Nov 3, 2009 at 8:26 pm #1241379
If I were to design a baselayer, it would be constructed of moisture-wicking polyester, with armpit "patches" being constructed of soft merino wool. The fabrics would be of the same color, so no one would really notice that two different fabrics are used.
So, there you have it. Light weight, quick-drying and odor-free (merino wool reportedly has natural odor-fighting ability). What more could you want?
But first I have to ask… Has someone else already done this? If so, who?Nov 3, 2009 at 8:30 pm #1542422
"But first I have to ask… Has someone else already done this? If so, who?"
Helly Hansen has a series called Pro Wool. It's a merino wool and polypropylene blend. Pretty warm and more comfortable, for me, than straight merino. I use it on shoulder season trips sometimes instead of an Ibex Wooly if the weather is predicted to be really cold.Nov 3, 2009 at 8:38 pm #1542424
When you say, "blend", do you mean that the polypro and merino wool fibers are combined and spun into a single fiber to be used throughout the garment, or are you referring to the use of functional patches, as I proposed above?Nov 3, 2009 at 10:36 pm #1542456
I work for Helly Hansen. The 'HH Warm' aka ProWool line of baselayers are all constructed of polypro and merino wool. You can see these polypro/merino garments here:
The polypro and merino fibers are not blended together. There is an inner layer of polypro against your skin and then an outer layer of merino wool. I'm not too sure how the layers are attached together but it does work well. I handle all the warranties for our store and I've never seen an issue with this.
The product literature indicts the merino wool is for warmth, but I think it also helps keep you dry because polypro does not hold any moisture, so the moisture gets pulled away from the body into the merino wool (which can hold a bit of moisture) so you remain dry. Hopefully your other layers also breathe and continue to pull the moisture away from you.
If anyone wants weights on something, I can weigh some stuff at work. The HH Dry line of baselayers (which is just polypro w/o the merino) are really light. For the real gram counters, you can get a sleeveless tee for about 2oz. The regular tees are about 2.5 – 3oz. Buy a size larger than you normally wear b/c they are euro sizing which fits small. I'm sure the HH Warm with the extra layer of merino wool is quite a bit heavier.
EDIT: I just weighed the only HH Warm I have here at home, which are size medium HH Warm/Prowool pants. They weigh 196g or 6.9oz. The website says they are 43% Polypro and 57% merino.Nov 3, 2009 at 10:46 pm #1542457
After re-reading your initial post, it seems that this product isn't really what you're looking for since you want the merino (no smell) in the arm pits so your sweat never does contact the polypro (lightest material). I agree that this sounds like a good idea but I still think you'd be better off with a pure polypro top. Polypro technology has come a long way since the 70's and it's far less smelly. I honestly do not notice any smell in mine, although I don't consider myself to be a very smelly person.
FWIW, I have a co-worker who started recently and he was given a polypro shirt which he has worn to work 75% of the time for the past 6 weeks (probably 20-25 working days) and he has yet to wash it. Granted standing around isn't sweaty work, but I still think this says something.Nov 3, 2009 at 11:30 pm #1542469
Works great. No smell and dries pretty quickly, though not as fast as synthetics.
I have yet to find any synthetic material that doesn't hold a smell, including Helly Hansen, Patagonia's Capilene, Mountain Hardwear's proprietary fabrics, MontBell's fabrics, Paramo fabrics, REI, and the North Face. The only synthetic I've ever found that did a reasonably good job was from North Cape, that I bought in the early 90's. Everything else Pong City.Nov 4, 2009 at 2:40 am #1542480
I don't know how everyone else's experience with odor is, but in my case, it's as if the sweat is combining with some chemical in the polyester to produce a smell that is far worse than if I just perspired in a cotton shirt or no shirt at all. In both cases, there's a stench, but with polyester, the smell is sickly sweet (and utterly off-putting), and with cotton the smell is musky or sports-sweaty (yeah, I realize that I'm probably sharing way too much here).
I love polyester for its moisture wicking and quick drying properties, not to mention the light weight. However, the stench negates all of these excellent qualities.
