Base Layer Choices

Base Layers for Hunters

Base Layer Pic

We’ve made mention of the importance of quality base layers in several of our reviews before but we’re going to take a more in-depth look at them here. During the 2009 Deer Season, we field tested 6 different manufacturers of base layers so that you can get a feel for what is available in performance and price. Base layers, as the term implies represent your first layer. The layer directly against your skin. We focus on three attributes of a good base layer: Comfort, moisture management and degree of insulation. There are times when the insulation component is not as important (early season) but the comfort and performance components show up on each and every hunt. Here’s what we thought of the base layers:

Medalist: We tested the Heavyweight ¼ Zip Microfleece shirt and pants. These base layers are geared for colder temps and worked excellent for sitting long periods in the treestand. Furthermore, the SilverMax construction of these garments aided in decreasing scent dispersion. By incorporating Silver into the clothing, agents like Bacteria, Ammonia and Denatured proteins are rendered inactive thereby cutting down on the amount of scent you are giving off. According to Medalist, the pure silver coating surrounding the clothing fibers provide the following: • Undetected Scent-Free Protection • Thermodynamic Body Temperature Regulation• Stay-dry Skinetics™ Moisture Transport System• No Activation, Easy Care• Anti-static, Noise-Free Movement• Permanent Protection for the Life of the Garment.
The Medalist base layers were very comfortable and had a degree of stretch to them. The shirt was great by itself on warmer days and excellent as a base layer on cold ones. Next to the skin the SilverMax material feels great, no scratch to it at all. These garments were true to size and the only glitch seemed to be a small degree of fading after washing. Retail value: ¼ Zip Shirt ($59.99) Pants ($49.99) www.medalist.com

First Lite:  All the First Lite apparel is made from Merino Wool and that had me a little skeptical about how the base layers would hold up after repeated washings. This stuff is absolutely fabulous! Not only did they stay true to their original size, the wool is not scatchy next to your skin. I literally wore this stuff in all phases of our season and felt it hard to beat in terms of an all around layering system. We tested the Chama shirt ($89.95) and Allegheny Pants ($69.95) and found them to be warm and comfortable. As you may be aware, wool has natural antimicrobial properties and is extremely breathable for that moisture management component. First Lite has found a way to add that “next to skin” component to the wool they use which completes the trifecta. Coupled with a very unique and effective ASAT (All-Season-All-Terrain) pattern, the First Lite apparel is becoming a very popular brand of base layer for the serious hunter.     www.firstlite.com

Arctic Shield and X-System: We tested the Pro Series Fleece Base Layer Top and Bottoms along with the Light Weight Polyester tops.   The X-System apparel also uses the power of Silver.  The Nano Silver technology of the Pro Series Base Layers keep your body free of scent dispersing bacteria while providing a degree of moisture management.  Similar to the Medalist products above, the X-System apparel had 4-way stretch fabric built into the garments.  We found this to be a nice feature enabling a great range of mobility in the apparel as well as a cooling factor in the areas under the arms and crotch.   Pro Series Retail for: $49.99 each and Lightweight Retail for: $23.99 www.arcoutdoors.com

Sitka Gear: Sitka came on the scene a few years back and has since made quite a splash in the hunting apparel market. They offer a variety of high quality apparel but it doesn’t come cheap! At over $500 for a jacket, we thought it best to test base layers that were at least in the same zip code as base layers from the other brands. That brings us to the Core Zip T ($89.00) and Core Bottom ($69.00). These two base layers were high on comfort and moisture management and low on insulation. The Core series is made of polyester and like Medalist, also incorporates silver into the fibers. This helps to eliminate odor causing bacteria and keeps you dry at the same time. Next to the skin, these feel great but you’ll want something over top of them when the Mercury drops. If you want to combine the performance aspect with warmth, try the Traverse T and Pants.
I personally thought the shoulders in the XXL Zip T were snug (I usually were a XL) so I’d suggest trying the shirt on before purchase.  www.sitkagear.com

Base Layer 2

Hot Chillys: We tried out two selections from Hot Chillys, a popular brand for the downhill ski crowd.  First was the Peach Skins made of lightweight polyester.  This 1/4 Zip shirt felt like silk against the skin and was perfect for the warmer part of early bow season.  We also stowed this away in our pack as a change of layers if we happened to get overheated on the way to the stand. The Peach Skins are treated with what Hot Chillys call “Bio Del Mar” antimicrobial treatment.  According to their website, Bio Del Mar is a “Non abrasive, soft feeling yarn with silver based antimicrobial properties”.  We’re starting to understand the importance of Silver more and more!

Second were the 8 0z. Pepper Skins that had more of a woolen feel (made of 100% denier polyester) but were still very lightweight.  These seemed better for the colder days but also seemed to run a tad small.  Our advice with these is to order one size larger than you normally would.  Peach Skins Retail for: $48.00 1/4 Zip Shirt and $38.00 pants.   Pepper Skins Retail for: $25.00 Shirt and/or Pants. www.hotchillys.com

Smartwool: We tested the Midweight Zip T and for being 100 % Merino Wool, this stuff felt great next to the skin. The Smartwool products feature all of the characteristics that have made wool a good choice for hunters for ages (Naturally antimicrobial with absorption and evaporation properties) We would order one one size larger however because the Zip T seemed to run a tad small. Retails for: $85 www.smartwool.com

As you can see from this review, the incorporation of Silver is becoming a staple in the base layer industry and depending on your activity, there is a base layer out there to keep you warm, dry and void of stink!  Check these companies out when considering base layers.

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