Thru-Hiker Approved Base Layers
Base layers are arguably a long-distance hiker’s most versatile piece of clothing. We sleep in them, we hike in them, and since we’re always wearing them, they get washed less than they should. On top of being worn 24/7, these pieces need to keep you comfortable in a range of condition, from cold nights camping or sitting static to wicking sweat on a tough ascent… all without stinking to high heaven. Plus we need them to be packable, fit well, and be durable. With all that in mind, here are the pieces our thru-hikers wore to death and would still recommend.
MSRP: $98 (can be found on sale from $54)
This insanely soft, packable top is my go-to base layer. It’s extremely lightweight but not flimsy, and while I don’t go stabbing my merino garments with pointy objects, this shirt has held up really well and has yet to start stinking despite the fact that I do laundry approximately three times a year. The merino and bamboo combination wicks sweat and dries faster than a purely merino top, but keep in mind that if you work hard while wearing it, it will still take longer to dry than a synthetic garment. It’s super comfortable to sleep in because it isn’t too tight, and is by far my most packable merino top. Be aware of the sizing on this top- it doesn’t fit as tight as other base layers you might be used to. I’m an all-around medium, and this shirt is drapey on me. If you’re looking for something tighter fitting, I would size down, but if you like your base layer tops to fit looser, go with your regular size. It’s also long enough to wear under a pack’s hip belt- a no-argument necessity for anyone, ever.
MSRP: $120, can be found on sale from $78
MSRP: $95, can be found on sale from $65
The perfect baselayer for cold weather day trips. Smartwool’s classic 250 NTS crew is everything you need and nothing you don’t. A simple piece that’ll keep you warm and smelling surprisingly unoffensive. Best of all, this is possibly the softest 100% merino layer I own. The 250 NTS Crew has been my goto for cool weather treks all this year.
Dresses and hiking skirts provide freedom of movement and great ventilation, but potentially expose all of your assets when scrambling up over boulders. The built-in shorts in skorts are not always comfortable and certainly not convenient when nature summons. The solution for the pants-optional hiker? Icebreaker Zone Shorts. These lightweight 200g stretch merino wool thigh-hugging bottoms will keep you both chaste and chafe-free! The fully gusseted semi-compression design allows for unrestricted strides and doesn’t crawl up. Plus merino wool not only insulates in colder temps, it creates a cooling effect and absorbs sweat on hot muggy days. I never suffered from dreaded butt or inner thigh chafing which I attribute, at least in part, to the performance of this protective, moisture-wicking base layer. Paired with a Purple Rain hiking skirt, my Icebreaker Zone Shorts lasted more than 1,000 miles before peak-a-boo holes forced me to replace them with exactly the same product.
MSRP: $54, can be found on sale from $35
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