What’s your choice in base layer fabric?

Broadly speaking, choice in base layer fabric can be classified into two major categories; natural and synthetic. Over the years during our own personal hunting adventures we have tried various fabrics in base layer garments; cotton blends, polypropylene, polyester, merino wool, bamboo blends, etc, etc…

For us there has been two stand out fabrics – polyester & merino wool…however they are both very different, & have their own advantages & disadvantages…

Whats you choice in base layer fabric?

choice in base layer
choice in base layer

62 thoughts on “What’s your choice in base layer fabric?

  1. Merino for the lack of smell over days of hard use 🙂

    1. @tassiestalker Yes, the natural antimicrobial properties of merino wool truly are remarkable.

      1. Over here in south oz merino is my go to for summer and winter. Keen to see if you guys bring out any camo thats good for our terrain in merino.

      2. @tassiestalker Merino is definitely a consideration for us, firstly we would like to compare the two fabrics in varying climates & environments…

      3. Sounds great guys. I will watch with interest. Love your work! Cudos.

  2. Merino. Wore that in afg. In minus 16 it worked like a charm. Dunno about to stay cool though

    1. @Aidan Archer-o’leary Thanks mate, we plan to test merino in the heat. Yes we agree in thicker fabrics merino is a good insulator. Though a fine merino fabric may be an advantage in the heat due to its moisture regain properties that may assist with evaporative cooling…? Well this is the theory, we look forward to field testing this.

  3. Merino, doesn’t smell, I don’t overheat and doesn’t get itchy

    1. @Nicholas Liew Yes mate, as far as not collecting body odour merino is considered king. The ability to sort merino into the superfine category (17-19 microns) has made it possible to use as a next to skin garment. Before the advent of superfine merino, wool was not produced for use in base layer applications… 🙂

      1. And really comfy too, they stretch and move with your body well and they dry really quick

      2. @Nicholas Liew Yes mate they definitely can, though many times the knit construction can be a big factor with the stretchability of a fabric. Thats an interesting observation about the quick drying time of wool…we plan to test the drying times of polyester & merino soon…

  4. Both. But inside a dry coat i’ll go merino for warmth, where the synthetic wicks moisture a bit better.

    1. @Bradly Hawkless Thanks mate, yes we have found similar results, though they both seem to “wick” sweat away…but in very different ways. Poly draws sweat away from your skin through capillary action, where wool does it through moisture regain due to the primarily hydrophilic nature of the wool fibre.

      1. Thats a more technical way to describe it. 🙂

      2. @Bradly Hawkless Yeah it actually gets a lot more technical too… 🙂 Soon we will be testing these fabrics in the lab, though there is nothing like field testing to mimic real world conditions… (Y)

      3. Well i would like to say i can help but im just about to move from NE vic (perfect location for testing) to Darwin (not so cold)

      4. @Bradly Hawkless Yes it is commonly believed that base layer garments only belong in the ensemble of the cold weather outdoor enthusiasts, & we ourselves have primarily only used them in cool to cold environments. However, the uniques properties of these fabrics may make them suitable even for the hot weather hunter?…Though the garment design will need to be different… We hope to gain answers to these question…

      5. Yeah i have used them in hot weather to keep the sweat at bay. I thought you were just asking about cold gear. Im keen to see what you produce. Another great product im sure

      6. @Bradly Hawkless Yes mate, but remember we sweat for a reason. The action of sweating cools our core temperature, one of the miracles of human thermoregulation… having wet fabric directly on our skin will itself create evaporative cooling, this may limit the sweat our body needs to produce in order to keep us cool. The less sweat we produce the less likely we are to prematurely dehydrate…

        So essentially a fast drying wicking fabric may actually be a disadvantage in hot weather…as you body continuously produces more sweat to keep up in order to keep you cool…

        These are the theories…we hope to learn more…

      7. I imagine Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang theory is logged into the Tusx admin account and supplying answers.. And here I was think clothes were just clothes…

      8. @Dan Seymour LOL… We have had a personal interest in this stuff for many, many years. Clothing systems can be optimised through fabric technology & garment design to better assist the hunter in the field. Many hunters just consider the camouflage that is on the garment, but there is much, much more…

