Berghaus Long-Sleeve Zip-Neck Technical T-Shirt (2013)

As far as general-purpose base layers go, the Berghaus Long-Sleeve Zip-Neck Technical T-Shirt ticks all the boxes. It’s a good price, it’s reasonably light and, because it’s synthetic rather than merino wool, it’s relatively low-maintenance. The long sleeves and high collar keep the breeze at bay on a cold day, and the long chest zip allows the wearer to cool things down should the temperature rise. Like all man-made fabrics it will start to smell a little after continuous use, although the use of Polygiene silver-ion technology in the material makes it more antibacterial than some. With its loose fit and flat seams, it’s comfortable enough for even the longest hill days, while the close knit of the fabric offers sun protection equivalent to UPF 30+ so you’ll save money on sunscreen, too.

Material 100% polyester
Colours black, grey, blue (men’s); pink, purple, blue (women’s)
Sizes S-XXL (men’s); 8-18 (women’s)
Weight 161g (size L)
Website www.berghaus.com

 

Verdict

Of the base layers we looked at, the Berghaus Long-Sleeve Zip-Neck Technical T-Shirt is the best for general walking.

Review by Ben Weeks
First published in Trail magazine Spring 2013


Keela ADS 100 Short Sleeve Round Neck Top (2013)

At just £20, the Keela ADS 100 Short Sleeve Round Neck Top is such a bargain that you might choose to buy a few, and with such a vast array of colour options you could really go to town with your walking wardrobe. Truth be told, you’ll probably want more than one if you’re going on a multi-day hike – the 100 per cent polyester fabric can really start to pong after a hard, hot day. But in a budget base layer the fabric’s ability to shift moisture is more critical that its ability to remain odour-free. The Active Dispersal System (ADS) material wicks well, demonstrating that Keela has got its priorities right. Because the wicking properties are inherent to the yarn and the weave of the fabric rather than any special coating, it’s not affected by washing either, ensuring this top has a good lifespan.

Material 100% polyester
Colours grey, white, orange, green, blue, black
Sizes XS-XXXL
Weight 158g (size M)
Website www.keela.co.uk

 

Verdict

Of the base layers we looked at, the Keela ADS 100 Short Sleeve Round Neck Top is the best budget option.

Review by Ben Weeks
First published in Trail magazine Spring 2013


Arc’teryx Phase AR Hoody (2013)

Base layers with hoods are not that common and won’t appeal to everybody. However, if you like the idea of the all-over protection that a hooded base layer provides, the Arc’teryx Phase AR Hoody is one of the best. It wicks moisture, insulates and is tailored for an active fit with flatlocked seams for added comfort. The clever combination of materials ensures it dries quickly and offers UPF 25+ sun protection while silver ions encapsulated into the fibres minimise the odours often associated with man-made fabrics. But it’s the snug hood that fits easily beneath other hooded clothing or headwear that makes the Phase AR Hoody perfect for active wear in ear-bitingly cold environments. It also makes you look like a proper mountain ninja, which we happen to think is awesome.

Material 87% polyester, 13% polypropylene
Colours black, blue (men’s); purple, red (women’s)
Sizes S-XXL (men’s); XS-XL (women’s)
Weight 183g (size men’s L)
Website www.arcteryx.com

 

Verdict

Of the base layers we looked at, the Arc’teryx Phase AR Hoody is the best for protection.

Review by Ben Weeks
First published in Trail magazine Spring 2013


Páramo Cambia Shortsleeved T-shirt (2013)

With the Páramo Cambia Shortsleeved T-shirt you’re effectively getting two T-shirts in one. The synthetic fabric is finished differently on either side to provide extra warmth or cooling as required. With the slightly shinier surface on the inside, moisture is effectively dispersed during heavy exercise, allowing the wearer to cool down more efficiently. The reverse side has a softer, almost fleecy finish that traps air and feels warmer when worn next to the skin. Despite this doubling of purpose, the Cambia top is remarkably light. The stretchy polyester material is comfortable and fast-drying, although it won’t stay pong-less for long. It works brilliantly as part of a Páramo-based layering system and is a great option for the fickle hillwalker who’s not sure if they’ll be hot or cold and wants to be prepared for both.

Material 100% polyester
Colours green, grey, blue, red (men’s); black, green, pink (women’s)
Sizes S-XXL (men’s); XS-XL (women’s)
Weight 145g (size men’s L)
Website www.paramo.co.uk

 

Verdict

Of the base layers we looked at, the Páramo Cambia Shortsleeved T-shirt is the best for versatility.

