system, you can take a look at our blog article Let’s talk Layering Systems HERE.

or if you’re interested in seeing some options,
Shop all base layers HERE

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