Base Layer Garment - Recommendation

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Jaeger

Full Member
Dec 3, 2014
670
20
United Kingdom
Aye Up,

I will declare at the outset that I’ve never been a great fan of total-synthetic base layers even though I have suffered the trials that some natural fibres can bring (think 1970’s British Army cotton airtex T’s) but I’ve always believed in credit where it is due so here is some in relation to a base layer garment that I have been using frequently over the past 4 years

My weekly outings involve foot travel across country with a ruck and periods of static observations (sometimes lengthy), most often in deer country.
I always wear a full set of light weight base layer garments, for me this is as much about protection from ticks etc as about heat retention and perspiration transfer.

My most recent, usual base layer has been the Helikon Level 1 during the milder times of year and either the Level 2 alone or on top of level 1 when the temps start to head for low single figures.

I wear polycotton (mil surplus or FjallRaven) as my outer/working layer over the top. I find that these combinations cater for most conditions and I then add a water proof shell-layer and/or mid-layer insulating garments as necessary.

About four years back I was seeking out a lightweight silk base layer set (in olive green!) as an alternative to the Helikon Level 1, when in a surplus shop on the south coast the owner identified to me that he had an acquaintance who was producing a range of outdoor pursuits clothing items and that I might be interested in, an under shirt amongst them. He went on to describe in detail the materials knowledge of the producer and the attributes of the particular shirt - a long sleeved, quarter zip with collar, ‘technical’, synthetic-fibre shirt.

The company was subzero (No affiliation).

At fifty seven quid – yes that is £57! (Please read-on!) it wasn’t something that I was going to immediately (or be able to) fork out for. I did a bit of homework and then I put it on the back burner until the upcoming Christmas after which several gifts were combined to make the purchase.

I won’t go into all the tech detail here, you can read it for yourself on the subzero site if you wish –

www. subzero.co.uk or www.subzerostore.co.uk

User information-wise I will state that it has proven to be one of the most comfortable, effective and robust base-layer garments that I have owned over decades – and that includes a plethora of material types and designs ranging from the old British Army tropical issue cotton Airtex, through silk, string, past and present Brit mil issue and various other synthetics.

I initially only used the subzero shirt in the autumn/winter months and found it to be very effective at moving perspiration away from my core - even to a slight degree on my back beneath a ruck where I have found that almost no garments are 100% effective.

The sleeve and trunk lengths were spot on, the short zip useful for venting or protection; The fit (XXL) was almost but not quite body hugging and it was very comfortable.
The seams, hems and material edging on the inside of the collar are all flat and very well over-locked.

The shirt has proven so comfortable in fact that it’s use gradually began to spill over into the milder times of year where I have found it to be equally effective to the point where it has become my permanent base layer year round – worn at least three times per week for the past 18 months.

I usually use the garment for three outings before I bung it in the washer unless I’ve had a particularly taxing time out and it smells a bit ripe – my wife usually lets me know!!
I’ve only ever washed it in liquid soap flakes with a splash of Dettol anti-bac laundry cleanser thrown in to the rinse cycle.

I reckon that it has been washed at least 150 times, possibly more and in spite of that it has kept its shape; it still fits snugly and the cuffs haven’t bagged-out; not a single seam has comer undone; the zip still works perfectly; there doesn’t appear to have been any loss of colour with the exception of a very slight amount in the pits (salt I expect) and the only sign of wear is a tiny amount of pilling on the upper spine area probably due to where my outer layer has rubbed it beneath a rucksack. Even the subzero logo on the collar looks almost new!

My understanding is that it is a combination of the material (100% polyamide as opposed to polyester) the dye process and the type of weave which accounts for the subzero’s commendable performance.

subzero1.jpg subzero2.jpg

That original fifty seven quid has now worked out for my use of it at less than a quid per week and there appears to still be years of use left in the shirt.
All in all I would suggest a very impressive piece of (modern) kit.
My old silks only beat this on odour retention but they gradually became quite loose fitting.

My more regular use of the shirt prompted me to consider buying another and I was a bit concerned as to whether they would still be available (and in olive green!).

At the time of writing I learned that they are presently available in the khaki colour, as a round neck without zip but that improvements have been made to the weaving process which allows pattern/material performance to be included in different areas of the shirt without the need for additional seams which sounds good to me.

What is more, to my surprise they have come down in price and they now also do a pair of leggings. Roll-on Christmas! :)
 

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