Review by Ben Weeks
First published in Trail magazine Spring 2013


Xcelcius Megatherm (2013)

When a base layer comes with a warning not to sleep in it because it’s too warm, you should know what you’re getting; but just to make it crystal-clear, the Xcelcius Megatherm top also comes with a certified -25 deg C rating. Oh yes, it’s a hot one. Looking more like a sweatshirt than a base layer, it has a fleecy lining and is a fairly heavy and solid item of clothing. As such it won’t be suited to all activities and all weathers. On a fast summer trek this is the last thing you’ll want to be wearing – you’ll melt faster than the Wicked Witch of the West. But for slower climbs in extremely cold conditions or winter camps it’ll be perfect, trapping warm air next to the skin and maintining body temperature. As well as offering insulation, Xcelcius’ Viloft fabric (which is made from eucalyptus wood pulp) draws perspiration away from the skin and is bacteria-resistant, so it remains odour-free for longer.

Material 50% viloft (eucalyptus), 50% polyester
Colours blue (men’s); white (women’s)
Sizes S-XXXL (men’s); XS-SL (women’s)
Weight 409g (size men’s L)
Website www.xcelcius.co.uk

 

Verdict

Of the base layers we looked at, the Xcelcius Megatherm is the best for extreme cold.

Review by Ben Weeks
First published in Trail magazine Spring 2013


Icebreaker Mondo Longsleeve Half Zip (2013)

It would seem that the sheep in New Zealand must be some of the nicest-smelling in the world. The merino wool that the Icebreaker Mondo Longsleeve Half Zip base layer is made from can be worn repeatedly over several days without any hint of unpleasantness, then machine-washed. It’s a bit thicker and heavier than the synthetic base layers we looked at, so it’s best suited to slightly cooler conditions. Although not particularly long, the neck zip does offer the ability to control your temperature through venting. This in combination with merino’s natural wicking properties means the Icebreaker base layer can still be worn for gentle activities in warmer temperatures. However, it’s in cool, damp weather that you’ll really appreciate the benefits of the Mondo long-sleeve and the fact that merino wool retains its insulating properties even when wet.

Material 100% merino wool
Colours black, grey, blue, green (men’s); black, grey (women’s chakra)
Sizes S-XL (men’s); XS-XL (women’s Chakra)
Weight 244g (size men’s L)
Website www.icebreaker.com

 

Verdict

Of the base layers we looked at, the Icebreaker Mondo Longsleeve Half Zip is the best for odour resistance.

Review by Ben Weeks
First published in Trail magazine Spring 2013


Peter Storm Merino Base Layer Top (2012)

A lightweight, unfussy top that combines merino and polyester fibres to help keep the costs down whilst benefiting from the properties of both materials. It does wick away sweat well, and it dries fast, however it is thin, and is better-suited to warmer conditions or with more layers on top. Against the skin there is enough merino in contact to provide a soft feel and there is plenty of stretch in the fabric. For a couple of days out on the hill, the smell quotient isn’t too bad either, with the natural odour-suppressing properties of the merino doing its job. The low key design of the top allows it to function well, with a snug-fitting, lightweight fabric and no zips or too much stitching to get in the way.

Sizes: XS-XXL

Fabric: 63% merino wool; 37% polyester

Weight: 154g

Contact: 0800 389 5861 www.millets.co.uk

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.


Rab Meco 165 (2012)

An all-new style of base-layer from Rab, using a combination of merino wool, but this time with the clever addition of Cocona – a coconut-derived fabric. The added fibre adds the fast-wicking properties associated with man-made fibres, but with a lower pong quotient, thanks to the coconut infusion. Out of all the mixed material base-layers on test, this is the best. For general walking use it’s great, with a soft feel against the skin, and a decided lack of whiff even after a few days of use. The material wicks well and doesn’t take too long to dry, while the mixed fibre construction should also improve longevity. The cost is a little lower than other premium, full-merino tops too.

Sizes: S-XXL

Fabric: 65% merino wool; 35% Cocona

Weight: 243g

Contact: 01773 601870 www.rab.uk.com

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.


Marmot Midweight Zip Neck IS (2012)

A midweight top that seems best-suited to slightly cooler conditions. The inside of the fabric is lined with a waffle-effect finish to the Polartec Power Dry fabric, which not only helps trap a bit of heat but also helps draw moisture up and away from the skin. The fabric also has a decent amount of built-in stretch that gives it added comfort levels when moving. The cut is fairly generous, so you don’t have to be an Adonis to wear it without fear of a belly hanging out. Comfort is also boosted with a soft collar and flatlock stitching that avoids any areas of major rubbing. Although it does use Cocona technology to reduce odour build-up after a few uses, the smell does begin to creep out more than in a merino top.

