Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Art of Not Freezing to Death - Part One: Base Layer


Yesterday I introduced this longer term mini-series, which aims to serve as both a kit wishlist and a source of information for any hiking newbie even more clueless than me (there must be at least one...).

Today I'm kicking off the series by talking about the first layer in a winter kit: The Base Layer.
(NB: I'll be focusing on tops here. I'm less than clueless when it comes to bottoms. It's an issue).

Now on the whole, my kit is a little underwhelming. And as I mentioned yesterday, my hiking clothes are designed for Spring and Summer - so in my case, my base layer would be something like this:

«Freakin Vogue
That, my dear reader, is perhaps the most sophisticated top I own - especially when it comes to my hiking kit. It is light, cool, and wicks sweat. It proved invaluable over the ridiculously hot summer we had this year.

So what about the base layer in a winter kit?

Well at least one of the elements listed above is hugely important here, so my little red top won't prove completely useless come the cold... here's the basics about a good base layer in a winter kit...

*It should be warm
*It should have sweat-wicking properties

That's it, really,

So what's the best bet for something like this?
Well material wise, synthetics (like polyester) will prove cheaper, and they tend to be decent when it comes to sweat-wicking. 
But if you've got the money, the best bet will probably always be Merino wool.
Not to sound a complete fangirl here (which I am. For a wool.) but Merino wool is pretty ace: warm (even when wet), sweat-wicking, fairly light - and doesn't tend to get smelly.

Thank the hiking gods for these sheep...
(Source)
So in sum: for your base layer, get something made from Merino wool.

Now for the kit wishlist - if I had the money, I'd probably want this...

Icebreaker Women's Oasis Crewe Stripe
From the research I've completed to date, Icebreaker seem to be the bomb for this sort of thing.

So this fine thing is 100% Merino wool, slim fitting (so ideal for layering), and even has offset shoulder seams to avoid (ahem) "pack rub".
Plus, it's not the worst looking bit of merino on the market (seriously).

It's currently being sold at Cotswold for £60. Another thing to add to the "when I have something resembling money" list...

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