Last updated: 17-Aug-18
By Dan Stinton
As I hurl a snowball at my friend Dave and watch it land perfectly inside his hood, the last thing on my mind is how cold it is. Minutes earlier our legs had been disappearing without warning into the snow, resulting in involuntary swearing and immediate laughter from the others. Oh, how we revel in the misfortune of our fellow humans.
But I’m not here to tell you about my Christmas holidays – this was one of the various runs testing out a batch of baselayers. I’m not normally one for wrapping up as I tend to get hot fairly quick so would only normally wear a baselayer if it’s very cold. But here, on the fringes of the western Peak District, the cold weather certainly hasn’t disappointed. With products from Craft, La Sportiva, Rab, Salewa and Salomon I certainly had my work cut out comparing them all, but have also had a great time running in the hills assessing just how cold and wet I was!
For sizing purposes, I tried all of these tops in a medium. I have a 99cm chest (well I did when I measured pre-Christmas carb-load) which tended to fall at the upper end of the medium sizing. This generally worked out well and demonstrated the different types of fit for the tops which I’ll get to in the reviews.
CRAFT – Active Intensity
- Close-fitting “bodymapped” design
- 100% polyester
- RRP: £34
This Active Intensity top is one of the closer fitting of those under review and the material is designed to match the various contours of your body shape. The top seems to wick sweat and remained dry in use. However, I did find myself getting a little warm so I would probably only be picking this up when it’s quite cold outside.
The neck comes up reasonably high which can be a little constricting in warmer workouts but a it helps in the cold weather. It also has quite a long body which stops any issues with it riding up during use.
The Active Intensity top is great value and is the least expensive on review here. It may not make as many technical claims as some of its rivals but, in use, it’s light and the close fit keeps you warm and comfortable. A no-nonsense top nicely designed, but some thumb loops would be good.
As a great finishing touch, it has “Enjoy the hard work” stitched into the inside of the bottom trim which reminds you what is ahead each time you pick it up to put it on!
LA SPORTIVA – Troposphere 2.0
- 60% Polyamide, 35% Polypropylene, 5% Elastane
- UV factor 30+
- Anti-odour treatment
- Available around £60
The Troposphere was certainly the most “figure hugging” of all of the tops on review and gripped reasonably tightly around my whole body. If you’re close to the upper end of the sizing charts you may want to consider the next size up if you don’t like this feeling.
The material feels slightly thicker than the other tops on review and is “body-mapped” so grips in all the right places and seemed to do well at keeping a consistent temperature.
La Sportiva make a few technical claims about this top including that it can be worn on repeat days due to anti-odour treatment, so I left it hanging overnight after a three-hour run. The next day I gave it a (rather tentative) sniff-test and, whilst it wasn’t completely fresh, I was surprised at how little odour remained – definitely one for the laundry-dodgers.
I initially thought this would be a little tight for me but I liked it the more I used it. It’s comfortable, doesn’t feel constricting and the seamless stitching means you don’t feel any chaffing or rubbing. Like most of the others, it also contains thumb loops which I like as it can reduce the times when I’d want to wear gloves.
RAB 160 Merino+ Hoody
- Zipped close-fitting hood and neck warmer
- Superfine Merino and polyester
- Thumb loops
- RRP: £85
Unlike a few of the other tops, I’d be completely comfortable wearing the Rab 160 as my only layer as it’s a slighter looser fit and doesn’t reveal every mince pie or extra slice of cheese you may have scoffed over Christmas. Made from a merino and polyester mix, it feels comfortable and warm straight on – some of the other tops sometimes felt a bit cooler on the body before you warm up running.
This is the only top with a hood which is very close fitting, and made me feel a bit like “Rocky” every time I ran up some steps. The hood actually works really well and even when not in use, if you zip the top up fully, it doubles as a nice loose neck warmer. If you’re getting too warm then the zip pulls down quite low on the chest to help get air flowing and regulate temperature – simple, back-to-basics design.
