High Divide Trail in fog, Olympic National Park.

How I Decide What Touches My Skin: 5 Features to Look For In a Hiking Base Layer

In Gear Reviews, Skills   |   Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,   |   2 Comments

By Michael Lanza

What’s your body type when you’re hiking, backpacking, or otherwise active outdoors? Do you run hot or cold—or both? Over many years of dayhiking, backpacking, climbing, trail running, cycling, skiing in its various forms, and other activities, I’ve discovered this about myself: I run very warm when I’m moving, but I cool off in a flash when I stop. To some degree, many people are like that. And those that aren’t—who just plain run consistently hot or cold—still have to tackle the same question I do: How do you pick the best base layer top for you?

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2 Responses to How I Decide What Touches My Skin: 5 Features to Look For In a Hiking Base Layer

  1. Mike Ryan   |  April 4, 2015 at 9:28 pm


    I have been wearing a light weight Smartwool bottom and top for my base layer for the last 12 or so years. I have really liked them but have never worn the Capilene. Have you worn the Merino wool base layer before, and if so, how does it compare to the Capilene?


    Mike Ryan

    • michaellanza   |  April 5, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      Hi Mike, yes, I’ve worn many Merino tops from various manufacturers. I do like wool, but often over a lightweight base layer rather than directly against my skin. While Merino is soft and wool keeps you warm when damp, I like having a synthetic like Capilene because it wicks moisture and dries faster. I think this is one of those personal preference questions: I know people who prefer synthetics like Capilene and people who prefer Merino wool against their skin.

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