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#178847 - 08/02/13 11:03 AM Merino or synthetic baselayer?
orclwzrd Offline
member

Registered: 08/11/09
Posts: 82
Loc: Illinois(I just live here)
I'm looking at a September hike of the Border Route Trail and temps are falling then. Avg low by the end of the month is 35. I'm trying to decide synthetic or merino base layer. I'd like to hear your thoughts. I have a stack of short sleeve Under Armor/Columbia tech fabric shirts so I'd have to acquire a merino one. I looking at Ibex Woolie 150 crew or Indie Hoodie as examples.

John

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#178848 - 08/02/13 11:42 AM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: orclwzrd]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Personally, I like merino better. It all depends on if you can afford it.
_________________________
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#178855 - 08/02/13 01:15 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: orclwzrd]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2802
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By orclwzrd
I'm looking at a September hike of the Border Route Trail and temps are falling then. Avg low by the end of the month is 35. I'm trying to decide synthetic or merino base layer. I'd like to hear your thoughts. I have a stack of short sleeve Under Armor/Columbia tech fabric shirts so I'd have to acquire a merino one. I looking at Ibex Woolie 150 crew or Indie Hoodie as examples.

John

Ibex makes lovely stuff, really top-flight. As to which is "better" there's limitless debate. Many, but not all synthetics transport sweat better and dry faster than wool. Wool tends to not stink after a few days while some synthetics acquire an aroma that can't adequately be described. Also, there's how well top layers glide over the base layer and how they feel against the skin and how they feel when you're overheating (e.g., climbing a steep hill in full sunlight).

No wrong answers, really, it's more a matter of preference as eithr adds needed warmth. It's what they do when pressed to the limits that separates them.
_________________________
--Rick

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#178857 - 08/02/13 01:33 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: Rick_D]
Heather-ak Offline
member

Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 597
Loc: Fairbanks, AK
I think the wool not stinking is based on the person - because I haven't found it to be true. However, I find wool to be lighter and easier to be layered for the warmth.

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#178980 - 08/07/13 03:03 AM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: Heather-ak]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I have Patagonia Capilene and have owned the same set for years. I don't use it that much, but as far as I'm concerned, you can't beat it. It is pricey (wasn't way back when), but goes on sale about twice a year. I have the old midweight long sleeve turtleneck and bottoms and a newer expedition weight top I really like.

It doesn't itch, doesn't smell at all (unlike the old polypro) is easily washable, looks nice and is warm. I've worn mine hiking, skiing, climbing, biking and wear the tops around here in winter (that's LA winter) for a shirt if it's cold out.
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Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#178988 - 08/07/13 09:51 AM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: Rick_D]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Wool will stink while worn. After washing it will lose that stench And not smell again until you are actively sweating in it. Synthetic after many uses develops a residual odor that returns no matter what detergent is used, so that within seconds of the material being warmed by body heat it smells as though I have been hiking all day despite being just washed....
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"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#178990 - 08/07/13 10:34 AM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: orclwzrd]
BrianLe Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/07
Posts: 1146
Loc: Washington State, King County
There clearly is some individual preference at work here.
I've tried both thin/light merino wool and capilene, and of the two I'll use the lightest capilene I can get ("Capilene 1"). It dries faster when wet, I find it to be slightly more comfortable, and the thinnest capilene layer I can hike in even when it's quite warm out.

That said, for an upper layer I only carry a long sleeved capilene as something to be both second shirt and warmth layer on colder trips; I far prefer a button-up (all synthetic) shirt for the pockets, ability to unbutton, roll up sleeves, something that fits me 'loose' rather than skin-tight.
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#178995 - 08/07/13 11:35 AM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: lori]
Heather-ak Offline
member

Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 597
Loc: Fairbanks, AK
Gotcha. I haven't seen that in either my synthetic Land's End polar weights or merino. What I get is smell that is hard to wash out regardless of type of material (I'm just a smelly person frown ) - The only thing I've found to remove the sweat smell is a cat urine Biobased product (actually works for other organic stains as well) - not sure it is great for natural fibers such a wool, but it works.

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#179039 - 08/09/13 12:08 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: Heather-ak]
Mero Offline
newbie

Registered: 07/27/13
Posts: 8
Originally Posted By Heather-ak
I think the wool not stinking is based on the person - because I haven't found it to be true. However, I find wool to be lighter and easier to be layered for the warmth.


Yeah, you dont look very stinky

Synthetic dries faster, is more durable and isnt as itchy. Easy decision.

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#179051 - 08/09/13 02:49 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: Mero]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Originally Posted By Mero
Originally Posted By Heather-ak
I think the wool not stinking is based on the person - because I haven't found it to be true. However, I find wool to be lighter and easier to be layered for the warmth.


Yeah, you dont look very stinky

Synthetic dries faster, is more durable and isnt as itchy. Easy decision.


