General properties

There has been much discussion about the word ‘wicking’ in recent years and like many concepts, can be twisted and massaged to suit the story teller. Wicking is about moisture transfer and as much as once the moisture is transferred, it is then allowed to evaporate. This is not always possible with base layers because they tend to be the first of many layers. For optimal wicking you need to look at two things:

1. A garment with the best wicking abilities worn against the skin, i.e. first (base) layer.

2. A garment with good absorption to be worn as a second (mid) layer.

There is only one fibre with a specific weight of less than ‘1’ (i.e. holds no moisture at all in its natural state) and that fibre is Polypropylene. In its purest form, when worn against the skin, Polypropylene will wick better than any other fibre. Some fibres will have enhancers coated onto them to improve their wicking ability but these inevitably wash off when laundered.

Polypropylene is the best wicker. The downside is that it will pill and also retain body fats i.e. will retain body odour after a few days wear. Once laundered in a hot wash all smells should dissipate.

Merino is a natural, environmentally friendly fibre that wicks extremely well but not as well as polypropylene. Merino in its natural state has 12% moisture by weight. The best Merino base layers will have a micron count (diameter of the yarn – finer is better) of less than 21 to ensure no ‘itchiness’. By comparison, the older styled woollen jumpers were made from wool with a micron count close to 30! Merino garments are highly breathable and will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer.

Polyester is commonly regarded as being a more trans-seasonal fibre/fabric. Garments made out of these fabrics are not environmentally friendly as they a not a natural fibre.