The Vault Regulars

Friday, November 9, 2018

Baselayer by Craft.

It’s that time of year again when we start to feel the chill as we tread those hills. It’s been good for Sheila and I to get out recently and it’s also given me the chance to test some gear too. It’s been typical UK weather in the Lake District and South Wales, we have had torrential rain, hail, high winds, freezing winds, cold frosty nights, sunny hot days, we have had everything but snow.

If your backpacking or daypacking it doesn’t matter,  if you are carrying a pack in the outdoors then your going to sweat, especially where your pack touches you. So it’s important that your baselayers wick sweat away and most importantly have the ability to dry quickly. You definitely don’t want sweat freezing your body when you stop.

There are lots of makes and materials out there, it’s not easy to find one that works and you can pay fortunes only to find out that it’s not as perfect as the blurb first gave you the impression that it would be.
For example Merino wool. Expensive unless you buy one off Aldi, which to be honest I have found to be good value for money. I even bought the “new”  Ultra Merino a while ago when it first came onto the market in New Zealand. I don’t think it’s available in the UK yet but I could be wrong. It proved to be pretty useless as far as backpacking was concerened.
It was warm, it was comfy but it doesn’t wick the sweat as it was supposed to do, and when wet it feels awful, like soggy cardboard, and just like soggy cardboard it takes an age to dry. I found that even hanging up in reasonable conditions that it wouldn’t dry overnight meaning you were putting damp wool back on. Not an unusual scenario when backpacking but if you don’t need to do that then why do it.

For me, the best next to skin baselayer I have used is the Rohan Ultra Silver Tee, I have both long and short sleeved versions. They work fantastically well and don’t hold sweat. They don’t smell bad either after days of wearing. They look and feel like silk and they weigh less than 100 grams. They dry amazingly fast and if you have never tried one then I recommend you do before Rohan decide to improve them or worse still discontinue them. On occasions I wear the short sleeve one under the long sleeve one because layering is the best way of keeping warm.

As examples go I have highlighted 2 here, one that works and one that doesn’t. I’ve tried many.

Now bring on the Craft baselayer. I had never heard of these, neither from advertising or gear reviews or even from the outdoor community I regularly talk too. I came upon this brand by fluke.
I was looking at lightweight shell jackets in Evans cycling shop but I didn’t want one with a pocket on the back for obvious reasons. Chatting with the staff I was out of luck, but we chatted about hiking rather that biking and the subject of baselayers came up. I was introduced to Craft who make cycling and running apparel.
I was impressed with the material, the design, the ventilation and the weight. I bought one (they actually only had one left in Large size).  I wore it a few days and liked it so I searched the web and bought a second one.

Craft base layer. Extreme Active 2.0 SS.

On first wearing, i was not sure if i liked the high collar, it felt a little claustrophobic. But after  few hours i got used to it and now i don't notice it. I wear it regularly, not just for hiking.
The underarm venting is welcome and also the tops are very long in body length, much longer than what you would normally receive from a hiking top. I am very pleased with this feature because it doesn't ride up your back 
Material wise i would say it reminds me a little of Patagonia Capilene, not the same but similar. 
It works very well at wicking sweat away and dries very fast. It feels good next to the skin.

Weight, very light, the large size short sleeve top is only 99 grams.
The fit is athletic and although the material has elastine which allows some stretch i would say for hiking pick a size up from normal tee shirt size if your interested in buying one. Prices are mid range. 

The company have a large product offering and good designs, definitely worth a look, click here to check it out.


Phreerunner said...

Interesting. Whilst I seem to be well served by t-shirts handed out at events, I’ll look out for Craft baselayers. Also of interest may be the Contra range launched by the founder of parkrun and adhering to the green principals of parkrun.

AlanR said...

Being a seasoned biker I’m surprised that you haven’t come across them. Check out the wind stopper version I guess it would be ideal for you on those chilly rides.
I will have a look at Contra. Thanks.

Dawn said...

Looks interesting Alan.

AlanR said...

Thanks Dawn.

afootinthehills said...

I'm generally happy with Icebreaker but this sounds interesting. I'm particularly attracted to the fact that it's long and doesn't ride up. The warmest base layer I have is a winter-weight ancient thing called Duofold, but one wearing and it needs washed! I'm not sure it's available now and can't remember who made it.

AlanR said...

Duofold by Champion. Never had one as far as I can remember Gibson.
I find Merino ok as long as you have the opportunity to fully dry it out and it’s a light weave, 125 or 150 max. These Craft ones are far better when backpacking for me.

afootinthehills said...

I thought it was defunct Alan, since I haven't seen it in shops up here in the last, what 30 years!

AlanR said...

No, it’s still going strong.

Anonymous said...

Hi Alan,

I did a bit of googling after reading your review (I'd never heard of Craft as a brand). I was surprised to find Wiggle ( stock quite a range of their stuff: I've bought a fair few things from Wiggle over the last few years, although I think their biggest market is still cyclists, including a few base layers. They're mostly out of stock of the long-sleeve (and selling the remainder of at a knockdown price) but they're still carrying stocks of the short-sleeve in most colours/popular sizes.

I'm always interested in any reviews on layering because I'm one of those people who runs very hot on the move and then cools quickly at rest, particularly if it's windy at the top. Even the lightest waterproofs are almost unbearable for me - Unless it's down around freezing, I'm usually wetter from condensation than I would be from the rain.

AlanR said...

Thanks for reading Dave. I also tend to run hot so I’m with you on that. Craft as you say are mainly targeted at cyclists and secondly running. I had not come across them before but I am now glad I have. You don’t say that you bought one of their tops but if you did I would be interested in a second opinion. Thanks.

Ganga said...

Hello from India Alan,

I was searching for layering requirement to go for a short trek in winter. Stumbled upon your blog and noticed your reviews. I am a beginner and currently, I am trekking in Himalayan short treks. Usually, I keep thermals with me but they are heavy and washing them is a nightmare. What kind of layering you would recommend for a snow trek.

AlanR said...

Hi you say short treks so I am presuming low level. Layering is best because the variance in temperatures. Go for lightweight wool based such as Icebreaker or Smartwool. Then I would suggest a hooded Mid layer of man made fibres. There are so many to choose. Rab, or Outdoor Research for examples. Obviously you will need a down jacket if you want to keep the weight down rather than go for synthetic insulation. Waterproof down jackets are common now.
Outer layers will depend on your trip requirements but I imagine Montbell or Toray fabrics will be available where you are. Hope this helps but I recommend you get in touch with trekking companies who do gear lists for a living. Regards and have a good trip.

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