Sizes: S-XXL

Fabric: Polartec Power Dry; 29% Cocona

Weight: 200g

Contact: 015395 63616 www.marmot.de

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.


The North Face Hybrid Long Sleeve Zip Neck (2012)

A tight fitting, athletic top built for high-energy activities, and as such may frighten off more casual users. The tight fit ensures that moisture is lifted quickly away from the skin and sent to the outside. Body-mapping has also been used to provide a little extra insulation in key areas. Best of all is the seamless construction, which means a very comfortable fit and no rubbing. Against the skin, the top feels very soft too, with dimples and ridges that help create some insulation and help to draw moisture away. Although it uses man-made fibres, the top has an anti-odour treatment added that does help to keep the smell down a bit. A very deep zip collar helps cool things down when it’s very hot.

Sizes: S, ML, LXL

Fabric: 97% polypropylene; 3% elastane

Weight: 199g

Contact: 01539 822 155 www.thenorthface.com

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.


Helly Hansen Warm Freeze Half-Zip (2012)

Helly Hansen’s polypropylene Lifa hollow fibres are mixed with merino wool in this top to capture the best elements of both. Lifa fibres are fast-wicking, with some insulation, while the merino gives extra warmth to the top, whilst also providing natural anti-odour. The dimple effect fabric helps draw moisture up and away well. It works well over a range of temperatures too, without being too warm when walking in all but the hottest conditions. The flatlock stitching is quite obvious when you put it on, but it has been kept out of the way of any crucial rub areas. The top does come in an athletic cut which really helps the stretchy fabric to perform at its best, but may not be to everyone’s taste.

Sizes: XS-XXL

Fabric: 43% Lifa polypropylene; 57% merino wool

Weight: 226g

Contact: 0115 960 8797 www.hellyhansen.com

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.


Mammut Zip Long Sleeve All Year (2012)

This is a top base-layer and another using a mix of merino and polypropylene to give benefits of both materials. The top uses ‘body-mapping’ techniques – using different construction in different places to help retain warmth and draw away moisture where necessary. Underarm and back sections are built to draw moisture away quickly with thinner material. The front uses a slightly thicker fabric that insulates a little more. The polyester material used under the arms does mean that the top isn’t as neutral in the smell department as a wool version, though. The whole cut of the top is quite athletic, with a good deal of stretch to aid movement, and there’s a great deal of venting with a zip that almost stretches down to the navel.

Sizes: S-XXL

Fabric: 22% merino; 78% polyester

Weight: 195g

Contact: 01625 508 218 www.mammut.ch

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.


Trekmates Merino Contrast Zip-top (2012)

A lightweight merino top suited to warmer weather. When holding the top up to the light it’s a little alarming to be able to see through the material, but there is no such worry once the top is on. It creates more warmth than you might expect from something that appears so thin. The thin nature of the fabric, especially around the cuffs, may become an issue in continued use, although over the testing period, any wear in critical areas was minimal. There is quite a lot of stitching on this top, and although it is the flat, unobtrusive style, the stitching extends across the top of the shoulders, which can pose a rubbing/fraying problem after prolonged use in conjunction with a rucksack. Thumb loops are a nice touch and keep the stretchy fabric pulled down over the arms for improved warmth.

Sizes: S-XL

Fabric: 100% merino

Weight: 240g

Contact: 0115 940 9176 www.trekmates.co.uk

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.


Finisterre Brisa (2012)

A straightforward, lightweight polyester base-layer with a lightish fabric and excellent wicking properties. Dimples in the material draw moisture away from the skin and allow the garment to dry very quickly too. The cut is slightly fitted without being overly tight or restrictive in any way. Added anti-microbial functionality does manage to keep the worst odours at bay for a couple of days of solid use. Crucially, though, all of this technical performance has not been at the sake of environmental concerns. A company always very aware of the environment, Finisterre have used 100% recycled polyester in the top – an important factor for some.

Sizes: S-XXL

Fabric: 100% recycled polyester

Weight: 163g

Contact: 01872 554 481 www.finisterreuk.com

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.


