The base layer is an important consideration to the hunter who wants to maximise the performance of their layering system. The moisture management capabilities of a well-performing base layer cannot be overstated. Over the years there have been various fibres and fabrics used to produce base layer products. Synthetic fabrics have enjoyed dominance in the past; in recent years natural fibres (namely merino wool) have gained massive popularity amongst hunters.
Camps remain divided between those that prefer natural and synthetic, and rightly so, both fabrics exhibit properties that make them very suitable for hunting applications.
In order to directly compare the positive and negative aspects of these fabrics, we have been trailing them both in real-world hunting conditions. This was achieved using specially made prototype base layer upper body garments. These were constructed in a manner to incorporate both the natural and synthetic fabrics and have utilised a “harlequin” half top design. That is, the garments were separated down the middle; with one side of the base layer being constructed using natural (merino wool) fabric, while the other side was made up purely using synthetic (polyester) material. This has given the field user the unique ability to make real-time comparisons while wearing the prototype by comparing the differences felt between their left and right sides.
While this concept of testing has been performed before, most field test studies comparing natural and synthetic fabrics have been for specific activities that involve continuous activity (bushwalking, running, etc). While hunting, by its very nature can also involve a period of high exertion (backpacking, climbing, carrying out meat, etc), it can also incorporate periods of very low exertion (glassing, tree stand, blind hunting). Sometimes both high and low exertion activities can be combined in a single hunt (climb and glass, spot and stalk).
It is this combined active and static nature of hunting that places additional requirements on the base layer garment when used for this application. Through this field test, we have aimed to gain insight into what materials are considered optimal for differing environments, climates, and levels of exertion.
Our field tests have involved approximately 30 participants using the prototype “half tops” within varied climates and environments during actual hunting use, the field test was run for a 3 month period.
While these field trials have given us important insight into the subjective qualities of the test fabrics, we also decided to counter this information by performing dedicated objective testing, then compare both subjective and objective test results in order to try and determine a more accurate common ground.
Objective testing has been performed in the state of the art textile facility located within the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology Brunswick campus located in Melbourne, Australia. This was carried out over a four-semester period and conducted by Mandy Tingay, while being overseen by Mrs. Inna Konopov and Mr. Mac Ferguson.