ARMATECH 204 - How to Layer and Why Merino Wool Baselayer
We all know your baselayer is important, and rather than just take our word for it, we spoke to our Armadillo Merino® Champions, Euan Whittaker, Paul Warnock, and Martin Holland, the ClimbNow Team. ClimbNow is a guiding and instructional organisation that works throughout the UK, Europe and beyond. They provide courses in winter climbing, rock climbing, skiing and alpine mountaineering. Martin specialises in Scottish Winter climbing.
How do you manage the cold and dressing for the extreme conditions? Can you explain your layering ideas and how to manage the conditions?
Martin: I definitely use a layering system to manage cold and particularly the wet and cold conditions you can experience in Scotland. I think it’s important to tailor it to the individual and the conditions you’re going to experience. I’ve settled on the following as working well for me in most UK winter conditions:
- Armadillo Merino® wool baselayer top, bottom and socks. I like a high neck top with a long zip for venting on the walk in or a merino neck gaiter if using a low neck top. This must be long enough in the arms and back, as exposing areas such as wrists and lower back is asking to get cold.
- A snug fitting thin fleece top, preferably with a hood. This aids wicking of moisture away from my body, but allows ease of movement.
- On cold days snug fitting stretchy fleece bottoms. On warmer faster moving days I may do without these.
- A pertex layer or more often a micro fleece and pertex layer. This is often sufficient with a base layer whilst walking in to prevent overheating and provides an extra moisture barrier when worn under a hard shell in driving rain.
- Hard shell top and bottoms, which need to be snug fitting for climbing and with a hood which goes over a helmet.
- A hat or balaclava which fits under a helmet and gloves. Sometimes up to 4 pairs of gloves including mitts. Gloves get wet winter climbing in Scotland and a pair of mitts is always the warmest option if the weather turns really nasty.
- A belay jacket with some water resistance and probably a man made insulation fill for Scotland, although I am hearing some good things about the “waterproof” down fills now available.
Thank you Martin for sharing how you layer. Now we will focus on the importance of the baselayer.
Armadillo Merino® Champion James Hubbard, layered up during the IceRun.
What is the function of baselayer?
The function of your baselayer is to help provide thermoregulation. When you get hot, it needs to help to move the sweat away from your skin, and when it is cold it needs to provide insulation, to help keep you warm. If you are sweating, then stop in a cold environment, your baselayer is very important, as it may be wet with sweat, and it needs to help to keep you warm.
Why Armadillo Merino wool baselayers?
What is unique about Armadillo Merino baselayers is their ability to move the sweat away from your skin in a vapour state. We call this the breathability of Merino. By doing this it leaves your skin drier, as you sweat in a vapour state. Second Merino can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture before it feels wet, once again leaving your skin drier. For a synthetic base layer to wick the sweat away, your skin must be wet with sweat, and the fabric must also be wet. Wet skin and wet fabric, can leave you feeling wet and cold. Another reason Merino is a great base layer is when it is cold, Merino keeps you warm by trapping small pockets of air within its fibres, and this works even when it is wet. When it is warm the same fibres will help to whisk moisture away from your skin so it can evaporate back into the water cycle!
What are some other functions of the baselayer?
- It should not smell. There is nothing worse than a smelly baselayer. Smell is from bacteria growing on the baselayer. Your skin has natural bacteria, what we call good bacteria, but bacteria that grows on smelly baselayer, is not the good type. This bad, smelly, bacteria particularly likes synthetic baselayers. Armadillo Merino® will not smell. A great natural property of Merino, is it will not smell, even if you wear it for days on end. The bad bacteria does not grow on it, so no smell.
- Baselayer as natural Protection. Baselayer can also provide protection against heat or flames. For some of our users in high risk environments, the baselayer is a critical final layer of protection against flames and heat. Armadillo Merino® base layers will not melt or drip in extreme heat, unlike synthetic baselayers. Some synthetic base layers will melt at 150°C. This may seem hot, but in an extreme situation, where there is a very short, but very hot flash of heat, this is low, and can result is significant and long lasting burns, if the user is wearing a synthetic base layer. Armadillo Merino® will not ignite until 570-600°C.
Layering when you go into the outdoors is very important, and Armadillo Merino® should always be your first layer in any layering system, hot or cold.