We stock a pretty big range of base layers and with good reason: Base layers are probably the single most important part of your layering system when it comes to comfort over a long day. Unfortunately baselayers are often overlooked and understandably so – who’s going to get excited with a T shirt when there’s all sorts of down or Gore-Tex mid and outer layers on offer!? Hopefully this guide will give you the information you need to choose the best base layer quickly so you can get back to ogling that expensive waterproof.
Our base layer brands are Arc’teryx, Rab, Patagonia and Smartwool and they each use different technologies in their base layers which can confuse matters. In the end though, they’re all aiming for a garment with broadly similar performance – fast wicking, fast drying, soft against the skin and odour resistant.
Base layer fabrics can be put into 2 categories based on the materials they are made from; Merino Wool and synthetic fibre. Generally speaking Merino base layers provide more insulation but don’t wick as well as synthetic. Merino repels odours better (and completely naturally), are softer to the touch but aren’t as hard wearing.
Phase base layers are purely synthetic and use Phasic Technology to keep you comfortable. Phasic technology works by having 2 different polyester yarns mixed together. One yarn absorbs moisture, pulling it away from your skin whilst the other yern, which is DWR treated, stops the garment soaking up too much moisture preventing it getting sodden and making it fast drying.
Phase SL consists of a single layer of these yarns for fast wicking. Phase AR is a double layer, providing more insulation but slightly slower wicking.
We stock Phase in tee-shirts, leggings, beanies, underwear and balaclavas.
Arc’teryx Nuclieux fabric is Merino wool with core-spun technology. This consists of a high strength nylon filament with Merino wool fibres spun around the outside. Nuclieux also includes elastane fibres to give it some stretch.
The nylon core provides excellent strength and helps the garment keep its shape whilst the outer Merino fibres are soft for comfort, provide insulation when wet and have natural odour control.
We stock the Satoro base layers which utilise Nuclieux.
Rho baselayers don’t refer to a specific fabric type but are described as “thermally efficient base layers with excellent moisture management properties”. Reading between the lines this means Rho baselayers are best used in cooler conditions as they are warm and fast wicking. They also have good stretch for excellent comfort.
We stock Rho tee-shirts, bottoms and a balaclava.
Rab Merino Plus baselayers are made from a blend of Merino wool and synthetic fibres but what is different about Merino+ is the use of what Rab call 37.5 Technology.
37.5 Technology envolves permanently embedding active particles at the fibre level into the fabric. The particles actively respond to body heat to move moisture away from the skin. They also increase the surface area of the fibre by 800% which massively increases drying rates.
Merino+ base layers have a slim fit this is to trap air between the fabric and your skin which provides insulation as well as keeping the fabric close to the skin where it will be more efficient at wicking moisture away.
We stock tee-shirts, leggings, underwear, beanies and gloves in Merino+
Rab synthetic baselayers have a regular fit which is designed to allow air movement between the garment and your skin to speed up evaporation. The fabric used is called Motiv and features fast wicking to keep you comfortable when active. It also provides a UPF of 30+ to protect against exposure to the sun and is treated with permanent Polygiene anti-odour treatment.
There are 2 types of Motiv fabric, Motiv-H and Motiv-G. Motiv-G is the lighter of the 2 is knitted with a subtle grid pattern and is soft, supple and durable. This is used in Rab’s Interval Tees. Motiv-H is slightly heavier and is knitted for density and durability.
We stock the Interval Tee, which uses Motiv fabric.
More information on Rab’s baselayers can be found on their website on the Rab Guide to Baselayers.
Patagonia’s polyester Capilene baselayers are fast wicking and breathable. They also feature Polygiene treatment to help prevent odours. One of Patagonia’s big selling points is its environmental consciousness and in that spirit the Capilene baslayers are made from a lot of recycled polyester and can be recycled when they are no longer wanted.
Capilene baselayers are available in 3 different weights Thermalweight, Midweight and Lightweight.
Thermalweight is the warmest of the range, but is also the most breathable. It is made from Polartec Power Grid fabric which has a smooth face making taking layers on and off over it easy. It contains between 30 and 92% recycled polyester.
Midweight is designed to be the best compromise between weight, breathability and wicking as well as being versatile enough to be suitable under many layers or even as a t shirt alone, all depending on the activity and conditions. It uses a lighter weight Polartec Power Grid fabric which has a smooth face and brushed-back grid to aid wicking and warmth. It’s made with an impressive 93% recycled polyester content.
Lightweight are the lightest weight (obviously), fastest drying and best wicking of the Capilene base layers. The fabric has a subtle grid pattern knitted in which is designed to stop it clinging to you skin, and a smooth outer face to make layering easy. It’s made from 100% recycled polyester fabric!
We stock various Capilene tee-shirts in Thermalweight and Lightweight constructions.
As a brand built around Smart technologies which can be applied to Merino Wool it’s no surprise that Smartwool offer by far the most different fabrics and technologies. I’ve only covered the ones which are relevant to the base layers we stock so for more information on Smartwool fabrics and technologies have a look at the Wool Clothing: Fabric, Construction and Technologies article on their website. (Best read with a clear head and a bit of time.)
All Smartwool garments use thermal body mapping. This means that different amounts of wool/synthetic fibres are used throughout the garment so that it gives the best performance in areas where you need it. Simply put this means there is more wool in areas where the body tends to feel cold and less where the body tends to run hot which helps the wearer to maintain a constant body temperature and feel comfortable.
Smartwool’s Merino comes in 2 different weights; 150 and 250. At the moment we only stock the 150 as this is much more versatile. It features Core Spun technology (see Arc’teryx above) to give the benefits of synthetic and Merino in one garment.
PhD fabrics come in 3 different types. Each features a slightly different blend and mapping to better reflect the type of activity and temperature the garment is designed for. The heaviest is just called PhD and is for high energy activities in cold weather. The mid weight version is called PhD light and is best used for high energy activities in cool weather whilst the lightest is PhD ultra light and is designed for high energy activities in warm weather.
We stock tee-shirts, socks, beanies, gloves and other accessories from Smartwool.