  5. Wool. Much less smell after long periods, and stays warm when wet

    1. @Corbin Geyer Yes wool definitely has this reputation, & we also have experienced this…The wool fibre is hydrophilic (absorbs moisture), so can trap moisture within its core & away from your skin. Polyester is hydrophobic (repels moisture), so will trap the moisture between the fibres…this may be the reason why it feels cooler when wet…we will be testing these very things over the coming months…

      Incidentally the wool fibre has a unique property where it can create heat as the trapped moisture within the fibre evaporates, known as ‘heat of sorption’, though most authorities generally agree that this is of such small amounts to not really be significant…

  6. We use bamboo socks for work due to the great natural antibacterial properties. They are super comfy and last ages. Though in humid weather take forever to dry. Base layer wise I find I sweat a lot more wearing synthetics. I choose merino any day.

    1. @Elliot Woo Thanks mate for your insight. Lots of fans of bamboo and merino on this thread. We hope to shortly be putting polyester & merino on an extensive field test.

      I would be interested to know whether the bamboo you are using has had some additional antimicrobial treatment. Bamboo is a semi-synthetic fibre, cellulose is withdrawn from the plant then the process to make the fibre is similar to polyester (extraction using spinnerets). Almost all technical authorities agrees that the natural antimicrobial capabilities of original bamboo no longer remain in the bamboo cellulose. Cellulose from many other woody plants withdrawn in the same process can be used to make this fibre. Bamboo is essentially viscose (called rayon in the US).

  7. As far as base layer! I have not tried bamboo! I have tried synthetic and it sucks! I love my merino wool! It works when it’s hot and it works when it’s cold!

    1. @Preston Jackson Thanks mate, yes it is hard to deny the benefits of merino wool for use in base layers. However we have found polyester to have many beneficial properties also…We have used both extensively & have personally found they both have advantage & disadvantages when used used in different climates/environments…we plan to put them both to the test soon…

  8. Wool…. But I might be biased as I grow it.

    1. @Peter Webb LOL…we have also, on a small scale… 🙂 However both fabrics seem to exhibit properties that make them suitable for base layer applications… (Y)

      1. True that. 🙂

  9. Bamboo for sure in the heat or wool. I dislike synthetics

  10. Wool all the way

    1. @Benjamin Richard Krajnik Thanks mate, what is it that you like about wool?

  11. Big fan of bamboo material for the tropics it’s always cool to the touch and nice to wear for extended periods

    1. @Bjorn Nielsen Yes we did experiment with bamboo/polyester blends some years ago. How do you find the antimicrobial properties of bamboo?

      Many times the cool to touch sensation is dependant on spinning technique & knit construction.

      1. From a day to day point of view bamboo shirts that I use for work are great and certainly reduce odor production. I haven’t had the opportunity to hunt in it. Though the Gondwana bamboo trail shirts I have are holding up well and comfortable on longer day hikes.

      2. @Bjorn Nielsen Ok mate yes I see, if you are referring to a shirt then this would most likely employ a woven fabric…base layers almost exclusively use knitted fabrics. This would also explain why the fabric is cool to touch as this is often more the case with woven fabrics.

        Antimicrobial properties can be very subjective. Thats great you find the bamboo to be effective in fighting odour build up… (Y)

  12. Wool , hands down. Takes longer to stink up , keeps you warmer , usually better on price and harder wearing for bush use. Down side harder to get in bush colours but black ok with a bush shirt on top.

    1. @Louis Cassar Thanks mate, yes merino wool has become the the go to choice of many outdoor enthusiasts, including a growing number of hunters.

      When used as an outer layer wool can be a hard wearing fabric. However these garments are generally too “itchy” to be worn next to skin. Some species of sheep grow wool up to 35 microns. Merino wool is generally finer & better suited for next to skin applications. Superfine merino has a reputation of not being as hard wearing as synthetics…we hope to learn more on this.