Aclima Warmwool Polo (2012)

An incredibly luxurious feeling base-layer. Although part of the midweight range it is pleasingly thick when on and really helps to keep warmth in – almost feeling like a jumper or mid-layer. Of course, in warmer conditions that isn’t ideal, but for walks in cooler, winter conditions it is excellent. There are slightly thinner panels of material on the sides that help to cool a bit. The cut is quite tight, but that really helps the fabric to function properly, and the great levels of stretch counter the snug fit. Although stitching is the flatlock variety, there is some across the shoulders which could rub when wearing a pack. The thicker nature of the 100% merino fabric and the heavy-duty stitching does give the top a durable feel.

Sizes: XS-XXL

Fabric: 100% merino

Weight: 334g

Contact: 0131 552 3000 www.nordicoutdoor.co.uk

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.


Paramo Cambia (2012)

This simple looking base-layer has a neat trick up its sleeve – it’s reversible. That’s not just useful for extending times between wash days: one side of the top is built for use in cooler conditions, one is better suited to warmer weather. The stitching on one side has a series of dimples that either traps heat when against the skin, or allows moisture to evaporate when on the outside. The difference between the two sides may be subtle, but does seem to have some effect in differing conditions. The top functions much more effectively in warmer temperatures, drying out very quickly. The man-made fabric can begin to smell after heavy use, though. The cut could also be a little tighter if the warming properties of the fabric are to be really effective.

Sizes: S-XXL

Fabric: Parameta T Reversible 100% polyester

Weight: 177g

Contact: 01892 786444 www.paramo.co.uk

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.


Rohan Basis T (2012)

A super-soft base-layer with a loose fit and a scoop neck. The fabric is so soft to the touch that you’d swear it has merino in it, although actually it's made from a blend of polyester and elastane. It’s been treated with Rohan’s Dynamic Moisture Control finish, so it wicks sweat away quickly and keeps you dry in warm, humid conditions. You’ll be able to wear it for a few consecutive days before it gets too pongy, when you can chuck it in the wash with everything else, and it will dry overnight. The only downside is that the scoop neck and loose fit doesn’t trap warm air very effectively, and the low neck leaves you at the mercy of the sun’s rays in warm weather.

Sizes: 8-18

Fabric: 96% polyester; 4% elastane with Dynamic Moisture Control™ finish

Weight: 175g

Contact: 0800 840 1411 www.rohan.co.uk

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.


Ice Breaker Chakra Zip (2012)

Simply the warmest, softest, best-looking, most versatile base-layer on test. It’s got a high zip-neck collar which locks in warmth when you need it, and allows a welcome flow of air if you get too warm. The fit is form-fitting but not tight, so it feels just as comfortable underneath outer layers as it does on its own. Made from 100% merino wool, it breathes incredibly well, and quickly wicks away sweat so that your skin stays dry. It washes easily (best on a cold wash), and won’t suffer any shrinkage. The fabric is strong too, and although it’s pricey, it should keep you warm year after year. But the most amazing thing about this base-layer is that it just won’t smell – even when you think it ought to!

Sizes: XS-XL

Fabric: 100% merino wool

Weight: 200g

Contact: 01572 772 437 www.icebreaker.com

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.


Montane Bionic Long Sleeve Crew Neck (2012)

A really lightweight base-layer made from Sportwool – a unique fabric that blends the best properties of merino wool on the inside, and polyester on the outside. Merino wool excels at trapping water vapour perspiring from the skin, whilst polyester transports moisture to the outside, spreading it out so the fabric dries extremely fast. So this base-layer works just as well on its own in hot weather as it does underneath outer layers in cooler weather. Even on strenuous climbs on hot days, the fabric stays dry and comfortable, so you won’t get any post exercise chill, either. And most importantly, it will take a few days’ wear before it starts to pong. There’s a reflective panel on each cuff, too.

Sizes: 6-18

Fabric: SPORTWOOL™ Thermoknit – 62% polyester/38% merino wool

Weight: 120g

Contact: 01670 522 300 www.montane.co.uk

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.

 


Sprayway Solstice (2012)

This base-layer is made from eco-friendly Cocona fabric, made from the activated carbon of recycled coconut shells. It’s really soft to the touch, and the activated carbon wicks away sweat very quickly indeed. It makes the fabric very breathable too. The carbon doesn’t do a lot to prevent bad odours, though – so unless you’re one of those women that doesn’t sweat at all, the underarms will start ponging almost as soon as you put it on. That said, the fabric feels lovely next to the skin, especially in warm weather, and the zip neck allows extra ventilation when you need it. The sleeves pull up easily too. Quite a technical looking base-layer, so not great for casual use.

Sizes: 8-18

Fabric: Cocona

Weight: 150g

Contact: 0161 366 5020 www.sprayway.com

Review from Country Walking magazine, January 2012.