About the author

Tim Moss

Tim Moss has supported over 100 expeditions across all seven continents. He has climbed new mountains, crossed a desert on foot and recently cycled 13,000 miles around the world. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society London and a Guinness World Record Holder. He aims to encourage more people to live adventurously. Read more...

36 Comments

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  6. 6

    Tim

    Great article, thanks for the information. Very interested in bamboo as an alternative to merino.

    Reply
    1. 6.1

      Tim Moss

      Thanks Tim. I’m a big fan of bamboo although most companies seem to have stopped making it and the BAM range is very slow to dry unfortunately.

      Reply
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  10. 7

    Bego

    My partner is really happy with a Regatta Bamboo tshirt he bought this year, performance and odour control, but not old enough to judge durability. Funny I couldnt find it on the regatta webpage, but there are on amazon.uk!! My latest Icebreaker cycling merino tshirt has four holes after two months… not happy at all.

    Reply
    1. 7.1

      Tim Moss

      Thanks for that Bego and great to hear that there’s still some bamboo out there, even if you have to trawl amazon for it.

      Sorry to hear about your merino t-shirt though. Mine lasted a year before the hole’s started appearing but it’s never going to be as tough as the alternatives unfortunately.

      Reply
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  12. 8

    Scott

    Afternoon Tim,

    I’m taking the family (wife, 7 & 5 year old boys) to Lapland in December of this year & don’t know which type of base layer to go for to ensure we keep warm. The most strenuous activity I can see us doing is sledging but I can imagine there’ll be a lot of sitting still (sledging behind huskey, reindeer, skidoo’s etc.).

    I need some advice on which material to go for.

    Reply
    1. 8.1

      Tim Moss

      Hey Scott, sounds great. I’m jealous! I wouldn’t worry about performance/wicking since it’s not high intensity so forget synthetics – they can feel cold and get smelly anyway.

      Both bamboo and merino would do you well. Bamboo feels nicer (in my opinion) and is perhaps a little cheaper. BAM would be good. If you want really warm – and are feeling flush – then try Swedish merino brand: Woolpower.

      That said, I reckon you’d be absolutely fine with cotton skiing thermals. Stuff you can probably get from department stores as well as in the end of season ski sales. They’ll be warm, cheap and tough, and you shouldn’t be sweating for long enough for them to cause a problem.

      Hope that helps?

      Enjoy!
      Tim.

      Reply
  13. 9

    Mike

    Hi Tim,

    That’s a really useful breakdown – thanks.

    I run hot all the time, so my problem is that I overheat easily and then sweat a lot. My main issue is being hot and bothered while hiking – when I stop my clothes might get cold because they’re wet, but that doesn’t really bother me as I’m warm blooded enough for it rarely to be a problem (and in fact it’s often quite nice).

    With that in mind, and given what you’ve written, is there anything better than a loose fitting cotton shirt or t-shirt for me when hiking in warm or hot places? My only issue with cotton is the heavy, wet and clingy feeling can be rather unpleasant sometimes.

    Everybody recommends merino wool to me – but it sounds to me like I’ll just feel even hotter!

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. 9.1

      Tim Moss

      Hi Mike, thanks for the comment. An interesting question.

      For warm weather, I would definitely not recommend merino. As you guessed, it will probably be hotter and certainly won’t get rid of that wet, clingy feeling.

      A light bamboo t-shirt might be a slight improvement – they can be a bit less sticky – but I reckon you’re best bet would be a nylon trekking shirt. You get them in outdoors shops, they’re always khaki coloured and often made by Craghoppers or Columbia (like this one).

      Avoid a really cheap knock-off one as bad nylon is really bad but any main-brand one – or one you can try on yourself – should be good for you. They’re really thin and hang quite loose (even when close cut) so stay dry and wick really well. Of course, wicking well in warm weather means you’ll loose more water than staying in that damp, clingy cotton shirt but it should be a lot more comfortable.

      Does that help?

      Reply
      1. 9.1.1

        Mike

        That’s great -thanks.

        So is this basically right –

        Cotton:

        Pros – Coolest, look normal, not smelly, retain water

        Cons – Clingy, chafing, get cold if the weather turns

        Nylon:

        Pros – Comfortable, dries well, looks pretty normal, pretty cool

        Cons – Smelly, not quite as cool, lose more water

        So like anything in life, it’s a compromise.