Oh, by the way, my gym shirt is a Nike polyester Dry Fit shirt. It just produces that musky/sweaty odor after an intense workout–not the sickly sweet one I described earlier (I get the sickly sweet one with Patagonia Capilene). Could it be that my sweat is combining with some antibacterial treatment in the fabric? Hmmm…
Okay, perhaps I'll cut up a couple of merino wool and polyester shirts to try and construct my vision of what could be a lightweight, quick-drying, moisture-wicking, stench-resistant shirt. If only I knew how to sew…Nov 4, 2009 at 3:34 pm #1542740
Dan pretty much said it all as far as Prowool is concerned.
IME, it won't prevent odor from accumulating, but it is very warm and wick moisture away from the skin nicely. My longsleeve crew weighs ~8 oz in a medium. Oh, yeah, no patches under the arms. Double layer, as Dan said, just like Duofold. It sounds like a lot of trouble to
sew patches under the arms. Why not just learn to live with the odor? Everyone I've ever backpacked with gets pretty ripe after a few(very few in most cases) days and it just becomes part of the trip. Now, Fa#ts in the tent at night, that's another matter. ;}Nov 4, 2009 at 3:38 pm #1542741
OP, you might want to try a polypropalene shirt rather than regular polyester. I'm not garanteeing it won't stink, but polypro does have different characterists than polyester so you may stink less/more/differently etc. It's the lightest baselayer material so you may as well give it a shot before you try heavier stuff.Nov 4, 2009 at 4:21 pm #1542753
@mikefaedundeeLocale: Under a bush in Scotland
Mammut have released zoned baselayers here
Unfortunatrly, the merino patches are not under the arms as you were looking for.Nov 4, 2009 at 5:06 pm #1542767
I followed the link you provided. Looking at the dark charcoal grey/light charcoal grey top, if the dark charcoal grey part were polyester and the light charcoal grey part were merino, that would be perfect (not to mention pretty stylish). It would be the polar opposite of what they're trying to sell, though.
As for why I don't just learn to live with the stench… don't think I should have to… Call me an eccentric. Ha ha.
Now, if someone were to make my proposed shirt, would anyone actually consider buying it (no, I am not going to make and sell them, but still it's nice to see my "good" idea validated).Nov 5, 2009 at 3:25 pm #1543162
You have a good idea, but I still think Polypro is the future. Compared to Merino, it's signficantly lighter, drys about 40% faster (as per BPL article) and you could add stuff to it to eliminate any smell (ie. silver fibers).Nov 5, 2009 at 3:37 pm #1543168
How is the HH product you mentioned with regards to odor control?Nov 5, 2009 at 5:52 pm #1543210
Polypro is the future
Polypro is one of the oldest synthetic base fabrics out there and was extensively used back in the 70's and 80's. It stinks to high heaven! In my experience it is about the same weight as lightweight merino and like all synthetics that I've tried, feels significantly colder than merino when wet because of the high rate of evaporation (when you aren't wearing something over it). I never get "cold flashes" when hiking in merino. It is more durable and less expensive, however.Nov 5, 2009 at 10:13 pm #1543272
I agree, polypro is stinker (but underarmor synthetic stuff solved this by using silver-works great). I love my merino is so warm and soft, although strangely i notice that sometimes when im hiking and perspiring i get a sharp itchy pain in my butt, i think its from the merino. I have heard people having itchy reactions(milia, etc) from it, it only seems to happen when i wear merino. But if i ignore it, i forget about it afterwhile, and after i stop perspiring it goes away. It seems to happen in folds of skin, like the fold where your but touches your the back of your thigh. But this minor irritation is not a regular thing, it happens occasionally-moreso in summer. Anyhow, a minor irritation is not enough for me to ditch merino, i like all the other aspects of it too much.Nov 6, 2009 at 2:30 am #1543303
@holdfastLocale: Bergen, Norway
I use a Norwegian brand of clothing that has a range with a similar construction to the HH Warm garments. I use the Devold Active (http://www.devold.no/outdoor/default.aspx?menu=123&collection=117) long sleeve tops for sub-zero running/hiking and find them the perfect balance of wicking and warmth. For some reason, despite the synthetic material next to my skin, the Active garments smell a lot less than my other 100% synthetic baselayers. I'd really like to see a hooded version though.Nov 6, 2009 at 2:46 am #1543305
@alanlLocale: Bavarian & Austrian Alps
Interesting to see Dan's comments here, as I'm a long time loyal Helly Hansen wearer. I still have a couple of second-generation lifa shirts from the early 90s, and still wear them for some things, e.g. winter bike commuting. They are much more comfortable and less smelly than the 1970s first generation ones I had before (although that's admittedly a pretty low hurdle)
I had been watching the whole merino thing from the sidelines because I'm very sensitive to wool – had tried Icebreakers and a couple of other reputable brands on in shops, and almost broke out in a rash right there in the changing room. Then I found that I can wear Patagonia's "Wool 1" merino/polyester mix with no problems at all. Have been wearing one for all outings for the last few weeks – without washing, as an experiment. I'm so pleased with it, I just bought another one, because Patagonia have a history of quickly making their best kit unavailable in Europe.
