Best base layers for softshells or Paramo?

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Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
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Lancashire
There's probably been a big discussion about best base layers for active outdoors use, hiking, etc. What I'm specifically thinking is best, highly wicking base layer for systems that work by moving water as liquid to the outer face like Paramo, buffalo, driclime, etc.

Purely material properties then polypropylene fabrics should be best if you consider pure fabric properties. It actually moves moisture better than polyester, nylon, wool, etc by a large factor. In lab tests but IME too.

Then there's make, model, design that can make up for material deficiencies. I have cheap polyester boxers from regatta IIRC. Smooth, shiny weave that doesn't Wick IME. I have a pair of odlo polyester boxers that are the complete opposite in design and performance. A patagucci polyester boxers that have a very open weave and simply are comfortable in hot or cold conditions layered accordingly.

In winter my base layer of choice for activity is Helly Hansen prowool. Polypropylene inner layer with a very open weave almost mesh like. Then it's got an outer layer of wool. I have never felt wet against the skin in that but my back has felt wet on the outside of the base layer where my rucksack is against my back. Still dry skin though and warm.

So what's a good brand and design of base layer for say Paramo? I'm looking for boxers and upper base layer. Unfortunately I don't believe Merino is suitable because it be absorbs more than is good for a wicking or pumping system like Paramo. IIRC one of the two main synthetic fabrics, nylon and polyester, absorbs too but only in single figure percentages by weight so are more wicking than absorbing. I think they could be the best bet for fabrics but possibly PP if there's a treatment for smell issues.
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
1,584
674
Canada
Wool is great ... really is. I always come down off the mountain dry. Since about 2005, when I decided to go for it, I haven't used anything else for base layers in the cold ... from Smartwool 150 up to 400 weight Woolpower with lots of variation in between, and a general preference for this 200 weight New Zealand merino stuff I have used for ages.

Paramo offer synthetics because Paramo use synthetics. I don't think there is more to it than that, and no matter what microbial treatment Arcteryx now offer, synthetics will always pong

Have you thought of linen for Summer?
 
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Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
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Well it goes to show we're all different. I've given Merino plenty of opportunity to work but I always end up with it holding moisture to a level that leaves my skin wet. IME it doesn't Wick but it absorbs. That's ok if you balance your heat well such that you're not sweating that much. I've used Merino and it's been ok but mostly I get wet. Plus it doesn't last long. IME Merino holes out within a year of use. They're not durable enough for their price. I've had cheapo Merino from Aldi through to premium brands. IME neither lasted longer than the other or performed significantly better. And they all failed to work as well as my HH prowool. Indeed I still prefer straight HH pp base layer because it really does wick very well.

IMHO Merino might work to keep you dry but that's not the point I'm really asking. I'm looking for best wicking for Paramo and other wicking softshells like driclime or buffalo.
 

Duggie Bravo

Nomad
Jul 27, 2013
455
86
Dewsbury
I had some really good M&S boxers, they were a shiny material that wicked/had odour control. I also have several t-shirts also from M&S and made from the same material.
I tend to wear them as my base layer in autumn and under my buffalo/RAB Vapourise.


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Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
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I had some really good M&S boxers, they were a shiny material that wicked/had odour control. I also have several t-shirts also from M&S and made from the same material.
I tend to wear them as my base layer in autumn and under my buffalo/RAB Vapourise.


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What is the fabric? I've read on a cycle touring forum that people rate M&S underwear still. Apparently there's certain ones that are really good but they're not on sale often. I think they're active underwear of some kind.
 

Billy-o

Native
Apr 19, 2018
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674
Canada
[QUOTE="Paul_B, post: 19but that's not the point I'm really asking. I'm looking for best wicking for Paramo and other wicking softshells like driclime or buffalo.
[/QUOTE]

That's right. Wool :) Arcteryx Cormac might be another answer. Or their Phase AR for cooler days. Both work but both niff on day two. Merino doesn't.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
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778
Lancashire
I think wool for base layers is another marmite solution like paramo and buffalo. I read a lot of recommendations but my experience doesn't bear any resemblance to what I read. It is ok most of the time I'm not working that hard but any level of exertion I get wet. It doesn't handle sweat it tries to mask it by holding it in the fibres but that gets overwhelmed IME before the day is out.

