What is your favorite base layer?

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    Jason Francis


    I have caught the backpacking bug, and now I am thinking more about colder-weather (and longer-distance trips) than the 20-miles-in-the-summer trips I have been taking recently.

    Does anyone out there have a favorite base layer they could recommend? And as a follow up, can you recommend a good source (and/or a time of year) to get a good deal on it?

    Wolf’s Rain
    BPL Member


    I went with icebreaker 150 bodyfit long sleeve and leggings last winter. They worked very well for me and I found a good deal. You'll mostly likely find two camps on this subject – wool vs synthetic. Each have their pros and cons but its generally accepted that you want the thinnest / lightest layer possible next to your skin for the best wicking properties. I went with wool mostly for the anti-funk nature. You could also look into something like Rab Meco which is a synthetic / wool hybrid. They get good reviews and I have a couple tops on the way in the mail to check out.

    I would definitely start looking right now so you can keep an eye on deals. Its hard sometimes to buy gear that is two seasons off (although winter is rapidly approaching imho), but I've been trying to be disciplined and augmenting my kit early this year. I got my icebreakers off Sierra Trading Post. They seem to have the best deal going for that item. They often start around 30% off and they frequently put out coupons that stack to make it 50%+. In fact,they have a 20% coupon going right now. Either way, search around and be patient on deals. What constitutes a good deal changes by brand / item and some rarely go on sale at deep discount. You'll learn a lot just by searching deals for a few weeks on the items you're interested in.

    Joshua Abel
    BPL Member


    Patagonia Capilene

    Dena Kelley
    BPL Member


    Locale: Eagle River, Alaska

    150 weight long sleeve merino wool shirt for me, as well. Can't recall the brand.

    Nick Grba
    BPL Member


    Locale: Flatlandia

    I second the vote for Icebreaker. My go-to base layer for moderate temps, summer or winter, is a 200-weight Oasis T-shirt. It's so damn comfy, it fits perfectly, dries pretty quickly, doesn't stink – even after a week of hard use, and insulates really well for its weight. For cooler temps, I layer over it with either a Stoic or Icebreaker merino half-zip pullover or a Montbell Ultralight down jacket.

    The Icebreaker stuff is pricey, but you can find deals in the early summer at STP or Derailed. The Redram 'brand' is their cheaper line – it works well for those on a budget, but it's thinner, less durable & doesn't fit quite as nicely.

    Good source material:

    Max Dilthey



    200wt Merino wool! Ibex bottoms, Smartwool top!

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    I like nylon, like maybe:

    except I make my own

    It also provides sun and bug protection worn by itself in warm weather

    Absorbs less water than merino. I don't think merino provides as good sun and bug protection.

    One reason for base layer is to absorb sweat and body oil so the insulated layer or WPB layer doesn't get contaminated. Merino or nylon are both good.

    The only clothing I have is shirt, insulated layer, and wind/water protection jacket. The insulted layer is just for camp/sleeping.

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    If the trip is going to be below 50F (shoulder, winter trips for me) then Patagonia Cap4 Hoody can't be beat IMHO.

    When it's warmer I have been mostly wearing a long sleeve Patagonia Cap 1, though sometimes I am using Icrebreaker or Patagonia Merino Wool light weight shirt. If there are heavy bugs I tend to reach for some sort of long sleeve nylon button up though I hate the lack of air permeability. I used to use a Rail Rider Eco-Mesh or Adventure Shirt, but they are cut too baggy for my taste. Right now I think I use an Ex Officio shirt but there are countless nylon shirts out there, none seem significantly better than the rest.

    A while I wrote up recommended based layer which I think is still mostly current.

    As to best time / place … STP is always a good bet. Patagonia (website and outlets) typically does a good sale for labor day. Most stores likely are doing clearance now (or so) as they gear up for the next season.



    "Does anyone out there have a favorite base layer they could recommend? And as a follow up, can you recommend a good source (and/or a time of year) to get a good deal on it?"

    Arcteryx Phase SL for summer Sierra hiking; Arcteryx Phase AR for late spring/early fall; +1 to what Mark recommends when it gets below 50, Cap4 Hoody. Bargains, if at all on Arcteryx are out of season of when they change models.

    Justin Baker
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Rosa, CA

    "If the trip is going to be below 50F (shoulder, winter trips for me) then Patagonia Cap4 Hoody can't be beat IMHO."