Which means, I guess, that I'm not currently in the market for any more baselayers. Although from what I've read I don't realistically expect my new merino shirts to last decades like the old H-H polypros do. So I had noted with interest that both H-H and Montane make also merino-mix garments, but with different approaches.
The Patagonia mix, I read somewhere, is fibres spun with a polyester core and wool outside; Helly Hansen's layers are then something quite different (and if the polypro is on the inside, that would take away some of my concern about wool itch); Montane apparently has the merino on the inside and polyester on the outside. Interesting.
(Yes, I'm aware that none of these is a patch system as suggested by the original poster)Nov 6, 2009 at 4:42 pm #1543502
"Hansen's layers are then something quite different (and if the polypro is on the inside, that would take away some of my concern about wool itch);" That line of garments is called "Prowool". Very comfortable and warm. You might consider giving it a try some time if you like HH and are looking for a wool piece without the itch.Nov 6, 2009 at 6:03 pm #1543517
"Polypro is the future" – Dan
"Polypro is one of the oldest synthetic base fabrics…It stinks to high heaven!" – Miguel
"I agree, polypro is stinker" – Mykka Mouser
I think Polypro is the future because it's shortcomings can be addressed by advancing technology, unlike Merino. The merino sheep aren't going to suddenly evolve and start growing fibres that are dramatically lighter or dry quicker.
Polypro is already the lightest and quickest drying base fabric out there, so all that really needs to be addressed is the stink…and that's already come a long way. Whenever polypro is mentioned, the old timers love to pipe in with how stinky their old 'smelly hellys' were back in the 70's. That may be true, but it's also irrelevant. Since Helly Hansen pioneered the use of polypro in the 70's, they (and others) have refined it a lot. HH has received a ton of patents over the years including one a few years back for creating in the polypro "a natural resistance to microbial growth and odor retention".
Other brands are doing similar things like Underarmour (as mykka mentions) and apparently Devoid Active. Technology like those silver strands (or whatever that is) is pretty neat stuff and shows a lot of promise.Nov 6, 2009 at 7:59 pm #1543542
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I am a fan of synthetic base layers… but I agree with others that classic polypro belongs in the past… even if you add silver to fight odor. I recently discovered some early 1980s polypro at the bottom of a drawer. Put them on and found they felt just like I remember them. I much prefer the feel (as well as the performance) of more modern synthetics like powerdry.
I don't typically use wool base layers, but I have noticed that wool has gotten better over the last 20 years. There have been numerous improvement in wool thanks to better weaving and sheep that have adapted to their environments and producing better quality wool. It's changes that make merino wool, merino wool which is superior to many other types of wool.