Synthetic does dry faster....but polypro melts in the dryer, and any synthetic will melt close to a fire. You have to practically put a flame on merino to get it to burn. Merino isn't itchy either.

There are definitely pros and cons to merino, as there is to synthetic. But, let's keep the facts straight.
_________________________
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#179053 - 08/09/13 03:41 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: finallyME]
Heather-ak Offline
member

Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 597
Loc: Fairbanks, AK
I would say very few people find Merino itchy. My husband is an exceptional kinda person though wink

(I don't find much of any type of wool itchy - and my husband finds some Merino itchy.)

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#179129 - 08/12/13 10:02 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: Heather-ak]
immortal.ben Offline
member

Registered: 09/10/11
Posts: 91
Loc: Arizona
I used polypro whilst in the military. I got the dreaded funk.

These days I use Smartwool in light and mid-weights. I do not find it at all itchy.
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Life is a verb.

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#181831 - 01/12/14 01:09 PM Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: immortal.ben]
wildthing Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/02
Posts: 982
Loc: Victoria, B.C.
Merino itchy, no fun there. What do you use for a synthetic "cool" underlayer under a windshirt? Went for an hour's hike in light rain this morning at 6C with just a hemp crewneck under my Montbell windshirt. Just some quarter sized damp patches on my shoulder bones, and a coolish neck. Could have used a long-sleeve zip-T made out of some really good wicking fabric such as runners use. Merino is way too itchy, sometimes I even find microfleece a bit itch inducing, but do layer it over my base occasionally. Thoughts?
_________________________
Listen to the trees in the wind

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#181838 - 01/13/14 10:36 AM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: wildthing]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By wildthing
Merino itchy, no fun there. What do you use for a synthetic "cool" underlayer under a windshirt? Went for an hour's hike in light rain this morning at 6C with just a hemp crewneck under my Montbell windshirt. Just some quarter sized damp patches on my shoulder bones, and a coolish neck. Could have used a long-sleeve zip-T made out of some really good wicking fabric such as runners use. Merino is way too itchy, sometimes I even find microfleece a bit itch inducing, but do layer it over my base occasionally. Thoughts?


You got the wrong merino. Or your skin is way more sensitive than mine. Good merino is sooooo comfy......

Throwing away all my synthetic - it all reeks within minutes of putting it on. Too many hours of sweating in it, and bombing it with vinegar, enzyme removers, etc has all failed.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#181839 - 01/13/14 10:42 AM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: lori]
rockchucker22 Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 749
Loc: Eastern Sierras
I've switched and almost always use Merino, and it is never been itchy. It softer than cotton but not as soft as silk. I love Merino wool, warm, light, resist stink wonderfully.
_________________________
The wind wont howl if the wind don't break.

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#181842 - 01/13/14 12:18 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: lori]
wildthing Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/02
Posts: 982
Loc: Victoria, B.C.
Tried Icebreaker and Smartwool and both are itchy for me. I wish I could wear it! But nope stuck with synthetic such as Coolmax or some other type. Found that some synthetics get me way too hot when backpacking, usually nylon or polyester based without that "cooling" factor. Just wish the backpacking, running, and other exercise type shirts had better pockets.

Other thing is I don't stink too bad, not much of a sweathog I guess, so the synthetic smell problems don't "stick" to me too badly. I have been wearing a set of single weight synthetic polypro bottoms for years during cold nights and they are great. Best thing is they wash out and dry so quickly.


Edited by wildthing (01/13/14 12:19 PM)
_________________________
Listen to the trees in the wind

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#181847 - 01/13/14 02:41 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: wildthing]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6401
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I am one of those folks who break out in a sweat, itching all over, at even the memory of the wool sweaters I was tortured by as a teenager. (Mom: "I bought you these lovely wool sweaters and you are going to wear them!") I remember a lovely lambswool sweater I was given my first year of college that I wore only once and gave away. Aargh!

That being said, I approached my first pair of merino wool socks about 6 years ago with great trepidation, but decided to try a pair. I not only never looked back, but went out and bought a whole bunch of Smartwool socks and ditched all my synthetics. (I now wear Smartwool socks around home, too, and have gotten rid of all cotton socks.) They are softer, feel dryer when still damp and actually dried faster than the Thorlo socks I'd been using. (I ran some laundry tests with air-drying on a warm, dry day.)

I then tried a Smartwool baselayer top. Again, no itching at all. However, i did some tests and found that the Patagucci Capilene 2 that I had been using actually absorbs far less moisture. Lightweight merino wool is also rather fragile, especially when used as a hiking shirt. Capilene wears a lot longer. Finally, in hot weather, the Capilene shirt feels cooler, although its construction (ventilation) may have a lot to do with this.

As a result, I prefer Capilene 2 base layers in cold weather, especially if it's below freezing when I use a vapor barrier at night. I also wear a Capilene 2 top as a hiking shirt. I do use a lightweight merino wool baselayer top as a lightweight midlayer under my windshirt or rain jacket. The wool may not be warmer but it feels that way!