I must admit I now mostly just wear it on my half hour cycle commute in winter. It's wringing wet on my lower back by then but I simply wring it out and try to dry dry it by home time. It probably pongs less than synthetics especially polyester and outsource polypropylene but my office colleagues really complain all the same. It ends up by the back of the industrial ovens the first time I leave the office and my kit unattended!!!! I wish they had somewhere secure I could leave it away from civilisation during the day.

BTW I'm not exceptionally sweaty by any means. I once did 11 days backpack around the lakes and the last 4 days without a good clean up as we were pushing the trip to shorten the days but not the distances. My mate took a bath in a yarn the last night but I didn't. Yet when we got picked up at the end and I took these bus home he smelt in merino and I didn't in synthetics. No idea why but perhaps because it wicked through the fabric and his merino held the stinky sweat in.

Seriously, my experience of merino is poor durability and wet due to poor wicking ability. It's too expensive for how it performs too.
 

C_Claycomb

Mod
Mod
Oct 6, 2003
6,073
1,083
Bedfordshire
Rohan makes some good synthetic base layers. I would only go for the ones that use silver odour control, having tried their standard ones t-shirts, and although comfortable and fast drying, for me they pong too fast. The silver ones work pretty well, not as long lasting as wool, but much faster to dry.
 

Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
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Lancashire
What could be causing my merino to fail so quickly? Everyone says wool is long lasting but IME it wears through in less than a year. It's the worst material used for base layers for durability IME.

On other sites to do with the outdoors I read more posts that seem to match my experience of wool but not on here.

Of course good old smelly Helly is the real granddaddy of durability!! If you haven't got a 30 year olds lifa base layer it's probably because you're not old enough to own any outdoor kit 30 years! It's an outdoors rite of passage I reckon, certainly if you're a kayaker. My first one was bought for me when l was about 13 I'm now 47. It still fits and was my go to kayaking base layer when I did that.
 
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bigbear

Full Member
May 1, 2008
898
88
Yorkshire
Buffalo boxers in pertex orRohan silver undies for the nether regions.
Merino or brinje top.
plus a word for Decathlon wicking t shirts, I cannot se any difference between them and Patagonia silk weight Capilene, and I LOVE Patagonia.
still caving in my 30 plus year old Helly !!
 
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Duggie Bravo

Nomad
Jul 27, 2013
455
86
Dewsbury
What is the fabric? I've read on a cycle touring forum that people rate M&S underwear still. Apparently there's certain ones that are really good but they're not on sale often. I think they're active underwear of some kind.

I still have the t-shirts, I’ll see if I can dig them out and see what the label says.


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MikeLA

Full Member
May 17, 2011
1,563
100
Northumberland
I have tried all sorts over the years and for shorts end up with woven boxers or pretext boxers. To be honest we all are different and will recommend stuff that you have tried and doesn’t work. The 2 above work in most conditions for me but aren’t perfect.
As for a baselayer like merino if standing, sleeping out but as soon as I walk no good. In fact nothing has been perfect now using coolmax t shirts and putting up with this material.
 

bigbear

Full Member
May 1, 2008
898
88
Yorkshire
Love it, just wear a thin windproof layer over it unless its Cold, when Paramo straight on over it. My wife laughs at me but what the hell, its a really good base layer.
 
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Paul_B

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jul 14, 2008
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I think I once had a sub zero top. IIRC a very smooth fabric almost shiny? I had it a long time ago as an alternative to my HH lifa top. Back in my student days IIRC.
 

Terry.m.

Forager
Dec 2, 2014
183
14
Kent
If your willing or able to afford, it’s.
Arcteryx , Patagonia, rab, harkilla.
They all perform well in mountains
In winter.
I use first 3 for skiing ,
Jelly hansen sailing
Harkila shooting/ hunting

For camping/ bushcraft/ canoeing
Mix and match all the above...


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