        Many thanks.

      2. Tim Moss

        You’ve pretty much got it Mike. Just be aware that “nylon” is a big field. It includes Helly Hansen style synthetic baselayers which are superb wickers; cheap, nasty sports tops that, although they don’t hold much water, hardly breathe at all; and the trekking shirts which wick OK but mostly work well because you wear them on their own and they are so thin and loose that a breeze takes away any moisture.

        You are right that it’s a compromise though. That’s why I don’t go in for any “Best Base Layer” stuff. They’re all just good for different things.

        Good luck with it!

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  15. 10

    Terry

    I cycled around the world this past year and brought along a range of synthetic and Merino wool shirts. However, in the end, nothing worked better than a 3-pack of white cotton shirts I bought at a thrift shop for $5.

    Reply
    1. 10.1

      Tim Moss

      Sounds about right Terry. Cotton shirts were what I used on my own round-the-world cycle.

      Reply
  16. 11

    Natasha

    Hi there

    I’ve got a 7k rowing race very soon and need to wear a skin under my club vest.

    No idea what the weather will be like but I need something breathable, easy to move in, comfortable, and warm. Though after the first 5 mins I will have certainly warmed-up so I need something that won’t allow me to overheat!

    I will probably get quite wet throughout the race but I will change soon as I get off the water, so a quick drying time is not essential,

    Any suggestions? Thank you,

    Reply
    1. 11.1

      Tim Moss

      That’s an easy one Natasha: Helly Hansen.

      They’re really popular amongst rowers (I’ve never discussed it with them but you see those blue/black-and-white stripes on rivers all the time).

      You could use any synthetic base layer made by an outdoor brand (e.g. Berghaus, Mountain Equipment, Lowe Alpine) but Helly Hansens are a good example. A synthetic top will perform better than any other material (i.e. wick away sweat/water fastest) and dry fastest (meaning it’ll keep you warmer).

      Best of luck with the race. If you do buy a baselayer online, please do consider using one of the links above – it means I’ll get a small percentage.

      Cheers!

      Tim.

      Reply
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  23. 13

    Mark

    Hello Tim,
    I’ve found this blog by searching for base layers. I’ve been reading about them for a few days now, and this is by far the best article I have found on the internet about the subject. But I’d like to ask a couple of things if I can.

    -The article starts by saying that synthetics have the best wicking qualities, but then the “sport” variety of the synthetic is described as having bad breathability. If these things are synthetic but their cheap quality makes them bad at wicking, I wonder what they are good for, since I was looking at them for working out at the gym.

    Also: what do you think would be the best kind of layer for everyday life? I’m about to move to London and I’m very sensitive to cold. I was looking for something to wear anywhere- to work, to run errands, etc- under my main top. Probably merino? Have you ever worn a base layer for your everyday life too?
    Thank you dearly

    Reply
    1. 13.1

      Tim Moss

      Hey Mark,

      Good questions.

      1. WHAT ARE CHEAP SYNTHETICS GOOD FOR?
      All the synthetics hold very little water. So an expensive outdoor top and a cheap football top will come out of a washing machine feeling almost dry.

      However, cheap sports tops aren’t very breahthable. In other words, they feel really sticky when you get hot in them. Consider it a bit like a plastic bin bag. That wouldn’t hold any water and would dry off really quickly but if you wore it out running you’d get covered in sweat because water can’t pass through it.

      They’re good for being really cheap and not getting wet. If you’re outside in a breeze and/or for a short period then they’re OK becaues you don’t get too sweaty. For the gym, I’d usually just wear a cotton t-shirt. They’re cheap, comfortable and don’t smell. And if they get sweaty then you’re in a mild, air conditioned environment it’ll help keep you cool and you’re unlikely to freeze. If you’re really anti the sweat then just get a proper synthetic running top.

      2. BEST BASE LAYER FOR EVERY DAY LIFE
      Cotton’s popular for a reason. It’s cheap, comfy and warm. That, of course, is what most people wear.

      If you’re particularly active and/or get cool from sweat then I’d suggest bamboo. It’ll be just as good as merino for most activities but is much tougher and usually cheaper. Merino’s good but usually doesn’t last long and some people find it itchy.

      Hope that helps.

      Tim.

      Reply
      1. 13.1.1

        Mark

        Thank you Mark, this helped a lot!

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