Gear-Zone Clothing Guide: Baselayers and Wicking T-Shirts
Posted by Neil | May 05, 2011
Baselayers are exactly what they say – the very base of any layering system for active pursuit enthusiasts.
And, just as with the enormous range of jackets and fleeces we’ve been focusing on in our Gear-Zone outdoor clothing guides, there is a massive choice of inner layers on the market, using different technologies aimed at a variety of sports.
Again, it all depends on defining your needs, from staying cool in the heat to maintaining warmth in the cold – and everything in between.
There are two main types of baselayer – the body-hugging compression top and a looser-fitting, less restrictive alternative.
Less tight fitting baselayers are manufactured by every leading outdoor clothing specialist, all designed to trap air next to your skin and get rid of perspiration, upping your body temperature in the cold and keeping it lower in the heat.Berghaus
, The North Face
– amongst many others – all have their own range of baselayers. Helly Hansen
actually offer three specific types – Helly Hansen Cool Technology which is like a built-in air conditioning system, Helly Hansen Dry which acts as a moisture super-highway to create a dry layer next to your skin, and Helly Hansen Warm which is a 2-in-1 system combining extreme insulation and superior moisture evaporation.
Tighter-fitting compression baselayers are designed to enhance your performance through accelerated blood flow, delivering more oxygen to core muscles which in turn gives more power and endurance.
With baselayer tops, constant, controlled compression over the spine and around the scapula and obliques not only helps to avoid muscle damage, but also aids post–exercise soreness.
Compression baselayers are designed to be skin tight, and are aimed at those involved in high-active pursuits including snowsports, running and cycling.
Major brands like Skins
, Under Armour
all offer compression baselayer tops and bottoms, with built-in moisture-management systems, odour control and anti-bacterial treatment.Wicking T-shirts
come in a huge range of different shapes and sizes, all geared towards removing sweat from your body, whether you’re involved in a highly-aerobic activity or simply hiking under a hot sun.
From a host of plain, no-frills examples to Icebreaker’s new Tech T Lite Richter, which depicts a Richter scale eruption of Tolkien’s Middle Earth emblazoned on the chest, the choice is almost endless.
Wicking T-shirts are perfect for both casual wear and full-on active pursuits, feature an odour control system to keep you fresh, and, in many cases, incorporate built-in sun protection technology as well. Craghoppers
in particular are renowned for the high UVF qualities of their clothing, not to mention anti-mosquito treatment too in their Nosi-Life range for travellers heading to tropical climates.
Fabrics can vary from pure merino wool to those made from a range of different synthetic fibres.
Merino wool is renowned for its insulation qualities, but is generally the more expensive option. Easy to care for, and with excellent breathability, the fabric feels more natural than a synthetic equivalent.
Synthetic material on the other hand, although boasting superb wicking characteristics and fast drying times, doesn’t necessarily have the same odour-repellent capabilities, and can feel a little uncomfortable in the heat.
Normally made from polyester or polypropelene, synthetics do not breathe in the same way, but are an attractive alternative as they are generally inexpensive.
The golden rule is never
to wear cotton next to your skin as a baselayer or T-shirt if you’re going to be moving quickly. Cotton holds the moisture in, leaving you feeling clammy, uncomfortable and increasingly cold as perspiration dries on your body.
For more information, check out our Gear-Zone Beginners’ Guide