–MarkNov 6, 2009 at 8:31 pm #1543547
Sorry Dan, I don't want to put you on the spot, but your working for HH and being particularly enthusiastic about them makes me a little bit doubtful about your impartiality. My being an "old timer" does not imply that I and others haven't kept up with the latest developments; just my being here at BPL means that I do, and my having had 40 years to go outdoors and try a great number of products out only means that I've experienced a lot of what mamy different kinds of products (in this case fabrics) can and can't do. I've tried A LOT of different fabrics for baselayers over the years and in terms of a fabric doing exactly what I want it to do nothing has come even close to merino wool. The newest merino fabrics, especially the 150 weight ones from Icebreaker, do exactly what I want such a fabric to do and I just don't need anything else. I like that it comes from a living creature, that the prickly issue that I used to have so much trouble with has been overcome (for me), and that it just feels "right". I've never had one instance to complain about my Icebreaker 150 t-shirts.
As to merino wool not evolving… that's misinformed. Merino wool has developed a lot since better breeds of sheep were bred and since new methods of constructing the fabrics (there are many different kinds… not just one. Just look at HH itself having incorporated merino into some of their fabrics… that already shows merino's viability) were developed. Icebreaker, Patagonia, Smartwool, Ibex… all of them have developed new configurations of merino wool fabrics as their experience with their earlier products revealed problems. Just look at Smartwool socks today compared to ten years ago… they are stronger, more durable, fit better, and even look better. It's silly to say that just polypro is going to advance and write off merino. My experience certainly doesn't support that at all.
Another thing, I feel that being able to dry quickly is not the only important thing in a fabric. Being able to keep you warm is more important (or in very hot, humid climates, being able to keep you cool and not letting you lose body moisture in very hot, dry climates are just as important). Wool does that much better than any synthetics. It's similar to down in that way… it is still, for the purpose of a base layer, the best at what it does.Nov 6, 2009 at 9:31 pm #1543555
"I don't want to put you on the spot, but your working for HH and being particularly enthusiastic about them makes me a little bit doubtful about your impartiality."
I like to think I'm enthusiastic about polypro in general, not specifically HH products. I'm honestly not that enthusiastic about HH products besides polypro. I get a really good deal on HH stuff and still have only ever bought one thing in the year I've worked at HH…some fleece pants for $30.
I'm only going to be working at HH for another 2 weeks and then I'm leaving because ski season season is starting :)
"As to merino wool not evolving… that's misinformed.
By not evolving, I'm referring to the fibre weight and drying characteristics of merino, which are it's two largest downsides IMO. Obviously construction practices have been refined, but the basic merino fibers have not changed. Many companies have switched from using lower grades of Merino, to higher end stuff (aka 'ultrafine' merino wool, which is 11.5-15 microns in diameter) but the 'ultrafine' stuff has existed since the middle ages. It's sorta like down…just because higher end down (800-900fp) has become more popular doesn't mean that goose down has improved or evolved. Manufacturers are just choosing the better stuff within the same biological limits.
As you say, merino may have other advantages like heat retention, feel on the skin etc. I don't disagree with this. Choosing a baselayer is a complex decision that depends on a host of factors. I think we can agree that no material is going to be the best in all circumstances, so what really matters most is understanding the characteristics of each so we can all choose wisely.Nov 7, 2009 at 12:06 am #1543578
I think we can agree that no material is going to be the best in all circumstances, so what really matters most is understanding the characteristics of each so we can all choose wisely.
That's very fair and something I agree with you on completely. I'm neither loyal to any one fabric nor am I averse to further improvements. Let's see how polypro develops, or possibly even see how blends develop. We're all looking for the Holy Grail of outdoor gear, are we not?
Thanks for the interesting discussion. :-)Nov 7, 2009 at 3:14 am #1543584
Just a quick FYI-
The BPL UL merino dries just as fast as any synthetic I've worn. So far the hoody has been tested between a range of around 30-70 degrees by myself and two other members and we've all had similar experiences. I've only tried the hoody personally, but I have to assume the rest of the line behaves in a similar fashion. Expected sustained rain during the nicer seasons used to be the only time I'd wear a synthetic shirt (I don't carry rain gear during this weather). Having seen how the BPL stuff performs, I no longer need synthetics for that forecast.Nov 7, 2009 at 5:18 pm #1543713
"Having seen how the BPL stuff performs, I no longer need synthetics for that forecast."
What's you take on the durability of the UL Merino products, Chris?
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