29/03/2019 17:31:17

Which Baselayer Should You Choose?


Hi Trekitteers!

The aim of todays blog is to talk you through some basics about baselayers. Your baselayer is the fundamental part of your layering system – The layering system comprises mainly of your baselayer, midlayer and shell outer layer. The baselayers job is fundamentally to control and manage your temperature whether you’re working hard or stationary. So it’s a clever bit of kit that is really going to make you feel the most comfortable – that’s why it’s so important that we get it right!


So how does all of this work?

When you’re working hard your body produces sweat. Sweat then evaporates off your skin. That evaporation process of the sweat off the skin is actually what cools your body down. In the summer we can all lose layers and run around half naked having the time of our lives. However, when you’re gully bashing in Scotland in the middle of winter, sweating just as much as you would on a summer afternoon, ideally you don’t want to be half naked. Here is where you would have a good three layer system on and your baselayer would be regulating your temperature by moving the sweat away from your body – this process is called wicking. The fabrics of the baselayers draw the sweat and away from your skin keeping you dry therefore convincing your body that it’s comfortable and at the right temperature.

There are lots of different types of baselayers, so what we’re going to talk about today are the three main types of fabrics and the pros and cons of each.


Merino Wool

High quality merino wool (like the Oasis Crewe from Icebreaker) dispels all the myths about wool being itchy - it is incredibly comfortable next to skin. This is because merino wool fibres are incredibly fine. The beauty of Merino Wool is that it has the natural ability to inhibit the build-up of odour because it’s made of a natural keratin. The bacteria in sweat that causes the ‘pong’ can’t bond to the keratin fibres. This means you can wear merino wool baselayers for days on end and they won’t smell – brilliant for multi-day trekking and walking.  They wash relatively easily – they do, however, take a little bit longer to dry than a synthetic baselayer.

The downside to merino wool is that the natural fibres aren’t quite as durable as synthetic fibres. Also, due to its premium quality (most merino comes from New Zealand), Merino Wool does come in at the higher end of the price bracket. However, it’s not a huge difference if you consider that you only need one top for a multi-day trip rather then two or three.


  • Non-itchy due to the premium quality
  • Odour-control
  • Comfortable
  • Moisture-wicking


  • Takes longer to dry than synthetic
  • Not best suited for fast-paced activities e.g. running, mountain biking
  • More Expensive


Synthetic Fabrics

Synthetic fabrics (like the Arc'teryx Phase AR) thrive during aerobic activities where you’re sweating heavily. The big advantages of synthetic fibres are that they wick sweat away exceptionally quickly and they dry far quicker than Merino Wool fibres. In order for that to work properly they do tend to fit closer than merino wool garments but they usually have a bit of stretch so they’re not restrictive and still fit exceptionally comfortably. The weight of the fabric will determine it’s insulating properties; ideally what you want is a thin layer that’s regulating your temperature and pulling any moisture away from your body. Another big plus is that they wash incredibly easily – just a 30 degree wash with a bit of tech wash and you’re good to go!

There are a couple of downsides – Synthetic fibres don’t have the same odour-controlling properties that merino wool has. This means that you’ll probably need two or three tops if you’re off for a multi-day trip. Some manufacturers are working odour-controlling technologies, like polygiene, into their garments; but even so, the nature of the fabric means that they can still get a bit pongy and will need washing more regularly


  • Comfortable
  • Rapid moisture wicking
  • Quick drying
  • Easy to wash
  • Generally cheaper then Merino wool
  • More durable than Merino Wool


  • No natural odour controlling properties
  • Will need washing more regularly than Merino Wool


Synthetic and Merino Wool Blend

Synthetic and Merino wool blend garments, like the Rab Merino 120 Crew, suit just about any adventure. The merino wool fibres are wrapped around the synthetic fibres so you get the benefits of both; the durability, the quick drying, the high wicking properties of the synthetic fibres teamed with the comfort, softness, odour control and the consistent temperature regulation of merino wool. They sit snug like 100% synthetic garments because you need that close fit for the synthetic fibres to work effectively. They still wash very easily – just a 30 degree wash with a bit of tech wash and you’re good to go!

The only real down-side is that 100% synthetic garments still wick moisture away faster during high output sports like running and mountain biking. The fabric blend is also harder to make meaning the garments are usually more expensive than 100% synthetic or merino wool products.


  • Combines the benefit of both fabrics
  • Quick drying
  • Good odour control
  • Durable
  • Soft
  • Comfortable


  • More expensive than Merino and Synthetic garments
  • Not as suited to high-output activities than 100% synthetic garments


Hopefully that’ll help you out!

Speak soon Trekitteers!

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