This Rab 160 definitely feels more than just a baselayer – it works as a single layer for the self-conscious amongst us, or even just as a nice comfy top to throw on after a run. Even though it was the most expensive on review I think it does offer that little bit more versatility. Although it doesn’t offer that real grip or compression around your body like some of the others it performs as a nice warm functional layer.
SALOMON Park Seamless long sleeve tee
- Attractive design
- 69% nylon, 31% polyester
- RRP: £55
This was the baselayer I was wearing during the epic snow fighting mentioned in the intro to this article and, I mean this in a positive way, I barely noticed it throughout the entire run. My body and arms felt a warm consistent temperature with no rubbing or chaffing at all.
Not quite as tight fitting as either the La Sportiva or Craft, this still sits close to the body and the material (a nylon and polyester mix) is instantly comfortable and warm. It’s not quite as long in the body as some of the others and I did notice it ride up during a couple of speed sessions when wearing more “race” style shorts.
Whilst I’d almost always be wearing baselayers under other tops, this is an attractive colour – a lightly mottled blue/grey which looks really good. However, somewhat disappointingly, the Salomon logo has partly worn/washed away already.
The thumb loops are (and I never thought I’d say this about thumb loops) a bit more “advanced” than others as they are a proper stitched circular loop and feel really comfy in use.
SALEWA Pedroc Delta Dry
- Polartec (bluesign approved)
- RRP: £65
Initially looking at this top I wasn’t particularly taken with it. It looked a bit simple, and the four-way stretch polartec fabric felt a bit “bumpy” to the touch and not as immediately comfy as some of the others when initially put on. We shouldn’t always trust our first impressions though.
It’s made from Polartec, so the Pedroc Delta Dry certainly keeps you warm, is very lightweight and dries really quickly. It’s a slim fitting top but even without the seamless design of several of the other tops I didn’t really notice any chaffing or rubbing, but the material just doesn’t feel quite so comfortable as some of the rivals.
I popped out this evening in reasonably strong wind with this top underneath a t-shirt and it did feel like the wind whipped through the exposed arm sections, so it may work better completely covered. No thumb loops are included here and whilst it’s a functional top, for the price it felt a little lacking in the overall looks and design department.
It’s been really helpful to be able to review these tops as it gives extra motivation to get out there in all weathers. All of them kept me as warm and dry as could be expected in a baselayer. The decision on which works for you comes down to how you like a top to fit.
Some may want to show off their rippling muscles in a tight-fitting top, but if you’re more “DeVito” than “Schwarzenegger” then it might not be as appealing. Joking aside, of course, most ultrarunners just want something that’s warm and comfortable during several hours of running.
These comments can only really relate to my body shape but if you like a nice tight fit around your body then the La Sportiva or the affordably priced Craft will be up your street. If you like a snug but not gripping top, then the Salomon or Salewa would fit the bill. The Rab top felt slightly out of place in this group test and is much more of an all-round layer rather than just a baselayer with some great features which help justify the higher price tag.
None of these tops however, will guard you from a well thrown snowball, but we can’t have everything eh?
About the writer: Dan is a Peak District based runner who, when he’s not practicing his snowball throwing aim, likes nothing more than running into the Dark Peak with the Glossopdale Harriers and then writing about how difficult it was at www.allhailthetrail.co.uk
All images Dan Stinton except when stated.
Have you tried these baselayers? Don’t agree with this review? What’s your opinion? Add your own comment to this review and share your experience and passion for running with others.
Not a member yet? Sign up here to be part of the RunUltra community and share tips and stories with thousands of fellow runners around the world.
We are a professional review site and our reviewers receive free products for testing from the companies whose products we review. We test each product thoroughly and give high marks to only the very best. We are independently owned and the opinions expressed here are by the reviewer’s name shown.
We use affiliate links in some of our reviews and articles. This means that if you purchase an item through one of these links we will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through our links but the income will help us to keep bringing you our free training guides, reviews and other content to enjoy. Thank you in advance for your support.