Fifty years ago nearly every outdoor kit included a wool shirt. Ten years ago, wool had been banished in favor of lighter and more comfortable synthetic base layers. But wool is back. With finer yarns, wool base layers are now marketed as comfortable next to skin. At the same time advances have been made in synthetic fabrics that further improve performance and address some of their shortfalls. This healthy competition has saturated the industry with new technologies and performance claims regarding wool and synthetic base layers.

In this article we will take an independent look at the properties of these fabrics. We ran a series of field and laboratory tests to evaluate field comfort, drying times, fabric weights and moisture wicking performance. In the process, we revealed some unexpected performance properties and learned a few things about how these fabrics compare in a diverse range of field conditions.

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