I'm sure that some folks are more sensitive to wool than I am and just can't wear merino wool, either. But I do recommend giving it a try if you've found regular wool itchy in the past.

The Merino sheep is a wondrous animal (although quite ugly because of its numerous skin folds, which also make it difficult to shear). Although we now associate them with Australia and New Zealand, the breed was developed in Spain during the middle ages and can be traced back to the Phoenecians.

Baking soda in the wash water definitely helps remove the stink with any fabric. I also do 2 rinses to be sure I've removed any detergent residue. Also, when laundering either synthetic or wool base layers, be careful to avoid fabric softener, which really ruins the breathability and wickability of both synthetic and merino fabrics.

As with everything, the choice of baselayer fabric is definitely a YMMV issue!
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#181849 - 01/13/14 03:03 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: OregonMouse]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By OregonMouse

Baking soda in the wash water definitely helps remove the stink with any fabric. I also do 2 rinses to be sure I've removed any detergent residue. Also, when laundering either synthetic or wool base layers, be careful to avoid fabric softener, which really ruins the breathability and wickability of both synthetic and merino fabrics.



Tried baking soda too.

Threw away another shirt this morning. I hate doing it, but it's just unredeemable after six years of semi-frequent use.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#181851 - 01/13/14 03:29 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: lori]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6401
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
After six years, I suspect that shirt has reached the end of its useful life, especially since you do quite a bit more backpacking than I do!
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#181854 - 01/13/14 04:15 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: OregonMouse]
rockchucker22 Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 749
Loc: Eastern Sierras
I find that my particular stink, while being plenty stinky on it own, doesn't seem to stick to capilene, while my brother-in-law wears a capilene shirt once and smells like a high school locker room. I suppose it's a difference between personal body chemistry?
_________________________
The wind wont howl if the wind don't break.

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#181855 - 01/13/14 04:57 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: OregonMouse]
wildthing Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/02
Posts: 982
Loc: Victoria, B.C.
OregonMouse, that's a great tip about the Capilene 2. I'll check out my local stores to see what they have. Not much hope, but at least if I can find something to try on to kinda feel out the fabric. I was also thinking of trying some smartwool over top the Capilene 2, just to check out how it felt...might get away with such layering up that way.

Thanks to all for the interesting observations in this thread.
_________________________
Listen to the trees in the wind

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#181856 - 01/13/14 05:14 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: wildthing]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6401
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Should be Patagonia sales late this month or early February. The only way I'll buy that pricey stuff is on sale--which is why all mine are in weird (discontinued) colors!
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#181887 - 01/14/14 12:00 AM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: orclwzrd]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
I do not use the "base layer" concept in my layering. I have a hiking under shirt (cheap very light weight loose work-out shirts of various blends of cotton and nylon- Danskin at Walmart for about $10)that I simply take off and wash at the end of the day, and then I put on my sitting around clothes- I have one light wool layer and one 100-wt fleece. Over the undershirt I wear a long sleeved loose brushed nylon fishing shirt. The undershirt gets most the stink and is washed daily. In the Sierra, weather is good, so I actually wash both undershirt and fishing shirt most days.

As for my sitting around, sometimes I prefer the wool, sometimes the fleece. My "base layer" therefor is NOT part of my hiking clothes. IF it were so cold that I would hike in an insulating layer, I would use the wool, because it breathes better, in my opinion. I have Ibex wool. I have never used any high-tech expensive synthetic base layer. I really dislike tight layers or really stretchy stuff.

My husband is a real "stinker", so if he wants to sleep in the tent with me, he has to wear wool! He actually also hikes in a cotton T-shirt and does not wear it at night.

Most of our stuff is pretty old. I think some of the newer synthetics stink a lot less.

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#181921 - 01/14/14 07:17 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: wandering_daisy]
wildthing Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/02
Posts: 982
Loc: Victoria, B.C.
It is often too warm to hike in two layers of Capilene and smartwool here, but I put them on like you when I get to camp. I prefer synthetic as it dries more quickly and I think Capilene will breath a lot better, similar to CoolMax.

I might hike with two layers if it were really windy at elevation or where the temperature was falling close to 32 during an ascent. Happens quite often over mountain passes or during shoulder season here in BC. If wet and cold, I would probably stick with one layer and eVent or my windshirt.

Lots of good experience informing everyone's posts on this topic, have to buy some Capilene on sale from Patagonia and take it on a shakedown hike!
_________________________
Listen to the trees in the wind

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#182092 - 01/17/14 11:54 PM Re: Merino or synthetic baselayer? [Re: wildthing]
orclwzrd Offline
member

Registered: 08/11/09
Posts: 82
Loc: Illinois(I just live here)
so since I started this I better chime back in. I ended up with an ibex hooded indie. It was a great investment. If they were cheaper, I'd have several more. It worked as a base layer or hiking shirt. In the future, I'll use both synthetic and this wool base layer depending on conditions and need.

john

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