Everyone knows a good baselayer is super important. What’s pretty obvious to me though is that a baselayer is a personal thing – what suits one person may not suit another. It all depends on how hot or cold you run, how sweaty you tend to get in the skin track and how quickly you lose heat when stationary. The rest of your layering system also depends on the type of baselayer worn. A warm, heavy baselayer will require less insulation over the top of it than a lighter one, for example.
The straight forward fabric choice is between synthetics and wool. To generalise; synthetics wick moisture and dry faster, are more durable and are cheaper. Wool (usually merino) is warmer and arguably regulates temperature better. There are many hybrid merino / synthetic fabrics on the market now which, depending on the percentage mix of fibres, offer a performance combination of both. Here’s a review of some of the best baselayers from the 2017 / 2018 season for splitboarding and ski touring.
Arc’teryx Phase SL
My current favourite baselayer fabric, Phase SL (super light) is a very light synthetic fabric that I find to be perfect for touring. The fabric doesn’t offer much warmth, so expect to layer up on top but it does dry very quickly. It’s incredibly soft and very comfortable to wear, even for multiple days in a row. The long sleeve zip neck top is just about perfect and the boxers are the most comfortable I’ve ever worn. More on the Arc’teryx Phase SL baselayer line here.
Capilene is still going strong after decades in the Patagonia line. Performance is impressive but the thing that sets Capilene apart, as usual with Patagonia, is its environmental credentials. Most of the fabrics in the Capilene line are either completely recycled or at least made up of a high percentage of recycled fibres.
The Capilene range is divided up by fabric weight / warmth; lightweight, midweight and thermal weight. The Lightweight T-Shirt is a stand out piece in the range and a great option for spring touring or for anyone who simply prefers a short sleeve foundation layer.
I also really like the Thermal Weight Zip Neck Hoody. It uses a perfect weight of Polartec Power Grid that blends warmth and breathability really well. It functions as both a warm baselayer or super light midlayer.
Icebreaker are the original and definitive merino brand. They probably have a bigger range of merino baselayers than anyone else and this winter they’ve gone big on the BodyfitZONE line. The BodyfitZone Winter Zone Long Sleeve Half Zip has very warm 260 weight merino though the main torso and panels of Merino eyelet fabric is areas where added breathability are required.
Norrona Super Hoody
The Norrona Super Hoody is made from a combination of Polartec Power Grid in the main body of the garment and lightweight Polartec Powerstretch on the cuffs, neck and hood. The chest pocket adds storage options in the skin track and the hood warms on its own or under a helmet or hood.
Ortovox Ultra 105 & 145
Ortovox use Nuyarn merino in their Ultra range. Nuyarn places super fine merino wrapped around a strong nylon core. This makes the fabric much stronger, more durable and stretchier than conventional pure merino textiles.
The Ultra range includes two weights of merino – 105 and 145. Both weights are available in multiple styles including zip and crew necks, long and short sleeve, plus boxers / hot pants and leggings. The range covers both men’s and women’s fits.