Last updated: 17-Aug-18
Base layers are great under another layer for winter and on their own for a brisk spring morning. I tried out three of the best and then Fiona Outdoors tried out a fourth. All performed well on the trails.
Photo credit: Salomon.com.
Salomon Primo Warm long sleeve CN seamless tee
First the material: the baselayer uses 37.5 technology, previously known as Cocona. This material comprises activated carbon derived from coconut husks blended with recycled polyester. What it does is increase the surface area of the insulation which allows it to dry faster and makes it less smelly i.e. the moisture area is wider and shallower so it evaporates more easily.
Does it work? Well, I have worn the tee in lots of different climates including extremely cold in Scotland and quite warm in Morocco and it does dry quickly. I am a sweaty Betty, so quick drying is a must for me.
The design of the baselayer is good. It has a long body and gives great coverage. The neck doesn’t chafe and the material is thick enough to cover any lumps and bumps. It still comes in quite light at 150g. I would have liked thumb loops.
It washes well and there is a good choice of colours, but there was a tiny bit of fraying on one cuff after 10 washes. I liked the zoned areas as well under the arms and across the chest.
A good all rounder, this base layer was good under a waterproof as it kept the sweat moving away from my skin. I like this as an everyday running top and have been wearing it a lot.
PROS: Good material; great length.
CONS: A little bit of fraying at cuff seam after washing; no thumb loops.
Photo credit: Craftsportswear.co.uk
Craft Active Intensity CN long sleeve top
I really do think that Craft produce good kit at a very reasonable price. When I opened up the packet, this base layer really stood out in terms of looks. It is purple and green, which sounds horrific but actually it looks really great. It is very light and gives decent coverage but is probably not quite as long as I would like. On the other hand, it stays put really well and doesn’t ride up too much.
Because the fabric is so light it dries really quickly, I wore this with the Rab (see below) and then a fleece, and a heavy waterproof to climb Ben Nevis in thick snow. When the sun came out, I sweated a lot, and when it went in it was below freezing.
By the time I got down to the car park after a few hours on the hill, I was ready to strip off and put on dry clothes but, to my genuine surprise, I found that both the Craft and the Rab were bone dry. So, the wicking for both works perfectly!
This is definitely a lightweight option, though, and you need something on top on a cooler day. It is perfect for morning runs on the beach in Morocco at the 15-degree mark.
PROS: Excellent wicking; love the way it looks.
CONS: Very lightweight so need something else on top on a colder day.
Photo credit: Amazon.co.uk
Rab Merino 120 Long Sleeve Zip
This top is great quality. The merino is very soft to the touch and doesn’t have that itchy feel that some merino can produce. The zip neck is good for giving you a bit of extra cooling or warmth and the zip itself is light and flat.
This is a very clean and simple design. There are no furbelows but it fits well, sits well and doesn’t ride up. It is very thin and light, so can be a bit see through.
I found it was very good for warmth and this is one of those tops that I like to keep in my pack whatever I am doing as it doubles as a top for warmth or a top to keep off strong sun. It’s a very useful item. Moisture wicking is good and I love the fact that the material is natural and so smells a lot less.
PROS: Soft to the touch; useful and light to pack as an extra layer.
CONS: A bit see-through.
You are not going to go wrong with any of these base layers. They are all good, solid pieces of kit from excellent brands and I enjoy wearing all of them. I use them for slightly different things, however.
The Salomon is my workhorse and I use that the most often at the moment as the weather is cooler.
I like to have the Rab with me for longer runs and on treks to whip out for extra warmth and I can see in the summer that I will be able to use it to guard against the sun.
The Craft top is the one I wear when I need a boost to get out because I like the way it looks and because it is super-light I can see that as the weather warms up it will be a great morning run top.
Photo credit: Alpkit.com.
Alpkit Koulin Trail baselayers (with Polygiene)
Alpkit describe their Koulin Trail baselayers as lightweight and technical. They have partnered with Polygiene to add Permanent Odour Control technology to the t-shirts and long-sleeves. The aim is for the baselayers to be worn for longer, with less need for washing, which therefore saves the environment from the impact of repeated washing.
- Durable, breathable, wicking and quick-drying fabric.
- Body mapped mesh panels under the arms for maximum breathability
- Added Polygiene Permanent Odour Control so you can “wear more, wash less”.
- Flatlock seams
- Small envelope top pocket on the lower rear of the baselayer
- Shirt and long-sleeved designs
- Crew neck or half zip
- Male and female specific fit
- Reflective logo
- Priced from £18 to £24 depending on style. See Alpkit.
What is Polygiene Permanent Odour Control? The silver chloride treatment is made from recycled silver from electronic waste. It is claimed to inhibit the growth of viruses, bacteria and fungi and the odour that arises from them.
It is Bluesign approved and meets the highest environmental standards and lasts as long as the garment does, so it never has to be reproofed.
Polygiene state: “With washing and drying accounting for two-thirds of the environmental impact of a product, the anti-odour treatment helps saves water, energy, time and money as well as improving the product’s lifespan.” See www.polygiene.com.
I tested the crew neck, long-sleeved women’s Alpkit Koulin Trail baselayer. I was sent the UK10. I am a fairly standard UK10 fit and while the top fits neatly on the shoulders and chest it flares quite a bit at the waist and hips. This would suit someone with wider hips than mine.
The arm length is only just long enough. I do have long arms but I prefer a top to be more generous of arm and torso length.
Sating that it felt nice against the skin and it was easy to wear for running. The fabric is soft and silky and was great for wearing under a windproof jacket on cooler days or over the top of a t-shirt on warmer days.
I tested if for multiple days, wearing it for many runs one after the other. When I first wore the top it lasted for four sweaty outings before it started to whiff quite badly under the arms.
I washed it in ordinary detergent in the washing machine and then tumble dried it. After this, the whiff of sweat appeared more quickly. I found I cold wear it a couple of times but then I needed to wash it. I have o idea if this is standard for the Polygiene technology but it is what I discovered.
One good thing is that the smell of sweat is easily removed by washing, while many other tops made of similar synthetic fabric tend to be a but whiffy even after washing. I wash at 40C, by the way.
The top dries quite quickly after it becomes sweaty and I found it did breath fairly well, even when worn under another layer.
I don’t think I’d use the small pocket at the back because it does not have a secure fastening and I would be worried about things falling out.
The price of the tops seems very reasonable and the colours a bright.
PROS: Nice fabric; soft against skin; Polygiene benefits; bright colours; price.
CONS: Wide hip fit; Polygiene not as good as it claims; rather useless pocket.
The baselayers are cheap and cheerful because of the bright colours and comfort level. Breathability is good, too. The Polygience claims are not quite what I would expect except the tops did stay a little less whiffy for a little longer. They wash as clean as new. I could happily have a few of these in different styles in my baselayer drawer.
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