  13. I prefer bamboo or merino over synthetic

    1. @Luke Myers Thanks for your feedback. We have limited personal experience with bamboo fibres, though did construct some bamboo blended fabric into base layers some years ago. Seems like lots of people like the natural fibres over synthetic…

      1. Yeah I really like the bamboo, the base layers I have are really durable. Bamboo socks are great as well

      2. @Luke Myers Thanks mate, how do you find the antimicrobial properties & drying time of bamboo when compared to synthetics or wool?

      3. I find that it dries really well, even if it’s during my hunt I find that it will dry just from my body temperature and I find it doesn’t hold any odour even after a 10 days in NZ it was still fine.

      4. @Luke Myers Thanks again, our experience with bamboo is limited, so thank you for your insight. At this time we are interested to test the differences of pure synthetic & pure natural fibres for base layer application. Merino wool & polyester are regarded as the the best of the two. I guess there can be a case made for polypropylene as a another candidate to synthetic fabric for base layers…but at this time we will look at polyester as it is far more commonly used.

        Bamboo fibre is kinda both natural & synthetic. Cellulose is derived from the bamboo plant to create the fibre. The cellulose is extracted in a similar way to polyester. So essentially the source material is natural, but the process is synthetic.

  14. Bamboo based material has been my favourite. Fine merino is good for warmth and helping to regulate temps but is slow drying and not tough enough for an outer layer (but I am hard on gear!). The bamboo gear I have has stood the test of time, and performed well in both hot and cool conditions….with out building up the stink of most synthetics

    1. @Jarrod Vyner Thanks mate, yes we have found merino to be slower drying when compared to synthetics also, likewise it is also our experience that synthetics seem to be harder wearing.

      We have limited experience with bamboo, other than using it blended with polyester some years ago. Cellulose from the bamboo plant is used to make bamboo fibre, much in the same way that cellulose from wood pulp is used to make viscose fibre. Bamboo is essentially viscose (called Rayon in the US). Thanks for your feedback on the antimicrobial properties of bamboo fibre…

  15. Depends on the duration of the hunt.. Predominantly wear Merino base layers though..

    1. @Adam Mcculloch Thanks mate, what significance does the duration have on your selection?

      1. The smell of the garments during long hunts is a stand out point..They both smell but the Merino base seems to be less odouress..

      2. @Adam Mcculloch Ok I see, the antimicrobial properties of the fabrics are an important consideration for you when selecting a base layer. Thanks for your insight.

      3. Took the words right out of my mouth Adam, Merino’s the go

      4. @Rachel Danea Heinen Thanks Rach, yes superfine merino does have some outstanding technical properties when used in base layer applications, however synthetics do too. We hope to soon compare these two fabrics…

  16. As an alpine climber I’ve always worn synthetics…and when smart wool and icebreaker came out, I never made the switch. Finally snagged a smart wool long sleeve last season and it was like night and day. Amazingly comfy in a wider range of temps, better fit (more stretch), less stink and no more shoulder zits from under sweaty pack straps. I have a Kuiu 145 merino and it’s awesome as well. Merino gets my vote. It IS more fragile and yet is more expensive, so that’s its major downside.

    1. @vleelawson Thanks for your feedback. Yes since the advent of superfine merino, this fabric has gained huge popularity, & with good reason…it has multiple traits that lend itself to base layer applications. Is merino the best choice for a hunting base layer in all hunting scenarios? We are currently conducting a field use wear trial to determine what others hunters think. We look forward to sharing our findings…

  17. Interesting results so far, I’m actually a little surprised. Will contact you soon with some of my notes @tusxhunter __

    1. @tonygillahan Thanks mate for participating in the wear trial, keen to get your thoughts…

  18. Merino wool… No doubt. Polyester may keep you a little warmer but the marginal benefit gained of the extra warmth from polyester does not exceed the the marginal cost of the smell like @tassiestalker spoke of and after the sun comes up polyester gets too hot especially on the walk out of the woods.

    1. @gclyles Thanks very much for your insight. We have found fabric thickness to be directly proportional to the insulating properties of the garment. We are currently testing both these fabrics to determine suitability within varying climates/environments. Your comment has been noted & thanks again for sharing your experiences… 🙂

  19. Natural any day of the week

  20. I’d have to go polyester

    1. @angusfeely We have also used polyester quite extensively & found it to be a good choice for certain climates & environments…

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