    Do you use it as a base layer or a mid layer?

    Owen McMurrey


    Locale: SE US

    For the last few years, a Cap1 crewneck under an OR Ferrosi hoody unless it's not getting above freezing. Then I switch to Cap3.
    Trying a Cap2 zipneck when it cools off again.

    kevperro .
    BPL Member


    Locale: Washington State

    I've have more expensive flavors but I'm currently using ColdPruf … it is a mid-weight polyester.

    Super cheap and so far so good. I just spent $300 on a tarp but have no desire to upgrade the base layer.

    Elliott Wolin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia

    I'm ultra-cheap!

    I just use whatever Campmor or STP has on sale. Seems to work fine, maybe not the lightest or most durable, but good enough and at around $5, who cares. Note that in the past I had to outfit five people, so unit cost was very important.

    Steven Paris
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I like either Icebreaker Tech T's or a thin synthetic running shirt (Patagonia Forerunner). Like others above, I buy when things are on sale. The only dislike I have for the merino t-shirts is that merino can develop a "wet animal" smell when really soaked, like a wet dog smell. Interestingly, this is really strong on only one of my shirts, but not too bad on the others, even though they are all Tech T's. I don't hike in that one any more.

    I usually pair this with a midlayer, either a Patagonia Cap4 Hoody or an Ibex Indie Hoody. Even on day hikes, I'm usually bringing a midlayer and a windshell in the PNW.

    BPL Member


    For anything above freezing: Nylon pants, nylon/lycra blend T shirt, Nylon or Poly blend long sleeved shirt. If it's going to rain a lot, I'll bring Terramor silk-weight long johns to sleep in.

    Above 20* and below freezing, Polartec uppers/lowers.

    Below 20* USGI polypros.

    hwc 1954


    I am getting a lot of use out of the new Patagonia Cap 4 gridded PowerDry Hi Efficiency base layers.

    1) PJ's, late night, and morning around camp in summer camping (50 to 60 degree F) temps.

    2) Top layer (by itself or over a tech t shirt) for high aerobic hiking/snow shoeing in mild winter temps (20 to 40 degrees)

    3) Ultra warm baselayer for super cold winter temps (20 degrees and below).

    For traditional long underwear baselayer, the lightest weight of Polartec Power Dry. It's offered by Patagonia (Cap 2), Marmot, LL Bean, and many others. Not the Medium or Heavy weights, unless it is very cold.

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    Salomon, REI and Patagonia polyester stuff from silkweight to R1. I try to match my base layer to the temperature for comfortable waking uphill in a fantasy world with no wind or rain and add wind or rain shell as needed. I use various fleece or puffy layers for rest stops and camp insulation.

    What I want is a base layer that wicks away perspiration and keeps a comfortable dry layer of air near my skin. Everything else is an attempt to keep the moisture moving outward and keeping cold air form robbing heat. In the hottest weather, I want a super thin short sleeve top to maximize evaporation, switching to long sleeve for overcast cooler weather and when wearing a rain shell to keep the cold fabric off my skin. Colder temps mean increasing thickness, basically Cap2-3-4-R1 as needed.

    James holden
    BPL Member


    Mec T1/2 … fairly cheap, durable, synthetic, and lifetime warranty

    nike dri-fit … for summer high exertion

    dead bird phase … get em on 50-70% off sales, which are everywhere these days around here … and i can even wear em to the pub …

    no merino … i dont find it durable enough for climbing … and it costs $$$$ … nor does it dry fast enuff


    Cullen Steele
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northwest

    Backcountry's house brand, Stoic, offers some great merino options that are rather affordable. Comfortable and effective.

    brian H
    BPL Member


    Locale: Siskiyou Mtns

    my momma gave me sensitive skin
    i cannot wear wool, not even merino, next 2 it.
    capilene has served me well

    Paul Hatfield
    BPL Member


    > Ferrosi hoody

    That's a very odd choice for a base layer.

    I've been wearing an Outdoor Research Whirlwind hoody on short hikes with no other layers, just because it was very inexpensive and looks good.

    The fabric passes the breath test (i.e. it has high air permeability), but it doesn't wick moisture at all. So the outside stays mostly dry, and sweat drips down your body. Which I guess could be good or bad, depending upon your intended purpose.

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