The first layer you wear on your skin is the Base Layer, in the mountaineering world it is also related to first layer.
It is this underwear that makes hell of a difference when we are trying to adjust a good body temperature. You usually do not see this first layer but it is crucial.
What does this layer have to do exactly?
- It should absorb or transport sweat from our skin, so we do not feel
- It should keep you warm / cool enough to keep your body heat at a
- It should be of a comfortable material that feels good. If you don´t like
the fabric on your skin, it is very likely that you will not wear it.
- It should be very close to your body like a second skin and do not compromise any movement
- It should keep body odours to an minimum. It is the first layer on your skin and absorbs all sweat.
Usually you do not carry several of them so you may wear it for several days without an opportunity to wash it.
- It should have the rights length to cover most of your body and stay in place if you move a lot.
Taking these ideas into consideration I was looking for a good solution. In former trips when I tested different stuff I realised pretty quick that an artificial fabric will not be suitable for me. In the end it had to be a natural fibre. Wool! Merino Wool to be precise.
My brand of choice for my Base Layer is Kaipara Merino. A small German company that is producing their thermal underwear in Germany. Their slogan "Born in New Zealand, Made in Germany" nails it.
I got a set in Merino 200.
On this trip I had temperatures under 0°C with snowfall, nasty wind and rain and also desert temperatures of about 45°C.
And yes I wore this Base Layer pretty often and am absolutely convinced of it. Lets see if it could cover my expectations that I mentioned above.
Merino wool does absorb sweat very well and let it evaporate on the outer side. A synthetic fabric on the over side does not absorb anything but just transports the humidity out. So what is the advantage here? If your sweat can not evaporate of a synthetic fibre, because you wear several layers or even a rain suit, it does not work. This humidity will stay as a wet layer in the fabric and it feels terrible. Wool on the other side steps in with its ability to absorb humidity. You do not feel the drops of water on your skin. Whenever there is enough ventilation, the wool will get rid of the sweat and dry pretty quick. The change of ventilation, physical effort and temperature is buffered just wonderfully by wool.
Another huge advantage of this fabric, to cotton for example, is its ability to keep you warm even if it´s wet.
Perfect so far for low temperatures, but what about heat? You won´t wear wool on a hot day, will you?
Yes I will! It is just the point I mentioned above that it is buffering your sweat. With hot temperatures you have to take care that you have a very good ventilation. For example an open jacket on your bike.
Even if you sweat like crazy, at least I do, you will not feed dripping wet at any time.
The Kaipara stuff I own is very stretchable and feels very comfortable on your skin. The itchy wool feeling, of the old days, is over. The weaving or some stretch in the fabric let you move without compromise.
And one of the really important issues when you sweat a lot is the body odour. I have made horrific experiences with artificial fabric that starts to stink after one or two days. And it is disgusting. The only way to get rid of it are silver particles in the fabric or to wash it over 60°C on a regular basis. Not really a achievable method if you travel off beaten paths.
I wore my Merino Base Layer up to 2 weeks without giving it a laundry.... Oh yes, they were not clean and did not smell like roses, but not even comparable to the artificial stuff.
I wear the stuff, as I said on a regular basis for several months now. The fabric does not show wear and tear. The zipper is working properly..... so, do I have no cons?
Yes I do have one, just one and this is a personal problem of mine. The size !! I have the XXL Version of the shirt and leggings, but I would need a XXXL to make it perfect. Unfortunately they do not exist, yet. If you are 190cm or taller or over 120kg, it works but you will always miss some fabric here and there.
+ High quality fabric
+ Dye is stabil to sweat, water and laundy
+ Very stretchable fabric
+ Very soft and non-itchy feeling
+ Warm feeling and good thermo regulation
- For bigger guys the sizes are (still) limited
... this little, light, foldable Beanie Hat became my companion in all kind of situations.
I guess you saw it on several pictures on the blog, but what you do not see is a special advantage for biker.
It fits perfectly unter your helmet, keeps you warm and whenever you have to take the helmet of you stay nice and warm. I hope I will never loose this one ....